The National Curriculum (1987)

In this document the government set out its plans for the introduction of the National Curriculum and associated assessment procedures.

The complete document is presented in this single web page. You can scroll through it or use the following links to go straight to the various sections:

Introduction (page 1)
A The need for a national curriculum (2)
B Components of the national curriculum and assessment arrangements (5)
C Contents of the legislation (14)
D Other arrangements to back the national curriculum (25)
E Resources (30)
F Timing of implementation (31)
Conclusion (33)
Annexes (35)

The text of The National Curriculum 5-16 - a consultation document was prepared by Derek Gillard and uploaded on 12 July 2011.

The National Curriculum
a consultation document

Department of Education and Science/Welsh Office
London: 1987
Crown copyright material is reproduced with the permission of the Controller of HMSO and the Queen's Printer for Scotland.

[title page]

Department of Education and Science
Welsh Office

The National Curriculum

a consultation document

July 1987

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(a) Foundation subjects13-22
(b) Attainment targets23-25
(c) Programmes of study26-27
(d) Assessment and examinations28-34
(e) Availability of information35-36


(a) Application of the provisions39-41
(b) Components of the national curriculum42-44
(c) A National Curriculum Council (NCC) and the exercise of powers by the Secretaries of state45-51
(d) Control of qualifications and examinations and a School Examinations and Assessment Council (SEAC)52-54
(e) Information requirements55-56
(f) Powers and duties of LEAs, governing bodies, headteachers57-60
(g) Monitoring, inspection and enforcement61
(h) Dealing with complaints62-65
(i) Other provisions66

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(a) Subject Working Groups68-71
(b) Task Group on Assessment and Testing72
(c) Development and piloting of assessment instruments73-75
(d) Training for teachers76
(e) Curriculum developments, the SCDC and NCC77-79
(f) Approval of syllabuses, the SEC and SEAC80
(g) APU81-82








A - Working Group Terms of Reference

B - Flowchart/Diagram

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1. The Government intends to introduce legislation this autumn to provide for a national curriculum in maintained schools in England and Wales. This document sets out the reasons for this decision, describes what the legislation will contain, and indicates what other steps the Secretaries of State for Education and Science and for Wales intend to take so that the national curriculum can begin to be introduced in schools as soon as possible.

2. Comments are invited on the proposed content of the legislation and on the other arrangements. Comments about the legislation should be sent to Mr N Harris, Schools Branch 3, Department of Education and Science, Elizabeth House, York Road, London SE1 7PH as soon as possible, and no later than 30 September 1987 so that account may be taken of them before the legislation is introduced in Parliament. Discussion about other aspects of the proposals and their implementation can usefully continue alongside the consideration of the legislation. Comments from individuals and organisations in Wales should be sent to Mr R W Farrington, Schools Division, Welsh Office, Cathays Park, Cardiff CF1 3NQ.

3. The document sets out

(a) the reasons why the Government has decided to establish a national curriculum and clear assessment arrangements which support it;

(b) what it is proposed that the national curriculum and assessment arrangements should comprise, and how they will work in practice;

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(c) what is to be in legislation - on the curriculum, assessment and testing, the provision of information, monitoring and inspection, and the machinery needed to underpin the operation, namely a National Curriculum Council (in England) and a School Examinations and Assessment Council;

(d) non-statutory arrangements which will help to secure implementation of the national curriculum;

(e) resource implications;

(f) the timetable for implementation.


4. Since Sir James Callaghan's speech as Prime Minister at Ruskin College in 1976, successive Secretaries of State have aimed to achieve agreement with their partners in the education service on policies for the school curriculum which will develop the potential of all pupils and equip them for the responsibilities of citizenship and for the challenges of employment in tomorrow's world. A substantial measure of agreement has already been achieved, and there is now widespread support for the aims of education which were set out clearly in the White Paper "Better Schools". (Cmnd - 9469. 1985).

5. Many LEAs and schools have made important advances towards achieving a good curriculum for pupils aged 5-16, which offers progression, continuity and coherence between its different stages. There is much agreement too about the subjects which should be included in the secular curriculum for 5-16 year olds; and valuable progress has been made towards securing agreement about the objectives and content of particular subjects.

6. But progress has been variable, uncertain and often slow. Improvements have been made, some standards of attainment have risen. But some improvement is not enough. We must raise

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standards consistently, and at least as quickly as they are rising in competitor countries.

7. The Government now wishes to move ahead at a faster pace to ensure that this happens and to secure for all pupils in maintained schools a curriculum which equips them with the knowledge, skills and understanding that they need for adult life and employment. Some schools already offer such a curriculum, but not for all their pupils. Many schools offer something far less good. The Government does not find this acceptable. Nor do parents and others in the community. Pupils should be entitled to the same opportunities wherever they go to school, and standards of attainment must be raised throughout England and Wales.

8. A national curriculum backed by clear assessment arrangements will help to raise standards of attainment by

(i) ensuring that all pupils study a broad and balanced range of subjects throughout their compulsory schooling and do not drop too early studies which may stand them in good stead later, and which will help to develop their capacity to adapt and respond flexibly to a changing world;

(ii) setting clear objectives for what children over the full range of ability should be able to achieve - which the pupils themselves and their teachers, supported by parents and others, can work towards with confidence. This will help schools to challenge each child to develop his or her potential. HM Inspectorate has consistently reported in its national surveys and in many reports on individual schools that a weakness far too frequently apparent in the present system is under-expectation by teachers of what their pupils can achieve. Far from deflating expectations, the national curriculum is intended to help teachers to set their expectations at a realistic but challenging level for each child, according to his or her ability;

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(iii) ensuring that all pupils, regardless of sex, ethnic origin and geographical location, have access to broadly the same good and relevant curriculum and programmes of study which include the key content, skills and processes which they need to learn and which ensure that the content and teaching of the various elements of the national curriculum bring out their relevance to and links with pupils' own experiences and their practical applications and continuing value to adult and working life;

(iv) checking on progress towards those objectives and performance achieved at various stages, so that pupils can be stretched further when they are doing well and given more help when they are not.

9. In addition to thus raising standards, a national curriculum will:-
(i) secure that the curriculum offered in all maintained schools has sufficient in common to enable children to move from one area of the country to another with minimum disruption to their education. It will also help children's progression within and between primary and secondary education (and on to further and higher education) and will help to secure the continuity and coherence which is too often lacking in what they are taught.

(ii) enable schools to be more accountable for the education they offer to their pupils, individually and collectively. The governing body, headteacher and the teachers of every school will be better able to undertake the essential process of regular evaluation because they will be able to consider their school, taking account of its particular circumstances, against the local and national picture as a whole. It will

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help alert teachers to problems experienced by individual children so they can be given special attention. Parents will be able to judge their children's progress against agreed national targets for attainment and will also be able to judge the effectiveness of their school. LEAs will be better placed to assess the strengths and weaknesses of the schools they maintain by considering their performance in relation to each other, and to the country at large, taking due account of relevant socio-economic factors; and the Secretaries of State will be better able to undertake a similar process nationally. Employers too will have a better idea of what a school-leaver will have studied and learnt at school, irrespective of where he or she went to school.
10. The Government has concluded that these advantages and consistent improvement in standards can be guaranteed only within a national framework for the secular curriculum. To be effective, that must be backed by law - but law which provides a framework not a straitjacket. Legislation alone will not raise standards. The imaginative application of professional skills at all levels of the education service, within a statutory framework which sets clear objectives, will raise standards.


11. This section sets out the Secretaries of State's thinking about the main elements of the national curriculum and how they will operate in practice. Section C sets out what will be included in legislation. What is required by statute - including the regulations that will be made over a period of time to secure full implementation of the national curriculum - will be determined by a process of discussion and development of the ideas in this document.

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12. The non-statutory subject working groups which the Secretaries of State are appointing will play a key part in this process. They will make recommendations about attainment targets and programmes of work for each of the foundation subjects, which will be the basis for consultations about what is eventually set out in regulations about the curriculum.

(a) Foundation subjects

13. Maths, English and science will form the core of the curriculum, and first priority will be given to these subjects. They and other foundation subjects are to be followed by all pupils during compulsory schooling. The Government has proposed that, in addition to English, maths and science, the foundation subjects should comprise a modern foreign language, technology, history, geography, art, music and physical education. The degree of definition in the requirements set out for each of these subjects will vary considerably, and will be greatest for the three core subjects. The place of Welsh in the national curriculum in Wales is dealt with below.

14. It is not proposed that a modern foreign language should be included in the foundation subjects for primary school children. The majority of curriculum time at primary level should be devoted to the core subjects.

15. During compulsory secondary schooling, it is proposed that all pupils should continue with some study of all the the foundation subjects. As the table below shows, between 30-40% of curriculum time should still be devoted to the three core subjects. Not all foundation subjects will necessarily be taken to examination level - though the Secretaries of State expect that most pupils should be able to take GCSEs covering seven or eight of the foundation subject areas, and all the core subjects should be taken. Pupils in the fourth and fifth years should be able to opt to study either combined sciences as a single subject

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or sciences leading to a double GCSE award; and to pursue a combined course covering art, music, drama and design. This should leave adequate time in the curriculum for choice of other examination subjects which are not among the foundation subjects. The table illustrates how this might be organised in England:-



16. The Secretaries of State do not intend to prescribe in legislation how much time should be allocated to each subject

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area. But the foundation subjects commonly take up 80-90% of the curriculum in schools where there is good practice. The Secretaries of State will take that as their starting point in issuing non-statutory guidance (separately for England and for Wales) about how much time should normally be spent on learning related to each subject at each phase of education, and the subject working groups will base their recommendations about programmes of study on this guidance.

17. Religious education is already required by statute, and must continue to form an essential part of the curriculum. There will be time available beyond that required for the foundation subjects for religious education, and also for other popular subjects, such as home economics, which are taught by many schools and will continue to be a valuable part of the curriculum for many pupils in the secondary as well as primary phase. LEAs and governing bodies of schools will determine the subjects to be taught additional to the foundation subjects.

18. In addition, there are a number of subjects or themes such as health education and use of information technology, which can be taught through other subjects. For example, biology can contribute to learning about health education, and the health theme will give an added dimension to teaching about biology. It is proposed that such subjects or themes should be taught through the foundation subjects, so that they can be accommodated within the curriculum but without crowding out the essential subjects.


19. The Welsh language is a part of the curriculum of most children in Wales. The Government's policy, set out in "Welsh in Schools" (July 1981), is that some experience of the language is an important component of a broadly balanced curriculum for pupils in Wales; that in English-speaking areas all pupils should be given the opportunity of acquiring a sufficient command of Welsh to allow for communication in Welsh, while bilingual education should be available to pupils whose parents desire it for them.

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20. In some counties of Wales it would be appropriate - and in line with existing practice in schools - for Welsh to be made a foundation subject. But the linguistic pattern in Wales is varied, and in some areas the Secretary of State would expect that it would not at present be appropriate to require the study of Welsh throughout the period of compulsory education for pupils who study through the medium of English. At the least, the legislation will need to provide for attainment targets, programmes of study and assessment arrangements to be prescribed for Welsh wherever it is taught.

21. For pupils taught through the medium of Welsh, all ten subjects listed in paragraph 13, together with Welsh, will be foundation subjects. The Secretary of State for Wales may issue separate non-statutory guidance for Welsh medium education about the time to be spent on each subject.

22. The Secretaries of State believe it to be important that schools should also have flexibility about how they organise their teaching. The description of the national curriculum in terms of foundation subjects is not a description of how the school day should be organised and the curriculum delivered. The clear objectives for what pupils should be able to know, do and understand will be framed in subject terms. Schools will be able to organise their teaching in a variety of ways. This flexibility, together with the time available outside the foundation curriculum, ought to enable schools, while meeting the requirements of the national curriculum, to give special emphasis to particular subjects, such as science and technology in City Technology Colleges.

(b) Attainment targets

23. Attainment targets will be set for all three core subjects of Maths, English and science. These will establish what children should normally be expected to know, understand and be able to do at around the ages of 7, 11, 14 and 16, and will

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enable the progress of each child to be measured against established national standards. They will reflect what pupils must achieve to progress in their education and to become thinking and informed people. The range of attainment targets should cater for the full ability range and be sufficiently challenging at all levels to raise expectations, particularly of pupils of middling achievement who frequently are not challenged enough, as well as stretching and stimulating the most able. This is a proven and essential way towards raising standards of achievement. Targets must be sufficiently specific for pupils, teachers, parents and others to have a clear idea of what is expected, and to provide a sound basis for assessment.

24. There will also be attainment targets for other foundation subjects where appropriate, in Wales for the study of Welsh, and for the other themes and skills taught through each of the foundation subjects. For art, music and physical education there will be guidelines rather than specific attainment targets.

25. Attainment targets for age 16 can be expected to take account of GCSE criteria. But not all GCSE criteria are sufficiently specific, and not all pupils will study all foundation subjects for public examination, so there will be other attainment targets to build on what they have learnt up to age 14.

(c) Programmes of study

26. The programmes of study will also be based on recommendations from the subject working groups. They will reflect the attainment targets, and set out the overall content, knowledge, skills and processes relevant to today's needs which pupils should be taught in order to achieve them. They should also specify in more detail a minimum of common content, which all pupils should be taught, and set out any areas of learning in other subjects or themes that should be covered in each stage. Some GCSE syllabuses will have to be revised in due course to reflect the national curriculum attainment targets and programmes of study for age 16.

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27. within the programmes of study teachers will be free to determine the detail of what should be taught in order to ensure that pupils achieve appropriate levels of attainment. How teaching is organised and the teaching approaches used will be also for schools to determine. It is proposed that schools should set out schemes of work for teaching at various stages to improve coordination. The Government intends that legislation should leave full scope for professional judgment and for schools to organise how the curriculum is delivered in the way best suited to the ages, circumstances, needs and abilities of the children in each classroom. This will for example allow curriculum development programmes such as the Technical and Vocational Education Initiative (TVEI) to build on the framework offered by the national curriculum and to take forward its objectives. There must be space to accommodate the enterprise of teachers, offering them sufficient flexibility in the choice of content to adapt what they teach to the needs of the individual pupil, to try out and develop new approaches, and to develop in pupils those personal qualities which cannot be written into a programme of study or attainment target.

(d) Assessment and examinations

28. The attainment targets will provide standards against which pupils' progress and performance can be assessed. The main purpose of such assessment will be to show what a pupil has learnt and mastered and to enable teachers and parents to ensure that he or she is making adequate progress. Where such progress is not made, it will be up to schools to make suitable arrangements to help the pupil.

29. The Secretaries of State envisage that much of the assessment at ages 7 (or thereabouts) 11 and 14, and at 16 in non-examined subjects, will be done by teachers as an integral part of normal classroom work. But at the heart of the assessment process there will be nationally prescribed tests done by all pupils to supplement the individual teachers' assessments. Teachers will administer and mark these, but their marking - and their assessments overall - will be externally moderated.

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30. The Secretaries of State hope that the moderation of teachers' assessments and whatever arrangements are needed for administering nationally set tests will be undertaken by the five GCSE examining groups, under contract from a School Examinations and Assessment Council (see paras 53 below). The Department will be undertaking detailed discussion of this proposal, and of the kind of administrative and moderation arrangements needed, with the examining groups and others. The actual tests and other forms of assessment will be developed and piloted by various organisations on behalf of the Government.

31. The precise basis for recording assessments will be considered by an expert Task Group on Assessment and Testing which the Secretaries of State will appoint shortly. It will make recommendations on the common elements of an assessment strategy to be used across all subjects and will be asked to report by Christmas.

32. The Government aims to set in place by 1990 national arrangements for the introduction of records of achievement for school leavers. Such records, which are at present being piloted in a number of areas and on which an interim report will be made this autumn by the National Steering Committee, will have an important role in recording performance and profiling a pupil's achievements across and beyond the national curriculum.

33. At age 16, GCSE and other qualifications at equivalent level will provide the main means of assessment through examinations. But in order to ensure that the qualifications offered to pupils support or form part of the national curriculum's attainment targets and programmes of study, the Government proposes to take powers to specify what qualifications may be offered to pupils during compulsory schooling. It also proposes to put onto a statutory footing the approval of syllabuses or courses leading to these qualifications, which is presently done by the non-statutory Secondary Examinations Council for GCE and GCSE examinations.

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34. Because of the importance of steady progression from what is studied pre-16 to the qualifications available post-16, and the need to ensure proper standards and coherence in what is offered, the Government also proposes to take a reserve power similarly to regulate qualifications and courses offered to full-time 16-19 year old pupils in schools and colleges - for use only if experience shows this to be necessary. This power would be exercised only after consultations with the National Council for Vocational Qualifications and other relevant examining and validating bodies responsible for qualifications offered to full time 16-19 year old pupils.

(e) Availability of information

35. In order to raise standards, people must be aware of what is being achieved already and of the objectives set. This means that the legislation on the national curriculum must provide for all interested parties to have appropriate and readily digestible information, relevant to their interests, about what is being taught and achieved. The Secretaries of State are convinced that at every level of the service, the provision of more information will lead to a better understanding of how the education system is performing.

36. The Secretaries of State believe that it is essential that:-

(i) Pupils and parents should know what individual pupils are being taught in each year, and how that relates to the national curriculum attainment targets and programmes of study. Similar information would have been provided to parents under regulations made under Section 20 of the 1986 Education Act, which the legislation on the national curriculum will supersede. They also need to know how the individual pupil has performed against the attainment targets, and by comparison with the range of marks achieved by pupils in his or her class - for example 10% got Grade 1, 20% Grade 2, 30% Grade 3.

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(ii) Teachers should know how individual pupils are progressing so that they can decide on appropriate next steps for their learning; and how pupils in their class overall are doing as compared with the attainment targets, with other similar classes in the school, and with other schools, particularly in the same LEA and with the national average.

(iii) Parents, governing bodies, employers and the local community should know what a school's assessment and examination results indicate about performance and how they compare with those of other schools within the LEA or neighbourhood. In order to inform their choice of school parents also need to know about the curriculum followed in each school, and its schemes of work.

(iv) LEAs should know about attainment in the schools they maintain, in comparison other LEAs, with grant-maintained schools in the locality, and with the national average; and

(v) at the national level, central government, Parliament and the public should to be able to monitor national standards of attainment and improvement over time.


37. The Government's proposals for legislation on the national curriculum form a part of a wider set of reforms for maintained schools which will be the subject of separate consultation. The following paragraphs describe the legislative framework for the national curriculum and, where appropriate, how this relates to the Government's other proposals for reform. The Government intends that, within this framework, the national curriculum should be progressively introduced as, following consultations, broad agreement is achieved on attainment targets and programmes of study for each foundation subject.

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38. Early comments on these proposals for legislation would be particularly welcomed to assist the Secretaries of State in decisions about the content of the legislation to be introduced this Autumn.

(a) Application of the provisions

39. Legislation on the national curriculum will apply to pupils in compulsory education in LEA maintained and grant-maintained schools in England and Wales, but not Scotland or Northern Ireland. The Secretaries of State believe that most independent schools (and non-maintained special schools) will wish to follow the line required of LEA maintained and grant-maintained schools. They intend to issue a circular to independent schools recommending that they should take account of the principles of the national curriculum, which will in future form an important part of the basis on which the Secretaries of State will consider requests for the registration of new independent schools and in relation to which HMI will report upon their inspections of independent schools. In the case of City Technology Colleges, the Secretaries of State intend to make adherence to the substance of the national curriculum a condition of grant.

40. There will not be any general provision for the exemption of individual pupils attending county, voluntary or grant-maintained schools. But for a pupil who has a statement of special need under the Education Act 1981, it is proposed that the statement should specify any national curriculum requirements which should not apply. In addition, the Secretaries of State will be empowered to define in regulations circumstances in which the application of the national curriculum provisions might be modified for any foundation subject. For example, the modern languages regulations might indicate that pupils with severe difficulties in English should be introduced to a foreign language later than or on a different basis from most children.

41. The provisions will not apply to nursery schools, nor to nursery classes in primary schools; the focus will be on

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children of compulsory school age. In practice the provisions could be applied to four year olds in classes mainly for children of compulsory school age, but the subject working groups will be able specifically to recommend otherwise.

(b) Components of the national curriculum

42. It is proposed that the main legislation should set out the foundation subjects, including the core ones. The attainment targets and programmes of study for each should be prescribed in Orders made under negative resolution procedure. The Orders will be made progressively as subject working groups make recommendations and these are converted into agreed targets and programmes after consultations. The machinery for consultation is set out below.

43. The legislation will set out separately the foundation subjects in Wales for Welsh-medium and English-medium pupils. It will make specific provision for attainment targets and programmes of study for the Welsh language as well as for the foundation subjects. The Secretary of State for Wales will be able to make different Orders from those applying in England.

44. The main legislation will also include a power for the Secretaries of State to set out arrangements for assessment (including testing and examinations) which schools should be expected to follow.

(c) A National Curriculum Council (NCC) and the exercise of powers by the Secretaries of State

45. The Secretary of State for Education and Science will be required to appoint a National Curriculum Council (NCC) which will include amongst others people with a range of experience about education, appointed in a personal rather than a representative capacity. It will assume the responsibilities of the present non-statutory School Curriculum Development Committee (SCDC). Acting under his direction, the NCC will advise the

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Secretary of State, consulting others as requested by him, on the curriculum for compulsory schooling.

46. The establishment of the NCC will ensure that the Secretary of State always receives external professional advice before he presents legislation to Parliament on the national curriculum in schools. The NCC will be an essential means of securing a properly-founded national curriculum in England, and will have a key function in looking across the curriculum as a whole and advising the Secretary of State on the maintenance and up-dating of the national curriculum.

47. The Bill will give the Secretaries of State power to make Orders establishing or amending the attainment targets and programmes of study for each foundation subject.

48. Before the Secretary of State for Education and Science drafts any Order on attainment targets and programmes of study, he will instruct the NCC to consult on his behalf. The consultations will be about the recommendations of a subject working group together with whatever comment the Secretary of State may add to them. The NCC is to report the outcome of its consultations to the Secretary of State, together with its own recommendations.

49. Because the Secretary of State for Wales already has well-established mechanisms for consulting the relatively small number of organisations involved in Wales, he will not be required to use the NCC to conduct consultations on his behalf and to make final recommendations, but will carry out consultations directly with those interests. He will also exercise the duty to keep all aspects of the curriculum under review and up to date, in consultations with organisations in Wales as appropriate.

50. After the consultations required of them, the Secretaries of State will be required to prepare a draft Order, together with a statement explaining the reasons for any departure from the advice of the NCC or those consulted in Wales; publish these and

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send them to the organisations previously consulted; and allow one month for comment. In the light of any comments, they may modify the draft Order and lay it before Parliament under negative resolution procedure.

51. The duty of keeping under review the curriculum as a whole, including the list of foundation subjects and the cross-curricular themes, may result in the Secretaries of State deciding to amend the foundation subjects. If so, the same consultation procedures should be followed. Keeping the elements of the national curriculum up-to-date will be critically important, and new developments will need to be piloted. The Bill will therefore empower the Secretaries of State to suspend requirements of the national curriculum for LEAs and schools participating in development work on the curriculum or assessment, for whatever period is necessary.

(d) Control of qualifications and examinations and a School Examinations and Assessment Council (SEAC)

52. In addition to the power to specify arrangements for assessment relating to the national curriculum attainment targets and programmes of study, the Bill will give the Secretaries of State power to specify what public qualifications can be offered to pupils during compulsory schooling. They will be required to offer guidance on what criteria they will use in assessing whether a qualification may be offered. These might include the availability of sufficient other similar qualifications.

53. The Secretaries of State will be required to appoint a School Examinations and Assessment Council (SEAC) which will include amongst others people with a range of experience about education and assessment, particularly examinations. The Secretaries of State will want to ensure some cross-membership between the SEAC and NCC. The SEAC will replace the existing non-statutory Secondary Examinations Council (SEC). Its functions, on which

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the Government would welcome comments, might be some or all of the following:

(i) advising the Secretaries of State on the exercise of their power to approve the qualifications offered during compulsory schooling;

(ii) approving syllabuses and examinations leading to such public qualifications, in line with guidance issued by the Secretaries of State about minimum criteria the SEAC is to take into account;

(iii) contracting with other bodies - normally the GCSE examining groups - for the establishment of procedures for moderating standards of schools' assessments under the national curriculum at ages 7 (or thereabouts), 11, 14 and 16, on terms specified and monitored by the SEAC; and for distributing national tests and other assessment instruments as appropriate;

(iv) advising the Secretaries of State about the criteria used to govern syllabuses and examinations (eg for GCSE); and similarly about the efficacy of the national tests and assessments used. It would not however itself be responsible for revising the tests;

(v) liaising with the National Council for vocational Qualifications to ensure coherence between the school examinations for which the SEAC will be responsible and the vocational qualifications for which the NCVQ is responsible.

54. The Bill will also give the Secretaries of State a reserve power, to be activated by Order made under affirmative resolution procedure, to regulate the qualifications and syllabuses offered to full-time pupils aged 16-19 in schools and colleges.

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(e) Information requirements

55. The Education Acts and regulations made under them already make various requirements for the publication of information. The new legislation will consolidate most of these provisions, place general duties on various parties to make available the kinds of information described above, and enable the Secretaries of State to make regulations setting out minimum requirements. This will give rise to new or modified requirements about:-

(i) the way in which a LEA's and governing body's respective curriculum policies are set out and to whom they are to be distributed;

(ii) schemes of work for each school:

(iii) information on schools' curricula for inclusion in prospectuses;

(iv) the individual pupil's curriculum for the year:

(v) information provided to parents about individual pupils' performance in relation to the relevant attainment targets;

(vi) the content of the governing body's annual report to parents, so that it includes aggregated assessment and examination results for each age cohort;

(vii) annual reports by LEAs showing aggregated assessment results over a time series for each age cohort in each authority's schools;

56. It is intended that the detail of these requirements should be set out in regulations; the secretaries of state will be required to consult appropriate organisations before making any such Orders.

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(f) Powers and Duties of LEAs, Governing Bodies and Headteachers

57. At present, the general duty of an LEA to provide schooling is defined in section 8 of the 1944 Act, the Teachers' Regulations require all maintained schools to have staffs of teachers suitable and sufficient in numbers for the purpose of securing the provisions of appropriate education, and the respective responsibilities of LEAs, governing bodies, and headteachers for the curriculum are defined in sections 17-19 of the Education (No 2) Act 1986. Broadly, LEAs determine their secular curriculum policy for the schools they maintain; the Governing Bodies of schools other than voluntary aided and special agreement schools consider the curricular aims of their school and may modify the LEA's curriculum policy to take account of these; the headteacher of such a school determines and organises the curriculum in his or her school and must secure that it is followed, and in doing so must follow either the curriculum policy determined by the LEA or that as modified by the governors; and the Governing Bodies of aided and special agreement schools determine the curriculum of their school (having regard to the LEA's policy) and allocate functions to the headteacher to enable him or her to determine, organise and secure the delivery of the curriculum. Sex education is subject to special provisions.

58. The progressive introduction of a national curriculum will require some redefinition of these responsibilities. It is proposed that:-

(i) the section 8 duty in the 1944 Act on LEAs should be amended so that the opportunities offered to all pupils are "as required by the national curriculum" as well as being "as may be desirable in view of their different ages, abilities and aptitudes" etc.

(ii) LEAs should be required to determine and keep under review, in respect of all the schools they maintain,

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their policy for the secular curriculum which is to include all the statutory requirements of the national curriculum;

(iii) the governing bodies of county, voluntary controlled and maintained special schools should be required to exercise their other statutory responsibilities in such a way as to secure that the national curriculum is followed in their school; and should be required to define and keep up to date the secular curriculum for their school in the light of the LEA's policy and of the duty placed on them in respect of the national curriculum. They should be required to consult the headteacher in defining their curriculum policies and, if they propose to modify the authority's policy, also the LEA. It would not be possible for them to modify the national curriculum.

(iv) it should be the responsibility of the headteacher of such schools to secure implementation of the curriculum policy determined by the LEA and defined by the governing body, including any modification made by the latter, and including specifically the implementation of the national curriculum. This contrasts with Section 18 of the 1986 Act which requires the headteacher to choose between the LEA's policy or the policy as modified by the governors.

(v) the powers and duties of governing bodies and headteachers in voluntary aided, special agreement and grant-maintained schools should be as in section 19 of the 1986 Act, but should include securing that the national curriculum is followed. Grant-maintained schools' governors will not however be required to have regard to the policy of the LEA - only to secure implementation of the national curriculum.

59. The various responsibilities for securing delivery of the national curriculum include not only that the foundation subjects

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are offered and the attainment targets and programmes of study appropriate to each age range and ability level are applied, but also that performance is assessed in accordance with the Secretary of State's requirements, and that only approved qualifications are offered in schools.

60. The provisions relating to sex education and the teaching of political issues in sections 18 and 44-46 of the Education (No 2) Act 1986 will remain in force.

(g) Monitoring, Inspection and Enforcement

61. Her Majesty's Inspectorate, in their inspection of schools, will report on the implementation of the national curriculum. They will be responsible for the inspection of grant-maintained schools. The division of responsibility for monitoring the delivery of the national curriculum in local authority-maintained schools between HMI and LEA inspectors will be the subject of further consultations with the local authority associations. Another essential part of the monitoring arrangements will be action by parents, who will be able to pinpoint deficiencies in the delivery of the national curriculum from the information about objectives and performance provided to them.

(h) Dealing with Complaints

62. Sections 68 and 99 of the 1944 Act enable the Secretary of State to direct an LEA or governing body of a maintained school, where he is satisfied, on complaint or otherwise, that statutory functions have been performed unreasonably or that there has been a default of duty. The Secretaries of State believe that the opportunity for parents and others to complain under these sections is a valuable safeguard of their rights; and that the application of these sections to the national curriculum, once the necessary legislation has become law, will be an important means of securing that it is implemented in LEA maintained and grant-maintained schools.

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63. However to complement the duties placed on headteachers, governing bodies and local authorities for implementing the national curriculum in LEA-maintained schools, it is proposed that the legislation should:

(i) require LEAs to establish machinery for handling complaints about the exercise by the governing bodies or headteachers of county, voluntary or maintained special schools of their responsibilities for the national curriculum;

(ii) provide that the Secretary of State should not be called upon to consider any such complaint under section 68 or 99 until it has been considered through the LEA's complaints machinery.

The Secretary of State will issue guidance as to the minimum requirements for complaints machinery, and will approve LEAs' proposals for such machinery.

64. The Secretary of State will not be required to consider complaints about the delivery of the national curriculum in grant-maintained schools until they have been considered under the complaints procedure to be established by the governors of such schools.

65. Complaints against an LEA will be made direct to the Secretary of State.

(i) other provisions

66. The Bill will also include provision for commencement of the various requirements at different times, and for transitional arrangements. The formulation of these provisions will depend considerably on comments received on this document, particularly relating to the timing and phasing of implementation.

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67. What goes into legislation will be only a small part of what is required to make a national curriculum function well. The Secretaries of State will want to take full advantage of existing good practice. The full force of teachers' professionalism will need to be put behind the national curriculum and assessment if both are to be beneficial to pupils and other 'customers' of the education service.

(a) Subject Working Groups

68. The critically important task of the subject working groups which the Secretaries of State are appointing, in providing the basis for the contents of the national curriculum, has already been described. Outline terms of reference which, with modifications to take account of different subjects, will serve for all groups, are at Annex A. The working groups will be expected to ensure that the content and teaching of their subject brings out its relevance to and links with pupils' own experience and practical applications; and that the programmes of work contribute to the development in young people of personal qualities and competence, such as self-reliance, self discipline, an enterprising approach and the ability to solve practical real-world problems, which will stand them in good stead in later life.

69. The Secretaries of State announced on 10 July the establishment of the first two groups, for mathematics and science. They each comprise a Chairman and members drawn from the headteachers and teachers of primary and secondary schools, LEA chief officers and advisers, higher education and the world of employment. One member of each group will be an expert in assessment. Each Group will be able to coopt further help and commission expert advice. HM Inspectorate will appoint an observer; and the Department of Education and Science will provide a Secretariat. These two groups will be asked to make an interim report after 5 months and to submit final recommendations within a year.

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70. Other groups will be set up as soon as possible. They will be similarly constituted and will work to a similar timetable. Groups on English (to follow on from the Report of the Kingman Committee), on Welsh and modern foreign languages (to parallel the work on English) and on technology (to link with the emerging thinking of the group on science) are likely to be the next to be appointed, followed by groups on history and geography.

71. For some subject areas, such as history and geography, or the expressive subjects including art and music, a special group or sub-group to cover integrated studies in the primary phase may be needed. Likewise a sub-group to pull together work on science and technology in the primary phase may be appropriate. The Modern Languages Group will need a structure to cover different modern languages, and so on. In all cases the Welsh dimension will need to be reflected. The main concern of the Secretaries of State will be to ensure that each group properly reflects the requirement of different phases and subject specialisms through individuals who are widely respected for their professionalism, are objective, and have vision.

(b) the Task Group on Assessment and Testing

72. To provide a framework for the recommendations of the working groups, the Secretaries of State will in addition appoint a small Task Group on Assessment and Testing, which will report by Christmas, in order to advise them on the overriding requirements that should govern assessment, including testing, across the foundation subjects and for all ages and abilities, with a view to securing arrangements which are simple to use and understand for all concerned, helpful to teachers and appropriate for the purposes of assessment set out above, and affordable.

The findings of this group will be important in ensuring consistency of approach by the different subject working groups; and will also help in considering the use to be made of the many existing tests and in the development and careful piloting of new national standardised tests and other means of assessment that will be required for each foundation subject.

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(c) Development and piloting of means of assessment.

73. The subject working groups will recommend attainment targets which will provide the basis for assessment. They will not however be responsible for developing the means of making assessments. The Secretaries of State intend that this work, commissioned by their Departments, should be done by organisations with proven experience and expertise in this field. The development work will take as its starting points the recommendations of the Task Group on Assessment and Testing and the interim reports of the subject working groups which will set out their own views on the assessment appropriate for their subject and the kinds of attainment target they are formulating. The Department's Assessment of Performance Unit, which has considerable and valuable experience in testing the performance of populations of pupils on a sample basis, will help in the steering of the development programme.

74. Contracts for the development of tests and other assessment instruments will be let not just for whatever nationally-set assessments may be recommended as appropriate, but also to develop ways of making assessments which teachers might find it helpful to call upon for their own internal assessments. The intention will be to build up a bank of tests, including many of the existing tests already applied by the great majority of schools for assessing pupils' performance at various ages, and to make available other means of assessment for use by teachers when they consider them appropriate.

75. The Secretaries of State place a great deal of importance on making arrangements which are capable of being amended and updated rapidly in the light of experience. The SEAC will have an essential role in monitoring the way in which the assessment instruments perform and advising the Secretaries of State on the need for further developments.

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(d) Training for teachers

76. Many teachers already carry out, formally or informally, the kind of assessment and checking on pupils' progress which is envisaged. However, it will be important to ensure that all are properly prepared for the introduction of the attainment targets, programmes of study and assessment arrangements for their subject and phase, as these are introduced. Initial teacher training institutions should prepare students progressively for the national curriculum and the new assessment arrangements as these are designed and introduced. Local education authorities and schools should plan their in-service training to prepare teachers for the necessary changes. The LEA advisory services will have an essential role in planning curriculum change and the introduction of assessment and testing and in ensuring that teachers receive the support and training that they need.

(e) Curriculum development, the SCDC and the NCC

77. The statutory NCC will assume the responsibilities for curriculum development currently exercised by the SCDC. The Secretary of State believes that the SCDC has performed a most valuable role in taking forward developments in some key areas of the curriculum, for example through the Secondary Science Curriculum Review, and the Primary Initiatives in Mathematics Education project, and in initiating new work such as that on economic understanding and the national writing and oracy projects. It has also built up a network of bodies and individuals throughout the education service involved in curriculum development work. The Secretary of State for Education and Science will want the new NCC to capitalise on the achievements and work of the SCDC.

78. At present the SCDC is funded half by the local authority associations, half by the Government. The Secretary of State expects that this arrangement will cease at the end of this

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financial year. He intends to set up an NCC in 'shadow' form during the passage of the Bill, so that it can take on the SCDC's work at the beginning of the 1988/9 financial year when he will assume full responsibility for funding curriculum development work. The shadow NCC will then begin to advise the Secretary of State eg about what should be enacted on the foundation subjects, and start consideration of the recommendations of the first two working groups (on mathematics and science) when they report. It is expected that the shadow NCC will take on the SCDC's existing work; clearly it will need staff to continue to manage projects and it is hoped that the great majority of SCDC staff will transfer to the new body.

79. The Secretary of State will not want to make permanent appointments of members of the NCC until the legislation is enacted, but will make temporary appointments to oversee the transition from SCDC to NCC.

(f) Approval of syllabuses, the SEC and the SEAC

80. The Secretaries of State's intention to put the approval of syllabuses for GCSE and other examinations offered within the compulsory period of schooling onto a statutory basis, and to place responsibility for monitoring the administration of national assessments and local moderation of teacher assessments with a SEAC, will mean a considerable change from the status and role of the SEC. The Secretaries of State will consider whether the Council of the SEAC should be made up in the same way as that of the present SEC. They expect that the new statutory body will assume all the present responsibilities of the SEC, and will, it is hoped, take on its staff. It will also undertake the new functions concerned with assessments relating to ages 7, 11, 14 and 16. The SEAC will be set up in succession to the SEC when the legislation is enacted.

(g) The role of the APU

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81. The role of the APU in helping to steer the development and piloting of assessment instruments has already been described. The APU will continue to carry out surveys of pupil performance in various subjects, but the range of subjects will be extended over time to match those in the national curriculum, and the periods between surveys may be increased.

82. The work of APU so far has produced a wealth of evidence and insights into how pupils think, and what prevents them from learning and achieving the standards which might otherwise be expected. The Secretaries of State intend that fuller use should be made of this information to provide practical help for teachers in the classroom.


83. The Secretaries of State expect that the resources currently available in support of local policies for the curriculum and associated assessment will be directed in support of the national policy outlined in this paper.

84. Staffing standards in schools have improved steadily since 1979. The overall pupil to teacher ratio now stands at its lowest ever level. The Government's expenditure plans provide for a further limited decrease in the overall pupil to teacher ratio to 17:1 by 1990. Given these changes, the constraints on public expenditure and the likely competing demands for qualified manpower during the 1990s, the Secretaries of State will expect the national curriculum and associated assessment to be developed and implemented broadly within the planned level of resources. It will be for authorities and schools to ensure that staffing resources as well as annual spending on support services, books and equipment, and accommodation are directed in this way.

85. For their part, the Secretaries of State will give priority to support of the national curriculum in allocating resources

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for Education Support Grants and LEA training grants. This will similarly build on the existing support for new developments in teaching and the curriculum through these grants - for example, the ESG funding for primary and secondary mathematics and for primary science and technology, and training grants to assist teachers in carrying out assessment. For the final two years of compulsory schooling, the national extension of TVEI will also help LEAs in the development and establishment of the national curriculum, particularly in the areas of science and technology and in enhancing the curriculum's relevance to adult and working life.

86. In addition, the Secretaries of State will make resources available to support the work of the NCC, and of the SEAC in overseeing assessment arrangements. It is not proposed that LEAs will be charged fees for the provision of tests and moderation. The Secretaries of State will examine with local authorities the most cost effective ways of making available information to parents and others about the national curriculum and performance.


87. Once the legislation is enacted, the Secretaries of State envisage early Commencement Orders to bring into force the following provisions:

- the requirement to teach the foundation subjects - probably activated with delayed effect, to allow time for schools to make adjustments to their curriculum and timetables;

- control of public qualifications offered by schools from academic year 1989/90 for pupils up to age 16;

- the establishment of the NCC and SEAC (the latter possibly early in 1989);

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- the duty on the Secretaries of State to consult about Orders to be made on attainment targets and programmes of work;

- the general duties, to be supplemented later by requirements in regulations, to make available information;

- the duty on LEAs to determine a complaints procedure, once the Secretaries of State have issued guidance.

88. The first two subject working groups, on mathematics and science, are due to report in the summer of 1988. The Secretaries of State will want to begin formal consultations on their recommendations immediately in England through the shadow NCC if it has not yet been statutorily established. Contracts for the development and piloting of assessment instruments relating to these recommendations will begin at the same time with modifications made as a result of consultations being undertaken during the development process.

89. The Secretaries of State aim to make the first sets of Orders, relating to attainment targets and programmes of study for mathematics and science, early in the first half of 1989. At that time the power for the Secretaries of State to prescribe the assessment arrangements which must be followed would be introduced.

90. On this timetable schools may expect to begin implementing these first Orders at the start of the academic year 1989/90. The Secretaries of State will want to consider, in the light of comments received, of the views of the working groups, and of progress in preparing teachers and schools for implementation of the national curriculum, whether the Orders should be brought in on a phased basis eg for primary school pupils first, or for five to seven year olds and 11 to 14 year olds at the same time, rather than for all children in schools at once. Assessment,

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including tests, relating to the attainment targets specified in the first Orders should begin at once where in-course assessment is required: but no pupil will be assessed against the new attainment targets unless they have undertaken the programme of study leading to them - except on a pilot basis.

91. Early in 1989 the Secretaries of State will also begin consultations about minimum requirements for the provision of information to supplement the general duties already implemented. The objective will be to bring Orders into force with effect from Autumn 1989, to complement the introduction of the first attainment targets and programmes of study.

92. As recommendations from further subject working groups become available, the Secretaries of State will undertake statutory consultations, through the NCC in England, and prepare Orders relating to attainment targets and programmes of study for each foundation subject at the earliest opportunity. From summer 1991 onwards, pupils should be taking examinations for qualifications which have been subject to the Secretaries of State's approval procedures.

93. This is a challenging timetable. It will require careful planning and preparation, and responses to this document will be invaluable in helping the Secretaries of State and others to plan ahead and to offer support to those most actively involved in implementing the national curriculum.


94. The proposals outlined in the document represent a major step forward towards the common aims for compulsory education which have emerged from the debate about the curriculum begun ten years ago and recorded in "Better Schools". The challenge for the education service is to raise standards through the full and successful implementation of the national curriculum - to the point where every pupil is studying for, and being regularly

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assessed against, worthwhile attainment targets in all the essential foundation subjects, and where all members of the community with an interest in the country's education services are able to inform themselves properly about its objectives and achievements. There will be continuing and fruitful discussion throughout this process. That will influence the real substance of the work, which is to establish the national curriculum; legislation can only provide the framework.

95. The task ahead will not be done, nor done well, without the initiatives, efforts and commitment of the education profession, in particular teachers in the classroom. Their role will be enhanced rather than curtailed by a national curriculum. Theirs will be the responsibility for putting into practice an historic development which has widespread support, for realising the shared aims of the education service and its consumers alike in raising standards, and for injecting the quality and imagination into the arrangements which legislation cannot secure. The Secretaries of State hope that this document will help to stimulate debate and the thinking which will result in successful implementation of the national curriculum, as well as providing an opportunity for more immediate comment on the legislative framework proposed.

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1.1 The Government has announced its intention to legislate for a national foundation curriculum for pupils of compulsory school age in England and Wales. The aim is to equip every pupil with the knowledge, skills, understanding and aptitudes to meet the responsibilities of adult life and employment. Within the secular national curriculum, the Government intends to establish essential foundation subjects - maths, English, science, foreign languages, history, geography, technology in its various aspects, music, art and physical education. The degree of definition and the requirements to be set for each of these subjects will of course vary widely, but maths, English and science are at the centre of the curriculum and working groups are therefore being established first in these subjects. The Secretary of State for Wales will be considering what particular provision will be needed to accommodate the distinctive needs of the Welsh curriculum.

1.2 For most foundation subjects, the Government wishes to establish clear objectives - attainment targets - for the knowledge, skills, understanding and aptitudes which pupils of different abilities and maturity should be expected to have acquired at or near certain ages. To promote these objectives, the Government wishes to establish programmes of study for the subjects, describing the essential content which needs to be covered to enable pupils to reach or surpass the attainment targets. Taken together, the attainment targets and programmes of study will provide the basis for assessing pupils' performance - in relation both to expected attainment, and to the next steps needed for the pupils' development.

1.3 The Government wants attainment targets and the content of what is taught to reflect current best practice and achievement

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Both the objectives (attainment targets) and means of achieving them (programmes of study) should leave scope for teachers to use their professional talents and skills to develop schemes of work, within a set framework which is known to all. It is the task of the subject working groups to advise on that framework. The assessment instruments used, including tests, will be developed separately in the light of the working group's recommendations and those of the TGAT (see 3g below). This group will report by Christmas and I will then invite the Working Group to reflect its findings in their work.


2.1 Against this background, the mathematics/science working group is first to submit an interim report to the Secretary of State by 30 November 1987 outlining:

a) the contribution of mathematics/science to the overall school curriculum which will inform their thinking about attainment targets and programmes of study;

b) their provisional thinking about the knowledge, skills, understanding and aptitudes which pupils of different abilities and maturity should be expected to have attained and be able to demonstrate at or around the end of the academic year in which they reach the ages of (7), 11, 14 and 16. (The working group may recommend that a different age than 7 should be used to check progress in attainment during the first years of primary education, but some checking before the age of 11 is required);

c) provisional thinking about the programme of study through from 5 to 16 which would be consistent with the attainment targets provisionally identified.

2.2 In the light of this thinking, the working group should also make initial recommendations in their interim report about assessment of performance related to the attainment targets, and in particular what might appropriately be measured

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by externally set tests rather than by other techniques of assessment.

2.3 By 30 June 1988, the working group is to submit a final report to the Secretary of State, setting out and justifying its final recommendations on attainment targets and the programme of study for mathematics/science.


3.1 Working groups will be given an indication of approximately how much time they should assume to be available within the curriculum for mathematics/science. This time will also be intended to cover the teaching of cross-curricular themes to which mathematics/science can contribute. The working group should consult informally with relevant interests and have regard to the work of the other subject working groups. Additionally it should take account of:

a) best practice and the results of relevant research and curriculum developments;

b) the national and subject criteria for GCSE, taken together with recent work to establish a more objective approach to measuring attainment through the GCSE, which should provide the starting point for recommendations relating to attainment at age 16 and programmes of study for ages 14-16;

c) the need for continuity and progression throughout compulsory schooling;

d) the contribution which mathematics/science can make to learning about other subjects and the contributions which these subjects can make to learning about mathematics/science;

e) the need for attainment targets and programmes of study to reflect cross-curricular themes and subjects;

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f) the need to devise attainment targets and programmes of study appropriate for pupils of different abilities. The working group should give particular thought to the application of attainment targets in mathematics/science to lower attaining pupils; and,

g) the work of the Task Group on Assessment and Testing which the Secretary of State is setting up to make early recommendations on common criteria for the assessment framework and the choice of techniques of assessment.

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