Professional Zone


The Professional Zone – UPDATE

The ‘Quick Crib’ Guide to Education, Schools and the Curriculum...

With our current commitment to multi-agency work, many professionals, from the emergency services and beyond, find themselves working with children and young people. In these circumstances, it’s useful to have a working knowledge of schools and the curriculum. It is also worthwhile having an understanding of where your particular discipline / specialism links into this world.

For the last ten years I’ve worked with Fire and Police officers, delivering a course entitled ‘Communicating With Children’. This course was designed to give a very practical introduction to working in schools, allay fears and answer many of the ‘common sense’ questions that officers often asked.

In this section of the safety network site – I have listed the top 4 questions I have been asked. To build up your own professional knowledge, take a look at the questions that may have puzzled you.

If you feel we have left some questions unanswered feel free to email me at

Caroline Booth 

Children’s Editor - The Resource Bank


4 Key Questions

1. What is the National Curriculum?

FACT: The National Curriculum was established by the Education Reform Act 1988.

The National Curriculum is basically the ‘What’ of teaching. In 1988, for the first time, the number of subjects that should be taught, at what level and at what age was committed to paper (lots of it!). Teachers were issued with ring binder files for each curriculum subject. These files listed the skills and knowledge that children should be taught - and linked the learning to ages and key stages.

Skills and knowledge acquired at the most basic level were categorised as Level 1. More complex skills and knowledge were listed as levels 2,3,4,5,6,7 and 8 (GCSE).
 Four subjects were identified as the most important or ‘core subjects’ in both primary and secondary schools - Maths, English, Science and ICT (Information and Communication Technology).

 Other subjects such as history, geography, art, music, PE and modern languages became known as ‘foundation subjects’.

 Teaching all of these subject became statutory i.e. required by law. A system of testing and inspection was put in place to ensure that the National Curriculum was implemented in all state schools.


2. Why Bother with a National Curriculum?

Before 1988 – there was no set curriculum for schools. Yes –we all taught maths and English and a range of other subjects, but unless pupils were being prepared for exams or tests which required them to following a set syllabus, the question of what was taught was decided by individual education authorities and schools. In practice – this meant that what was delivered in classrooms varied considerable around the country. The National Curriculum brought about consistency.


3. What other changes did the Education Act 1988 bring about?

This act and other legislation that followed saw in many changes for example:

  • The Structure of schools.                                                                                                               

         Before 1988 - we talked in terms of infants, juniors and secondary pupils. You entered school in the ‘reception class’ and could leave education, if you chose, after the fifth year of secondary.

 Today education is structured into ‘Key Stages’ – beginning with the foundation stage, moving onto Key Stages 1, 2,3 and 4. Look here for an at a glance guide to ages and stages.

  • Schools and their Money                                                                                                           

              Before 1988, school budgets were largely managed by the local authorities. Today, state funded schools receive an annual budget that is calculated according to factors such as numbers of pupils on role and the area in which the school is cited.
The school uses this budget to meet almost all of it’s operating costs – including staff salaries, premises and specialist services (library, education psychology services etc). Local Authority Maintained schools receive their funding from the their Local Authority.  Academy Schools are also state funded - but receive their funds directly from the centralised EFA ( Education funding Agency). All secondary schools and many primary schools now have bursars – taking care of their day to day financial affairs.

  • Schools and their Management Structures                                                                             

               All schools have a head and deputy. They also have heads of department / curriculum area leaders and heads of key stages. Key members of staff are often referred to as belonging to the SMT (senior management team).

The activities of the school are also overseen by the Governing Body. Governing bodies gained a wider remit as a part of the education reform process. Governors are drawn from the local authority, the school’s staff, parents and the local community. Their task is to act as a ‘critical friend’ to the school - helping to drive improvement and positive change. As a part of their role, governors ratify the school budget, take part in recruitment, oversee performance management and pay issues and take part in the development of the curriculum.

  •  Assessment and Testing                                                                                                                       In days gone by we had the seven plus and the eleven plus and then we went onto ‘O’ and ‘A’ levels. Today we have SATs (Standardised Assessment Tests) GCSEs, AS and A levels.

  The SATs were brought in to measure children's progress as they work through the National Curriculum. Originally, children were formally tested in three core subjects at age 7, 11 and 14.

Recently, the formal tests at the end of KS1 (infants) have been replaced by teacher assessment, the tests at the age of 14 have been dropped and there has been pressure to drop the tests at age 11. Schools now work to assess pupil progress using a system called APP (assessing pupil progress).  APP gives an ongoing picture of a pupil’s achievement and progress – rather than a periodic ‘snap shot’. Measuring progress in this way helps teachers to plan appropriately for individual children’s learning and alerts them to any issues that may arise with progress.
  •  Inspection                                                                                                                                                                              Schools are subject to regular inspections by independent assessment teams from Ofsted (Office for Standards in Education). Originally Ofsted inspection teams gave many weeks notice that they were planning to inspect schools. Now they are obliged to give only a few days notice. A formal inspection report is written following a visit – parents and all other interested parties can view this report.

Some very recent changes....

In September 2014  'Curriculum 2014' came in to force. The stated aim is to slim down the content of the curriculum in almost all subjects (though not in primary English, maths or science) and to make the curriculum more challenging. The government says the new curriculum does not tell teachers "how to teach", but concentrates on "the essential knowledge and skills every child should have" so that teachers "have the freedom to to shape the curriculum to their pupils' needs".

NB: 'Curriculum 2014' will be followed in the majority of England's schools. Most primary schools in England are not academies and almost half of secondary schools are not academies. These schools are bound by the curriculum. Academy schools have more freedom with regard to how they teach the core curriculum content. However, they are likely to use the national curriculum as a guide.

Other key changes that have come into force involve the way in which pupils are assessed. Prior to September 2014, schools had to use a standard system of assessing and reporting pupil's attainment and progress. Following the changes, schools can select their own methods of assessment, although they will still have to track progress and report it to parents.

The new curriculum covers primary school pupils, aged five to 11, and secondary schools pupils up to the age of 14. A new curriculum for 15- and 16-year-olds will come into force from September 2015.


4. OK, so schools teach all the traditional subjects - but what relevance do the subjects that we cover e.g. safety and citizenship, have to the curriculum?

We do not ‘build’ a whole child by giving them knowledge and subject specific skills alone. Teachers understand that young people need a whole range of skills in order to live safe, happy, healthy, fulfilled lives – and contribute to their community. For this reason there are other curriculum / subject areas that are taught in schools. Some of these curriculum areas are statutory – others are non-statutory. Some are listed in the National Curriculum Handbooks for Primary and Secondary Schools. Other curriculum guidelines or national initiatives appear within separate documents.

Examples of these include:

PSHE and Citizenship  (PSHE stands for Personal Social and Health Education)

In primary schools PSHE and Citizenship are taught as a joint subject. Non-statutory
 Guidelines for PSHE and Citizenship at Key Stages 1 and 2 are included within the National Curriculum Handbooks for Primary Schools. 
In the past two years efforts have been made by professional groups to try to ensure that PSHE becomes a statutory subject. So far these efforts have been unsuccessful.

In Secondary Schools – PSHEE and Citizenship are separated out. There are non-statutory guidelines for PSHEE at KS 3 and 4 – but Citizenship becomes a statutory foundation subject –with it’s own separate ‘what to teach’ documents.


Please Note: The coalition government is currently undertaking a review of the whole curriculum - which will include PSHE and Citizenship. It is understood however that the current curriculum for these subjects ( taken from Primary Curriculum 2000 / Secondary Curriculum 2007)  will remain 'in force' until 2014. By this understanding, the knowledge and skills outlined below should still be promoted by schools. 

PSHE at KS and 1 and 2 

At this stage the focus is upon promoting knowledge, skills and understanding under 4 key headings.

1. Developing confidence and responsibility and making the most of their abilities


2.Preparing to play an active role as citizens


3. Developing a healthy, safer lifestyle

4. Developing good relationships and respecting the differences between people

NB: Requirement 3 is possibly the most relevant for emergency service professionals as it states that children should know:

  • how to make simple choices that improve their health and wellbeing
  • that all household products, including medicines, can be harmful if not used properly
  • about the rules for, and ways of, keeping safe, including basic road safety, and about  people who can help them to stay safe.

Under each heading there are individual statements outlining what pupils should be taught.
A good exercise for Police and Fire officers – is to download the guidelines from the National Curriculum On-line site (click on PSHE) Then use a highlighter pen to indicate where your input to young people meets or matches what these guidelines say should be taught.


PSHEE (personal, social, health and economic wellbeing) at KS3 and 4

Personal, social, health and economic education brings together personal, social and health education, work-related learning, careers, enterprise, and financial capability. There are two new non-statutory programmes of study at key stages 3 and 4: personal wellbeing, and economic wellbeing and financial capability.

For emergency service professionals the Personal Wellbeing element of the non-statutory PSHEE guidelines is the most relevant. Indeed at the end of Key stage 3 learners are expected, under these guidelines, to be able to ;

  •  identify characteristics of good health and how to stay physically, emotionally and mentally healthy
  •  make informed choices about their health and wellbeing and explain reasons for their choices
  • demonstrate effective ways of resisting negative pressure, including peer pressure
  •  describe the main effects of, and laws relating to, alcohol, tobacco and other legal and illegal drugs.
  • describe the positive and negative impacts of risk-taking on their health and wellbeing
  • assess and manage risks associated with personal lifestyle choices and situation, try new ideas and face challenges safely.


Citizenship at Key Stages 3 and 4

In Secondary Schools Citizenship becomes a statutory foundation subject - underpinned by three key concepts:

  1. Democracy and Justice

2. Rights and Responsibilities

3. Identities and Diversity: living together in the UK.

Each key concept is unpacked and essential skills and processes are outlined within the KS3/4 Citizenship documents (see www.


National Healthy Schools Standard (NHSS)

The National Healthy Schools Standardis the ‘bench mark’ of the Healthy Schools Programme. The National Healthy Schools Programme was introduced in 1999 as a vehicle to support the teaching of Personal, Social and Health Education (PSHE).
Every local education authority (LEA) in England worked in partnership with primary care trusts (PCTs) to manage a local healthy schools programme.

The aims of the National Healthy Schools Programme were:

  • to support children and young people in developing healthy behaviours;
  • to help to raise pupil achievement;
  • to help to reduce health inequalities; and
  • to help promote social inclusion.

Each local programme had a local co-ordinator and a team from education and health supporting its management and delivery. However, the National Healthy Schools Scheme is currently being reviewed by the coalition government and many local schemes have experienced significant funding cuts. To find out more about the current status of your Healthy Schools Programme  - enquire locally.


Every Child Matters

Every Child Matters: Change for Children was a new approach to the well-being of children and young people from birth to age 19. The previous Government's aim was for every child, whatever their background or their circumstances, to have the support they needed to:

  • Be healthy
  • Stay safe
  • Enjoy and achieve
  • Make a positive contribution
  • Achieve economic well-being

The previous Government’s five aims for every child were known as the 5 outcomes. Organisations involved in providing services to children were required to work together and share information in order to achieve these aims.

Although legal aspects of Every Child Matters, remain on the statute books – the ‘language’ has now gone ( if you do a google search for the original document - 'Every Child Matters - Change for Children', the wording on the Department for Education website currently says - 'This publication has been archived. The summary text below was correct when the item was first published. It has been made available for reference use but should not be considered to reflect current policy or guidance.' ).