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Curriculum Series: What you need to know about the English National Curriculum

The first part of our Curriculum Series answers the most commonly asked questions about the English National Curriculum. As a widely recognised curricula offered in international schools worldwide, find out whether or not the English National Curriculum is right for your child. 

  • English National Curriculum

By Andy Puttock, Education Director of Nord Anglia Education

The English National Curriculum (ENC) is used by all schools in England and by thousands of British curriculum schools all over the world. It is estimated that over 30,000 schools in total follow the English National Curriculum.

The ENC was first launched in 1988 and has been developing consistently since then. It is a very well-established and recognised curriculum and often characterised by the terms broad and balancedbecause it covers a full breadth of subjects up to the age of 14. The curriculum focuses on delivering high academic standards whilst ensuring that students also develop wider life skills.

What is unique about the curriculum?

One of the strengths of the ENC is that it is highly structured, from early years to age 14, with progress measures throughout to inform parents and teachers. Students’ progress is benchmarked against the expectations from the curriculum, and against all the other schools. After the age of 14, students enter two years of preparation for the (International) General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE) examination, taken at age 16. This is one of the only curricula which has internationally- recognised qualifications in every single subject at this age.

Because students become accustomed to examinations at this stage, they are very well-prepared for study beyond the age of 16, as they enter the International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Programme – now followed by the majority of international schools worldwide – or A-levels. IGCSE is therefore widely accepted as an excellent foundation for this next stage.

The ENC is also adaptable to an international school setting. For example, our international schools offer the Juilliard performing arts curriculum and a new STEAM programme, in collaboration with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, whilst still delivering the full requirements of the ENC in these subjects.

How well does this education system prepare students for the real world?

Universities and employers across the world recognise the British education system and hold it in high regard. The ongoing development of the curriculum to encompass skills that employers are seeking, such as leadership, teamwork, problem-solving, global awareness, digital literacy, breadth of thinking and creativity give the ENC high standing.

The ENC also places a premium on personal, social, health, and economic education. The framework of academic excellence, respect and good manners, all hallmarks of the ENC, ensures that personal development is also at the heart of education.

Where is it offered?

The English National Curriculum and British curriculum is found in schools around the world in very significant numbers. Indeed, there are very few major cities with international schools where a British curriculum model cannot be found. It is well worth looking into school websites to check this out because the school name may not readily provide a clue. The ‘British School of….’ is clearly an indicator but other school groups, and indeed individual schools, may well choose the curriculum because of the opportunities it offers to students.