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How to use the English National Curriculum in International Schools

Updated: Jul 5, 2021

In response to the increasing interest from international schools in using UK schemes of work for the English National Curriculum, we look at the subjects taught and how they fit into a weekly timetable.

Over 8,000 international primary schools use the English National Curriculum because of its equal emphasis on teaching skills and knowledge across a broad range of subjects. From a parental point of view, it also means that children moving between countries – or returning to the UK - are more able to fit seamlessly back into their home Curriculum. Using trusted schemes of work makes that process all the easier, both from the child’s perspective and for your own lesson planning.

But when looking to buy schemes of work from the UK market, which subjects should you invest in first? How can you support your teachers when they may be in small pockets with less opportunity to engage with peer support? Here are some ideas below - with links to the relevant pages on our website.

In the majority of English primary schools, just over an hour a day is given to both Maths and English. For an international school English is, of course, a key element. In the UK English is often divided up into separate teaching time for grammar, spelling, reading and, if you're teaching Key Stage One, phonics. Writing arguably has more space given to it in the timetable than other components of English.

Maths is usually taught as one subject, with some schools having a separate smaller session one or twice weekly for dedicated times-table practice. Many schools will also hold separate sessions for numeracy catch-up (which we call numeracy intervention).

English primary schools aim to teach a science curriculum for two hours per week, although in practical terms this can be difficult with a packed timetable. When looking at science schemes, we think it's worth researching one that supports a range of physical experiments. Some of these schemes will come with the equipment needed for the experiments, whilst for others you'll need to purchase that separately.

Humanities subjects are often grouped together in 'topic' lessons, where history, geography and RE are overlapped and taught in a thematic, cross-curricular manner. We have listed schemes of work that are laid out in that way here. For those looking for individual subject lesson planning however, there is a huge selection of schemes for geography and history.

International schools often face issues in teaching Religious Education (R.E.) and Personal, Social and Health Education (PSHE) as such subjects can of course be dependent on local cultures and sensitivities. There is a wealth of really helpful schemes available though that will guide teachers in exploring these topics.

Of course, one area where an international school will have different concerns – and advantages - from the average English school is in relation to non-English languages. The Primary Curriculum states that “any modern or ancient” language can be taught but in reality, French and Spanish tend to be the most popular foreign languages. Having said that, in more recent times Mandarin and Latin have become increasingly popular due to the implementation of the 2014 National Curriculum.

Last but not least, Art & Design and Design & Technology are two separate subjects which were specified as distinct topics by the National Curriculum changes in 2014. These two subjects sometimes do overlap, and for this reason are generally not taught separately in the same week. Rather, each will generally be taught on an alternating termly basis. These are also the subjects which teachers may feel are outside of their comfort zone and where specialist schemes of work can really make a difference.

Have a look at our directory and you'll see that some publishers provide schemes of work for the entire national curriculum. These are definitely worth checking out and are a great way of resourcing subjects for a lower budget. However, be aware that publishers which specialise in specific subjects will often go into greater detail and breadth with that specialist subject than those who provide lesson plans for the whole curriculum.

We hope you’ve found this quick canter through National Curriculum schemes of work useful. As always, we are happy to hear your comments and thoughts about the issues you might be facing in working with the Curriculum overseas.


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