Home School Education and the National Curriculum

For some home schooling families, the National Curriculum has no impact on their home learning and home teaching – because, by law, it does not have to have any role in a home education. Home schooling comes under the bracket of the Education Act which refers to provision for ‘education otherwise’, which outlines the idea that while parents have to ensure their children receive an education, the exact style, method, and content of that education is not made explicit, except that it has to be suitable for a child’s age, aptitude and ability.

While some parents use that freedom to allow their home schooled child to focus learning on his or her own interests and discoveries, others appreciate the framework of the National Curriculum despite its lack of legal importance within a home schooling education. This article looks at what the National Curriculum is, and how parents may decide to use it within a home school environment.

What is the National Curriculum?

The National Curriculum is a structured created by government education experts and used by all state (maintained) schools as a way to help make teaching and learning consistent and relevant to all school children. The National Curriculum describes issues like the knowledge, skills and understanding required in each subject, attainment targets for children studying individual subjects, and the marking and assessment of pupils. The National Curriculum divides up into chunks of years – ‘key stages’ – which include Early Learning Foundation Stage, then key stages one through to four.

The National Curriculum offers parents and teachers the opportunity to compare their child’s attainment levels and individual progress at a particular subject to that which is regarded as ‘normal’ or typical for a child of his or her age. An example is that by the end of key stage two, many children will have reached level four in their attainment reports. There are also tests at the conclusion of some key stages, for example at the end of key stage two, children across the country have tests in English, Science and Maths. There is no national test at the conclusion of key stage three, while the end of key stage four usually concludes with GCSE exams.

The Curriculum in a Home Schooling Environment

While few home schooling parents follow the National Curriculum in its entirety, many decide to use some National Curriculum-based textbooks, courses and or assessment criteria while teaching at home. Some of the core skills focused on in the National Curriculum that parents who are home schooling their children may also want to integrate into their education provision include creative skills, social skills, linguistic and literary ability, mathematical and scientific knowledge, moral and spiritual awareness, and technological and physical knowledge.

Often, mainstream schools and their teachers use the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA) schemes of work in order to plan their curriculum and ensure that their lessons fit into the National Curriculum’s framework – the QCA’s work plans enable the integration of the National Curriculum’s intentions into practical teaching and learning work. Home schooling parents might also like to do so, and can find more information about this on both the QCA website and that of the Department for Children, Schools and Families’ website on Standards.