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New School Year, New Primary Curriculum

The start of the new term brings changes every year for schools, teachers, pupils and parents alike. However in addition to the usual information that teachers and school staff will need, this September will see the start of one of the biggest changes for a generation as the new Primary Curriculum for schools is introduced. Whilst some schools will have been working towards introducing the new curriculum throughout the last year, this September will see full implementation in primary schools across England.

So, what changes can we expect to see? Some of the key differences are:

  • The National Curriculum contains programmes of study for schools to follow. In the new curriculum, these are felt to be more challenging, slimmer, and focused on what the current government has identified as the most essential subject knowledge.
  • More detailed programmes of study are included for the core subjects of English, Maths and Science.
  • However, in other non-core subjects, the programmes of study are slimmed down, allowing teachers more freedom to develop a curriculum for their own school.
  • The current system of National Curriculum attainment levels will be removed and a new system of assessment and accountability will be put in place.

A significant difference in the new curriculum is the removal of speaking and listening as a standalone area of study. This means children will no longer be specifically taught speaking and listening skills, but instead ‘spoken language’ will be an area of learning that will run throughout the curriculum. There is no specific programme of study for spoken language; instead the curriculum states that “teachers should develop pupils’ spoken language, reading, writing and vocabulary as integral aspects of the teaching of every subject. English is both a subject in its own right and the medium for teaching; for pupils, understanding the language provides access to the whole curriculum. Fluency in the English language is an essential foundation for success in all subjects”. The inclusion of information highlighting the ‘importance of spoken language in pupils’ development across the whole curriculum – cognitively, socially and linguistically’ is a welcome aspect of the new curriculum document.

Here at I CAN we welcome the fact that spoken language has been positioned as integral to every subject in the curriculum, and this is something that our Talk programmes support. It is also important to remember, however, that spoken language refers to understanding language as well as talking, a crucial fact that could be overlooked. I CAN will continue to work hard to support school staff to ensure understanding of language is taken in to account, and give them the tools and information they need to help them identify when children are struggling with language and communication.

Of course, spoken language skills develop over time and with no programme of study, it will be essential that teaching staff have access to information about what can be typically expected of a child’s speech, language and communication at different ages. To do this they can make use of available information and resources from organisations like I CAN, describing typical milestones for language and communication.

We watch with interest the ways in which this new curriculum is implemented and the impact that it may have on children and their communication skills.

If you are interested in finding out more information on supporting spoken language skills through I CAN’s Primary Talk training, a package of training, mentoring and resources for staff, as well as accreditation of primary schools, visit

If you are a practitioner or a parent with a question or concern about a child’s communication skills, contact I CAN Help.