This page provides information on the subjects that schools in England must teach in Key Stage 3 and Key Stage 4 and offers advice on what to do if you want to withdraw your child from certain subjects or examinations.
What subjects does my child’s school have to teach?
All maintained schools must follow the National Curriculum at Key Stage 3 (Years 7, 8 and 9) and Key Stage 4 (Years 10 and 11) as outlined below.
Academies and Free Schools do not have to follow the National Curriculum. However they still have to teach some subjects as part of their Education Funding Agreement with the Department for Education. You can get a copy of your child’s Academy Education Funding Agreement from the Academy or Education Funding Agency.
Independent schools do not have to follow the National Curriculum.
For further information on the different types of school see our information page on Types of School.
What subjects must maintained schools teach?
Key Stage 3
Compulsory National Curriculum subjects in Key Stage 3 (Years 7, 8 and 9) are:
- Modern Foreign Languages
- Design And Technology
- Art And Design
- Physical Education
Key Stage 4
During Key Stage 4 most pupils work towards national qualifications such as GCSEs. The compulsory National Curriculum subjects are the ‘core’ and ‘foundation’ subjects.
Core subjects are:
- Science (minimum- Single Science)
Pupils must take core subjects and recent government legislation means that pupils without a pass in English and Maths will be required to retake these between the ages of 16 and 18.
Foundation subjects are:
- Physical Education
Schools must also offer at least one subject from each of the following areas:
- Design and Technology
- Modern Foreign Languages.
Can a maintained school make other subjects compulsory?
Maintained schools can decide to make other subjects compulsory in addition to the compulsory subjects of the National Curriculum. Every maintained school will have a policy which sets out which subjects are compulsory.
Does my child have to do religious or sex education?
Maintained schools must provide religious education and sex education from Key Stage 3 but parents can ask for their children to be taken out of the whole lesson or part of it. Schools should make clear in their policy how they will provide religious education and when they will accept withdrawal from these classes.
Maintained schools must provide religious education and sex education at Key Stage 4 although pupils do not have to take exams in these subjects
Some parts of sex and relationship education are compulsory as they form part of the National Curriculum for science. Parents can withdraw their children from all other parts of sex and relationship education if they want to.
All maintained schools must have a written policy on sex education, which they must make freely available to parents.
What subjects must Academies teach?
The government has stated that:
‘Academies are required to have a broad and balanced curriculum which promotes the spiritual, moral, cultural, mental and physical development of pupils and prepares them for the opportunities, responsibilities and experiences of later life.’
While Academies are not required to follow the National Curriculum they are required to ensure that their curriculum:
- includes English, Maths and Science;
- includes religious education (the exact nature of this will depend on whether the school has a faith designation);
- includes sex and relationship education.
The details of the curriculum that the Academy is required to follow will be outlined in their Education Funding Agreement with the Department for Education. You can get a copy of your child’s Academy Education Funding Agreement from the Academy or Education Funding Agency.
What can I do if I am unhappy with the subjects offered?
If you are unhappy about any aspect of the curriculum offered by your child’s school or want to withdraw your child from part of the curriculum or an examination it is a good idea to begin by meeting with the Head Teacher to discuss this.
If the matter is not resolved then you may wish to make a written complaint to the Governing Body. For more information see our information page on Complaints to Schools.
What can I do if I wish to withdraw a child from an examination subject?
Get a copy of the school policy on the curriculum.
Speak to the school in person. They will be able to advise on how withdrawal may affect a child’s future prospects (for example many Sixth Form Colleges have a minimum entrance requirement).
If, after a full discussion with the school, you are not in agreement then you may wish to lodge a complaint. For more information see our information page on Complaints to Schools.