Pupils' Experiences and Perspectives of the National Curriculum and Assessment: Final report for the research review

Megan Jones, Pippa Lord

01 October 2006

The NFER has carried out a review of the research on pupils’ experiences of and perspectives on the curriculum (including the whole curriculum, individual subjects, assessment and work-related learning) published in the UK between 1989 and 2005. The review examines and categorises the key themes, findings and methodologies employed in the research. The review is based on evidence from over 300 publications.

View and download a summary of the findings

Previous reports are available at: http://www.qca.org.uk/qca_7068.aspx

Key Findings

The report presents the findings that continue to have significance in the light of current policy, and that are raised by learners as much today as throughout previous years.

  • Learners tend to have a narrow view of the relevance of the curriculum, associated with perceived subject status, assessment and ‘getting grades’ (that is, implicit messages permeate pupils’ views). Real-life connections, vocational and practical application are valued by pupils.
  • Pupils’ enjoyment of the curriculum decreases across the key stages, including a dip in Year 8 (a year with ‘no focus’, ‘in limbo’). However, there is some improvement in pupils’ enjoyment in key stage 4, particularly of optional subjects.
  • The right level of challenge is important to pupils’ engagement, enjoyment, progression and achievement. ‘Too much writing’ and ‘too many facts’ are common sentiments from pupils on the manageability of the curriculum. They recommend slimmer subject content, although not necessarily less depth.