Emotional Literacy Update takes a look at the learning aims that the secondary curriculum review hopes to put at the centre of the KS3 and KS4 curriculum from autumn 2008.

The proposed new curriculum framework for Key Stage 3 and 4 attempts to shift the focus away from what children learn to focus on the question of why they are learning particular things. Its aim is to help students become even more ‘successful learners, confident individuals and responsible citizens.’

The authors of the review argue that the way to do this is to derive a school’s curriculum development from a set of aims which then inform all aspects of teaching and learning, both at whole-school and subject levels. These aims should be ‘at the forefront of the minds of everybody who contributes to the curriculum experience of young people’ and should act as ‘the driving force shaping the decisions about what is learned and how it is learned.

Successful, confident, responsible

The curriculum should ensure that all young people become:

Successful learners who:

  • are creative, resourceful and able to solve problems
  • have enquiring minds
  • communicate well
  • understand how they learn
  • learn from their mistakes
  • learn independently and with others
  • enjoy learning and are motivated to achieve.

Confident individuals who: 

  • have a sense of self-worth and personal identity
  • relate well to others and form good relationships
  • are self-aware and deal well with their emotions
  • have secure values and beliefs
  • take the initiative and organise themselves
  • recognise their talents and have ambitions
  • are willing to try new things.

Responsible citizens who: 

  • are enterprising#
  • respect others and act with integrity
  • understand their own and other’s cultures
  • can change things for the better.

Design principles

It is when they have achieved clarity about these aims that school should make decisions about how best to organise learning so as to achieve those aims. Key principles for doing this are ensuring that:

  • everyone in the school community is signed up to a common vision, and aware of how they can contribute to achieving it
  • as much thought goes into planning how learning will take place as into what should be taught
  • the curriculum is responsive to the needs and interests of learners, as well as to the issues that affect their lives
  • the curriculum helps learners to see and experience the connections between subject areas
  • assessment reflects on personal development and skills as well as knowledge and understanding.


The review argues that young people need a range of teaching and learning experiences that includes opportunities for:

  • specialised learning – where they experience expert subject teaching
  • themed learning – where they have opportunities to make links across and beyond subjects
  • student-initiated learning – where they are able to pursue their own ideas and interests
  • learning to learn – where they can reflect on their learning, understand how they learn, set targets and build their capacity to learn.

Teachers, they say, will need to consider how to distribute approaches to learning such as:

  • active learning – where young people take part in practical tasks
  • problem-based learning – where they are presented with problems to solve
  • enquiry-based learning – where they investigate and find out things for themselves.


The review recognises the importance of developing learners who ‘see connections, have bright ideas, are innovative and able to solve problems’. People with these qualities, the authors recognise, ‘are likely to be better prepared for life in a rapidly changing world.’ To foster creativity, learners should have opportunities across the curriculum to:

  • be curious
  • question and challenge
  • make connections
  • speculate about possibilities
  • explore ideas
  • think laterally
  • reflect critically on ideas, actions and outcomes.

If teachers are to provide such opportunities, they need to:

  • find ways to capture learners’ interests through role play and other methods
  • actively encourage learners to question and make connections
  • provide time for them to think, explore and experiment
  • ask open-ended questions
  • make the most of unexpected events
  • be willing to stand back and let learners take the lead
  • stop regularly for open discussion of the problems learners are facing.

Personal, learning and thinking

The curriculum should encourage young people to develop as:
n independent enquirers – able to process and evaluate information in their investigations, planning what to do and how to go about it

  • creative thinkers – generating and exploring ideas, making original connections, working with others to find imaginative solutions
  • reflective learners – able to evaluate their strengths and limitations, setting themselves realistic goals with criteria for success, monitoring their own performance, inviting feedback from others
  • team workers – working confidently with others, adapting to different contexts and taking responsibility for their own part, taking account of different views, forming collaborative relationships, resolving issues to reach agreed outcomes
  • self-managers – organising themselves, showing personal responsibility, initiative, creativity and enterprise with a commitment to learning and self-improvement
  • effective participants – engaging actively with issues that affect them and those around them, playing a full part in the life of their school, college, workplace or wider community by taking responsible action to bring improvements for others as well as themselves

Full information about the review can be found at:

www.qca.org.uk/ secondarycurriculumreview