Curriculum & Assessment in English (3-19)

NATE’s mission as a charity is to support and develop the best curriculum and assessment practices in English across the whole age range, from early years to university. Whilst the main concern of most secondary teachers will be in KS3 and KS4, the NATE mission is to sustain a view of the subject in talk, reading and writing based on principles that energise the English through all of its stages, from Early Years to University. These principles will be more than a knowledge curriculum: they will involve the wider role of English in stimulating and supporting students’ social, emotional, ethical and empathetic development as a foundation for life, leisure, work and citizenship. The principles will underpin teaching and learning in a humane discipline. The humanity will be in valuing and engaging with students’ own experience, culture, thought and feeling, and the discipline will be in the knowledge, skills and activities that enhance experience, culture, thought and feeling.


NATE’s view is that a 21st century English curriculum built on secure principles should ensure that all students’ English experience should include stimulus and example drawn from culturally diverse sources in fiction and non-fiction, and access to these sources through talk, groupwork and writing. Within English, drama has a clear role in supporting learning and displaying what has been learned. Stimulus and example should develop a core of critical and appreciative literacy embracing verbal, visual, oral and digital communication. This multiple literacy should be integrated into programmes of study which ensure familiarity with the language, ideas, contexts and purposes of the English language in canonical literature and the workings of the world beyond school and imaginative fiction.


NATE believes that assessment is a professional measurement of existing, developing and fulfilled objective attainment, and a measure of the motivation, effort and personal achievement. Assessment should support further motivation and focus in learning, and should embrace more than the success criteria of presentation accuracy in writing or formal register or SE in speaking. It should record the evidence of creativity and ambition, where successfully fulfilled or not, and should reflect the variety of ways in which language acts as a medium of personal and social communication in a range of contexts.

Inevitably, some assessment will be summative and final, but that should be informed by the accumulated evidence of formative assessment across a range of communicative modes and contexts, some of them involving preparation and some spontaneous. For such assessment to be secure and fair, it will be necessary to rely on assessment criteria rather more flexible than those designed for GCSE, which are constrained by discrete tasks and discrete assessment objectives, as well as by discrete performance conditions. Some creative synthesis and extrapolation from these mark-schemes would have the advantage of being holistic rather than separated. Another way of developing a school’s customised assessment would be to adapt from the CLP Reading and Writing scales. In writing, there is useful principle and illustrated practice in James Durran’s Rethinking Success Criteria.

Further reading

You can view and download  a series of curriculum booklets below, produced by the UKLA, and supported by NATE, the CLPE (Centre for Literacy in Primary Education) and NAAE (The National Association of Advisers in English) collectively entitled: English, Language and Literacy 3 to 19 – Principles and Proposals. The following six freely downloadable PDFs summarise some of the key content of the series. Together the documents represent an alternative plan for the teaching and assessment of English 3 to 19. NATE is pleased to offer these materials for you to download and discuss.

Below you can read a selection of NATE position papers and  articles which represents NATE’s views on curriculum and assessment.