Principles for curriculum design

The curriculum should be designed on the basis of the following principles:

  • Challenge and enjoyment
  • Breadth
  • Progression
  • Depth
  • Personalisation and choice
  • Coherence
  • Relevance.

The principles must be taken into account for all children and young people.

They apply to the curriculum both at an organisational level and in the classroom and in any setting where children and young people are learners.

The principles will assist teachers and schools in their practice and as a basis for continuing review, evaluation and improvement. They apply to the curriculum at national, education authority, school and individual levels and must be taken into account for all children and young people

Although all should apply at any one stage, the principles will have different emphases as a child or young person learns and develops.

Challenge and enjoyment

Children and young people should find their learning challenging, engaging and motivating. The curriculum should encourage high aspirations and ambitions for all.

At all stages, learners of all aptitudes and abilities should experience an appropriate level of challenge, to enable each individual to achieve his or her potential. They should be active in their learning and have opportunities to develop and demonstrate their creativity. There should be support to enable children and young people to sustain their effort.


All children and young people should have opportunities for a broad, suitably weighted range of experiences. The curriculum should be organised so that they will learn and develop through a variety of contexts within both the classroom and other aspects of school life.


Children and young people should experience continuous progression in their learning from 3 to 18 within a single curriculum framework.

Each stage should build upon earlier knowledge and achievements. Children should be able to progress at a rate which meets their needs and aptitudes, and keep options open so that routes are not closed off too early.

Progression in the experiences and outcomes


There should be opportunities for children to develop their full capacity for different types of thinking and learning. As they progress, they should develop and apply increasing intellectual rigour, drawing different strands of learning together, and exploring and achieving more advanced levels of understanding.

Personalisation and choice

The curriculum should respond to individual needs and support particular aptitudes and talents. It should give each child and young person increasing opportunities for exercising responsible personal choice as they move through their school career.

Once they have achieved suitable levels of attainment across a wide range of areas of learning, the choice should become as open as possible. There should be safeguards to ensure that choices are soundly based and lead to successful outcomes.


Taken as a whole, children and young people's learning activities should combine to form a coherent experience. There should be clear links between the different aspects of children and young people's learning, including opportunities for extended activities which draw different strands of learning together.


Children and young people should understand the purposes of their activities. They should see the value of what they are learning and its relevance to their lives, present and future.

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