Overview of the NI Curriculum

The Northern Ireland Curriculum was introduced in 2007 and covers all 12 years of compulsory education.

Some of its key features include the following:

  • It focuses on the learning process as well as the outcomes of education.

  • Schools and teachers have more flexibility to decide the topics and approaches that best suit their pupils; ‘the curriculum’ no longer implies a mandatory list of subject content that everyone must cover.

  • It gives equal emphasis to knowledge, understanding and skills – so while pupils are acquiring knowledge and skills, they also have opportunities to apply their learning practically.

The education system in Northern Ireland begins statutory education when a child is aged 4. All children must begin school in the September following their 4th birthday.

There are five compulsory key stages.

Pre-School (not compulsory) - For children in the year before they start Year 1

Foundation Stage - Years 1 & 2

Key Stage 1 - Years 3 & 4

Key Stage 2 - Years 5, 6 & 7

For full details of the curriculum for primary schools, see The Northern Ireland Curriculum: Primary or alternatively browse the 'Big Picture of the Primary Curriculum.'