Deciphering the British Curriculum: An Overview for Parents in Dubai

Selecting a particular private school curriculum for a child often feels like navigating through a labyrinth for parents. Amidst the numerous options, however, one program has managed to distinguish itself and etch a global footprint: the British curriculum

Parents opting for British curriculum schools in Dubai do so for good reason. These schools offer a well-rounded education and set the stage for excellence in higher-level learning.

If you’re unsure about how your child will benefit from studying in a British curriculum school, this guide will serve as a compass, guiding you through its structure, progression stages, and the advantages it presents.

What is the British Curriculum?

The British curriculum is an academic program that was first instituted in England in the 1980s. It focuses on the full development of the learner by sustaining a holistic and balanced education that cultivates creativity, critical thinking, and adaptability.

Additionally, it outlines a set of measurable goals, each thoughtfully crafted to enhance the student learning experience at each stage before moving to the next one.

The Educational Voyage: Key Stages

A unique aspect of the British curriculum is its division into distinct ‘key stages’. This transparent roadmap charts the course of a student’s educational journey and helps parents clearly understand the learning outcomes.

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Early Years Foundation Stage

The Early Years Foundation Stage or EYFS starts at the age of two and lasts till the age of five. During this period, learning takes on a play-based approach.

The areas of learning at the EYFS level are:

  • Social and emotional development
  • Communication and language
  • Mathematics
  • Literacy
  • Physical Development
  • Art and Design

As these initial years come to an end, most children typically have a foundational grasp of reading and basic numerical skills. They’re also more familiar with the basics of a second language.


The review process for your child’s progress unfolds in two main stages. Initially, when they are between two and three years old, an early years practitioner or health visitor conducts an evaluation.

The second review happens at the end of the school year when your child turns five, this time, under the watchful eye of their class teacher. These reviews are based on classroom observations rather than formal tests.

Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2

The Key Stage 1 (KS1) and Key Stage 2 (KS2) programs comprise the primary school years. KS1 (ages 5-7) covers Years 1 and 2, while KS2 (ages 7-11) includes Years 3, 4, 5 and 6. The mandatory subjects at these stages are:

  • English
  • Maths
  • Science
  • Design and technology
  • History
  • Geography
  • Art
  • Music
  • Physical education (PE)
  • Computing
  • Ancient and modern foreign languages (for KS2)


The KS1 assessments are as follows:

  • Year 1 

The Year 1 phonics screening check typically takes place in June. It involves the student reading 40 words aloud to a teacher, who will then determine whether the student’s performance is acceptable or if they need extra help. If students underperform, they must do it again in Year 2.

  • Year 2 

In May, second-year students take exams which cover English reading, English grammar, punctuation and spelling, and maths.

As for KS2 assessments, when children finish Key Stage 2, they will take national tests in English reading, grammar, punctuation and spelling, mathematics and science.

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Key Stage 3

Students in the age group of 11 to 14 fall into the third stage or Key Stage 3 (KS3) of compulsory education, which covers Years 7, 8 and 9. KS3 is particularly important as it lays the foundation for the GCSE national qualification that students will sit for in a few short years.

The curriculum in KS3 includes:

  • English
  • Mathematics
  • Science
  • History
  • Geography
  • Citizenship
  • Art and design
  • Music
  • Physical education
  • Modern foreign languages
  • Technology and computing

Key Stage 4 

In Key Stage 4 (KS4), most students work towards achieving national qualifications, particularly the General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE). The national curriculum mandates a set of core and foundation subjects.

Core subjects include:

  • English
  • Maths
  • Science

Foundation subjects include:

  • Computing
  • Physical education
  • Citizenship

And in accordance with the British curriculum, schools are also required to offer at least one subject from the following areas:

  • Arts
  • Design and technology
  • Humanities
  • Modern foreign languages

Why the British Curriculum

The British curriculum is the choice of parents for their children’s education because of the following reasons:

1. Balanced Approach

The British curriculum is designed to expose students to a wide array of subjects. These include core subjects like maths, science, and literature as well as other fields like citizenship, the arts and humanities. The rationale behind this is to offer an all-encompassing education that caters to different interests and talents.

The program lays the groundwork for these subjects starting from the initial stages. As students move forward, they’re introduced to more intricate aspects of each subject and learn how they relate with other areas of study. This approach helps cultivate a well-rounded understanding and appreciation for knowledge among students.

2. Global Opportunities

With its roots in over 160 countries worldwide, the British curriculum is recognised as a global passport to educational success. Its universal acceptance allows students to transition smoothly between schools and even countries without disrupting their academic journey.

And when it comes time to pursue higher education, students will have access to some of the best universities in the world.

3. Growth Beyond the Classroom

In the British education system, academic learning is certainly prioritised. However, it also emphasises the importance of students exploring their interests and passions through activities like sports, music and drama.

What’s more, students have opportunities to cultivate essential life skills. These include effective debating, active participation in discussions, critical questioning, and problem solving. These skills aid in boosting students’ intellectual curiosity and prepare them for future challenges they might encounter in university or in their chosen careers.

Next Steps for Parents

The British curriculum path promises a host of benefits for young students. However, some parents may hesitate because of the costs involved. 

Remember, school fees differ from one institution to another no matter the curriculum. Also, there are avenues available to help with school fees in Dubai. These include scholarships, grants, discounts on tuition fees or special payment plans.

What’s important in school selection is that parents take the time to examine their child’s prospective school, particularly its program of learning.

So, focus on giving your child the best possible education at a British curriculum school.

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