Curriculum jargon buster

There are lots of bizarre curriculum terms flying around. Get up to speed on what they mean.

Last reviewed on 11 November 2022
School types: All · School phases: All
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  1. Download our jargon buster
  2. Curriculum
  3. Intent, implementation and impact
  4. 'Broad and balanced'
  5. Thematic curriculum/cross-curricular
  6. Discrete subjects
  7. Spiritual, moral, social and cultural (SMSC) education
  8. Personal, social, health and economic education (PSHE)
  9. Relationships and sex education (RSE)
  10. Core and foundation subjects
  11. English Baccalaureate (EBacc)
  12. Attainment 8 and progress 8
  13. Differentiation
  14. Scheme of work
  15. The Gatsby Benchmarks

Here are some common curriculum terms you might come across. If your senior leaders ever use a term you're not clear on, ask them to explain it to you.

Download our jargon buster

Download and print off our jargon buster so you have it handy – feel free to share it with other governors too.

If you prefer to go paperless, read the article below instead – it's got the same information.


A framework which sets out:

  • What’s going to be taught
  • How it'll be taught
  • How pupils' knowledge and understanding will be evaluated as a result

Ofsted defines this in paragraph 200 of the School inspection handbook:

A school’s curriculum sets out the aims of a programme of education. It also sets out the structure for those aims to be implemented, including the knowledge and skills to be gained at each stage. It enables the school to evaluate pupils’ knowledge and skills against those expectations.

Be clear on your role in monitoring the curriculum.

Intent, implementation and impact

  Intent Implementation Impact
Definition What you want pupils to know and to be able to do. It's not a vision or mission statement How you teach your intended curriculum The extent to which pupils have learned what you intended them to learn, and how you know this
  • A long-term plan (such as a curriculum map), showing the knowledge and skills you want pupils to gain at each stage, and by the end of their time at school
  • Your rationale for why you've made these choices
  • Teaching methods
  • Classroom resources
  • Sequencing and structure
  • Assessment
  • Outcomes in externally set assessments
  • Pupils' destinations (e.g. further or higher education or employment)
  • Conversations with pupils that demonstrate they know, can do, and remember more than they did before

Ofsted will consider these when it inspects your school's curriculum – but note that it won't judge intent, implementation and impact separately. 

'Broad and balanced'

A curriculum that covers lots of different subjects, enabling pupils to develop a wide range of knowledge and skills. This links to your curriculum intent, and Ofsted's on the lookout for it (see paragraphs 205 to 208 of the inspection handbook). 

The curriculum should:

  • Promote the spiritual, moral, cultural, mental and physical development of pupils
  • Prepare pupils for the opportunities, responsibilities and experiences of later life

This is explained in section 78 of the Education Act 2002


  • The curriculum map covers core subjects (such as English and maths) and non-core subjects (such as art and PE)
  • In RE and history pupils learn about a range of religions, time periods and places

Thematic curriculum/cross-curricular

When the curriculum is taught through 1 or several overarching themes. Subjects are linked in some way to the theme(s).  


  • A school's theme, ‘outer space’, is taught through subjects including science, creative writing, maths, music and art
  • Malvern Wyche Church of England Primary School in Worcestershire teaches its curriculum through long-term projects called 'journeys'. Pupils may find themselves planning the layout of a stand-alone website or directing a short film

If you're a curriculum link governor in a school that has a thematic curriculum, read this article to be clear on what your role is and how you should monitor the curriculum.

Discrete subjects

Subjects that don't fall into any overarching theme (see 'Thematic curriculum', above). 

Your school’s curriculum might be made up of just discrete subjects, or it might have an overarching theme comprising of both thematic subjects and discrete subjects.


  • PE doesn’t fit into the theme ‘outer space’
  • Heritage Park Primary School in Peterborough teaches some areas as discrete subjects, and makes cross-curricular links between other areas by teaching them as topics

Spiritual, moral, social and cultural (SMSC) education

This covers things like:

  • Knowledge of and respect for different faiths
  • Ability to recognise right and wrong
  • Appreciation and understanding of a wide range of cultural influences

SMSC can be covered in various subjects, including RE; personal, social, health and economic education (PSHE); and relationships and sex education (RSE).

Read more about SMSC development in paragraphs 299 to 303 of the School inspection handbook.

SMSC is part of how Ofsted inspects 'personal development'.

Personal, social, health and economic education (PSHE)

This can incorporate SMSC education (see above).

PSHE can include financial education, careers education, personal health and human rights and abuses.

Relationships and sex education (RSE)

This includes teaching about families, respectful relationships, mental wellbeing, internet safety and healthy eating.

In secondary school it also includes teaching about intimate and sexual relationships, and sexual health.

RSE and PSHE might be combined.

There are statutory requirements for RSE – know what they are.

Core and foundation subjects

Core subjects: English, maths and science.

Foundation subjects: art and design, computing, design and technology, geography, history, languages, music and PE.

This is outlined on page 7 of the National Curriculum framework document for primary schools and page 6 for secondary schools.

English Baccalaureate (EBacc)

A set of subjects that secondary school pupils take at GCSE level:

  • English language and literature
  • Maths
  • The sciences
  • Geography or history
  • A language

This is covered in the Department for Education's (DfE's) guidance on the EBacc.

Attainment 8 and progress 8

Attainment 8 measures pupils' attainment across 8 subjects:

  • Maths (double weighted)
  • English (double weighted if both English language and literature are sat)
  • 3 qualifications that count in the EBacc measures (see above)
  • 3 further qualifications that can be GCSE qualifications (including EBacc subjects) or technical awards

Progress 8 is used as an indicator of school performance, aiming to capture the progress that pupils in a school make from the end of primary school to the end of Key Stage 4. It compares a pupil's attainment 8 score with the average scores of pupils nationally who had similar prior attainment.

This is outlined on pages 13 to 15 of the DfE's guidance.


When a teacher tailors a particular lesson to the needs of pupils with different abilities. 

Example: a maths lesson on telling the time has different activities for high, middle and low-ability pupils.

Scheme of work

The road map for a subject, covering all the units of work pupils will study each term and the opportunities for assessment. 

It might include learning activities, resources, and levels of differentiation. 

The Gatsby Benchmarks

These are 8 benchmarks of good practice for career development: 

  • A stable careers programme
  • Learning from career and labour market information
  • Addressing the needs of each student
  • Linking curriculum learning to careers
  • Encounters with employers and employees
  • Experiences of workplaces
  • Encounters with further and higher education
  • Personal guidance

Your school's careers education and guidance (compulsory in secondary schools from year 8 to year 13) should be developed in line with these benchmarks.

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