After six weeks of summer holidays, children can find it quite a shock to be back at school.
But when term resumes this week, it may be even tougher than usual. For the country is about to undergo the biggest education shake-up in a decade with a new, tougher national curriculum.
And further changes are planned, with Education Secretary Nicky Morgan saying the Conservatives will pledge at the next election to make every pupil study five core academic subjects until they are 16.
Under the new curriculum, children aged five will have to recite poetry by heart, 11-year-olds will sit maths exams without calculators and teenagers will study at least two Shakespeare plays.
Computer programming will be taught from five to 14, and foreign languages will be made compulsory at primary school.
There will be a new emphasis on spelling and grammar, and history will focus on the story of Britain.
The more traditional curriculum is the culmination of a four-year campaign started by Michael Gove. His successor Mrs Morgan has pledged to continue the drive.
Two-thirds of parents are totally unaware of the changes, a survey of 1,000 by the tuition firm Explore Learning found. And six out of ten teachers say their schools are not prepared, a poll by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers showed.
The curriculum was finalised last September – which eight out of ten teachers said left too little time to make changes. In the survey of 618 teachers, nine out of ten labelled the Department for Education’s approach ‘chaotic’ or ‘flawed’.
Nansi Ellis, of the ATL, said: ‘The Government has rushed through the biggest change to the national curriculum in a decade.
‘Children . . . face an uncertain time as their teachers are still trying to make sense of the new curriculum. It is extremely unfair to jeopardise young people’s education through what seems to be national mismanagement of change.’
Carey Ann Dodah, of Explore Learning, said: ‘The curriculum is a response to fears that England is slipping behind international competitors and there are some drastic changes.’ Meanwhile, Mrs Morgan said the Tories will press for more reforms if they win the election.
She laid out plans yesterday for all pupils to study GCSE English, maths, science, one language and either history or geography.
Schools that do not teach the five subjects – which together make up an ‘English baccalaureate’ – will not be eligible for a ‘good’ rating from Ofsted, she said.
‘We want students to be able to keep their options open for as long as possible,’ Mrs Morgan added.
She said that while students in wealthy areas already learn these subjects, ‘that is not always happening in less advantaged areas’.
A Department for Education spokesman said teachers had time to prepare for the changes, adding: ‘We will not stand by and allow pupils to lose ground with peers in countries across the world.’
The Daily Mail