Primary School Jargon Buster

Primary School Jargon Buster
Teacher and children in school art class
Teacher and children in school art class

Jargon seems to be everywhere these days and our children's schools are no exception. The many terms and abbreviations used in education are not always immediately obvious or explained to parents. Even our kids can be in on the 'secret language of school' act - ask them what they did today and you might receive a perplexing answer such as "well we used VCOP and story mountains in Big Writing, did some chunking in numeracy and then PHSE". Huh?

So here's our crib sheet of modern education's multitudinous jargon - you might not come across all of it in your child's school and some of it you might know already, but just in case...forewarned is forearmed and all that.

Circle time

Best described as a class meeting, where the children sit in a circle, either on the floor or on chairs and discuss something or other. It could be a discussion of values and morals, the sharing of news or an issue in the wider world. Or it might just be what everyone did at the weekend. In fact smart teachers sometimes use this to let children bursting at the seams share their news and get it out of their systems, rather than nattering about it all day throughout lessons when they shouldn't be. Circle time is often used in PHSE too (see below).

Coding – computer programming – recently added to the National Curriculum.

Creative curriculum

An approach to teaching that has been introduced in some primary schools in recent years. Instead of lessons being split traditionally into geography, science and history, they're based around a theme that's taught across several subjects. The topics will usually change every half term or term and might be a period in history - the Tudors or Romans for example - a city, country or continent, or a general theme such as 'explorers', 'dance', or 'famous artists'.

Within each topic, lessons might also be led more by what the children are interested in learning about and the questions they have. So for 'Victorians', pupils could ask how people entertained themselves without electricity and then a lesson might look at how much we now rely on power and contrast everyday life today versus back then – covering aspects of science and history.


A typical primary school class of 30 will have pupils of widely varying abilities and prior knowledge. Differentiation means the teacher helping children learn at the appropriate level for where they are at, rather than them all looking at the same things in the same way.

A simple example would be children adding in year 1 or 2 maths; some might work with sums with one digit in each number, some two or three digits, and others still might receive word problems involving addition.


Children with English as an 'additional language', so those whose first language learned at home wasn't English.

Extension work

A term for additional/more challenging work for those pupils who have finished the main class tasks in a particular lesson.


Children whose parents are on certain benefits will qualify for free school meals 'FSM'. The label of FSM is kept confidential but is also used as a marker of which pupils bring extra funding for the school (pupil premium - see below) and to help monitor how well these children perform academically, so it is important beyond just identifying who will receive free lunches.

To complicate matters, all children in infant schools now receive free lunches as of September 2014 anyway, regardless of their parents' financial circumstances but they will still be registered in the same way.


No not a reference to the drink the head teacher needs after a particularly trying day, but so-called Gifted and Talented pupils. Schools used to have to keep a list or register of those who were 'gifted' (academically at the top of the cohort - usually the top 10;display:block;}