As Curriculum for Wales rolls out in schools and settings across Wales, it marks a significant shift in the role of assessment within education, at both a national and a school/setting level. We are clear that the purpose of assessment is to support each individual learner to progress at an appropriate pace, ensuring they are supported and challenged accordingly. To do so, the Curriculum for Wales (CfW), as defined in the Supporting Learner Progression: Assessment Guidance sets out that we assess for three key reasons to:

  • support individual learners on an ongoing, day-to-day basis
  • identify, capture and reflect on individual learner progress over time
  • understand group progress in order to reflect on practice

To enable this approach to assessment, aspects of the current arrangements that do not support the ethos of Curriculum for Wales will be removed and new requirements will be introduced to ensure that supporting learners to make progress is at the heart of assessment going forward. As part of this, practitioners can build on and further develop assessment methods that are already in use to support learners to progress on an ongoing, day-to-day basis, and look to develop new strategies.

There will also be a requirement for assessment arrangements to be made, implemented and reviewed in respect of a curriculum designed and adopted by funded non-maintained nursery settings. Funded non-maintained nursery education will not be expected to design their own curriculum. Instead, Welsh Ministers will publish a curriculum, including appropriate assessment arrangements, for these providers to be implemented from 2022. Separate statutory guidance to support PRUs and those responsible for the provision of EOTAS will also be published to support implementation in 2022.

Below is an outline of the main changes to assessment under Curriculum for Wales, an explanation of why these changes are being made and what this means for schools and settings.

  • Why are we doing this?

    We are moving away from nationally required teacher assessments as part of a nationally prescribed curriculum. Working within the Curriculum for Wales framework, this change recognises that schools/settings are best placed to design the most appropriate curriculum and assessment arrangements for their learners and their contexts.

    What does this mean for schools/settings?

    Schools design a curriculum, they select the knowledge, skills and experiences that best support their learners to progress in the ways described in CfW – they will need to develop assessment arrangements to support each individual learner to progress in relation to their school/setting’s curriculum. The focus will be on identifying where the learner is in their learning, their next steps and the support or challenge needed to move forward in their learning.

  • Why are we doing this?

    A new curriculum for funded non-maintained nursery settings will be published in January 2022. The Welsh Government intends to work with key partners from the funded non-maintained sector to co-construct appropriate assessments arrangements which can be adopted alongside the new curriculum.

    What does this mean for schools/settings?

    Practitioners who choose to adopt the new curriculum for funded non-maintained nursery settings will have access to a quality assured assessment framework, rooted in child development, which supports progression for all learners in settings.

    As part of this Welsh Government will be producing draft assessment arrangements by September 2022.

    Funded non-maintained nursery settings are also able to design and adopt a suitable curriculum other than that published by Welsh Ministers. Where that choice is made, they are required to make assessment arrangements to support that curriculum and to have responsibility to implement and review those assessment arrangements.

  • Why are we doing this?

    Curriculum for Wales has been developed to be accessible to all. The Curriculum for Wales applies to children receiving education other than at school, including in PRUs and will offer an inclusive and progression led curriculum. Assessment will support learner progression through a tailored curriculum, helping to identify next steps in progression and the teaching and learning needed to support that progression.

    The EOTAS guidance explains key features of education other than at school within the Curriculum for Wales.

    What does this mean for schools/settings?

    Given assessment arrangements form part of the curriculum design, the local authority and in the case of a PRU, the management committee and the teacher in charge of a PRU also, will have to make and implement assessments arrangements to support learner progression within the secured curriculum (Requirements for pupil referral units (PRUs) and education otherwise than at school (EOTAS).They will have to review and revise those assessment arrangements when their curriculum is reviewed or when they feel changes are needed, to ensure assessment arrangements continue to support and deliver learner progression.

  • Why are we doing this?

    Introducing a single continuum from 3 to 16 will help ensure a smoother learning journey for learners. Assessment is key to supporting each individual learner to make progress along the same continuum at an appropriate pace, ensuring that they are both supported and challenged to reach their potential.

    Removing the summative end of phase/stage assessments will help to ensure that assessment is forward-looking. Learners will continue to build on prior learning throughout the academic year and this will continue as they transition from year group to year group.

    What does this mean for schools/settings?

    Each school and setting’s curriculum must be developed to incorporate the progression outlined in the principles of progression. When planning and delivering learning experiences which have assessment embedded within, practitioners will be aware of how they are contributing to a learner’s overall journey.

    In CfW, learners are expected to make continuous progress. The purpose of assessment is to assess that progress, to understand each individual learner’s progress and identify how to tailor ongoing support to effectively enable the learner to continue to progress. This approach will also help provide valuable information to inform transition processes.

  • Why are we doing this?

    Assessment in the new curriculum is about continuously assessing learners’ progress – not making one-off judgements at specific points in time.

    Assessment needs to reflect that learners’ progression may be varied with different strengths and needs to improve so it doesn’t make sense to categorise learners into a particular ‘best fit’ level.

    Experience has shown that a ‘best fit’ approach can provide limited information about a learner as strength in one aspect of learning can hide a need for further support elsewhere. Foundation Phase outcomes and National Curriculum subject levels, therefore, no longer exist under Curriculum for Wales and, as mentioned above, the end of phase and stage assessments will be removed.

    What does this mean for schools/settings?

    When assessing learners’ progression, using a range of assessment methods, practitioners will develop a holistic picture of the learner – their strengths, areas for improvement and the support and challenge needed to take their learning forward.

    The descriptions of learning which form part of the Curriculum for Wales guidance should not be seen as the ‘new levels’. They should not be used to undertake specific assessment activities at each progression step and they should not be broken down to create specific assessment criteria or to form a ‘tick list’ against which learners would be assessed at a set age or point in time.

    The descriptions of learning have been designed to help practitioners understand what learners’ progress should look like and provide reference points on the pace of progression to inform curriculum design and learning and teaching. By setting out what progression should look like, the descriptions of learning can help practitioners think of a wide range of assessment methods to understand that progress. No one method of assessment will fully capture learners’ progress and so it is important to use a wide range to build a holistic picture of the learner and support them in making progress in relation to the school/setting’s curriculum.

  • Why are we doing this?

    At times, the current arrangements have led to assessment being seen as an additional ‘bolt on’ used to make a one off judgement about a learner, rather than a fundamental part of the teaching and learning process.

    What does this mean for schools/settings?

    Practitioners will develop new strategies and build on current approaches relating to formative assessment including providing high quality feedback to learners, self-assessment and peer-assessment. When planning and delivering learning experiences, they will be clear about why and how the understanding gained from each assessment activity will be used to inform future learning.

    The interrelationship between curriculum, assessment and pedagogy is key to supporting learners to make meaningful progress in their learning.  

  • Why are we doing this?

    The baseline assessment is currently undertaken during the first six weeks of the reception year. This is a valuable tool for practitioners to gain an understanding of where a learner is in their learning and to help them identify their strengths, their next steps and the support needed to make progress.

    Given the importance of progression under Curriculum for Wales, practitioners will be expected to assess where a learner is in respect of the 3-16 continuum at any point they enter a school or setting, not just on entry to compulsory school age education (other than at the point of transition from primary to secondary school). This will build on and replace current foundation phase baseline assessments.

    What does this mean for schools/settings?

    As schools/settings will be developing their own curriculum and on-going assessment arrangements, they will also determine the assessment arrangements for learners ‘on entry’ to a school or setting, including movement to and from EOTAS and PRUs.

    The information gained when assessing a learner on entry to a school or setting must help practitioners gain an understanding of the capabilities, skills and knowledge of a learner in relation to the curriculum and identify next steps in learner.  Assessment arrangements for on-entry must include consideration of:

    • Numeracy and Literacy skills and capabilities
    • Well-being abilities, to include physical, social and emotional development.
  • Why are we doing this?

    The arrangements for taking Personalised Assessments for reading and numeracy will continue.

    We have developed the Personalised Assessments as part of Curriculum for Wales, in-line with the new approach to assessment and they provide schools with a formative tool to reflect on learners’ strengths in reading and numeracy, and possible next steps to take their learning forward.

    What does this mean for schools/settings?

    Learners in years 2 to 9 in state-maintained schools will continue to take the personalised assessments in accordance with the administration handbook.

  • Why are we doing this?

    There is recognition that using teacher assessment for accountability purposes can have a negative impact on the learning process.

    Assessment should give practitioners the information they need to help them improve learning outcomes. Assessment should help practitioners understand what learners know, understand and can do. It should support teaching and learning and should not be used to measure school performance for accountability.

    What does this mean for schools/settings?

    Information gathered through assessing individual learners will only be used by practitioners and learners within schools and settings. Information from the Personalised Assessments will continue to be used to provide formative feedback and progress reports for learners and parents/carers to inform their next steps.

    Assessment information should be used by a school/setting as part of an effective self-evaluation process, reflecting on approaches to planning, developing and implementing curriculum and assessment arrangements, to ensure they are supporting learner progression.

  • Why are we doing this?

    Supporting learners to make progress is a fundamental driver of the Curriculum for Wales. Progression is reflected in the statements of what matters, the descriptions of learning for each of these statements and is also the primary purpose of assessment. Understanding how learners progress is critical to learning and teaching and should inform the design of curriculum and assessment arrangements as well as classroom/setting planning and practice.

    What does this mean for schools/settings?

    Having a shared understanding of progression means that practitioners, collectively within their school or setting, across their cluster, and with other schools beyond their cluster, understand:

    • their expectations for how learners should progress and how knowledge, skills and experiences should contribute to this in schools’ and settings’ curricula (drawing on the statements of what matters, descriptions of learning and principles of progression)
    • how progression should join up for learners across their learning journey and in particular at points of transition to ensure coherent progress (for example, between primary and secondary school; between settings and primary schools)
    • how their expectations for progression compare to other schools and settings, to ensure coherence and a sufficient pace and challenge in their approach to progression when developing their curriculum and assessment arrangements
  • Why are we doing this?

    Providing a clear, holistic picture of a learner’s progression and well-being as they move between different groups, classes, and settings, particularly when moving between nursery education, primary school and secondary school, is key to support their journey along the continuum and to ensure coherent progress.

    To support this and ensure joined-up progression for learners, new Transition Plans are needed between secondary schools and their feeder primary schools to reflect their new Curricula. This will enable learners to continue to build on prior learning throughout the academic year and this will continue as they transition from year group to year group.

    What does this mean for schools/settings?

    As part of approaches to develop a shared understanding of progression schools/settings must develop and embed a robust and effective process for the transition of learners between different schools and settings.

    This should be an ongoing process, which recognises the diverse needs of all learners and supports each individual in their learning journey ensuring that their progress is coherent.

    Secondary schools and their feeder primary schools will need to develop and establish new Transition Plans which look to establish processes that jointly support coherent learner progression support the overall needs and well-being of the learner and ensure appropriate pace and challenge in their approach to progression when developing their curriculum and assessment arrangements.

  • Why are we doing this?

    Regular communication between schools and settings and parents/carers is vital for learners to progress along the learning continuum.

    Communicating termly with parent/carers in a way that engages them in their learners’ journey, will enable them to understand how their child is progressing and how best to support their learning.

    What does this mean for schools/settings?

    Schools and setting will already have a range of different ways that they communicate and engage with parents and carers about their learners, such as end of term/year reports, parents evening, assemblies and many of these will have been refined and developed to support learners during periods of blended recovery and re-engagement with learning.

    Building on these approaches, communications can be made using a variety of methods and in a way that best suits the audience for example, face-to-face, digital, written.

    Feedback should include:

    • A brief summary about their progress in learning across the breadth of the curriculum
    • Information about future progression needs/next steps for the individual learner required to support their progression
    • Brief advice on how parents/carers can support progression at home
    • as well as information on their general health and well-being.

    A summary of individual learner information should be provided at the end of the academic year and should focus on progression, learner well-being and the individual needs and support of the learner.

    Schools and settings should ensure that learners are also provided with opportunities to contribute to this communication process. Learners should be enabled to gather examples of their learning, articulate their own progress and achievements, and convey their aspirations and views on the next steps in their learning.