Context: the importance of effective curriculum design: progression in learning

Learner progression along a continuum of learning from ages 3 to 16 is central to Curriculum for Wales. Assessment plays a fundamental role in enabling each individual learner to make progress at an appropriate pace, ensuring they are supported and challenged accordingly.

A school’s curriculum is everything a learner experiences in pursuit of the four purposes. It is not just what we teach, but how and why we teach it. Purposeful curriculum and assessment design is the key to supporting progression.

(For additional guidance on curriculum design, please see the Priorities for curriculum development and learning section of the journey to curriculum roll-out)

The principles of progression provide a mandatory requirement of what progression must look like for learners. They describe what it means for learners to progress and the capacities and behaviours practitioners must seek to support, regardless of a learners’ stage of development. They are designed to be used by practitioners to:

  • understand what progression means and should look like in a given Area
  • develop the curriculum and learning experiences to enable learners to progress in the ways described
  • develop assessment approaches which seek to understand whether this progress is being made

The principles of progression are distinct from descriptions of learning which provide specific reference points of what progression looks like as learners work towards the statements of what matters at different points on their journey. Together, practitioners can use these two elements to understand what it means for learners to progress, and use this to inform learning, teaching and assessment.

Five principles of progression underpin progression across all Areas.

As well as the overarching principles, principles of progression are also described in the context of each Area.

More detailed descriptions of these overarching principles of progression can be found in 'developing a vision for curriculum design'.

Principles of progression for each Area can be found at:

Using the National Resource to support school evaluation of learners’ progress

Given the central importance of learner progress and the Principles of Progression to the Curriculum for Wales, progression needs to have similar importance within evaluation and improvement activities. Identifying, capturing and reflecting on individual learner progress over time along with understanding group progress in order to reflect on practice will both form a crucial part of these activities for school leaders.

The national resource highlights some of the key areas within which school leaders may want to specifically consider the Principles of Progression during their evaluation and improvement activities.

Two key questions will drive the relationship between progression and school improvement:

  • How well are learners progressing towards the four purposes and in the ways described in the Principles of Progression?
  • How does the pace of learners’ progress align with the expectations of teachers and the curriculum?

Schools’ answers to these two questions will need to be informed by a wide range of information and evidence as they develop a shared understanding of progress both within their school and through collaboration with other schools. In turn, schools can determine the focus of subsequent self-evaluation and improvement work.

Supporting materials for curriculum, assessment and evaluating learner progress.

Using data

Schools have access to a wide variety of data which can sometimes be useful in supporting self-evaluation and improvement processes.

However, focusing exclusively on a narrow range of data can lead to a self-fulfilling prophecy of striving to increase a number solely for accountability purposes rather than addressing the broader areas that require improvement.

Data is important in supporting self-evaluation and the sources of data used need to be relevant to the needs of the school.

The following aspects also need consideration when using the national resource:

  • Not all aspects of the school can be quantified. Evidence and qualitative judgements can be as powerful in some instances.
  • Data is used not to make judgements but to raise questions for further investigation.

We deliberately avoid providing a list of sources of data for the above reasons. Schools should consider what data is relevant and use it appropriately for improvement purposes.