It has been almost exactly five years since Graham Donaldson's Successful Futures report was published in March 2015, and on 28th January we finally were able to see the results of the years of co-construction, consultation and review. When we read the consultation feedback in October 2019, I was pleased to see the strong degree of consensus between our views and those of the respondents. There are a number of significant changes that have come about as a result, and I'll examine them here.
The new curriculum becomes statutory in September 2022 for children up to Year 7. Although current assessment arrangements remain in place until then, the focus of the next eighteen months will very much be on the future. Kath Lewis, the Strategic Lead for Expressive Arts in CSC, described the process as follows:
"We are by no means in a sprint to 2022, but perhaps more of a cross-country jog! There are many different routes that can be taken, and from a vast number of starting points. Some routes may appear easy, promising a flat, direct course, others may appear to offer quick wins with short cuts. What is certain is that no two schools will take the same route and that each will most likely need to stop, regroup and take stock before reaching a metaphorical – or actual – finish line!
So, what's changed?
A mere glance at the contents page can tell you how many pages have been cut from the document. This is a very satisfying change. There were heavy degrees of repeated content in the drafts, which obscured rather than revealed the detail.
There is also greater uniformity of content in each AOLE chapter, one example being the Principles of Progression (that will be statutorily enshrined as the Progression Code). Each AOLE is now prefaced by five headings describing how the skills progress along the continuum. (That is, five of the six - Mathematics and Numeracy have forged their own path.)
Overall though, there is a greater degree in consistency, with the different approaches cherry-picked from the best the draft had to offer. There have been small casualties in imposing this uniformity - for example the Expressive Arts had a very effective definition of progress that is now perhaps a little less brilliant for the change in format.
The most striking visual difference between the draft and final version of the curriculum is the presentation of the Achievement Outcomes - or should I say descriptors, for the former terminology is nowhere to be seen. The descriptors are now laid out horizontally in a grid, from Progression Step 1 to 5.
The Science and Technology team have gone a little further, and merged some of their grid boxes to give a greater clarity of the continuum through the Steps. These groupings are not strict assessment ladders with a hierarchy of one step to the next, but rather collections of statements. This is in keeping with our exploration of the descriptors, where skills blend and combine as children gain more sophisticated control of them.
What will be important in forming assessments around these Progression Steps is ensuring lateral, not vertical progress is prioritised, and that pupils engage in interlinked learning across the AOLEs.
There are some clear changes within individual AOLEs too. LLC is still by far the largest in size, but now shows a distinct difference in content. Translanguaging now appears far less frequently (and is mercifully put in simpler terms), and early reading strategies and SPAG are now more thoroughly fleshed out. Humanities has also had a dramatic makeover, with a decimation of the number of statements, especially at Progression Step 5.
Interestingly, the Four Purposes have perhaps taken less of a centre-stage in the final version. If this has a side-effect of deterring those putting these overarching aims into percentages and pie charts, it can only be a good thing.
Building your assessment
There are people already selling their 'ready-made' assessments and schemes to sit alongside Curriculum 2022. I applaud the surely Herculean efforts they must have gone to to achieve this within mere hours of the release of the final curriculum (especially given the volume of change, not limited to the above), but I fear that in their eagerness to please, they may have skipped the chapter on schools developing their own curriculum and assessment. For those who missed it, the help can be found on pages 21-47.
Formative assessment sits loudly and clearly at the heart of this new curriculum, and indeed, "Assessment arrangements at a school level are a matter for each school to determine as part of designing their own curriculum" (p230). This is not a task to be underestimated, in time nor in scope. Anyone hoping for - or indeed selling - a quick fix is spitting in the face of the opportunity to take the time to do this well not fast. It would be a great shame for schools to cut themselves out of a process that belongs to them.
Where do we go from here?
Now that the final version of the curriculum is available, we'll be working with schools to discuss how they intend to build their curriculum and assessment arrangements. Areas of investigation will include:
We'll discuss these issues, and others, with our focus group of schools, and you'll hear more from us as we work towards sharing our developments with all schools using Incerts from September 2020.
If you're interested in contributing to our work, please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org, or you can join our feedback group here.
Lucy Ridley, Chief Operations Officer