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Principles of Progression

At Ysgol Penmaes we have been working hard to develop our progression planning to ensure that it meets the needs of our pupils. We are on a continuous journey and are constantly reviewing and refining our practices.


This is all part of the Curriculum for Wales developments. Progression planning has allowed for plentiful collaboration to take place across the school which has in turn supported creativity amongst practitioners.

Planning for progression

Planning for progression always takes account of the pace and depth of learning, moving from literal, simple information to more abstract and complex concepts. Progress happens when skills, knowledge and understanding are transferred to and applied in new and increasingly unfamiliar contexts and this is enabled when discussion, reflection and evaluation form an integral part of the learning.

As such, it is important to remember that we are dealing here with pupils, not products. Progression doesn’t happen in age boxes or phase boxes – it happens when it happens. Our current thinking in relation to assessment and progression can easily be distorted by the constructs which frame our thinking which have grown from decades of unhelpful terminology and assessment tools. Our job now is to strip away the aspects which do not focus on the pupil,  constructing a pupil-focused curriculum and thinking about how our children at Penmaes make progress.


Principles of progression and descriptions of learning

The Curriculum for Wales sets out the framework for progression in its principles for progression and descriptions of learning for each area of learning and experience. The descriptions of learning occur at five progression steps and taken together, these provide a continuum of learning that reflect the essential learning from each Area as pupils develop in relation to the four purposes. In doing so they help signal a clear line of sight from early stage learning to the point at which pupils transition to post-16 education and work. Progression along that continuum is not expected to be linear and neither is it intended to be achieved at a particular rate. It is more likely that learning will look like an expedition, with stops, detours and spurts. The descriptions of learning act as staging posts along a road, rather than a border between two separate ways of thinking. While there may be specific threshold concepts which represent a significant shift in a pupil’s understanding, these are not linked to specific ages, nor will they happen at the same time in different Areas for an individual pupil. Underpinning progression across all Areas are five principles of progression. Due to the complex needs of pupils at Ysgol Penmaes some of our pupils may never reach progression step one and therefore we have had to be creative in breaking assessment further. This is where we look at the pathways development.


The principles of progression set out how learners should make progress, and contribute to the four purposes.

The new curriculum and assessment arrangements require us to develop a new understanding of progression and how it informs curriculum planning and assessment for the purpose of pupil progression.

The principles of progression are supported by descriptions of learning which provide more detailed guidance on progression within each area of learning, and what it means for a pupil to progress throughout the continuum of learning.

They are used as part of discussions within clusters and networks of schools in order to build collaborative approaches to curriculum, assessment and learner progression.

The principles of progression are:

  • Increasing breadth and depth of knowledge​

  • Deepening understanding of the ideas and disciplines within the Areas

  • ​Refinement and growing sophistication in the use and application of skills​

  • Make connections and transferring learning to new contexts

  • ​Increasing effectiveness.


Descriptions of learning articulate the essence of learning in the Areas across the five progression steps.

Descriptions of learning:

  • Demonstrate appropriate progression but allow Penmaes the space to be innovative and responsive to changing situations

  • Do not contain universal expectations of performance

  • Ensure that formative assessment is integral to changing practice and pedagogy

  • Do not encourage checklists

  • Are personal to that Area and the level of specificity may vary

  • Give expression to the four purposes

  • Consider the 'essence' of learning - what children need to learn, how they might learn it and why

  • Are a vehicle for changes in the approach to learning and assessment in line with the philosophy of the Curriculum for Wales Framework

Descriptions of learning are designed to guide practitioners to develop learning which enables pupils to progress towards learning in the statements of what matters. They are not meant to be the starting point or ultimate driver for curriculum design.

Progression steps, as part of a continuous cycle of learning, support planning for progress towards the four purposes. It is important that we recognise that learning and progression is what happens between the descriptions of learning. This is where the 'essence' of learning sits and the job that schools and practitioners have to do. So what happens in the gap to elicit progress?

Pupils will not simply move from one progression step to the next. They will get there through the equitable and authentic learning experiences that are created, the knowledge and skills they gather and the formative feedback they receive. This isn't written into the framework because it is individual to the learner, the group, the setting and the community. Carol Dweck

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