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Are progression frameworks useful?

Discussion in 'Education news' started by TES_Rosaline, Oct 22, 2019.

  1. TES_Rosaline

    TES_Rosaline Administrator Staff Member

    Is it a good idea to use progression frameworks? Michael Tidd explains why he is against the latest trend in schools to use these vague documents which outline sequenced opportunities for children:

    ‘Having finally seen the back of the vague national curriculum levels, there’s been a sudden boom in “progression documents” for the foundation subjects: the unintended consequences of Ofsted.

    As schools – particularly primary schools – have raced to bring their curriculum in the foundation subjects up to scratch, suddenly progression frameworks have become all the rage again.

    Presumably this is based on Ofsted’s stipulation that a curriculum should be carefully planned and sequenced. There’s no doubt that it’s a significant shift from previous frameworks where inspectors barely looked beyond English and maths. But have progression documents really helped?’

    Michael Tidd is headteacher at East Preston Junior School, in West Sussex.


    Do you agree with Michael Tidd? Share your views about progression frameworks.
  2. Pomza

    Pomza Star commenter

    agathamorse likes this.
  3. Jamvic

    Jamvic Star commenter

    Learning ladders
    Flight paths
    Grade grids

    agathamorse likes this.
  4. deckerdouble

    deckerdouble New commenter

    At our recent Ofsted inspection, primary, they were very critical that we didn't have progression docs for all the foundation subjects. The inspectors publicly concluded this meant that staff didn't know what to teach and that children were not taught effectively, it was said that the national curriculum is not enough.
    agathamorse likes this.
  5. Eszett

    Eszett New commenter

    I have worked in 3 different MFL departments in the last 15 years. Not once have I had a proper discussion in a department meeting about how many new words children should learn in a year, month or week, when we should introduce the 3rd person or the past tense or whether we offer enough opportunities for children to revisit and interleave new content before they move on to the next thing. Not once have we discussed whether there is any point in teaching them niche interest animals like "Schildkröte" in year 7, when none of the students ever has a bloody turtle and that word never comes up anywhere in any textbook or GCSE exam ever again (as so many others don't).

    But I have been involved in creating at least 6 different documents stating that, at a level 4, a student can include extra detail in their writing, that to get Green on a Developing Flightpath, a student's writing needs to be more right than wrong, or that, to reach the highest stage in Bloom's taxonomy, a student needs to create something. (Anything, apparently.)

    Every time a new system comes in, this seems to happen again. This used to make me angry. Now I seem to have reached a zen-like acceptance of the inevitable.
    Grandsire and Jamvic like this.
  6. harpplayer

    harpplayer Occasional commenter

    I'm not yet 30 and cannot believe the angst here. What we're talking about is a just a plan of what you expect students to know at key points through their school life. Very sensible IMO. You can't judge progress properly or sensibly without milestones to judge them against.
  7. moscowbore

    moscowbore Star commenter

    Dear harpplayer,
    It is not just key points. If we were simply discussing a bullet list definition of student progress then it really would not be worth moaning about.

    However, we are not talking about a bullet list. We are talking about completely nonsensical pedagogical bolleaux of the highest order which is used to beat teachers. If little Johnny's cell in a spreadsheet is not green careers end.

    I have never met anyone who believes that the whole flightpath thing is anything but a steaming pile of carp.
    harpplayer do you think the whole flightpath thing is a valid method of measuring student progress?
  8. Eszett

    Eszett New commenter

    I'd be a big fan of that, honestly. But that's really not what we're talking about, in most cases. One problem is that descriptors often have to be written to fit a scale or table that is uniform throughout the school, so it looks like the school has this really coordinated approach. Often that scale or table has to fit onto an A5 sheet, so it can be stuck into books, so it looks like all children are super aware of where they should be and what they need to do to get there. This forces subject specialists to ignore the specificities of their subjects and create a progression chart that is extremely simplified and assumes a linear progression and rarely helps teachers to assess an actual student's wonky piece of work that may have moments of inspiration and be marred by mistakes she "shouldn't have made since year 7" at the same time.
    Another problem is that teachers are assessed by their students' progression. I don't want to be overly cynical, but there is a good chance teachers keep those progress descriptors vague on purpose, because if my career depends on little Johnny's cell in a spreadsheet being green, then it is quite helpful to be able to justify that with a progress descriptor so vague that it fits virtually any piece of work. (Ok, Johnny might get green year after year until he fails his GCSE, but at that point he might be in somebody else's class, and the new teacher will have to explain what went wrong.)

    Yes, this is not exactly the worst thing about being a teacher, but it costs time and energy that we could use more productively.
    agathamorse and Jamvic like this.
  9. englishtt06

    englishtt06 Occasional commenter

    Although I don't have an issue with the concept (if you take punctuation for example, what are the differences between how Y7 and 9 is taught - if there is a difference - and how does a school/dept define simple or complex and/or stylistic punctuation - what does it look like? What is taught to make sure it is a sequenced process across the key stage?).

    However, what I strongly object to are grids of ANY KIND - but particularly those used in student books for highlighting... the absolute bane of a teacher's life ... I can only speak as an English teacher where there are so many threads within our assessment frameworks: especially the thankfully-dead APP grids; god, how I loathed them!

    Never have I seen such a celebration of irrelevance: students NEVER really engage with these grids (by engage I mean 'care'). This is exactly the sort of thing the workload reduction policies were meant to mitigate against.... There's something so disheartening about a grid in a child's book that's been highlighted for evidence: it's a symbol of everything that's wrong in education. I've done a lot of literacy work in primary and secondary and, whilst students pay lip service to the metalanguage of the grids, they NEVER speak of it with passion - just like rehearsed robots, really. They do, however, speak with passion about books they've read or a great story they've written or drama lessons.....
    agathamorse, Jamvic and Eszett like this.
  10. Jamvic

    Jamvic Star commenter

    Oh dear, I had a mini-ptsd flashback moment at this reminder.

    Teacher reaction to 5 years worth of ever changing APP Grids. = E9C72A69-FF0D-4AA6-AE45-0BE5929B65D0.jpeg

    Couldn’t agree more.
    agathamorse and englishtt06 like this.
  11. moscowbore

    moscowbore Star commenter

    Evidence of what? Who is asking for this evidence?
  12. Stiltskin

    Stiltskin Star commenter

    Grandsire likes this.
  13. Stiltskin

    Stiltskin Star commenter

    I can't find the relevant article to this?

    I have no problem with the idea of progression pathways, if that's all they are. Showing the progression of skills and knowledges needed to ensure the continued development of students. This is what most teachers hold in their heads anyway.

    I accept that in Primary, especially areas like Music, Art, DT and Computing where they may not have enough subject knowledge to know this the documents can be useful. It shows if they know this, then this is the next step, but it also shows that the subject is often split into multiple areas and development in each of these is asynchronous and some children may progress faster in some areas than others. They follow Vygotsky's idea. Dorling's progression pathways in computing is a nice example I think. Without an understanding of progression you get activities in these subjects focused on the end product (a picture, a model, a computer game) without any skills really being learnt.

    What I don't agree with is using them as levels. The idea that all children need to be at point X by Year 4 etc. This just shows the person using them doesn't have a strong understand of how learning occurs.
    agathamorse likes this.
  14. moscowbore

    moscowbore Star commenter

    Totally agree. Hence my total abhorrence of the whole flightpath model.
    agathamorse likes this.
  15. Jamvic

    Jamvic Star commenter

    The spaniel?
  16. Stiltskin

    Stiltskin Star commenter


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