In line with the curricula of many high performing jurisdictions, the National curriculum emphasises the importance of all pupils mastering the content taught each year and discourages the acceleration of pupils into content from subsequent years.

The current National Curriculum document says:

‘The expectation is that the majority of pupils will move through the programmes of study at broadly the same pace. However, decisions about when to progress should always be based on the security of pupils’ understanding and their readiness to progress to the next stage. Pupils who grasp concepts rapidly should be challenged through being offered rich and sophisticated problems before any acceleration through new content. Those who are not sufficiently fluent with earlier material should consolidate their understanding, including through additional practice, before moving on.’ (National Curriculum, page 3).

Progress in mathematics learning each year should be assessed according to the extent to which pupils are gaining a deep understanding of the content taught for that year, resulting in sustainable knowledge and skills.

Key measures of this are the abilities to reason mathematically and to solve increasingly complex problems, doing so with fluency, as described in the aims of the National curriculum:

‘The national curriculum for mathematics aims to ensure that all pupils:

  • become fluent in the fundamentals of mathematics, including through varied and frequent practice with increasingly complex problems over time, so that pupils develop conceptual understanding and the ability to recall and apply knowledge rapidly and accurately
  • reason mathematically by following a line of enquiry, conjecturing relationships and generalisations, and developing an argument, justification or proof using mathematical language.
  • can solve problems by applying their mathematics to a variety of routine and non-routine problems with increasing sophistication, including breaking down problems into a series of simpler steps and persevering in seeking solutions.’ (National curriculum page 3)

Assessment arrangements must complement the curriculum and so need to mirror these principles and offer a structure for assessing pupils’ progress in developing mastery of the content laid out for each year.

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