Planning and Assessing for National Curriculum 2014

With just 7 months until National Curriculum 2014 needs to be implemented by all schools (unless you work at a brave Academy, who design and run their own curriculum) the planning process is well and truly underway. As a Head of Department (PE) I have begun the process of reading the new programme of study and thinking about how my current curriculum map, schemes of work and especially the assessment procedures need to be reviewed and refined to meet the needs of the curriculum. In this blog I will share some of my thought process about these changes and outline how I believe a curriculum should be adapted to suit the needs of the learners following the 2014 National Curriculum.

Be warned I will be using PE specific examples in the curriculum planning section, but I will try to keep the assessment section as ‘unsubject specific’ as possible!


The Key Stage 3 National Curriculum for PE states that pupils should taught to:

  • use a range of tactics and strategies to overcome opponents in direct competition through team and individual games [for example,           badminton, basketball, cricket, football, hockey, netball, rounders, rugby and tennis]
  • develop their technique and improve their performance in other competitive sports [for example, athletics and gymnastics]
  • perform dances using advanced dance techniques in a range of dance styles and forms
  • take part in outdoor and adventurous activities which present intellectual and physical challenges and be encouraged to work in a team, building on trust and developing skills to solve problems, either individually or as a group
  • analyse their performances compared to previous ones and demonstrate improvement to achieve their personal best
  • take part in competitive sports and activities outside school through community links or sports clubs

Below is a copy of the Key Stage 3 Curriculum Map used in my department from January-July 2014. This has been designed with Curriculum 2014 in mind and I believe that once the September-December terms have been incorporated including Rugby, Health Related Fitness, Netball and Basketball/Handball that it will achieve all but one aspect of the programme of study.


I agree with the programme of study that pupil’s should experience a wide range of sports and activities. A local school who I meet with regularly have adapted their Curriculum Map so that pupils follow either an individual sports pathway (Badminton, Tennis, Health Related Fitness, etc) OR a team sports pathway (Football, Rugby, Rounders, etc), For me, this limits the experiences available to learners and builds quite a dangerous fixed mindset about what they can and can’t achieve in sport, i.e. pupils will believe that they can only do well in activities where they work alone.

I believe that the curriculum that I have designed aims to offer enough breadth and depth to create an holistic programme of study, where pupils are challenged in a wide range of activities. In the summer term I have created an option block where pupils can chose which summer sports they study. This was a recommendation from members of my department who were concerned that due to the lack of time in summer term pupils may not have the opportunity to study sports in enough depth to make suitable levels of progress. For me, this serves another purpose: it creates an opportunity for pupils to make decisions about their own performance. It gives them the freedom to either target an activity where they feel that additional lessons would help them improve, either due to perceived under performance or if a pupil feels that they can excel in a particular activity.

This idea of pupils selecting particular activities continues through the key stage 4 programme of study, where pupils select a new activity every 4 weeks. We have begun trialling this and so far it has had a good level of success in increasing pupil engagement, which is a traditionally difficult time for PE departments with disengagement becoming an increasing challenge (ages 14-16 are the main time when pupils tend to drop out of sport).

Alternative activities such as boxercise and Sports Leaders Level 1 are offered to encourage pupils to “continue to take part regularly in competitive sports and activities outside school through community links or sports clubs” (National Curriculum 2014).


The one area where these curriculum map’s don’t cover is “take part in outdoor and adventurous activities which present intellectual and physical challenges and be encouraged to work in a team, building on trust and developing skills to solve problems, either individually or as a group” (National Curriculum 2014). The main reason for the admission of this aspect  of the curriculum is time and space.

With so many other aspects of the curriculum to cover it would be very difficult to incorporate this into the curriculum as a stand alone topic. The other issue is the lack of space and facilities to deliver this to a suitable standard. Without specialist equipment such as trim trails schools will find this aspect of the National Curriculum extremely difficult to deliver effectively.

At the start of year 7 our pupils complete 2 team building and settling in days where these sort of activities are used to develop team building, trust and problem solving skills. In order to progress these aspects of learning to a suitable standard we have attempted to incorporate these sort of skills into other schemes of work, i.e. problem solving when looking at tactics in Football and team work when creating partner routines in Gymnastics.


One of the most contentious issues in National Curriculum 2014 is the scrapping of assessment level descriptors, which have now been replaced with a statement to say what pupils should be able to achieve by the end of a Key Stage.

I believe that this is a great moment for all teachers! We can all finally move away from describing a pupil as a 4b or a 6c and start looking at them as an individual again. I have stated in past blogs such as “Developing a Growth Mindset Culture in the Classroom” that I believe that effort is the key to success. One of the key aspects of teaching should be creating pupils with growth mindsets who can understand that talent and ability aren’t god given gifts, but the outcome of hard work and practice. As a baby no one is more talented than anyone else, we are just a product of our environment and excel in the things that we practice and enjoy.

Many schools are waiting patiently for more guidance on how the government would like them to assess without levels the education system waits in limbo trying to guess Mr Gove’s next move (or insightful comment on education!). This makes suggesting any assessment procedure a tentative process, but I will try and outline how I believe that pupils should be assessed using the National Curriculum Assessment Statement.

Linking back to what I have previously said about effort I believe that the start of any assessment should be the pupil’s self assessing their effort levels over the past topic. This can form the basis of a dialogue between the student and the teacher over the coming weeks (and years). Once pupils understand the link between (sustained) effort and success they will achieve their potential.

How often do we hear teachers saying that pupils can achieve a C in their GCSE’s if they work really hard? How often do you hear a pupil say that they’d be happy with a C because that’s what the teacher believes they are capable of achieving? This is wrong! Teachers need to understand that with enough intrinsic motivation and effort that pupil’s in our school can all achieve well beyond the limiting and cautious targets we set them. If a pupil works hard they will achieve their potential. They don’t need to know that they are currently working at a 5b, they just need feedback based on effort in lesson. If they think they are working their hardest and the teacher agrees then they will achieve their best.

So where does the assessment statement from National Curriculum 2014 come into my plan for assessment? It should form the basis of target setting by the pupil. Once they have self assessed their effort (the teacher should have no input into this because we cannot categorically say that that pupil has/hasn’t worked their hardest) they then need to identify the aspects of the statement that they can/cannot currently perform consistently. This can form the basis for a target setting process that can be revisited at the end of every scheme of work. This process can then be used in the ongoing dialogue between teacher and pupil in the next topic.

Assessing under the new curriculum is a challenge for us all and we will definitely not perfect the techniques used straight away, but I believe that linking self assessed effort levels with target setting from the assessment statement will create an assessment procedure that produces pupils with a growth mindset, who understand the link between hard work and effective target setting to achieve their goals.

How are you planning on delivering and assessing the National Curriculum 2014? Let me know by tweeting @mikeharrowell or leaving a comment below.

Thanks for reading!


6 thoughts on “Planning and Assessing for National Curriculum 2014

  1. Hi,

    I am a HoD myself and found your post a really interesting read. I totally agree that, at times, as teachers we are limiting pupils progress by bench marking them at a certain level that they should/can achieve. However, I believe that progress/success in PE is down to more than effort alone and in terms of making progress and fulfilling their (pupil) potential pupils need to understand what and how they can improve. As well as this if a certain pupil/group of pupils have limited past experience of sport they will struggle to set their own SMART targets. As a department we hope to continue to use levels as a way of baseline assessing pupils (starting point) and then share the assessment criteria with them so they can see what needs to be done to improve. This will be shown in the LoP made within each topic.

    “They don’t need to know that they are currently working at a 5b, they just need feedback based on effort in lesson. If they think they are working their hardest and the teacher agrees then they will achieve their best.”

  2. I think this is a really powerful use of education blogging, Mike! Am sure others will find this useful as they plan in their own specialist areas.

    Many thanks for sharing your experiences and your thoughts.

  3. Superb piece. As a head of pe I will definitely be using this to construct my new programmes of study.

  4. Thanks for this, really thought provoking. We’re looking into the possibility of setting groups in ks3 next year. Do you currently do this? Any advice?

    • We currently have higher ability boys, higher ability girls and a mixed gender lower ability group. The two other ways I’d be tempted to look at are having a mixed gender higher ability set and the a boys and girls class and having 3 mixed gender set groups.

      My only advice would be do what’s going to work best for your pupils. Maybe ask a range of ability pupils what they’d prefer.

      Hope this helps!

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