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2.1 National curriculum

Purpose: To provide a world-class curriculum from Foundation to Year 12 in specified learning areas as agreed to by Education Council, and assemble the evidence base required to review, develop and refine curriculum.

Criteria source:  ACARA Corporate Plan 2019–20 and Portfolio Budget Statements (PBS) 2019–20: Education and Training – ACARA Budget Statements – Outcome 1 Program 1.1, pages 79–80.

Performance criterion

Activities related to maintaining and enhancing the curriculum support resources available on, and the online functionality of, the Australian Curriculum website, completed each year


Implementation support activities captured within ACARA’s annual work plan for the ACARA Board, AESOC and Education Council’s consideration and approval


Not achieved ☐ Partially achieved ☐ Achieved ☒

Supporting statement

During the reporting period, the resources published by ACARA to support the implementation of the Australian Curriculum were updated and expanded. Work samples were published to support 7–10 Science, 7–10 History and F–10 Languages.

Additional elaborations were published to support the incorporation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Histories and Cultures in F–6 Science. An illustration of practice was published to exemplify the Framework for Aboriginal Languages and Torres Strait Islander Languages. Curriculum connections were updated and expanded. All new and revised resources were published on the Australian Curriculum website and communicated to state and territory authorities and relevant stakeholder groups.

Performance criterion

Activities related to monitoring the national curriculum, international comparisons and research on developments in school curriculum design activities completed and the scope of the refinement of the Australian Curriculum ready for approval by the ACARA Board


The scope for refinement of the Australian Curriculum (informed by analysis of monitoring, comparative an research activities 2016–17 to 2019–20) submitted to Education Council for consideration by June 2020


Not achieved ☐ Partially achieved ☐ Achieved ☒

Supporting statement

The ACARA Board approved the latest Monitoring the Effectiveness of the Foundation – Year 10 Australian Curriculum report in December 2019 and the report was published on the ACARA website in January 2020. ACARA officers participated in, and contributed to, the second phase of the OECD Future of Education and Skills 2030 project. The Shape of the Australian Curriculum Paper (Version 5), incorporating the goals of the Alice Springs (Mparntwe) Declaration, was approved by the ACARA Board in April 2020 and Education Council in June 2020. ACARA prepared terms of reference for a review of the Foundation to Year 10 Australian Curriculum and these were approved by the ACARA Board in February 2020 and Education Council in June 2020.

Analysis of performance

Monitoring,  evaluation  and research

On 12 June 2020, education ministers tasked ACARA to review the Foundation to Year 10 Australian Curriculum.  ACARA is to complete the review by the end of 2021, with the revised Foundation to Year 10 Australian Curriculum released on a redesigned Australian Curriculum website by the start of 2022. In preparation for the review, ACARA has undertaken a program of research and consulted widely with key education stakeholders and groups to define the approach and scope of the review. This work informed the review’s terms of reference. 

The program of research benchmarked the Australian Curriculum against the curricula of Singapore, Finland, British Columbia and New Zealand, and collated feedback from state and territory jurisdictions through ACARA’s annual monitoring process.

In January 2020, ACARA published the Monitoring the Effectiveness of the Foundation – Year 10 Australian Curriculum 2018–19 report. The report contains feedback from departmental, school and curriculum authorities in all Australian states and territories. Respondents were asked to comment on key themes emerging from the previous four monitoring reports and ACARA’s program of research. The key findings in the report supported the refinement of the Australian Curriculum within its existing structure and design: three dimensions (learning areas, general capabilities, cross-curriculum priorities); content descriptions, elaborations and achievement standards; years/stages F–10; and informed the terms of reference for the review.

ACARA continued to lead Australia’s participation in the next phase of the OECD Future of Education and Skills 2030 project and contributed to the finalisation of an international curriculum analysis report. OECD project discussions also explored and shared curriculum tensions, challenges and dilemmas in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. To gain further insights into emerging curriculum models, ACARA completed its collaboration with the Center for Curriculum Redesign to explore the implications of applying a conceptual framework to identifying
essential content and skills in Mathematics.

Support and resources for implementation 

The complete suite of F–10 content elaborations to support teachers to incorporate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Histories and Cultures in the Science curriculum was published in November 2019. Work continues on the development of content elaborations for addressing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Histories and Cultures in the F–10 Australian Curriculum: Mathematics. Additional work samples have been published to support the published curriculum in a range of learning areas. Work samples for 7–10 History and F–10 Korean were published in September 2019. Work samples for F–10 Vietnamese were published in October 2019. Work samples for F–10 Arabic and 7–10 Science were published in April 2020.

The Primary Matters publication provided targeted support for the teaching of The Arts (October 2019), the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Histories and Cultures cross-curriculum priority and the general capabilities (December 2019), outdoor learning and curriculum connections (March 2020) and remote learning (May 2020). Links to resources in the Consumer and Financial Literacy curriculum connection were updated in February 2020 to maintain relevance and currency. A curriculum connection on online safety, with links to resources of the eSafety Office, was published in February 2020.

An illustration of practice demonstrating the implementation of the Framework for Aboriginal Languages and Torres Strait Islander Languages was published in May 2020. Refreshed content and resources, including new and revised illustrations of practice, to support student diversity,  were published on the Australian Curriculum website in March 2020. In April 2020, resources for parents and carers were published via the ACARA website to support student learning.

Supporting the implementation of the Digital Technologies curriculum 

ACARA continued to manage the National Innovation in Science Agenda, Digital Technologies in Focus project. Approximately 160 disadvantaged schools in urban, rural and remote locations across all states and territories, incorporating over 2,300 teachers and more than 30,000 students, are participating in this project. Curriculum specialist support is provided for each of the schools, with the integration of technology being showcased through the publication of school stories, resources and professional learning modules on Digital Technologies in Focus section of the Australian Curriculum website. 

Learning progressions and online formative assessment initiative 

ACARA, along with ESA and AITSL, completed work on the initial discovery phase to explore how learning progressions and formative assessment can enhance the capacity of teachers to make evidence-based decisions about their students’ learning. The discovery phase focused on three main areas: the development of learning progressions and aligned assessments; engagement with teachers to understand what they need and how they want to be able to work; and research into effective practices. At the end of the discovery phase, ACARA reviewed and improved its national learning progressions for literacy and numeracy, and also worked with Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority (VCAA) and Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) to explore the elements required to develop a learning progression in critical and creative thinking.

A report on the findings from the discovery phase was presented to education ministers in December 2019.  Education ministers accepted the recommendations from the report and agreed that the three agencies (ACARA, ESA and AITSL) continue to work together on the next alpha phase of the project, and report back on its completion by early 2021.

ACARA’s work in the alpha phase of the initiative is focused on: developing a machine-readable form of the national literacy and numeracy learning progressions; constructing numerical measurement scales to underpin the progressions; providing indication of achievement expectations against the Australian Curriculum; developing student- and parent-friendly versions of the progressions; building the evidence base for the progressions and supporting teachers of students with diverse needs; and continuing research into the development of a learning progression for critical and creative thinking.

Linkage with the National Assessment Program 

The National Assessment Program (NAP) is directly linked to Australian Curriculum content. Specific advice on using the Australian Curriculum: Science was included in the 2017 NAP Sample Assessment: Science Literacy report, published in November 2019. The curriculum specialist for Humanities and Social Sciences (HASS) completed an analysis of student results in the 2019 NAP Sample Assessment: Civics and Citizenship.