Welcome to Parent Hub

How is your child progressing?

Posted on 28 March 2014

How is your child progressing?

Just got your child’s school report? Flummoxed by all those National Curriculum numbers and letters? Struggling to understand the difference between a 2c and a 1a? Here is our guide to your child’s progress and National Curriculum Levels.

First the background...

State schools in England must, by law, work using the National Curriculum. (Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have their own equivalents, see below.)

Fundamentally, this sets out what pupils should learn in key subjects, such as numeracy, literacy and science. Schools are then required to assess pupils against attainment targets for each subject.

The assessment process is designed to help ensure children make adequate progress through their school careers, but it also informs planning, and measures a school's performance.

And perhaps most relevant, the information lets parents get an idea of how their child is doing compared to 'national expectations'.

When should schools report the assessment results to parents?

The National Curriculum is organised into blocks as follows:
Key Stage 1 - year 1 and year 2 of primary school
Key Stage 2 - years 3 to 6 of primary school
Key Stage 3 – years 7 to 9 of secondary school
Key Stage 4 – years 9 to 11 of secondary school.

There is also the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) which covers children up to compulsory school age (five) and is used in nursery and reception classes.

The main times when schools should tell parents their child's results are at the end of the EYFS, Key Stages 1 (the end of year 2) and 2 (the end of year 6). Many do communicate their levels (see below) in other years though. If your school doesn't and you'd like them to, ask for more information.

What should I be told? 

For each subject at the end of Key Stage 1 and 2 you should be given a level with a number. Level 1 is typical for year 1 and level 4 is typical for year 6.

Levels are then divided into 'sub-levels' - the letters a,b or c (although these aren't always given to parents). An 'a' means a child is performing very consistently and securely within the level and is ready for the next one, a 'b' means they are 'secure' and a 'c' means they are less so and just starting on this stage. A child achieving 1a would be working strongly within the level 1 criteria and be ready for level 2 work.

As a guide the expected levels for the end of each year group are:

Year 1: 1b
Year 2: 2b
Year 3: 2a/ 3c
Year 4: 3b
Year 5: 3a/4c
Year 6: 4b

Some more able children will exceed these expectations, gaining a level 3 in year 2 or a level 5 in year 6, others will be working at a lower standard than those given above. If you're concerned about your child's results, make an appointment with their teacher.

How much progress should they make over a year?

The answer here is slightly complicated too. The Department of Education states that the aim is for two full levels of progress per Key Stage. So if a child was a level 2 at the end of year 2, they should be a level 4 by year 6. Had they been a level 3, they should be a level 5 at the end of primary.

In Key Stage 1 then, this means a whole level (three sub-levels) of progress a year (e.g. from 1a at the end of year 1 to 2a at the end of year 2). Things slow down a little in Key Stage 2 and children might typically go up 1.5 sub-levels per year.

But of course, this is just an aim and the amount of progress an individual child will make can be affected by all sorts of things – it's perfectly normal to have a year where slightly less progress is made, or more for that matter. If you feel your son or daughter has made less than you'd expect, it's definitely worth discussing it with school.

Can I compare my son with his friend at another school?

Teacher assessments are 'moderated' (checked for consistency) but are still not 100% comparable between schools, even if they should in theory be. If you want to get an idea of how he is doing, it would be both more reliable and constructive to compare him to national expectations.

My child's National Curriculum levels seem lower than I expected – what might be going on?

There could be any number of reasons. Sometimes children don't perform as well in school as they do at home - perhaps if they get distracted in a busy classroom. Or it might be that although they are capable in some areas within, say level 2 numeracy criteria, there are other areas which they are not so strong at.

It's worth discussing this with the teacher although you do need to tread carefully - teachers are living and breathing the assessment criteria, whereas most of us parents are not. Piling in saying the level must be wrong will not do much for your reputation in the staff room! Politely asking for an understanding of your son or daughter's levels because they were a little lower than you'd expect is fine.

What about reception children's reports?

At the end of the Foundation Stage (reception year), children are given 'scores' against a set of 17 key areas of learning and development. These cover not only numeracy and literacy but also include personal, social and emotional development, physical skills, communication and language.

For each goal, your child's report will have information on whether they are meeting expectations, exceeding them or they're still working towards the skill concerned (this will be called 'emerging' in their report).

For more information about the school curriculum in other parts of the UK follow these links: 

ACE (Advisory Centre for Education)

ACE a national charity that provides free, independent advice and information on the admissions process and a wide range of school-based issues including bullying, exclusion, SEN and attendance. For advice call the ACE Advice Line on 0808 800 5793 Monday – Thursday, 10am – 4pm. For further information visit www.ace-ed.org.uk


FYi – Families and Young People’s Information Service

FYi is a free information service for families, children and young people up to the age of 20.

 tel: 0800 389 8312 email: fyi@barnet.gov.uk www.barnet.gov.uk/fyi


Department for Education (DFE)

 For general enquiries contact 0870 000 2288. If you would like to obtain information on school performance tables telephone 0800 242 322 or visit www.education.gov.uk/performancetables. If you would like to order other DFE publications telephone 0845 60 222 60. All information can be accessed through the DFE website: www.education.gov.uk

Independent schools

Information on independent schools is available from ISC (the Independent Schools Council) at www.isc.co.uk

Home education

If you want to find out more about educating your child at home, you should contact the Inclusive Education Team on 020 8359 7699.

National curriculum

This can be found on: www.curriculum.qca.org.uk

Ofsted reports

Ofsted reports on schools can be found on the internet at: www.ofsted.gov.uk

Choice Advice

Choice advice is available to all parents and if you have any particular concerns or issues please call 020 8359 7694 or 020 8359 7637.


Article by Zoe Sinclair from Employee’s Matter.  The views are the author’s own.




At what age would you give your child a mobile phone?

Show statistics