National Literacy Learning Progression

Literacy is fundamental to a student’s ability to learn at school and to engage productively in society.

In the Australian Curriculum,

students become literate as they develop the knowledge, skills and dispositions to interpret and use language confidently for learning and communicating in and out of school and for participating effectively in society. Literacy involves students listening to, reading, viewing, speaking, writing and creating oral, print, visual and digital texts, and using and modifying language for different purposes in a range of contexts …

Success in any learning area depends on being able to use the significant, identifiable and distinctive literacy that is important for learning and representative of the content of that learning area (ACARA 2016).

Literacy development influences student success in many areas of learning at school. The progression can be used to support students to successfully engage with the literacy demands of the Foundation to Year 10 Australian Curriculum.

The National Literacy Learning Progression describes the observable indicators of increasing sophistication in the use of Standard Australian English language. By providing a comprehensive view of literacy learning and how it develops over time, the progression gives teachers a conceptual tool that can assist them to develop targeted teaching and learning programs for students who are working above or below year-level expectations. The literacy progression is inclusive of the modes of listening, speaking, reading, viewing, writing and producing texts.

In the Australian Curriculum, a text is defined as a means for communication. Text forms and conventions enable effective communication with a variety of audiences for a range of purposes. Texts can be written, spoken or multimodal and in print or digital/online forms. Multimodal texts combine language in a range of communication forms, such as print text, visual images, soundtrack and spoken word as  found in film or computer presentation media.

The Australian Core Skills Framework has been used to guide decisions on the scope of the progressions. The progression is designed to assist students in reaching a level of proficiency in literacy to at least Level 3 of the Core Skills Framework.

The progression does not advise schools on how to teach, plan, program, assess or report.

Elements and sub-elements

The National Literacy Learning Progression has three elements that reflect aspects of literacy development necessary for successful learners of the F–10 Australian Curriculum and in everyday life. The three elements, which align with the modes of language use, are:

  • Speaking and listening
  • Reading and viewing
  • Writing.

Each element includes sub-elements that represent evidence-based aspects of literacy development. The progression comprises five overarching sub-elements: Listening, Interacting, Speaking, Understanding texts and Creating texts. These five sub-elements provide a holistic view of literacy capability and are supported by the detail given in the remaining sub-elements. For example, in Reading and viewing, the sub-elements of Fluency, Phonic knowledge and word recognition and Phonological awareness detail skills that underpin the sub-element of Understanding texts. Due to its importance in literacy development, vocabulary is included within and across sub-elements.

The diagram (Figure 1) represents the elements and sub-elements in relation to the literacy development of the student. The sub-elements that are holistic are shown in bold text.


Figure 1. Elements and sub-elements of the National Literacy Learning Progression

Levels and indicators

Within each sub-element indicators are grouped together to form developmental levels. Each indicator describes what a student says, does or produces and begins with the implicit stem ‘A student …’ as the subject of the sentence.

There are as many levels within each sub-element as can be supported by evidence. The listing of indicators within a level is non-hierarchical. Each level within a sub-element has one or more indicators and is more sophisticated or complex than the preceding level. The levels within each sub-element are named with a letter and number code that indicates the abbreviated name of the sub-element and the developmental level, in number order. SpK4 indicates the sub-element of speaking at level 4.

In many of the sub-elements, subheadings have been included to assist teachers by grouping indicators into particular categories of skills that develop over a number of levels.

The amount of time it takes students to progress through each level is not specified since students progress in literacy development at different rates.

The levels do not describe equal intervals of time in students’ learning. They are designed to indicate the order in which students acquire the knowledge and skills necessary to be literate. As learning is very rapid in the early years of school, the initial levels tend to be more detailed than the later levels.

Moreover, the amount of detail in any level or sub-element is not an indication of importance. A single indicator at a more sophisticated level in the progression may rely on a substantial number of indicators being evident in earlier levels. The diagram (Figure 2) shows the various components included in the progression.

Figure 2. Annotated example of a literacy sub-element

Literacy skills are explicit in the Australian Curriculum: English. However, literacy is strengthened, made specific and extended in other learning areas. Literacy enables students to access, understand, analyse and evaluate information, make meaning, express thoughts and emotions, present ideas and opinions, interact with others and participate in activities at school and in their lives beyond school.

Australian Curriculum: English

The Australian Curriculum: English aims to ensure that students:

learn to listen to, read, view, speak, write, create and reflect on increasingly complex and sophisticated spoken, written and multimodal texts across a growing range of contexts with accuracy, fluency and purpose (Australian Curriculum: English, Aims 2017).

The National Literacy Learning Progression helps teachers to develop fine-grain understandings of student literacy development in the Australian Curriculum: English, especially in the early years. The progression amplifies the literacy skills in the Australian Curriculum: English, particularly in the Language and Literacy strands, and is organised by modes of communication, which in the Australian Curriculum: English are identified by icons. The progression is particularly useful in guiding teachers to support students whose literacy development is above or below the age-equivalent curriculum expectations of the Australian Curriculum: English. The progression has not been designed as a checklist and does not replace the Australian Curriculum: English.

Each sub-element has been mapped to the year level expectations set by the Australian Curriculum: English.

Other Australian Curriculum learning areas

This National Literacy Learning Progression is designed to assist schools and teachers in all learning areas to support their students to successfully engage with the literacy demands of the F–10 Australian Curriculum. The overarching sub-elements of Listening, Interacting, Speaking, Understanding texts and Creating texts have specific relevance for learning areas other than English.

Advice on using the Numeracy Learning Progression with other learning areas and subjects can be viewed. This advice will assist teachers to plan how to teach specific literacy knowledge and skills essential to students’ understanding of subject content.

The National Literacy Learning Progression can be used at a whole school, team or individual teacher level. However, the progression provides maximum student learning benefits when used as part of a whole-school strategy that involves professional learning and collaboration between teachers. Further advice on how to maximise the benefits of the progression is available on the progressions home page.

The progressions can be used to identify the literacy capability of individual students within and across the 12 sub-elements. In any class there may be a wide range of student abilities. Individual students may not neatly fit within a particular level of the progressions and may straddle two or more levels within a progression. While the progression provides a logical sequence, not all students will progress through every level in a uniform manner.

When making decisions about a student’s literacy development, teachers select relevant indicators. It is important to remember indicators at a level are not a prescriptive list and the progression is not designed to be used as a checklist. Teacher judgements about student literacy capability should be based on a range of learning experiences. Observations, discussions, performances or tasks from any learning area can provide suitable evidence of a student’s literacy capability.

Teachers can use the progressions to support the development of targeted teaching and learning programs and to set clearer learning goals for individual students. For example, teaching decisions can be based on judgements about student capability that relate to a single indicator rather than all indicators at a level.

The Shape of the Australian Curriculum describes ACARA’s commitment to supporting equity of access to the Australian Curriculum for all students. As part of this commitment, ACARA developed Student diversity advice and the English as an Additional Language or Dialect (EAL/D) Learning Progression: Foundation to Year 10

For students who speak a language or dialect other than Standard Australian English, access to language and literacy development is especially important. EAL/D students learn English at the same time as they are learning the content of each learning area through English. For many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, their home language is a dialect of English such as Aboriginal English. This means that they learn the English of the school context and of the curriculum as a second dialect. It is important to acknowledge and value the home language, prior knowledge and experiences of these students, and to build on these in developing students’ literacy capabilities in the curriculum.

The EAL/D Learning Progression describes development of English language learning typical of students learning English as an additional language or dialect. Teachers may use the EAL/D Learning Progression to:

  • understand the broad phases of English language learning that EAL/D students are likely to experience
  • identify where their EAL/D students are located on the progression and the nature of their speaking, listening, reading/viewing and writing skills
  • monitor the language progression of their EAL/D students. 

The EAL/D Learning Progression, which shows the interaction of first language or dialect with language and literacy development, can be used with the Literacy progression to assist teachers in meeting the language-learning needs of students for whom English is an additional language or dialect. It is important to note that EAL/D students who do not meet age-related benchmarks when assessed against learning area achievement standards are not necessarily ‘underperforming’, but rather they are achieving at levels commensurate with their phase of English language learning.

Teachers implementing the literacy learning progression with EAL/D students can also refer to the English as an Additional Language or Dialect: Teacher Resource. This resource provides important information about the diversity of EAL/D learners who enter school with a wide range of English language levels and learning needs.

Learning area advice




Explore the learning progression elements