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Implementing curriculum in South Australia: the SACSA Framework

Department of Education and Children's Services

The South Australian Curriculum Standards and Accountability (SACSA) Framework was introduced in 2001. Like the curriculum documents in other States and Territories the Framework is designed to support continuity of learning from birth to Year 12 and is organised around the eight Learning Areas. Key Ideas within each Learning Area describe the scope of the curriculum while Learning Outcomes describe student achievement. The Key Ideas and Learning Outcomes are written at Standards which represent the expectations we have for learners towards the end of Years 2, 4, 6, 8 and 10. Achievement of a Standard means that a learner has achieved all the Learning Outcomes for a particular Learning Area.

The Learning Areas are organised in Strands. Within each Strand there are Key Ideas and in most instances one Learning Outcome corresponds to each Key Idea at each Standard. The exception to this is the English Learning Area where there is one Key Idea for listening and speaking and two Learning Outcomes, one for listening and one for speaking.

The other elements in the South Australian curriculum are also woven into SACSA’s Key Ideas and Learning Outcomes. These elements are the South Australian Essential Learnings, embracing the themes of Identity, Interdependence, Thinking, Futures and Communication; Equity Cross-curricular Perspectives; and Enterprise and Vocational Perspectives.

The SACSA Framework is based on constructivist theories of learning which view the learner as active in the process of taking in information, building knowledge and understanding and applying it in various contexts. The Framework’s Key Ideas and Outcomes provide the opportunities for teaching and learning which build on learners’ prior knowledge and experience and engage them in purposeful, contextualised, challenging, relevant and inherently interesting learning activities.

The SACSA Companion Documents

The Companion Documents are designed to support teachers in planning, programming and assessing using the SACSA Framework. They were developed following collaboration between the South Australian Primary Principals Association and the Department of Education and Children’s Services and were written in response to a request for examples of the learning that may occur at each year level, as students work towards the Learning Outcomes.

The learning descriptors are not prescriptive but rather describe possible growth points of learners as they progress towards a Learning Outcome. The documents are a practical example of teachers’ thinking and understanding of learning. They are meant only as guides, providing starting points for engagement and creative programming and planning. They do not fully describe all the learning that would need to be demonstrated by students for the achievement of a Learning Outcome.

Each Document was written by a group of experienced practising teachers working with the support of and in collaboration with curriculum officers and professional associations. The process drew on what the teachers already knew about teaching and learning at specific year levels as well as the resources which they found useful for supporting students to achieve Learning Outcomes.

In a pre-writing session some explicit information was provided by curriculum officers, in particular with reference to the Essential Learnings, Equity Cross-Curriculum Perspectives, and Enterprise and Vocational Education. Considerable time was spent sharing ideas about the Key Ideas and Learning Outcomes. Each Companion Document was then drafted and circulated in South Australian Department Schools. Feedback was provided which led to a refinement of each Document prior to publication.

Each Companion Document uses the same format and provides a sample range of learning descriptors relating to the Key Ideas and Outcomes in each Learning Area. The Companion Documents also include concept maps which illustrate the scope of learning within Strands; reflective questions to stimulate teachers to think about learning and assessment; and lists of possible resources and a glossary.

For ease of use most of the Companion Documents are further organised by Curriculum Bands: Early Years (R–2), Primary Years (3–5), Middle Years (6–8) and a combined Middle–Senior Years Band (8–10). Year 8 descriptors are duplicated in Middle Years and Middle–Senior Years to assist continuity from primary to secondary sectors.

Although each Learning Area in the SACSA Framework is organised in Strands each is also subtly different from the others. The Companion Documents capture these differences for teachers.


In the context of the SACSA Framework, the Arts learning area is organised around three main Strands of learning: Arts in context, Arts in practice and Arts analysis and response.

The Strands are designed to capture the ways of knowing, understanding and doing in the arts. Within each Strand the five arts forms (dance, drama, media studies, music and visual arts) are treated together at each year level from Reception to Year 8, and separately in years 8, 9 and 10.

Design and Technology

Learning through Design and Technology explores the interrelationship of people, technology and the environment through a range of contexts, and engages students in questioning the ethics and values inherent in any technology.

The Design and Technology Companion Document is constructed around a concept map describing the Strands Critiquing, Designing and Making and their interrelationship.

Assessment criteria at the beginning of each Band of schooling provide focus areas for the teacher’s judgement of what learners are able to do, and features of working technologically.


In the SACSA Framework the English Learning Area is organised into three interrelated Strands: Texts and Contexts, Language and Strategies. In each Strand there are four Learning Outcomes at each Standard corresponding to the modes of listening, speaking, reading and viewing, and writing.

The English Companion Document is organised by Curriculum Band and by mode. The first section of each Curriculum Band links the Learning Outcomes related to Speaking and Listening across the three Strands; the second section deals with the reading and viewing Learning Outcomes, while the last section presents the writing Learning Outcomes. This structure was determined in response to feedback, which suggests that teachers plan and program tasks within a mode, rather than in a Strand. The structure of the English Learning Area is illustrated diagrammatically and the resource also contains concept maps that graphically represent the scope of learning in each of the three modes.

Health and PE

The Health and Physical Education Learning Area is organised around the Strands of Physical activity and participation, Personal and social development and Health of individuals and communities.

The document has a particular focus on a range of negotiated and inclusive assessment practices and supports continuous assessment in a range of contexts and situations. The examples provided in the Companion Document are included to stimulate reflection and ideas about assessment as an integral part of the learning process with the needs and circumstances of the learner being considered.


Given the diversity of languages sponsored by the Department of Education and Children’s Services, the variety of forms in which they exist and the different rates of uptake expected of our learners, three separate Companion Documents have been developed for Languages: alphabetic, non-alphabetic and Australian Indigenous languages.

The Languages documents are organised according to the Standards, rather than Learning Bands, and address Pathway 1A (for second language learners commencing at Reception) and Pathway 1B (for learners commencing at Year 8).

Learning descriptors are provided for each of the four Key Ideas in Communication (under Listening, Speaking, Reading and Writing) and for the Understanding Language and Understanding Culture Strands.

Throughout the learning descriptors the writers have provided cross-references to notes on Linguistic Items and Cultural Aspects, which appear for each language at the back of the respective document.

A particular feature of the Languages documents is that each Strand and Sub-strand closes with an example of assessment and accompanying assessment criteria which relate to the preceding learning descriptors. In addition the Companion Document for alphabetic languages also provides a cumulative/culminating assessment which is an example of how elements of all six Strands can be assessed through one assessment example.


The Maths Companion Document provides a comprehensive list of starting points that could be included in a program at years R–7. These points have been arranged in developmental order across the page to provide for ease of planning and working with the range of abilities within the classroom.

Only materials that are new for each of the year levels have been included at Years 8–10. This encourages teachers to consider students’ prior knowledge when developing their programs. Sample investigations have been provided for each Strand to demonstrate one way of incorporating the Essential Learnings' Equity and Enterprise into mathematics programs and as examples of relevant contexts for the mathematics.


In this document, the Science Learning Area is organised in four conceptual Strands, Earth and Space, Energy Systems, Life Systems and Matter. Interwoven throughout the conceptual Strands is the process of Science, Working Scientifically.

Working Scientifically, the way in which students and scientists do science, gives a ‘real world’ context to the conceptual Strands and is characterised by terms that designate an action in the conduct of science such as plans, classifies, investigates, compares, predicts and records.

The Assessment Examples and Possible Topics also allow teachers to make connections between the Key Ideas and Learning Outcomes and learner achievement. They are possible mechanisms through which to reflect on the learner’s understandings of scientific processes, skills and attitudes as well as their grasp of scientific concepts.

Society and Environment

By their very nature the Society and Environment disciplines, studies, perceptions and processes provide contexts for cooperative inquiry. Such inquiry links and grows the knowledge, skills and values associated with participating as ethical, active and informed citizens in a democratic society within a global community.

Learning in Society and Environment is described through four Strands – Time, continuity and change; Space, place and environment; Societies and cultures; and Social systems.

The SACSA Framework weaves the four Strands together in many ways: through the integration of the five Essential Learnings with the fundamental concepts of the area; through inquiry-centred learning and assessment processes; a shared focus on equity and cross-curriculum perspectives; and through a common approach to values.

The emphasis in learning in Society and Environment is through inquiry-centred learning around the Key Ideas: Knowledge in context, Skills in context and Values and active participation in context.

Responses to the Companion Documents

The Companion Documents have been well received by teachers in schools. One Coordinator in a secondary school writes: ‘This term we have two new teachers from other countries who have never heard of SACSA, so these booklets are a really handy resource all in the one package. They work well for us, and … point out the things kids do at the 6 and 7 year levels to teachers who have the misconception that students arrive as tabulae rasae at Year 8.’ (In South Australia students leave primary school at the end of Year 7 to enter high schools in Year 8.)

Further feedback on the Companion Documents is welcome and may be sent online to the SACSA Team.

Written by Policy & Program Officers with responsibility for Learning Areas, The Department of Education and Children’s Services, South Australia

For more information contact: Carolyn Cockburn, Policy & Program Officer, Publishing
Tel: (08) 8226 4374
Fax: (08 ) 8221 6617
Mobile: 0402 850 054
Email: Cockburn.Carolyn@saugov.sa.gov.au

Key Learning Areas

The Arts
Studies of Society and Environment
Health and Physical Education

Subject Headings

South Australia
Values education (character education)
Secondary education
Science teaching
Primary education
Physical education
Mathematics teaching
Languages other than English (LOTE)
Health education
English language teaching
Education policy
Curriculum planning
Compulsory education