The national mission for Welsh children
On 26 September, Kirsty Williams AM, Welsh Government Cabinet Secretary for Education published a strategy for education in Wales 2017-2021 challenging the sector to join in a ‘national mission’ to deliver ‘an education system that is a source of national pride and public confidence’.
The new curriculum for young people aged 3-16 is at the heart of an ambitious programme of reform in Wales. The purpose of the new curriculum is to support our children and young people to be:
– ambitious, capable learners, ready to learn throughout their lives
– enterprising, creative contributors, ready to play a full part in life and work
– ethical, informed citizens of Wales and the world
– healthy, confident individuals, ready to lead fulfilling lives as valued members of society.
The new strategy replaces Qualified for Life, the plan produced by the previous Government, and the big headline change is a new timetable for introducing the curriculum.
The previous Government wanted the curriculum to be in schools in 2018. Now, the intention is to make the new curriculum available for feedback in 2019 and finalised in 2020. Teaching across nursery to year 7 begins in 2022 and then rolls to year 8-11 between 2023 and 2026.
Practitioners are engaged in developing the content of the new curriculum, primarily through a network of schools recruited to be curriculum pioneers.
What will change?
The strategy document broadly describes changes to teacher training and professional development, leadership development, school improvement services, accountability and assessment. Extensive reform is said to be necessary to secure successful implementation of the new curriculum and achieve improvement throughout the system.
The strategy is explicit in saying that assessment and accountability will need reform to be coherent with the new curriculum. A new assessment framework will focus on pupil progress, and measures for learner wellbeing will be part of the new accountability framework, which is under discussion and the intention is to have models agreed by Autumn 2018.
GCSEs will remain. These will be reviewed by Qualifications Wales from 2020 and teaching towards the revised GCSEs will begin in 2024.
Professor Graham Donaldson has been asked to lead a review of school inspectorate Estyn and assure that inspection is aligned with the new curriculum and assessment arrangements.
In many ways, the drive to reform originated in a deep disappointment among the then Ministers in Government at PISA results in 2009 and 2012. Qualified for Life included a target of Wales achieving 500 or more points in Mathematics, Reading and Science by the 2021 PISA cycle. This target has been kept.
Most stakeholders welcomed the delay in implementing the new curriculum. Concerns about its progress had grown in recent months and parallels drawn with similar curriculum reform in Scotland and an anxiety among some there.
The new implementation date of 2022 takes implementation beyond the next Welsh Assembly elections in May 2021.
About the author
Robin has been a school governor for over ten years and is bilingual, Welsh and English. Before becoming a consultant and working with a number of private and public sector educational organisations, Robin had stakeholder management roles in an examination board and was the Wales Secretary for ASCL, a body that represents over 16,000 senior school leaders.