The Welsh Government published the Draft Curriculum for Wales 2022 on 30 April 2019 and is taking feedback on it until Friday 19 July 2019. Curriculum reform is ‘at the heart’ of the Welsh Government’s Education in Wales: Our National Mission, which sets out its plans for education reform up to 2021.
This article aims to explain the background to the development of the new curriculum, the key organising principles on which it is based, the way it is structured and what will happen next.
When will the new curriculum be introduced?
First, to address arguably what is the most pressing question for stakeholders, parents, children and young people: when are these changes going to happen?
Following its consideration of the feedback it receives, the Welsh Government plans to publish the finalised Curriculum for Wales in January 2020. Subject to the successful passage of a Curriculum and Assessment Bill through the National Assembly (the Welsh Government has recently consulted on a White Paper), the new age 3-16 Curriculum for Wales will be introduced in all maintained schools and publicly funded nursery settings from September 2022 on a phased basis.
It will initially be taught in primary school and Year 7 from September 2022, before rolling into Year 8 in 2023/24, Year 9 in 2024/25 and so on as these pupils progress through school. This means that a Year 11 cohort will not study the new curriculum (and take associated qualifications) until 2026/27. This is the current Year 3 (age 7-8) cohort.
A purpose-driven approach
The Welsh Government has emphasised that the new Curriculum for Wales is purpose-driven rather than simply defined by its content. There are therefore no ‘programmes of study’ and there will be comparatively less prescription of what must be taught than in the current curriculum. The new curriculum will be based on a three-pronged approach of Knowledge, Skills and Experience.
The new curriculum is the product of the vision set out by Professor Graham Donaldson in his review published in 2015, Successful Futures (PDF 1.59MB). Professor Donaldson’s work began by asking what should a person’s time in school equip them with for future life and the Welsh Government has adopted the four curriculum purposes he recommended:
- Ambitious, capable learners who are ready to learn throughout their lives.
- Enterprising, creative contributors who are ready to play a full part in life and work.
- Ethical, informed citizens who are ready to be citizens of Wales and the world.
- Healthy, confident individuals who are ready to lead fulfilling lives as valued members of society.
There will be both a ‘Welsh dimension’ and an ‘international perspective’ to the Curriculum for Wales.
Six Areas of Learning and Experience, three cross-curricular responsibilities and four wider skills
Rather than based on subjects, the new curriculum will be structured around the following six Areas of Learning and Experience (AoLEs):
- Expressive Arts
- Health and Well-being
- Languages, Literacy and Communication
- Mathematics and Numeracy
- Science and Technology
There will be three ‘cross-curricular responsibilities’, which will be taught within all six AoLEs:
- Digital Competence
In addition, four ‘wider skills’ will be embedded across the new curriculum:
- Critical thinking and problem solving
- Planning and organisation
- Creativity and innovation
- Personal effectiveness
Assessment and progression
The new curriculum will primarily use assessment for the purpose of informing teaching and learning, rather than accountability which the Welsh Government has emphasised is covered by other means – primarily the school categorisation system and Estyn inspections. Assessment will therefore predominantly be formative (used for on-going pupil development purposes) rather than summative (measuring the progress of a pupil at the end of a defined period of time for benchmarking purposes).
The new Curriculum for Wales will apply from the age of 3 to 16 and provide for a continuum of learning rather than the separation of schooling into key stages as at present. The new curriculum will therefore measure learners’ progress through expected ‘Achievement Outcomes’ at five ‘Progression Steps’ at ages 5, 8, 11, 14 and 16. These Achievement Outcomes are written in the form of ‘I can’, ‘I have’ etc.
The Welsh Government has published draft statutory guidance on assessment (PDF 1.09MB), alongside draft statutory guidance on the draft AoLEs. This follows the draft Evaluation and Improvement Framework, which was published in February 2019. A finalised Evaluation and Improvement Framework will be published alongside the final version of the curriculum in January 2020.
How has the new curriculum been developed?
The Welsh Government established a network of ‘Pioneer Schools’ (PDF) to lead on the development of the new curriculum. This was part of a chosen approach to empower the teaching profession and give them a central role in designing the new curriculum, aimed at resulting in greater ownership amongst teachers.
The Pioneer Schools have worked as part of an ‘all-Wales partnership’ including local authorities, regional consortia, Estyn, the further and higher education sectors, external experts, employers and the Welsh Government.
Our previous blog article (23 January 2019) provides further background information on how the curriculum has been developed and the steps that led to the publication of the draft curriculum materials in April.
What has recently been published?
The draft curriculum materials published by the Welsh Government at the end of April consist of over-arching statutory guidance (PDF 906KB) and separate statutory guidance on each AoLE. These are available in both an online and PDF format (accessed via ‘Download documents’). Each item of draft statutory guidance consists of:
- An introduction to the AoLE;
- How the AoLE supports the four purposes;
- A number of ‘What Matters’ statements for the AoLE;
- The relationship between the ‘What Matters’ statements within the AoLE and the relationship with other AoLEs;
- An outline of how progression within the AoLE will be conceived;
- How the AoLE will contribute to developing a broad and balanced curriculum, including how it relates to the three cross-curricular responsibilities, the four wider skills and other general factors such as careers and work experience;
- How the AoLE will be put into practice;
- Detail of how each ‘What Matters’ statement will be applied, including the Achievement Outcomes at each Progression Step (this is essentially the part of the document that sets out what the AoLE will cover).
What will happen next?
The Welsh Government’s feedback phase on the draft Curriculum for Wales closes on Friday 19 July. The Minister for Education, Kirsty Williams AM, said in her statement on 30 April, accompanying the publication of the draft curriculum materials, that the ‘widest possible range of views’ would be ‘essential’ to the ‘refinement of the AoLE guidance documents’.
The Welsh Government will then publish the final version of the new Curriculum for Wales in January 2020, ahead of its phased introduction from September 2022.
The Welsh Government will publish ‘in due course’ a summary of responses to its White Paper consultation on the legislative reform necessary to establish the new curriculum. Elements of the Education Act 2002 will need to be repealed and the Welsh Government intends to introduce a Curriculum and Assessment Bill to underpin the four purposes, the six AoLEs, and the three cross-curricular priorities.
The Welsh Government has acknowledged that the scale of the challenge of curriculum reform requires commensurate work to help the education profession prepare to deliver it. It has recently consulted on allowing an additional teacher training ‘INSET’ day for this purpose in each of the 2019/20, 2020/21 and 2021/22 academic years. The Welsh Government has also made available additional funding for teachers’ professional learning, specifically with the new curriculum in mind.
Indeed, the capacity of the sector to deliver the level of change necessary has been a key theme of the Assembly’s scrutiny of the implementation of the Donaldson Review and curriculum reform.
Article by Michael Dauncey, Senedd Research, National Assembly for Wales