Important consultation on new school curriculum in Wales

The Welsh Government Education Minister has now made her statement in the Senedd about new legislative proposals for the school curriculum in Wales. This is an important issue and I encourage those with an interest to respond to the consultation.

The statement is as follows:

“Llywydd, the publication of our Curriculum and Assessment White Paper marks an important milestone in Wales’ current education reform journey.

It is also a significant moment in our history as a people who believe in education as an individual, community and national endeavour. For the first time ever, we are bringing forward our own made in Wales legislative proposals for the school curriculum.

Yes, made in Wales, but shaped by the best from around the world. It is fundamental to achieving our national mission to raise standards, reduce the attainment gap, and deliver an education system that is a source of national pride and public confidence.

This is the realisation of the call made in the nineteenth century by the great educationalist and progressive Elizabeth Phillips Hughes. She was the first principal of the Cambridge Teacher College for Women and returned home to be the only woman on the committee which drafted the charter of the University of Wales.

In arguing for co-education, the promotion of women’s education and the importance of a Welsh dimension to our education system, she said that “education must be national, and must be in our own hands”. Today we are moving forward on that promise.

The essential features of the current curriculum, devised in 1988 by the then Westminster Government, is out of time with recent and future shifts in technology and development of our society and economy. The high degree of prescription in the national curriculum has tended to create a culture where creativity has been diminished.  There has been in narrowing of teaching and learning, with the professional contribution of the workforce underdeveloped.

I am absolutely clear that to raise standards for all and expand opportunities, we need to empower schools and teachers by moving away from a narrow, inflexible and crowded curriculum.

Our new curriculum will support young people to develop higher standards of literacy and numeracy, become more digitally and bilingually competent, and evolve into enterprising, creative and critical thinkers.  It will help to develop our young people as confident, capable and caring citizens of Wales and the world.

Since 2016 we have been working with a network of Pioneer Schools, experts and a wide range of stakeholders to develop a new curriculum. I consider this to be a key strength of our reforms. Reforms for the people in Wales, shaped by the people in Wales.

This approach has allowed us to keep schools and learners at the very heart of the developments.  It has promoted ownership of the reforms, which is key in ensuring the changes we are making are right and are sustainable.

You will already be aware of the majority of the proposed legislative changes, as they reflect and stay true to the recommendations set out in Successful Futures; the cornerstone of our curriculum reform.

We are proposing to legislate to ensure the four purposes set out in Successful Futures will be at the core of the new curriculum, with learners benefiting from a broad spectrum of learning. We’re returning to the fundamentals of education by introducing Areas of Learning and Experience covering the Humanities, Health and Wellbeing, Science and Technology, Languages, Literacy and Communications, Expressive Arts and Maths.  This means we’re moving away from the days of a narrow curriculum and on to a different approach of teaching and learning – a curriculum where we break down traditional subject boundaries and give teachers the flexibility to approach different issues from different angles.

By using this approach practitioners will be able to use their professionalism and expert knowledge to create and design lessons that stretch our learners.  Stretch their learning, stretch their abilities and stretch their horizons.

The White Paper proposes that the new curriculum be organised as a continuum of learning from ages 3 to 16.  The emphasis is on seamless transition, with references to Key Stages removed.  Instead, progression will be signalled through Progression Steps at five points in the learning continuum, relating broadly to expectations at ages 5, 8, 11, 14 and 16.  They will act as a road map for each learner’s development allowing for individual abilities, experiences and rates of learning and understanding.  We intend to legislate to define these steps.

As a proud bilingual country, English and Welsh will of course remain statutory, as will Religious Studies and Relationships and Sexuality Education. Alongside this, the Cross-Curriculum Responsibilities of literacy, numeracy and digital competence will be statutory up to 16 years old.

Llywydd, this is an exciting time for education in Wales. Not only are we developing a curriculum that ensures our learners are equipped to meet the needs of the future, but we are developing a curriculum through genuine collaboration with our schools and key stakeholders.   We need to ensure our legislation, as set out in the White Paper, enables us to realise and not stifle our ambitions.

I am asking for Members in the chamber today, and for people across Wales, to contribute over the coming weeks and months. The White Paper is ambitious and far-reaching, but we will only reach those high standards through a genuine national mission and conversation.

The content and detail of the new curriculum will be published in draft in April.   Today is about laying the foundations; consulting on legislation that paves the way for the new curriculum and the principles, freedoms, and structures that will support it”.

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