‘Successful Futures’ recommended that independent evaluation of the approach to developing the new curriculum for Wales should be conducted. This has now begun, and is initially focusing on the change structure.
The first phase of evaluation will provide real-time feedback on how the Pioneer Schools model is working during the curriculum design and development phase. The subsidiarity approach being taken is both innovative and different, so it’s important to understand how the model is working and whether anything needs to change before implementation begins. Arad and ICF are the companies carrying out the work.
This evaluation will focus on the process and interdependencies across the Pioneer Model – incorporating the digital competence framework, curriculum and assessment design and professional learning. The outputs from the Pioneer Schools are firmly out of scope.
The aim of this evaluation is to provide evidence to the Welsh Government on how the Pioneer Schools model is working in practice and what improvements could be made.
2. Research Questions
The broad research questions that will be addressed across the project include:
- Is the Pioneer Schools model working effectively?
- What are the aspects of the Pioneer Schools model that are working or not working so well?
- Have relationships worked well across the different partners (i.e. schools, Regional Educational Consortia, Welsh Government and Estyn?)
- Is the Pioneer Schools model working effectively in relation to development of a single curriculum for both the Welsh and English medium sectors?
- Is the Welsh medium network fully integrated in the work of the rest of the pioneer network?
- Is the process effective in engaging and communicating with non Pioneer Schools, non maintained settings delivering the Foundation Phase and FE colleges?
- What do Pioneer Schools feel is working in developing the curriculum, why and how?
- What support do schools need at each stage in the process to deliver the outputs required from that stage and to move onto the next?
- What are the ways in which the process and model might be improved?
- What are the lessons for the future?
As the development of the Digital Competency Framework has been accelerated, there are opportunities to capture the learning from Digital Pioneers to inform the Professional Learning and Curriculum strands of work. Therefore, all Digital Pioneers and key stakeholders who contributed to the DCF have been invited to participate in the evaluation, via a mixture of telephone interviews and visits. A short paper will be published at the end of the year on lessons learnt from the DCF development.
The next phase of the evaluation will focus primarily on processes applied to the strategic design of the curriculum. This will involve telephone interviews with 35 Pioneer schools which will focus on initial activity, strategic planning, induction events, guidance and support provided, and their understanding of their roles within the process. 10 schools not involved in the Pioneer activity will also be interviewed to better understand their expectations and levels of engagement with the process. Stakeholder interviews will also be undertaken.
The final phase will focus on AOLE design, population and the process involved in developing supporting materials. This will involve fieldwork with 35 new Pioneer Schools and re-contacting the same 35 schools interviewed earlier in the process. It will include interviews with senior managers responsible for the curriculum and professional development as well as lead practitioners who have been involved in the development of AOLEs and supporting materials.
Taken as a whole this work will give a picture of the overall effectiveness of the Pioneer Schools model, and provide conclusions and recommendations for the ongoing development of the new curriculum through the Pioneer model.
The evaluation is due to be completed by December 2017 and interim reports will be published within this period.