With all the changes currently happening in Welsh education, it’s important to reassure teachers and other stakeholders that there is common understanding across the system. Estyn fully supports curriculum reform, working together with schools, the Welsh Government, regional consortia, and other partners to the same end.
Our early involvement in curriculum reform, working with Professor Donaldson in 2015, helped to identify the strengths and areas for improvement in the Welsh education system. It also helped us to understand the direction of future developments.
Amending our inspection cycle from six to seven years has also helped to support curriculum development. This change by the then Minister for Education and Skills was partly an acknowledgement of the additional time that would be required by schools to develop the new curriculum. It also released time for inspectors to contribute their expertise and participate in a wide range of curriculum reform activities.
Collaborating with teachers and other partners to plan for the future is an important part of the way we work. You can see below some of the different ways that we’re supporting curriculum reform.
Estyn will always view schools positively that have learners’ best interests at the heart of their curriculum development. We have re-emphasised this in our inspection guidance and our new inspection framework that started in September 2017. We’ve communicated our approach to curriculum reform through many channels.
Looking for innovation
We want schools to know that they shouldn’t play safe at the expense of innovation. Inspectors do not have pre-determined ideas about what the curriculum should look like or what schools should be doing. We don’t expect to see a particular approach to teaching and learning. We look forward to seeing how schools evaluate their curriculum and try out new approaches and ideas, using an evidence-based approach.
The new inspection framework focuses strongly on teaching and learning experiences, leadership of change, and professional learning. Inspectors consider how schools develop learners with positive attitudes towards their learning.
Through our inspections we are able to gather evidence about how schools are approaching curriculum reform, the strengths of their work as well as initial challenges. With a large number of our inspectors involved in curriculum reform, Estyn is able to have a wide perspective and provide real time feedback about what’s happening.
So far, one of the things that strikes us about many of our pioneer schools is their positive attitude to reform and also their commitment to supporting the professional learning of their staff. We’ve seen schools such as Ysgol Cynwyd Sant make good progress on planning the Digital Competence Framework and Heol Goffa Special School creating dynamic, enjoyable and challenging learning experiences. And Ysgol Glan-y-Môr School’s STEM enrichment programme has increased pupil engagement, improved subject standards and developed pupils’ wider skills. Read our case studies for more detail.
Overall, there is an increasing understanding of the opportunities presented by the development of the new curriculum for Wales. Schools are beginning to consider how they evaluate their current curriculum, how they create a culture of professional learning, and how leaders manage the change needed to deliver a curriculum that can realise the four purposes.
You can see below the reports we’ve published since last year to support curriculum reform as well as those planned for this year. Our 2017 thematic reports are also compiled in one easy-to-read document.
In May this year, we’ll be hosting two conferences on developing the curriculum, and inviting a range of primary and secondary schools to share their experiences of curriculum reform. Look out for the opportunity to register for these national conferences.