Jeremy Miles MS, Minister for Education and the Welsh Language, was in the hot seat for this podcast. He answers tough questions from teachers about curriculum, additional learning needs, the school year and more…
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Questions were submitted via consortia but there wasn’t time to ask all in the podcast. See comprehensive answers below to those that could not be put directly to the Minister.
Q: The baseline assessment doesn’t fit with curriculum steps. Will it operate independently? Do we create our own for Foundation Phase?
- In the Curriculum for Wales, progression for 3-16 year olds will occur along a single continuum of learning. The new assessment arrangements will need to ensure that learners make progress at an appropriate pace along that continuum. As such phases and stages do not exist in the new curriculum.
- Currently baseline assessments are undertaken within the first six weeks of a child entering Reception year. We do not believe that this approach is compatible with the new way of supporting and assessing progression from the age of 3 and are consulting on proposals to support and assess learner progress, which includes arrangements for our youngest learners.
- In place of the baseline assessment, we are proposing an “on entry assessment” is undertaken for each learner on registration at a school or setting. For most this will occur in the term following their 3rd birthday.
- Alongside this, we are proposing an “on entry assessment” also take place when a learner enters a new school or setting which takes account of previous assessments they may have had.
- This will help develop a detailed understanding of a learner’s strengths and needs and enable practitioners to tailor teaching and learning to support progress for that learner from the earliest stages.
- Schools and settings would have flexibility on how this “on entry” assessment is carried out as it will need to align with their adopted curriculum. However, as a minimum, it will need to assess the progress of a learner in literacy and numeracy, and also their well-being.
- While the Foundation Phase will no longer be the statutory curriculum for 3-7 year olds from September 2022, I know that Foundation Phase practitioners have worked very closely with us to ensure the principles of the Foundation Phase in the new curriculum.
- As I mentioned, we are gathering feedback on proposals relating to the “on entry to education assessment” as part of a wider consultation on subordinate legislation to support the new assessment arrangements. This closes on 31 October and I invite everyone to share your views with us via the online form.
Q: Will there be a standardised specified framework or criteria for assessment? Especially for reporting to LAs, WG? If not, will schools be tested on the accuracy of the system they put in place independently?
- Subsidiarity is one of the key principles on which Curriculum for Wales has been developed, enabling more freedom and flexibility for schools to design a curriculum appropriate for their learners, but within the context of a national framework.
- As schools design their own curriculum, they will also put in place appropriate assessment arrangements to support learners to make progress in relation to that curriculum.
- The Curriculum for Wales guidance describes mandatory principles of progression for the curriculum as a whole and for each individual area of learning and experience. These principles together with the descriptions of learning are intended to guide the development of a curriculum which reflects appropriate progression. Learners’ progress in relation to their school curriculum will be identified through assessment and appropriate arrangements will need to be put in place to enable this.
- To ensure a degree of consistency, and ensure equity for learners across Wales, it is essential that staff within and across schools and settings develop a shared understanding of progression. I will be requiring schools to put arrangements in place to enable this. A shared understanding of progression will provide a strong foundation for assessing learner progress as a fundamental part of teaching and learning.
- We are clear that the purpose of assessment is to support each individual learner to make progress. In developing their assessment arrangements schools will have to meet the broad requirements we are putting in place as well as have regard to Supporting Learner Progression: Assessment Guidance. However, in essence, it will be a matter for the school to determine how to best support learner progression within their curriculum.
- We are currently gathering feedback on proposed subordinate legislation to support the new assessment arrangements as part of Curriculum for Wales. The consultation is due to close on 31 October and I would encourage you to share your views with us via the online form.
Reporting to Local Authorities, Welsh Government:
- We are moving away from a curriculum based on outcomes and levels and phases and key stages, which has lent itself to the national collection and aggregation of standardised assessment data. That is not a feature of the new curriculum. Assessment arrangements will differ between schools ‘by design’, so there will not be a national collection of continuous assessment data.
- The information gathered on learner progression should be proportionate and is only used within the school to directly support learner progression and inform teaching.
- The assessment section of Curriculum for Wales guidance is clear that assessment information, including online personalised assessments, should not be used to determine the performance of practitioners or schools or be used for any other means of accountability.
- We know that evaluation and improvement arrangements can influence how assessment is perceived and how it is undertaken which is why we are changing our evaluation and improvement arrangements so that they support the realisation of Curriculum for Wales.
Schools keeping their curriculum and assessment arrangements under review
- Adopting a curriculum from September 2022 is the beginning of an ongoing period of curriculum development and refinement. The curriculum should be continuously evolving, striving for higher expectations, better supported well-being and responding to learners’ changing needs, supported by evolving and improving learning and teaching.
- Schools will therefore need to keep their curriculum under review, and revise it if necessary, to ensure it continues to provide for appropriate progression. Information obtained from their assessment arrangements will be critical to this process.
- As part of the same process, a school’s assessment arrangements will also need to be kept under review and revised if appropriate to ensure that they continue to support the school curriculum and effective learner progression.
Developing a shared understanding of progression
- Progression is a fundamental aspect on which school curricula, and therefore assessment arrangements, will be designed and planned. To deliver equity for learners across Wales, it is essential that there is a shared understanding of progression, including expectations around what progression may look like and the pace at which learners may progress.
- This shared understanding of progression will be developed through both professional learning and as an ongoing process both within and across schools, of which professional dialogue between practitioners will be a fundamental aspect.
- The insight and understanding gained as a result of this professional dialogue should inform each school’s self-evaluation process, helping define future priorities for leadership, curriculum design and learning and teaching.
- At the heart of the evaluation and improvement arrangements is effective self-evaluation, which makes a vital contribution to raising the quality of education and standards of achievement.
- Self-evaluation will encourage schools to reflect on their approaches to planning, developing and implementing their curriculum and assessment arrangements. It will enable schools to further develop learning and teaching to ensure they are effective in supporting learner progression. These developments, in turn, will then be reflected in daily practice.
- Schools will be responsible for developing, and using, mechanisms to reflect on the effectiveness of their curriculum, pedagogy and assessment arrangements, and use that insight to continually improve.
- Information from assessment arrangements should play a pivotal role in a school’s self-evaluation and improvement processes.
- The development of a shared understanding of progression is an important part of the self-evaluation and review process of a school, as the outcomes of the discussions across and between schools will help evaluate whether progress aligns with the national requirements.
Q: Will the Minister be telling parents about the changes to what information schools are required to provide? There are rumours of a U-turn.
- Parents should feel well informed about the learning and progress of their children. Schools will continue to provide information to their local communities, including reports to parents, prospectuses, governors’ reports and development plans.