Qualifications fit for future generations – why are some combined?

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The new Curriculum for Wales signals a big change in the way that young people will learn and that is why we are making changes to qualifications.

The changes we are making to qualifications in Wales are needed to align with the new curriculum. We also need to reflect the major cultural shift public bodies are making in Wales, thinking and working long-term for current and future generations.

As a regulator, we need to be confident that the right qualifications are available to meet the needs of future learners and future employees. As part of our decision making, we have decided to take a new approach to GCSEs in English, Mathematics and Sciences, by integrating each subject area. This will provide more space and breadth in learning across subjects and a more consistent approach for learners.

 Why combine qualifications?

Currently most learners take many separate qualifications in these key subject areas, which leaves little opportunity for them to focus on the other subjects.

We have tested our thinking with a wide range of stakeholders, and we believe combining qualifications will benefit learners and teachers, providing more flexibility to schools so learners can pursue a wider range of subjects.

These changes would reduce the number of assessments for learners to ease the pressures they face and further support their mental health and well-being.

Research shows that assessing language and literature together is a positive way for learners to develop linguistic skills so they can apply them to different situations and in different contexts. It also provides an opportunity for all learners to study literature which is an important part of learning and enjoying a language and addresses concerns about the reduction in learners studying literature.

The change to GCSE Science will include content from each of the three science disciplines and make it clearer how they link to each other. This reflects the new curriculum’s expectation that learners can make the links across their learning and offers a coherent approach that benefits all learners.

The benefits of combining subjects

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New podcast! Prof. Charlotte Williams talks realism, radiates positivity.

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Prof. Charlotte Williams OBE

An Independent review to advise on and improve the teaching of themes and experiences relating to Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities across the curriculum was Chaired recently by Professor Charlotte Williams. The final report, published in March this year, included coverage of resources and professional learning. It was a ‘ground-breaking trajectory in curriculum reform in Wales’.

Now, in black history month, Charlotte talks about her work on the Review, her personal experiences of growing up and being educated in North Wales, and her optimism for changes that are underway. Honest and heart-felt, it’s an inspirational listen.

Listen on our channel through your chosen platform below:

Apple podcasts 

Spotify

Spreaker

Or for any mobile phone, use this ‘magic link’

The podcast was recorded early in October and also refers to the Professional Teaching Awards Cymru new category: The Betty Campbell MBE award for promoting the contributions and perspectives of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic Communities. Nominations are still open, until 23 November.

She also mentions a new Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic Initial Teacher recruitment plan and campaign aimed at reducing the imbalance in representation.

Introducing a new Curriculum during challenging times

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During the years CfW was being co-constructed, the prospect of the new framework and guidance (we’re careful not to call it a curriculum!) seemed to many of us a far-away thing, not something to get overly excited or concerned about for some time. 

Kath Lewis, Strategic Lead for Curriculum Reform

Over a four-year period, experts, academics, and teachers alike spent time grappling with huge philosophical questions, pondering ‘curriculum’ and what it could be in Wales.  The “wouldn’t it be great if…?”, “why have we always had to…?” and “why don’t we…?” philosophical conversations echoed through corridors, along with the sometimes-heated debates about what should make it into the national framework, and what should be for schools and practitioners to decide. 

These conversations however were happening for the ‘lucky few’ who had secured a seat at the pioneer table.  What then for the others? What for those who disagreed with what they were presented with?  What for those who didn’t want this new way?  The draft was published, the consultation period happened (with 2,103 responses received), the final framework and guidance arrived and regardless of whether you had been sat at that pioneer table, whether you had shared your views through the consultation, or had not been involved at all, 28th January 2020 became Day 1 for CfW; a reset for all, taking everybody to the framework, not to drafts or copies they may have seen or borrowed along the way. 

Before that day, many may have explored the four purposes and considered the pedagogical principles, but it wasn’t until the publication of the framework that we could all work reliably from the guidance and start making sense of it within each school context.  Day 1 marked the beginning of a process that could arguably be the most challenging that Wales’ school school practitioners had experienced since the introduction of the National Curriculum in 1988.

And so, we zoom ahead to the present day.  19 months on from Day 1.  In that time we would have been able to get to know the framework, to collaborate within school teams, clusters and networks; to unpick, to ask what might be possible for learners, to consider how to take this national framework – not curriculum – and transform it into a curriculum so befitting our learners that it be unequivocally better than what came before. But that was before the world was changed by Covid-19.  Who could have possibly imagined a pandemic throwing us off course? Stealing time away from us and disrupting lives as it has done?  From CfW being the biggest game in town, for many schools it has become the least of their concerns, the thing they’ll get to but not yet, not whilst they are functioning in crisis management mode. The pandemic has not been forgiving, it has not made allowances for those who hadn’t been part of the pioneer process and needed more time, for those with a huge mountain to climb. Covid has significantly affected all schools, and is continuing to do so, in many cases now worse than ever.  

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Reimagining GCSE qualifications

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Emyr George, Director of Qualifications Policy and Reform

Reimagining and reforming GCSE qualifications is crucial to create a new way of learning that will prepare learners for life, study and work in the 21st century.

To complement the new Curriculum for Wales, we are looking at how we can innovate qualifications to prepare learners to succeed in an ever-changing and uncertain world.

We have now agreed the subjects in which a new generation of fit-for-the-future GCSEs will be offered.

Over the coming months we will be listening and discussing ideas through our national conversation to co-create GCSE qualifications. New content and new assessment approaches are just some of the things we will be looking at as we shift to more flexible and agile ways of learning.

As part of our Qualified for the Future programme we are recruiting teachers and educational professionals to help us with this exciting challenge.  Anyone interested in joining us can apply through our website.

We want everyone with an interest in education to contribute to the national conversation so that we can meet the needs of our communities.

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New School Evaluation and Improvement Resource in Development – a Chance to find out more on 12th October

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A resource to help schools self-evaluate and improve has been developed over the past two years. It has been designed with practitioners, supported by Estyn, and has been tested by a group of 100 schools over the past few weeks. A national pilot will take place from November.

A chance to find out about the resource and get an early idea of how to use it will be open to practitioners on 12th October from 2:00-3:00pm. The ‘Policy Insight’ event will include a description of the features and how it can be used in the school context without increasing the burden of administration.

To join the session, register here. If you can’t take part in the event, the whole session will be available as an offline playlist resource and the link added to this page. See the session here.

‘Policy Insight’ events are organised by teachers seconded to Welsh Government and designed to keep practitioners up to date about professional learning, especially as it relates to curriculum implementation. An overview, list of events and booking form is here.

Forthcoming events include:

Professional learning update and National Professional Enquiry Project re-launch – 11th November

Digital Professional Learning Journey update – 9th December

Additions and Changes to Curriculum Guidance – 30th September

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New content has been added, and some alterations made, to the Curriculum for Wales Framework guidance.

The changes have been made for one of two reasons: as a response to consultation feedback that pointed to a need for more information in specific areas; or as a result of the Curriculum and Assessment (Wales) Act 2021 Act being passed by the Senedd.

What are the main changes?

Update to the ‘Introduction’ section – changed to reflect the passage of legislation, but also to keep it up to speed with new supporting guidance, hence the ‘preparing for 2022’ element has been deleted in deference to the new  Journey to curriculum roll-out’ guidance published on Hwb on 22 September.

Statements of What Matters and Principles of Progression – updated following consultation to reflect the draft Codes covering those mandatory elements currently before the Senedd.*

Education Other Than At School (EOTAS) – this now has its own section within Designing your curriculum  that sets out considerations for curriculum design for EOTAS.

British Sign Language (BSL) – Guidance for developing a curriculum which features BSL for deaf BSL users and for other learners and a   full set of Descriptions of learning for BSL now form part of the Languages Literacy and Communication Area of Learning and Experience. The guidance for EOTAS and BSL has been developed by practitioners through co-construction, supported by other experts including members of the Deaf Community.

The curriculum guidance revisions will be followed by a second set at the end of 2021 to cover:

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What are the main changes?

Update to the ‘Introduction’ section – changed to reflect the passage of legislation, but also to keep it up to speed with new supporting guidance, hence the ‘preparing for 2022’ element has been deleted in deference to the new  Journey to curriculum roll-out’ guidance published on Hwb on 22 September.

Statements of What Matters and Principles of Progression – updated following consultation to reflect the draft Codes covering those mandatory elements currently before the Senedd.*

Education Other Than At School (EOTAS) – this now has its own section within Designing your curriculum  that sets out considerations for curriculum design for EOTAS.

British Sign Language (BSL) – Guidance for developing a curriculum which features BSL for deaf BSL users and for other learners and a   full set of Descriptions of learning for BSL now form part of the Languages Literacy and Communication Area of Learning and Experience. The guidance for EOTAS and BSL has been developed by practitioners through co-construction, supported by other experts including members of the Deaf Community.

The curriculum guidance revisions will be followed by a second set at the end of 2021 to cover:

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National Network launches for Curriculum

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The National Network has been created to help teaching practitioners in schools and settings to introduce the new curriculum for Wales, through sharing good ideas about implementation, and ways of overcoming difficulties.

In Autumn 2021, three National Network Conversations will take place on:

  • Progression – from October 19th until November 17th
  • Preparation for curriculum roll-out – from October 19th  until November 17th
  • Resources and Materials – on  Nov 23rd and November 24th

Fellow practitioners have volunteered to help steer and facilitate small groups of up to 12 practitioners and each National Network Conversation will feature case studies, videos and expert input. They will provide an opportunity to network and build relationships with colleagues, with insights from experts and regional colleagues.  There will be an opportunity for those attending to take resources to facilitate conversations in their own schools and settings. Links will also be shared through this blog.

Some topics may run across more than one term due to the nature of the conversation needing more detailed discussions; others will be completed more quickly.

Each National Network Conversation will complement the Professional Learning programmes being run by regional consortia and school improvement services, and the ‘talk pedagogy’ and professional enquiry activity led by practitioners seconded to Welsh Government.

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Jeremy Miles: Taking Curriculum Reform Forward

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The new curriculum and supporting reforms are at the heart of my ambitions for improving the education system in Wales. I absolutely believe they will bring huge benefits to our young people in preparing them for a changing world, and I’m committed to making sure all of our young people have an equal opportunity to progress.

The last year has been very challenging, and I’m well aware that you – our fantastic teachers and support staff – have done an amazing job of keeping our children’s education going in very difficult times. Thank you for your remarkable work and care.

Since becoming Minister for Education and the Welsh Language, I have been talking to practitioners in schools across the country to hear directly about how you have adapted to changing circumstances in the last year, and what more I can do to support you as we renew and reform education in Wales.

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New National Network for curriculum implementation. Can you support it?

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A new National Network is being established in autumn this year to support design, adoption and implementation of the new curriculum. It will be owned and facilitated by teaching practitioners, and right now we are looking for individuals to help plan and guide the work and workings of the Network. Expressions of interest to do so are open until 12 July.

The National Network will hold a series of national ‘conversations’ in which any practitioner in Wales can take part. Operating nationally, initially on a virtual basis, it may also involve physical meetings.

It will help practitioners:

  • connect – encourage networking and help to develop relationships between teaching professionals, education experts and stakeholders who can help schools and settings directly
  • drive change – conversations will help to support implementation at all levels.
  • gather and share understanding – bringing together different views, perspectives and expertise nationally to understand how we are progressing, what the challenges are, and how people are responding to them
  • co-construct approaches – together, we will work out what teaching professionals, stakeholders, enabling partners and government can do to overcome these challenges, including identifying resources to address implementation barriers, and professional learning

Ultimately it will help practitioners co-create workable and practical solutions to challenges, and take that learning back to their schools, settings and clusters to embed and explore further.

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Beyond Covid: ‘National Conversation’ report now available

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In March a ‘national conversation’ was held for practitioners across Wales, to share experiences and learning, and help shape the national approach to moving beyond Covid.

The podcast and resources from the event featured recently on this blog, but now analysis of the feedback from the sessions, including the nature of the conversations, the themes and conclusions, is available in this report.