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.
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.
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.
The new curriculum brings new opportunities to re-visit our teaching approaches. It’s an exciting time but can feel challenging too. So ‘Talk Pedagogy’ has been created as a friendly space to share and learn about pedagogical approaches. It’s part of the wider support for professional learning.
Matt and Lucy explain how ‘Talk Pedagogy’ works for them:
Opportunities to join in
Talk Pedagogy started with small group discussions in the Autumn Term, since when it has grown and begun to diversify to meet different interests and needs. Part of this growth has included regular live events that provide opportunities to hear from colleagues and engage in conversation with others from across Wales.
To get involved, simply click on Talk Pedagogy. Once in, the General Channel is used to keep you up to date with up and coming activity and you will automatically receive invites to new events. You can also ‘catch-up’ on previous presentations and conversations that have been recorded and placed in the relevant channel. If you have any problems joining the channel, which should look as below, email FordM44@hwbcymru.net .
The curriculum guidance published in January 2020 was created in partnership with schools, supported by experts, over several years. It was also informed by an extensive consultation exercise in 2019, whose feedback pointed to the need for additional guidance and some amendment in key areas.
Over the last year, practitioners, stakeholders and partners have been co-constructing that additional and revised guidance, which is now being published for consultation.
Eight areas are open for consultation, which will run for eight weeks until 16th July. Once the feedback has been analysed, the curriculum guidance will be updated and published in two tranches – September and December – this year.
In a ‘normal’ year, over 200,000 pupils in Wales and beyond would engage with Amgueddfa Cymru’s learning offer. In 2020, with our museums closed for periods of time, we had to think about how to ensure that every child in Wales had access to us and how best to support the Curriculum for Wales ‘remotely’.
We invested in equipment that would enable us to connect with schools through Teams and ensure access to our collections. We developed content that would encourage enquiry skills and inspire curiosity, focused on the Curriculum for Wales.
In just two months, over 4,000 pupils had taken part in one or more of our virtual sessions and the response to them was overwhelmingly positive. Here is teacher Laura Luxton’s response to a session on the Celts:
This year, after many years in Foundation Phase, I have moved to KS2. I was really excited by this prospect, until I realised that we would be teaching “The Celts”! I was undeniably petrified. Having never learned about them in school myself, I had no topic knowledge or experience in teaching it. I ordered several books online and read those, I ‘googled’ and researched all that I could. I was still very nervous. I was unsure of how to start the topic or where to go with it. I was keen to do it justice, especially as the emphasis on the new curriculum promotes children to become ‘ethically informed citizens of Wales’. “In contemporary and historical contexts, investigation and exploration of the human experience in their own localities and elsewhere in Wales, as well as in the wider world, can help learners discover their heritage and develop a sense of place and cynefin. It can also promote an understanding of how the people of Wales, its communities, history, culture, landscape, resources and industries, interrelate with the rest of the world.”
I mentioned to Leisa, from the National Waterfront Museum in Swansea, that we were about to start teaching the Celts. Within minutes she had sent me links and posters to online workshops about…The Celts!!!! I read the information and it sounded amazing, I have visited St Fagans before and always had a great time so would welcome, and trust, anything from Amgueddfa Cymru! I mentioned it to the rest of the Key Stage Two staff and all of them were keen to be involved. As per the easy instructions on the links Leisa sent, I sent a quick email to Rachel. The same day we were offered dates for workshops, given more information, a bond was formed and the confidence was growing! I felt empowered to start the topic, knowing I had experts on my side.
Health and well-being is always important, but never more so than during the current challenges we face as professionals. We have pupil groups and staff members away from school with symptoms of Covid or self-isolating, and an expectation to adjust to ever-changing climates. So well-being has to be our paramount priority for staff, learners and our communities.
In our case, like many of the experiences of schools across Wales. We have had to navigate our way through three pupil group class closures, engaging with distance learning and a high proportion of our core members of staff away from school due to the variety of challenges that accompany responses to Covid. It’s a recognised challenge for the whole profession at this time.
The ‘good news’ part of this story is that we have been able to continue our focus and draw upon our engagement in developing Health and Well-being as one of the Areas of Learning and Experience. This has been a sustained, collectively recognised priority for our school and we have continued to embed new practices through exploring the new curriculum during this time. Well-being has been the driver in this provision with the accompanying AoLE supporting our aim with a firm focus on the cross-curricular skills.
For us, the momentum to embed a rich well-being provision grew in 2018. We established a professional learning community (I’ll call it the PLC from here on) including volunteers from members of the school community at various levels.
Why is Well-being so important at St Illtyd’s Primary?
From our robust needs analysis, our learners were deemed to be lacking in resilience, motivation and effort – linked to interruptions in their well-being. How do we know? Our robust evaluation and knowledge of our learners and their context, told us we needed to work particularly hard to develop a good sense of well-being in all our children. Drawing on this local knowledge and relational information, the aims and vision for the PLC were captured in a collaboratively-shaped vision statement (see later), for enhancing the well-being for the community at St Illtyd’s Primary. We used this information to form a learner based profile known as the ‘Well-being Web’, explained later in this post.
The Curriculum and Assessment (Wales) Bill has completed its final stage in the Senedd before being passed into law. Following Royal Assent, anticipated in April, the Bill will become the Curriculum and Assessment (Wales) Act 2021.
The Curriculum for Wales is due to be introduced from September 2022.
Last year, the Minister published an updated action plan setting out the next steps in Wales’ reform journey, ahead of the introduction of the new Curriculum for Wales.
Alongside the updated Our National Mission action plan, the Welsh Government also published a document setting out shared expectations of what curriculum realisation means for practitioners and schools from 2022. Curriculum for Wales: the journey to 2022 has been created to help schools prepare for designing and implementing their curriculum. In January, the Welsh Government published the Curriculum Implementation Plan which will steer our work with partners to deliver the Curriculum for Wales.
The passage of the bill means that schools and teachers can now grasp the opportunity to design their own curricula to support their learners’ own development and learning journeys, working with parents and communities, within a nationally consistent framework.
Parallel reforms to support introduction have also continued, notwithstanding the COVID-19 pandemic. New ‘Accountability, Evaluation and Improvement’ guidance is under consultation, and professional learning to support development of school-level curriculum continues apace with Consortia-led learning and useful interactive on-line sessions and resources: