Huw Lewis, Minister for Education and Skills
On 9 October, I provided an interim update on Professor Graham Donaldson’s independent review of curriculum and assessment arrangements in Wales, which is due to report to me at the turn of the year.
Professor Donaldson’s review will shape a new curriculum for Wales and ensure that our young people are learning the right skills for the modern economy. His recommendations will have far-reaching implications for Welsh learners and teachers and will require a fundamental change in how our schools prepare our young people for work and further learning.
While the review will inform the long-term picture for what our learners are taught in schools and colleges, in order to keep our programme of school improvement on track and delivering for today’s learners, I would like to update you on our ongoing efforts to embed literacy and numeracy in the curriculum.
Over the period from March to June of this year, I invited views on proposals for revised Areas of Learning for Language, Literacy and Communication Skills and Mathematical Development, as well as programmes of study for Key Stages 2 to 4 for English, Welsh (first language) and mathematics. The response to the consultation was supportive of our proposals, and I am publishing today a summary of these responses.
Following this consultation, I am pleased also to be able to publish the revised versions of the above Areas of Learning and programmes of study:
These are intended to be made statutory in September 2015, at the same time as the first teaching of the new GCSEs in English, Welsh and mathematics, but are being made available to schools now to assist in planning and preparation.
For the Foundation Phase, Areas of Learning are now presented in the revised layout of year-by-year expectations. I want to be absolutely clear that this does not mark any departure from the current approach for the Foundation Phase – my commitment to the Foundation Phase and its philosophy to teaching and learning has not changed. The emphasis is still firmly focused on teaching our youngest children at a pace and level that is appropriate to them, and through experiential learning.
The focus on support in the early years is also being developed through the new Early Years Development and Assessment Framework (EYDAF), which will provide a single overarching 0-7 assessment framework and a suite of linked assessment tools which can be used to chart children’s progress. To begin building the EYDAF, our aim is that the on-entry assessment tool for the Foundation Phase will be introduced on a statutory basis from September 2015.
In terms of the broader assessment system in Wales, arrangements from Foundation Phase to Key Stage 4 are being considered in detail as part of Professor Donaldson’s review of assessment and the National Curriculum. Until the implications of the review are clear in relation to assessment, and to minimise disruption, we will retain the existing system of using end of key stage teacher assessment, and will revise the current level descriptors to align with the new Areas of Learning and programmes of study. It is anticipated that the revised descriptors will be launched in January 2015 on a non-statutory basis, with a view to coming into force in September 2015 to support implementation of the Areas of Learning and Programmes of Study.
I should also highlight the implementation and support for these revisions, which practitioners will understandably be keen to hear more about. I want practitioners to be able to quickly see the revisions, and understand the rationale behind these changes. We are therefore putting in place a package of support, including an information booklet to accompany the new materials which will support schools and settings in preparing for implementation. An online information pack will be made available via Learning Wales in early 2015, and we are also developing a programme of direct support to give schools and settings the necessary information to deliver these crucial Areas of Learning and programmes of study. Further information on this support will be available shortly.
All of this activity links directly with the vision set out in our new education plan for 3 to 19 year olds, ‘Qualified for Life’, which I launched at the start of this month. This sets out key aims up to 2020 and identifies strategic objectives that will help deliver improvements in the sector, focusing on a strong work force, an engaging curriculum, internationally respected qualifications, and education leaders working together to drive up standards.
The process of reforming education in Wales is well under way, and I am pleased at the extent of debate and contribution from the teaching workforce in that process. I am confident that the new Areas of Learning and programmes of study will be a key element in our work to ensure that all learners in Wales benefit from excellent teaching and learning. I very much look forward to receiving Professor Donaldson’s report at the turn of the year, which will mark the next steps in our journey towards a Curriculum for Wales.