Jeremy Miles, Minister for Education and Welsh Language
Over recent years, Wales has been moving towards a new way of teaching and learning which is focused on helping children and young people achieve the four purposes: to be ready to learn, to play a full part in life and work, to be citizens of Wales and the world, and be valued members of our society. The teaching profession has worked hard and creatively to build new curricula for their learners, and schools across Wales are now introducing the Curriculum for Wales. We have always been clear that we need to ensure that all aspects of the education system are aligned with and fully support the realisation of the new curriculum, and we have taken clear steps forward on both professional learning and implementation of the new qualifications from 2025.
Next steps – developing a new data and information ecosystem/landscape
In June 2022, I published school improvement guidance to introduce a new way for the education system to work together to support schools in their improvement, build confidence in the system and retain a clear focus on supporting all learners to progress through their education. In July, the Welsh Government published the curriculum evaluation scoping report which made recommendations for how we will know that our new curriculum is improving learning in Wales. Today we see the publication of the Developing a new data and information ecosystem that supports the reformed school system in Wales report, which sets out recommendations for approaches to using data and information, in a way that will allow partners across the system to work together to support all our learners, irrespective of background, to fulfil their potential.
The report outlines the different information needs within the system: the needs of learners and their parents, of schools, of local authorities, as well as the importance of information at a national level to form the basis for improvement across the system. I welcome this helpful evidence that will inform our thinking. The report proposes developing a broader suite of information on areas such as wellbeing (both learner and staff) and the development of learners’ skills integral to the four purposes. It makes clear that when analysing information, we consider the context of our schools and the challenges they face. This includes a more sophisticated understanding of relative economic disadvantage and learners’ additional learning needs, as well as the voice of learners.
It is crucial to have the right breadth of information to support evaluation and improvement, whether at a national level or a school level, but I wish to emphasise that the Welsh Government’s expectation is that information is used to support schools and local authorities to understand their own contexts and improve their own offer. It should not be used in isolation to judge performance or compare schools and information should be created for a clear purpose.
Outcomes from qualifications will continue to form a key part of a school’s evaluation and improvement considerations. In 2019, we introduced new transitional interim measures for secondary schools that ensured more focus on raising our aspirations for all learners. They removed the narrowed focus on borderline C/D grade pupils to instead recognise the achievement of all our learners at Key Stage 4. These measures were paused during the pandemic. I can confirm today that for an interim period, whilst we progress the development of a neutral approach to the information system, we will restart reporting of Key Stage 4 outcomes at school level using the approach adopted in 2019 (including the policy of counting only first entries of exams). We will report outcomes in the points score format, including the ‘Capped 9’, broken down by gender and eligibility for free school meals. There are clear benefits in retaining a recognised approach which reflects attainment in both general and vocational qualifications as well as the importance of every learner and their outcomes, and in minimising changes to the approach to reporting on an interim basis. We will develop further thinking to align with the introduction of new qualifications from 2025 as we develop our new information landscape.
Rolling programme of national sample assessments
It is very important to emphasise that this return to 2019 arrangements is only temporary as we move towards a more holistic system that promotes learning and puts learners, teachers and parents at the centre. It is important that we have transparency on what we are achieving at a national level too. The Welsh Government is commencing work on an ambitious programme of national monitoring of education. As outlined in the curriculum evaluation scoping report, this will include a rolling programme of assessments of samples of learners across the breadth of the Curriculum for Wales. This is not about testing every learner but understanding and monitoring the national picture of learners’ attainment and progress over time on a system-wide basis. This approach will minimise burdens on schools and the education system as a whole and help provide the information we need to understand our progress in tackling the impact of poverty on learners’ achievement and inform our approaches to addressing these issues. Development work for this programme is underway, and we expect to begin rolling out these sample assessments on a pilot basis in the academic year 2025/26, alongside the wider ecosystem development.
Practitioner engagement and co-construction
Building on the findings of today’s report, we will now work with practitioners across Wales to develop a shared set of information which can help to support learning by understanding learner progress, attainment and the components which drive them. This will be informed by the eight factors which support curriculum realisation set out in the school improvement guidance. We will have a particular focus on improving understanding of progress of disadvantaged learners. I will be keen to gain the views of parents in this work, to understand what information they will find useful. We will work with local authorities, regional consortia and partnerships alongside this to seek to build a coherent and consistent approach across Wales which supports learning and minimises workload for teachers and schools. The Welsh Government will be writing to schools in the coming weeks to provide further details, and I will provide further updates as this work progresses.