Huw Lewis, Minister for Education and Skills
There is a new momentum in education in Wales as a result of our reforms. Estyn’s latest annual report highlighted that we are making good progress in improving basic skills, behaviour and attendance. More young people are achieving 5 or more good GCSEs and our learners from deprived backgrounds are starting to catch up with their more affluent peers.
Standards are rising – but we are not letting up in the drive for improvement. My acceptance last July of all the recommendations in Successful Futures, the report from Professor Graham Donaldson on developing new curriculum and assessment arrangements, signalled our intention to make radical changes to teaching and learning in Wales. We have a clear vision of what we want our education system in Wales to look like. At the heart of the new curriculum are 4 clear purposes – that all our children and young people will be ambitious, capable learners; enterprising, creative contributors; ethical, informed citizens; and healthy, confident individuals.
In October when I published A Curriculum for Wales: a Curriculum for Life, I asked the profession and the wider education system to work with us to design and develop a new ‘made in Wales’ curriculum. 5 months later strong foundations have been laid. I am heartened at the progress that has been made, and the enthusiasm and leadership being shown by the whole education system in Wales. Our schools and practitioners are in the vanguard working with government, workforce unions and the wider system to co-design, consult, inform, support and build capacity in our schools across Wales. More than 175 schools from across Wales are part of the Pioneer Schools Network who will lead the change.
The Pioneer Schools - working as a single, integrated network - are focussing on 3 strands of work to:
- design and develop a digital competence framework
- design and develop the new curriculum
- develop professional learning through the New Deal to make sure that the education profession in Wales have the skills and confidence to use the new curriculum successfully to support teaching and learning.
The Pioneer Schools focussing on developing the new curriculum met for the first time at 2 launch and induction events in January. They meet again today and tomorrow in Llandudno to take forward the thinking about the overall structure of the new curriculum and to plan their approach to this work. Throughout the process, the role of the Pioneer Schools will involve sharing and discussing emerging thinking with other schools and settings in Wales. The network will be supported by Welsh Government, workforce unions, local authorities and their regional consortia and Estyn and will work with a wide range of stakeholders as they develop the curriculum and the 6 Areas of Learning and Experience. Pioneer Schools will draw on international research, evidence and best practice and have access to advice and challenge from education experts.
The primary aim of the Pioneer Schools taking forward the New Deal will be to develop professional learning focussing on pedagogy and leadership to ensure that all our practitioners in Wales have the skills and confidence to use the new curriculum successfully. By July 2016, these Pioneer Schools will have developed a detailed action plan, with the support of their regional consortium, which will set out the areas they will focus on during the period September 2016 – July 2017. New Deal Pioneers schools will also be taking forward specific projects to address workload issues and build capacity in the system.
We have set an ambitious but realistic timetable. The foundations for the work we are laying now, coupled with an ongoing commitment to work with partners and respond to constructive feedback, will put us in a good position to deliver. I believe we will have a new curriculum and assessment framework and the professional support available by September 2018, ready for use to support teaching and learning in schools and settings by September 2021.
The new curriculum will mean a change of culture and a change of practice. We will make sure that schools, settings and Further Education establishments are part of this journey – genuine collaboration and partnership working will be at the heart of this.
By working together, sharing information and testing ideas – we will engage the whole teaching workforce in this creative process to design the future curriculum of Wales.
We are not starting from scratch; we are building on the strengths of the reforms we have already put in place, including the Literacy and Numeracy Framework and the Foundation Phase.
As a result of our reforms digital competence will also become a cross-curriculum responsibility alongside literacy and numeracy. Confident and creative use of digital technology is increasingly central to life, learning and work. Digital competence plays such a powerful role in the lives of children and young people that it is of vital importance to proceed quickly with this work. This is why the first major milestone on the road to the new curriculum will be the publication of the Digital Competence Framework by September 2016.
Excellent progress has already been made. A draft Framework has been considered by regional consortia, the Digital Pioneer Schools and some of their cluster schools. An external Quality Assurance Group, chaired by Professor Tom Crick, has reviewed the framework. The New Deal and Digital Pioneer Schools will work together to identify the support needed for engaging with workforce unions, other stakeholders and schools.
From September onwards all schools and settings can start to familiarise themselves with the new framework, use it to support their digital practice and to prepare themselves for the new curriculum. Pioneer Schools developing the new curriculum will use the digital competence, literacy and numeracy frameworks to embed cross-curriculum responsibilities across all Areas of Learning and Experience.
A Curriculum for Wales: a Curriculum for Life set out the plan for delivering our ambition to secure a broad, balanced, inclusive and challenging educational experience, capable of producing a skilled and well-educated population who will be ready for the future. Based on the good progress to date I am confident that the new curriculum and assessment arrangements will develop in line with our belief that every child and young person in Wales deserves nothing less than a world-class learning and teaching experience.
I am proud to have started this journey with our schools and all our partners - this is a once in a generation opportunity and the prize, for learners, for practitioners, for everyone connected to education, could not be more important.