Curriculum for Wales - 4 Crucial Qs

UPDATED - How May Accountability Affect Curriculum Planning?

UPDATED - New information from Welsh Government on accountability

Welsh Government have shared a revised timeline for publication of accountability measures

with headteachers at the regional consortia conferences. This information has been shared publicly online and it has significant implications for schools who are planning for the statutory implementation of Curriculum for Wales in September 2022.

Read on to access the original presentation & consider the implications for your curriculum development process.

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Revised timetable for announcement of accountability measures published

This draft timeline* above outlines Welsh Government proposals for the procurement and creation of a research project focused on accountability measures in Wales. This research project is designed to take account of all the views and concerns of key stakeholders, together with key research that underpins effective accountability systems. This shows how seriously Welsh Government are taking their commitment to getting accountability right for the new curriculum.

The key piece of information for leaders and teachers in Wales to be aware of is that the final accountability measures are due to be published in June 2022. This will allow between 9 and 5 term time weeks, for schools to consider what Welsh Government is identifying as of high value and in need of being measured externally.

What is measured externally drives the focus of curriculum planning. The time that schools have available to consider the evaluation and improvement measures or accountability has potentially been reduced from 18 months to potentially just 5 weeks. This is of huge significance to headteachers and schools.

* It seems there is a typo in WG's slide and Jan-Mar 2019 should in fact read Jan-Mar 2020.

Our first blog in a series of 4 on crucial questions schools need answered.

How may accountability measures affect the way schools use Curriculum Wales 2022 to plan?

What the draft guidance says:

“Headteachers will have a duty to set achievement outcomes for each progression step and must have regard to Welsh Ministers’ guidance in doing so.”

There is no further detail in the assessment proposals about how this will look in practice, nor in the draft statutory guidance for the AoLEs. The crucial unanswered question is if, or how schools will be expected to report on standards between progression steps 1-4. Will schools be expected to report how many pupils have reached the curriculum standards linked with chronological expectations? Or will there be a rewriting of the Achievement Outcomes by schools in line with the actual progression of their learners at each progression step? Or will schools report their duty to set achievement outcomes through curriculum provision? Or, will it be something else?

The potential implications for schools:

Schools and headteachers bear the burden of the pressure of accountability from a range of sources including Welsh Government, consortia, Local Authorities, Governing bodies and Estyn. The challenge of recruiting headteachers may well reflect this pressure.

Accountability and how schools are measured by the standards their pupils reach, has the potential to change the direction of the curriculum entirely. As we know from the unintended consequences linked with GCSE accountability measures, how schools are judged on the standards of pupils’ attainment can change not only what appears in the curriculum but how children are supported and what the focus of development work is within the school.

The use of the word “set” holds a myriad of practical issues. Both primary and secondary schools are responsible for enabling pupils to reach the most appropriate achievement outcomes. For the sake of numbers, let’s just look at assessment across three progression steps. The 6 AoLEs encompass 27 What Matters Statements. Each What Matters Statement may contain between 3-8 Achievement Outcomes. The implication here is that the legislation demands that headteacher know which achievement outcome a child has reached each at what age, or at the very least teachers should know this information about their own class(es). Knowing where your class is for all of the Achievement Outcomes for a primary teacher in reality means making over 4000 judgements, for a secondary teacher the figures range from over 5000 judgements for core subjects to more than 12000 separate judgements for non-core subjects, where the number of pupils taught is significantly higher per teacher.

What schools need now:

Curriculum for Wales 2022 is a wonderful opportunity for a cleaner accountability system focussed firmly on supporting schools to do what works for the children of Wales. Schools now need clarity on what the proposals may mean to the day to day practice within the classroom and for school leaders across the nation.

The key question here is how the intention of the curriculum, that of a continuum of progression for each child be balanced with the need to record each child’s progress against national standards for accountability purposes. Until Welsh Government publish the new Assessment and Evaluation Framework, due out in January 2020, and it is clear how the Achievement Outcomes are expected to be used by headteachers to fulfil their duty to “set achievement outcomes” at each progression step, schools would be well advised to explore assessment against the achievement outcomes for professional learning purposes only. It would be foolhardy to create or adopt any tracking or monitoring systems that use the achievement outcomes as a method of assessment until Welsh Government’s intentions are clear.

Next blog on: Should each AoLE have equal weighting within the curriculum?

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