Progress of new Wales Curriculum

Education Committee presents findings on Pioneer progress

What real progress has there been towards creating a new Curriculum for Wales?

"We are concerned that some aspects of the implementation of Successful Futures are not progressing as well as we would expect." Children, Young People and Education Committee

So, where are we now? What will the structure of the new curriculum actually look like? How will schools be able to use that new structure? What will be expected of schools from now on?

All excellent questions, but ones that the Education Committee has been finding out that no-one is quite ready to answer. Over the last weeks the committee has heard evidence from Pioneer Schools, teaching unions, Regional Consortia, Estyn, Professor Donaldson and of course Kirsty Williams herself. Their summary is one of concern for both timelines and strategy and there are some revealing quotes about how those involved really feel the process of implementation is taking shape. There are some practical steps every school can be taking to prepare themselves for the introduction of the new curriculum, but for various reasons the support to take these steps is not due to be delivered until September 2018, the same date for the delivery of the draft document to all schools. In this blog we will look at the progress that has been made so far and what changes schools can make to prepare for the biggest change in education in Wales for decades.

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Implementing the vision & strategic leadership

"Evidence received from stakeholders particularly from teaching unions and Pioneer Schools suggested that a stronger strategic lead is needed from Welsh Government." Teachers and schools not involved in the process want to know more about what progress has been made, and those involved want clearer direction on what is expected of them. As the NAHT puts it they feel there is a need for; "clear strategy....clear timeline and milestones." This contradicts the regional consortia view, articulated by EAS, who feel they have had sufficient guidance from Welsh Government who have listened to their views. We recently put a poll on Twitter which resulted in 95% of respondents feeling they needed more information than they currently had on progress towards creation of a new curriculum. The message from schools and teachers across Wales is clear, we need to know more. Whether it is teacher's understandable trepidation about what lies ahead or a genuine lack of information, the committee's recommendation is that communication of the implementation process needs to be improved as does the overall strategic leadership of the curriculum developments. The very real concern is that without every school on-board, including non-pioneer schools “any inertia in the system will be exacerbated”, and change will be far too slow.

What can schools do? Make sure all their staff and wider community are familiar with the four purposes of the new curriculum and consider how well they are currently addressing each one. Schools can be identifying new planning that will allow them to more fully address the four purposes within the constraints of the current curriculum.

Clarity and purpose of Pioneer's roles

Pioneer schools are no doubt under enormous pressure to deliver and their evidence shows their concern over exactly what is expected of them by Welsh Government as well as how they are able to use their funding. Regional Consortia have heard their concerns and worked hard to define their roles and requirements. In response to this worry, Kirsty Williams' expectation is that as the curriculum development process continues the Pioneer's role will become increasingly clear to all involved.

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Lessons from other Countries

The PISA results for 2015 released just before Christmas were as expected, no dramatic improvements in Reading, a drop in Science but a slight rise in the results for Maths. As the OECD suggested, Wales is heading in the right direction and just needs more time to embed changes. The same could not be said of Scotland's PISA results which took a dramatic nose dive a full 10 years after adopting the Curriculum for Excellence, the acknowledged blueprint for the Curriculum for Wales. News reports from Scotland laid the blame for poor results with overly prescriptive and complex guidance issued by the Scottish Government on the new curriculum which has resulted in widespread dismay from teachers and parents alike. Kirsty Williams' response to the Education Committee noted clear differences between the implementation process in Wales and Scotland not least due to Wales' focus on reform of both ITE and qualifications on the same timeline as the curriculum.

What can schools do? The Scottish Government has worked hard to provide resources to schools that allows them to make a difference to pupil outcomes, and the focus on accessing quality research has been one of the successes of the process. Check out the Scottish National Improvement Hub resources.

Continuing Professional Development

The plan is for CPD for all teachers, to be available to support them in their implementation of the new curriculum in schools and across all classrooms, to be available from September 2018. Evidence from stakeholders though highlighted the difficulty in creating support for a curriculum and assessment framework that has not yet been written. Kirsty Williams reiterated her expectation that CPD and curriculum frameworks would be developed in tandem, despite the obvious challenges this will create. Estyn continues to recognise that the best schools and teachers continue to innovate in this waiting period by focusing on pupil outcomes and creating Donaldson Readiness staff training that lays the groundwork for the new curriculum.

What can schools do? In conjunction with Oxford University Publishing we have published 'A Guide to Managing Curriculum Changes in Wales', which gives lots of practical advice and strategies for actions schools can be taking now in readiness for the new curriculum. Contact us at to get your copy.

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Relationship between Assessment & Accountability

The overriding impression created by the evidence of all of the stakeholders is that no-one has yet decided which comes first, assessment or accountability, "the chicken or the egg?" It is this fundamental question about the purpose of assessment that is driving disagreement between stakeholders. Should assessment be used to decide how well a pupil is learning, or should assessment define what they learn? Kirsty Williams feels that both curriculum and assessment should be designed in tandem, at the same time, but it seems not many of the other stakeholders are able to agree with her.

The committee also recognised that the current accountability model is at odds with the formative assessment ideal outlined in Successful Futures and that Pioneer Schools feel it "inhibits the capacity of schools to innovate." In response to this the committee suggests current accountability should be adjusted in order to allow the necessary innovation for the new curriculum to take place, whilst also keeping in mind the imminent necessary changes to accountability that will take place once the new curriculum is statutory for all schools in 2021.

What can schools do? Any changes to the accountability and assessment frameworks are some years off yet. Schools would do well to ensure all staff are comfortable and confident with using assessment formatively to directly inform their planning using the frameworks we do have in place, namely the LNF and DCF.

Schedule for implementation

The curriculum development process is some 4 ½ months behind schedule for completion of Strand 2 – creating an outline of the Areas of Learning and Experience. With the overall time allocated to strand 2 being just 10 months, the delay reduces the time allocated to Strand 2 to just 6 ½ months. Kirsty Williams is "confident the June 2017 date will be met", but this is bound to have a knock on effect to the next stage in the process, which is putting detail on the AoLE between March and December of 2017. As Professor Donaldson says, it is "very important that the pace increases". Unfortunately it seems it has become a choice between 'get it done right' or 'get it done now'.

If you would like to know more about how we can support your school to prepare for the new curriculum using practical, evidence based strategies designed to have a measurable impact on pupil outcomes, contact us at Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter @ImpactWales for up to date news & resources.

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