(Title Image: Welsh Government, Crown Copyright)
The Welsh Government has published the final guidance for the new National Curriculum for Wales, which is set to be fully rolled-out in Welsh schools for pupils aged 3-16 from 2022.
The guidance is largely the same as previous draft versions but has been, in the words of the government, made “simpler, shorter and gives every school in Wales the opportunity to design their own curriculum within a national approach that ensures consistency”.
An extra £15million has been made available to schools to prepare for the changes, while one extra teacher training (INSET) day will take place for each of the next three years.
A full implementation plan is due to be published after the Easter recess in March/April. Meanwhile, a Curriculum & Assessment Bill will be introduced to the Senedd during 2020 to make the necessary changes to the law.
The Four Purposes
The curriculum has four core purposes, ensuring students become:
- Ambitious, capable learners, ready to learn throughout their lives.
- Enterprising, creative contributors, ready to play a full part in life and work (including careers education and work-related experiences).
- Ethical, informed citizens of Wales and the world.
- Healthy, confident individuals, ready to lead fulfilling lives as valued members of society.
The Six Areas of Learning
The curriculum is divided into six broad areas of learning, with schools and teachers generally given the freedom to determine how and what students study within each area – a radically different approach to the more specific guidelines we have now.
- Expressive Arts – Students being able to express themselves creatively, explore different genres, mediums, techniques and tools in music, drama, dance, digital media, art and film. This includes learning about Welsh cultural traditions and learning how the creative arts can challenge viewpoints and be a force for social change.
- Health & Well-being – This includes physical (including the development of motor skills and playing sport), emotional and mental health. The aim is for students to develop empathy, self-respect (and respect for others), resilience, an ability to properly manage risks and form healthy relationships.
- Humanities – Students should properly understand the challenges facing humanity and the places, histories and society in which they live. Eventually, students will develop an in-depth understanding of “geographical, historical, religious, non-religious, business and social studies concepts” as well as their democratic rights.
- Languages, Literacy & Communication – Enable students to communicate in English, Welsh and international languages (at all ages, seemingly). This also means properly analysing and comprehending literature and other sources of information, making critical judgements and being able to express their own ideas on various topics.
- Mathematics & Numeracy – Self-explanatory, but developing logical reasoning and an ability to use mathematical concepts in everyday life. It also means being able to analyse data critically to make informed decisions.
- Science & Technology – Developing investigative and problem-solving skills through computer science and design. This also means considering the ethical problems associated with new technologies, understanding how forces and matter shape the universe, understanding living things and seeking answers to understand how things work.
The compulsory elements for all students include:
- Religion, values and ethics.
- Relationships and sexuality education (RSE).
A “local, national and international” context should be included as a cross-cutting theme for all subjects to ensure students understand Wales’ place in the world, their local area’s place in Wales and building knowledge of different cultures, histories, values and traditions – a broad concept called “cynefin”.
Digital skills are also considered an important cross-curricular skill.
Key stages have been replaced with progression steps at ages 5,8,11,14 and 16 where teachers will assess where each student is, with more specialist support given to students with special needs and more-able students likely to be pushed harder if they meet progression steps early. As students become older, they’ll be able to specialise in specific subjects (presumably in preparation for GCSEs).
There’ll be fewer targets set at local authority or national level, with schools instead setting performance targets based on their own strengths and weaknesses.
Annual schools reports will continue with information on each student’s well-being, progress across all parts of the curriculum, what steps are needed to support their progression and attendance figures.
Annual online reading and numeracy tests will seemingly continue, though it’s unclear at this point whether GCSEs will be reformed.