In 2022 a new curriculum will begin to be delivered in Wales. Karl Jones FRSA outlines what lies behind these changes and some of the challenges ahead.
In 2022 the Welsh education system will undertake its biggest reform of curriculum in a generation. A draft version of the curriculum was published in April 2019 and feedback on its current state could be given until July 2019. Currently in its post draft review, the final version of the curriculum is due to be published in January 2020 and implemented in 2022.
A major change for the new curriculum is its shift in focus on content and delivery. The shift has stemmed from the findings included in Successful Futures, the review undertaken in 2015 and led by Sir Graham Donaldson. This sought not to only change what is taught in Welsh schools, but also the underlying principles of how students are taught in classrooms across the country.
The new curriculum has been written to align with what Donaldson identified as the four key purposes that state that all children and young people should be: ambitious, capable learners; enterprising, creative contributors; healthy, confident individuals; and ethical, informed citizens. The new curriculum seeks to allow education practitioners the opportunity to work with a flexible and adaptable curriculum designed to develop the skills aligned with these four purposes. The shift in assessment focusses on the purpose of assessment as a method to: inform teaching and learning, rather than accountability. This shift could see a change in perception of assessment for learners, away from ‘measuring up’ towards a view of assessment being another step on an ongoing journey.
The ideals of the new curriculum reflect the fact that the current curriculums expectation of age-related target outcomes is not a true reflection of how learning takes place. Learning is represented as an individual’s journey and the new curriculum allows those delivering it the flexibility to develop teaching that helps their students as individuals on this journey.
There are many considerations that can impact the results of such a curriculum. Many questions have been raised in terms of the suitability of current teacher training provision to develop the professional and flexible individual needed to work and respond to such a curriculum. In addition, there are ongoing issues around the ability of schools to deliver the curriculum within the current resources available to them while also dealing with increasing specialisation in subjects like computer science, where shortages of teachers already exist. The holistic nature of the new curriculum could also prove difficult for those tasked with implementing it. No longer do subjects sit neatly in their boxes, but instead in their respective Areas of Learning Experience. The new curriculum seeks to identify where skills can, and indeed should, be transferable across the curriculum and beyond.
The issues that face the implementation of the curriculum, especially in terms of resourcing and delivery, are clear. We must however consider that when we design such an ambitious curriculum that seeks to benefit learners in how and what they learn and in applying beyond the classroom, should we really limit this ambition based on the restrictions of the system to implement it? There are a number of steps that can be taken to help ensure the success of this new curriculum.
Those already teaching in schools, as well as school senior leadership teams not only need to implement the curriculum, but also believe in the shift in pedagogical ethos (away from assessment and towards the learner). The structure of the implementations across schools will vary; a curriculum that is able to meet the needs of schools and learners by definition cannot warrant a one size fits all approach.
Though governed centrally, schools very often act independently of each other for curriculum development. The new progressions stages of the curriculum track from ages three to 16 will require a more holistic approach to how primary, secondary and even post-16 education establishments work together to ensure the best experience and progression for learners.
The bodies responsible for training teachers in Wales will also play a role in ensuring the success of the curriculum. Teacher trainers will be responsible for ensuring that new teachers have a sound understanding of the requirements and pedagogical principles of the new curriculum, while they are working with phasing out the older curriculum. These positive changes are already underway with a number of teacher training providers in Wales.
The requirements for teachers to develop their own bespoke curriculums is a large task but should be seen as an exciting opportunity for those teachers to develop the curriculum that they as professionals know will engage their learners.
With any change or shift in education, no matter how noble the ideal, the truth is that whether the core ethos will live or die will be decided in the classroom. This new curriculum for Wales has been designed by those that will be delivering it and with young people in mind. It is being developed not just for those that love their subjects, but also have a genuine passion for teaching, and these are the type of practitioners that will make the future of this curriculum a successful one for learners in wales.
Karl Jones has taught computing for over a decade and has experience with working with exam boards, publishers and on educational governance.