New curriculum proposals come under fire in Wales

Written by: Greg Lewis | Published:
Image: Adobe Stock

Wales’ education minister has vowed to “redouble efforts at engagement” after a number of senior figures raised concerns about the nation’s proposed new curriculum.

A consultation carried out by the Welsh Assembly’s Children, Young People and Education Committee found that the new proposals were “too vague” and that the extent of the changes might “distract (teachers) from focusing on what matters – teaching children”.

Under the “Successful Futures” curriculum, which has been developed by Professor Graham Donaldson, all traditional subjects are to be scrapped from 2022 and replaced by six “areas of learning and experience”.

But, in a joint response to the consultation, the Association of Directors of Education in Wales and the Welsh Local Government Association have said that the new areas of learning and experience are too vague. Too many statements are generic, poorly defined and weak on knowledge and skills development,” they stated. “As a result, it is likely that pupils’ knowledge, understanding and skills development will be left to chance, i.e. relying heavily on the knowledge and experience of individual teachers as opposed to an entitlement defined by the curriculum.”

They warned: “In and among all the change and reform in the system, potentially, leaders and teachers will be distracted from focusing on what matters – teaching children.”

The NASUWT has generally welcomed the new curriculum but warned that, as only a small number of pioneer schools are piloting it, many teachers feel excluded and there is a danger that “it will not have been properly tested by teachers in a variety of forms, settings and ability ranges”.

The National Education Union, meanwhile, said: “Our members are concerned that not enough practitioners in the classroom are aware of precisely what the new curriculum would mean to them, nor that their school would be ready.”

And the Association of School and College Leaders Cymru said it was “concerned that there may be a significant gap between the desire of schools to implement the new curriculum and their ability to deliver at a time when the level of funding for schools is causing significant issues”.

Education minister Kirsty Williams said she was “disappointed” by some of the comments, adding: “We take this very seriously. These are important voices and we will sit down to redouble our efforts at engagement.”

She said a White Paper outlining her plans would be published shortly, before the draft new curriculum in April.

She added: “We are sending out lots of material to schools and individual teachers informing them of the changes, letting them know how those changes will develop. But, crucially, it is the profession that are developing that curriculum.”

In a statement, the Welsh government said it was concerned about a “general lack of understanding of the reforms”. It added: “Many of the comments have called for continuing with a narrow and overcrowded curriculum. This is at odds with our reforms, and at odds with what our children and teachers deserve.

“The new curriculum must allow professionals the flexibility to choose the specific content which meets the needs of their learners in their specific context. The feedback that we’ve received from those involved in designing the curriculum has been broadly positive and suggests we’re heading in the right direction.”


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