Exciting Times in Wales
Children who attend school in Wales follow a different curriculum from the National Curriculum used in England – and that curriculum is currently undergoing a significant shake-up.
The Curriculum for Wales is due to be rolled out from September 2022, with primary schools being the first to switch to the new curriculum.
The curriculum is being reformed in order to raise standards, reduce the attainment gap between students, and equip young people to lead ‘fulfilling personal, civic and professional lives’ in modern society.
It aims to prepare children to thrive in a future where digital skills, adaptability and creativity are crucial, and that is rooted in Welsh values and culture.
Curriculum for Wales: the basics
The new Curriculum for Wales will be followed by children from the ages of three to 16. There won’t be separate curriculums for primary and secondary schools; rather, it will be a continuum across all stages.
The curriculum will be statutory for all maintained schools in Wales. Non-maintained schools won’t have to follow the curriculum, but will have to provide a ‘broad and balanced’ teaching programme that incorporates the six areas of learning set out in the new curriculum.
The Curriculum for Wales will have two hierarchies:
- The national-level curriculum will be defined by the Welsh government.
- The school-level curriculum will follow the national-level curriculum, but will be developed and planned by teachers in individual schools and in clusters.
It won’t be biased towards either knowledge or skills, but will allow schools to provide a balance of knowledge, skills and experiences.
The four purposes of the Curriculum
The new Curriculum for Wales has been developed to fulfil four key purposes. It aims to produce children who are, or will become:
- Ambitious, capable learners
- Healthy, confident individuals
- Enterprising, creative contributors
- Ethical, informed citizens
Areas of learning
The Curriculum for Wales will have six areas of learning.
1. Expressive arts incorporating art, dance, drama, film and digital media, and music. It will encourage creativity and critical thinking, and include performance.
2. Humanities incorporating geography, history, RE, business studies and social studies. It will be based on human experiences and will also cover Welsh culture.
3. Health and wellbeing: this covers the physical, psychological, emotional and social aspects of life, helping students make informed decisions about their health and wellbeing and learn how to manage social influences. It will include PE.
4. Science and technology incorporating biology, chemistry, physics, computer science, and design and technology.
5. Mathematics and numeracy: in the early years, this will involve learning through play. In later stages, it will include working both independently and collaboratively with others.
6. Languages, literacy and communication: this will include Welsh and English, literature and international languages. Welsh language teaching will still be compulsory (as an additional language for children who don’t use Welsh as their first language.
In addition, literacy, numeracy and digital skills will be embedded throughout all curriculum areas.
Relationships and Sexuality Education: RSE will be mandatory in all maintained schools, including primary schools. Parents will no longer be allowed to withdraw their children from these lessons.
The focus will be on building relationships based on mutual trust, and developing mental and emotional wellbeing, resilience and empathy.
The Welsh government will issue guidance to schools on how to provide RSE that is age-appropriate and relevant to pupils’ developmental stage, but it will give schools the flexibility to design their own programme of teaching that reflects diversity and difference in relationships, sex, gender and sexuality.
Religious education: RE will continue to be compulsory, as it is at the moment, with an agreed syllabus.
Faith schools will be allowed to teach a syllabus that reflects their religious denomination.
The RE guidance will be updated to include philosophy and religious views, plus non-religious worldviews that have similarities with religious views, such as Humanism.
Achievement and assessment
Currently, there are no SATs (statutory assessment tests) for primary school pupils in Wales.
The draft Curriculum for Wales hasn’t specified whether mandatory testing such as SATs will be introduced for primary school children.
Currently, it’s proposed that headteachers will set their own ‘achievement outcomes,’ which will build an accurate picture of pupils’ skills, knowledge and competencies.
It’s suggested that this will be in the form of:
- ‘I can’ statements (e.g. ‘I can do my times tables up to 12 x 12’)
- ‘I have’ statements (e.g. ‘I have learned about the water cycle’)
It’s not yet known whether National Reading and Numeracy Tests, which are taken in the summer term by pupils in Years 2 to 9, will continue under the new curriculum.