27th July 2020
Melanie Moore, Curriculum Director at Cornerstones Education, takes a look at the new Curriculum and Assessment (Wales) Bill for 2021 and highlights some of the issues facing Welsh primary schools.
Early July 2020 saw the Curriculum and Assessment (Wales) Bill introduced to the Welsh Senedd. The document sets out the new curriculum requirements for all learners aged between three and 16 in maintained or funded, non-maintained nursery education in Wales. This bill was created with the intention of replacing the current national curriculum. You can read the complete bill by clicking on the link above, but here are some of the things that are worth reflecting on, and what to expect going forward.
The government have invested many millions into the new curriculum. So far, this funding has enabled the creation of a curriculum framework, known as the Curriculum for Wales, as well as the significant work done by pioneer primary and secondary schools to test and explore curriculum ideas.
There is further funding available now to help schools to design their curricula, to pay for supply time for teachers to design and adopt a new curriculum. As a result of the research work, mentioned above, the government expects that it will take schools between nine and 109 days per year to do this.
Over the past six years, the curriculum group have been working on the framework. Having looked at it in detail, although I feel that the old Curriculum for Wales was well constructed and gave schools a broad and balanced framework on which to build, there are many welcome features that the new one brings to the table. For example, the introduction of the four purposes gives all schools a common aim, and the statements of what matters do the same for key concepts.
However, the feedback that we’ve received from primary schools has highlighted some confusion around the guidance, specifically regarding what is statutory and what is not. In addition, many schools have told us that the purpose of the progression steps is the most difficult to resolve. For example, while the progression steps appear to be an assessment tool, they are not. This aspect of the framework will need further clarification, if schools are to use them consistently and as intended.
The following excerpts from the bill highlight some key requirements for primary schools.
The headteacher of a school must design a curriculum for the school’s pupils.
Curriculum and Assessment (Wales) Bill, Chapter 1, page 4
Breadth and balance
The Curriculum must be broad and balanced.
Areas of learning and experience and cross-curricular skills
(1) The Curriculum must make provision for teaching and learning that –
(a) encompasses each of the areas of learning and experience, including the mandatory elements within the areas of learning and experience, and
(b) develops the mandatory cross-curricular skills.
Curriculum and Assessment (Wales) Bill, Chapter 2, page 7
These requirements state that it is the responsibility of headteachers and governors to design and successfully adopt a bespoke curriculum that incorporates all the key aspects of the framework. From our experience in curriculum design, this is a complex and time consuming task, something that the government fully appreciate. They are, after all, allowing schools up to 109 days funding to develop their curricula. By September 2022, schools will be expected to have it all in place, and this is when Estyn will begin to inspect against the requirements.
Not only will primary schools have to design their own curricula, they will also have to address resourcing, professional development and pedagogical issues arising from the design of their new curricula. Schools will have to do all of this while maintaining a high quality of day to day teaching and learning, as well as all the other demands of running a school.
After years of designing curricula for both English and Welsh primary schools, there is much advice that I could give to schools at this time. Most of that would focus on my Six Steps of Curriculum Design guidance. Many schools have used this process to successfully design their own curricula. Some case studies can be found here.
However, whilst waiting for Curriculum for Wales to be ratified over the last two years, we here at Cornerstones have been working on developing a new curriculum design and management system called Cwricwlwm Maestro. The call from Welsh schools has been for us to develop a more flexible and customisable way of using our previous curriculum. Not only does Maestro offer hundreds of high quality projects and resources, but it also seamlessly connects all of the essential aspects of the Curriculum for Wales for you. Now, unlike before, all curriculum materials are editable and adaptable, so that schools can tailor their curriculum programmes to meet the needs of each setting.
Headteachers and senior leaders can easily manage and implement their curricula on Maestro, through shared planning, timetabling and subject and senior leader monitoring, which will be important responsibilities moving forward.
The most challenging part of designing curricula will be creating the interconnections required between the core aspects of the Welsh Curriculum and ensuring coverage of the essential skills and knowledge needed for a broad and balanced curriculum. Using Cwricwlwm Maestro will save hours, months, if not years of time.
Complex tasks, such as checking the coverage of the statements of what matters in lessons, can be done on Maestro at the click of a button; as can adapting lesson plans to meet the needs of specific groups, or even individual children. Maestro enables those schools who want to get up and running with the creative aspects of curriculum design to make a head start, not to mention relieving the stress around not knowing where to begin.
Now that the bill has been introduced and the Curriculum for Wales guidance refined, we can begin to work with schools who want to try Maestro for themselves. Hundreds of Welsh primary schools who are already on The Hub can transfer to Cwricwlwm Maestro, with free online training available to help you get started. Schools not currently working with Cornerstones can book a free online demonstration with our curriculum advisers, to see the system in action for themselves. This can be done at a time convenient for you, and we are open throughout the summer if you want to look before September.
Initial feedback from the 25 Cwricwlwm Maestro pioneer schools has been excellent. Here are some of the fantastic comments that we’ve received so far.
“It looks very impressive – I’m excited to start using it. It couldn’t have come at a better time.”
James Paynter, Mayals Primary School
“I can’t wait to share information with our team from this morning’s demo meeting about Cwricwlwm Maestro. It looks fantastic and will be amazing for teacher planning. I love the timetable feature and that resources are attached to lessons – exciting!’
Mrs J Davies, Ysgol Bae Baglan
We’re offering free access to Cwricwlwm Maestro to any school currently using The Cornerstones Hub. To make sure that you are one of the primary schools making the changes right now, book a free online demonstration, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us on 03333 20 80000.
Please tell us what you want. We’re confident that we have everything you’ll need to get started on your curriculum journey. Don’t forget that our training is free and our advisory team will provide ongoing support.
We look forward to helping you to design a bespoke, exceptional Curriculum for Wales.