First and foremost, the post is my own opinion and does not reflect the views of anyone else. I believe that it is an exciting time in Wales, we have the opportunity to adopt a Curriculum that has been designed for the present and the future. On listening to Professor Donaldson in his webinair chat, it became clear that we have the possibility to make a difference, to become leaders in the field and inspire generations of pupils to success. When deciding to write this post, it was difficult to chose where to begin and I have therefore chosen to focus on a few areas of interest. His first recommendation is
The school curriculum in Wales should be defined as including all of the
learning experiences and assessment activities planned in pursuit of
agreed purposes of education.
The key words are learning experiences and assessment in the same sentence. What is the difference? Well a learning experience can not always be measured in simple terms sometimes it is the experience that is important however an experience that is enriching to the lives of pupils will often lead to a positive impact on pupil standards.
A learning experience has many implications both within and outside the Classroom. What is essential is how we make that experience relevant to the pupils. If we walk 5 000 steps whilst taking a walk along a coastline, is it the measuring of the steps that count or the view, the plants, the animals etc. Obviously the answer is the experience. Perhaps this more than anything, although not revolutionary brings education back into the realms of common sense however I do not believe that Professor Donaldson is stating that there is no room for assessment, if anything he wishes it to be more closely aligned with the experiences.
What is being measured?
Well from my understanding of his discussion, we are looking at achievement rather than attainment. This would be a massive shift in direction that would require the support of the Politicians and Estyn. Pupils achieve constantly and often in small steps by responding to effective feedback. Effective ‘Assessment For Learning’ procedures will mean that pupils can improve on a daily basis, achieving new goals that can continuously change according to the needs of the pupils.
Attainment will not totally disappear. The National Tests for Literacy and Numeracy will remain and the GCSE’s are also here to stay . Measurements of steps will therefore exist but achievement will hopefully be recognised as the primary focus when mapping learning experiences in the Classroom. The emphasis is on creating a continuum,
The new national curriculum should be organised as a continuum of
learning from 3 to 16 without phases and key stages.
11. Progression should be described in relation to a continuum of learning in
each Area of Learning and Experience from when a child enters education
to the end of statutory schooling.
12. Progression should be signalled through Progression Steps at five points in
the learning continuum, relating broadly to expectations at ages 5, 8, 11, 14
13. The initial Progression Steps should take full account of guidance on
Routes for Learning, which should be reviewed in the new curriculum
14. Progression Steps should be reference points, providing a ‘road map’ for
each individual child and young person’s progress in their learning and
not universal expectations of the performance of all children and young
people at fixed points.
15. There should be a duty on schools to provide a curriculum that enables
most children and young people to reach, or go beyond, each Progression
Step within the broad three-year window.
Achievement Outcome recommendations
16. Achievement Outcomes should be developed for each Progression Step in
each Area of Learning and Experience, spanning the components within
the Area of Learning and Experience and addressing the Cross-curriculum
Responsibilities and wider skills.
17. Achievement Outcomes should contribute clearly to the four curriculum
purposes and should have an emphasis on achievement in a broad sense,
rather than only narrower measures of attainment. They should include
references to relevant experiences which contribute to the curriculum
purposes and to which children and young people should be entitled.
18. Achievement Outcomes should be described from the learner’s point of
view, using terms like ‘I have…’ for experiences and ‘I can…’ for outcomes.
19. All children and young people should make progress along the same
continuum, regardless of any additional learning needs they may have,
although they may reach and move between Progression Steps more
slowly or more quickly than others.
20. There should be a clear brief for the development of the Achievement
Perhaps what we need to do is accept that whether it is steps, levels or outcomes consistency from school to school will have to be of paramount importance.
I hope that the continuum will also break down the walls that levels have created as pupils transfer from each Key Stage to the next. Transition should be progression and therefore the steps taken and achieved by pupils should clearly indicate to Year 7 teachers the next goals in their education. This should allow us to make effective transition that will begin at the pupils level rather than questioning levels.
Ultimately, the recommendation below demonstrates clearly the importance of formative assessment as a tool to support the needs of the pupil and to assist teachers in their planning,
Assessment arrangements should give priority to their formative role in
teaching and learning.
What is the purpose of the Curriculum?
The purposes of the curriculum in Wales should be that children and
young people develop as:
Chapter 3: Purposes of the Curriculum
› ambitious, capable learners, ready to learn throughout their lives
› enterprising, creative contributors, ready to play a full part in life and work
› ethical, informed citizens of Wales and the world
› healthy, confident individuals, ready to lead fulfilling lives as valued
members of society.
The 6 areas of the new curriculum reflects the purpose in clearly identified areas,
Progression within the Areas of Learning and Experience
Whatever reference points are used, it is essential that these are based upon
sound understanding of how children progress in different kinds of learning and
what they need to know and be able to do in order to move to the next stage
securely. The Achievement Outcomes at each Progression Step will need to
encapsulate the most important aspects of learning, take account of the ways in
which children progress in different kinds of learning, and recognise what they
need to be able to know and do in order to move securely to the next stage. The
following are some illustrations of how Achievement Outcomes might indicate
progression in each Area of Learning and Achievement.
In the Expressive arts Area of Learning and Experience children and young
people may demonstrate progression in their learning by, for example, displaying
increasing skills and confidence in performance and extending their capacity to
use digital media in creative ways.
In the Health and well-being Area of Learning and Experience they may
demonstrate progression through increasing competence in, and taking greater
responsibility for, organising themselves, and through greater depth of knowledge
and understanding about factors affecting their well-being and that of others.
In the Humanities Area of Learning and Experience they may demonstrate
growing skill in analysing evidence and in understanding and explaining issues.
They may broaden and deepen their understanding of different beliefs and their
impact on believers.
In the Languages, literacy and communication Area of Learning and
Experience they may develop increasing mastery of techniques that will enable
them to communicate. They may demonstrate progression through the length,
complexity and accuracy of written and spoken language, and show increasing
confidence and capacity to converse about a widening range of topics in
the Welsh language. They will be able to engage critically with increasingly
challenging literary work.
In the Mathematics and numeracy Area of Learning and Experience they
will gain an understanding of quantity and number and, for example, be able
to explain increasingly abstract ideas in algebra, use increasingly sophisticated
methods to analyse and present numerical information, draw on skills they
have already learned when faced with new challenges, complete increasingly
demanding calculations in relation to personal finance, and interpret the results.
In the Science and technology Area of Learning and Experience they will
initially explore the world around them. They may demonstrate progression by
being able to explain increasingly complex scientific contexts and concepts;
analysing, presenting, interpreting and making deductions from increasingly
complex evidence; increasing in independence and confidence when tackling
challenging design tasks; developing increased dexterity and precision in practical
skills; and engaging with increasingly complex aspects of computing.
What will be crucial to the curriculum will be digital competency. This will have equal footing with Literacy and Numeracy thus making sure that the pupils are ready to contribute to the future needs of the Country. This should allow them to have the skills to succeed.
What we need to avoid is a sense of,
and with Professor Donaldson explaining that this will take time to achieve, he has already indicated that we need to take our time to make sure that we do it right. Getting it right is essential,
Implications for nursery, primary and secondary schools
The recommended changes to curriculum and assessment made by the Review
provide a new way of thinking about the education of children and young people
throughout the period of schooling. They present primary and secondary schools
jointly with greater scope to plan and provide a curriculum and an approach to
assessment that builds progressively from ages 3–16. They offer teachers fresh
opportunities to provide interesting and challenging learning experiences for
their children and young people. Additionally, if embedded effectively, they will
provide children and young people with a deeper, more satisfying and relevant
educational experience and wider recognition of their achievements.
The aim is to provide a successful future for every child and support them on the journey.
Whether the final Curriculum will look as it is suggested in the report will be in the hands of the Politicians but what we do require is clarity as soon as possible in relation not only to areas of learning but also assessment.
The area that is often ignored is actually a central feature of the report, Pedagogy. What I admire is the focus on making all teachers to realise how important they are to the future of every child. An article in the TES reports on an article from the OECD that has identified that confident teachers are the most effective in the Classroom. This isn’t rocket science but it is true that a confident teacher will be ready to learn from mistakes, be flexible, responds to the needs of the pupils and reflects on their skills. In my opinion, reflective practitioners are those that continually learn how to improve their standards, keep up to date with new ideas and take areas of progress as an essential element of professional development.
The link below will take you to the report.
Many questions still remain for education in Wales but perhaps this report can be a springboard to success.