KIRSTY WILLIAMS has listened to concerns expressed by teaching unions and opposition parties and elected to roll out a new curriculum in a phases, as opposed to one ‘big bang’.
Publishing the revised action plan on Tuesday (Sept 26), The Education Secretary revealed details of a plan that aims to continue to raise standards, reduce the attainment gap and deliver an education system that is a source of national pride and public confidence.
Objectives also include introducing a new accountability model and ensuring strong and inclusive schools committed to excellence and well-being.
PHASED ROLL OUT
The new curriculum will be introduced from nursery to Year 7 in 2022, rolling into Year 8 in 2023, Year 9 in 2024, Year 10 in 2025 and Year 11 in 2026. All schools will have access the final curriculum from 2020, to allow them to move towards full roll-out in 2022.
Kirsty Williams said: “We are entering a fast-changing world that is increasingly competitive, globally connected and technologically advanced. Schools have to prepare our young people for jobs that have not yet been created and challenges that we are yet to encounter. Education has never been more important and, working with the teaching profession, we will continue our national mission to raise standards.
“Our plan is aimed at ensuring every young person in Wales has an equal opportunity to reach the highest standards and their full potential. We can’t achieve those ambitions if we just stand still. Teachers and educators across our system are working together to raise standards and reduce the attainment gap. It is an exciting time to be involved in education in Wales.
“We all share a responsibility to inspire and challenge the next generation. That is why we will support teachers with continuous learning and development, better support and identify our leaders, and reduce class sizes so that we can raise standards for all.”
Commenting on the new curriculum, she added: “Since becoming Education Secretary I have visited schools across the country, spoken to a range of teachers, parents and experts and held talks with unions.
“It’s the right decision to introduce the curriculum as a phased roll-out rather than a ‘big bang’, and for that to start in 2022. This approach, and an extra year, will mean all schools have the time to engage with the development of the curriculum and be full prepared for the changes. As the OECD have recommended, we will continue our drive to create a curriculum for the 21st century.”
MILLAR AGREES BUT STILL MOANS
In December, Darren Millar AM, Welsh Conservative Shadow Education Secretary, called on the Welsh Government to “push the pause button” on the proposed changes.
Mr Millar has now welcomed the delay, but also predicted “major chaos” if teachers will be expected to teach two separate curriculums at the same time.
He said: “The extra 12 months to prepare for these major changes will be welcomed by schools and I encourage the Welsh Government to use this time to engage with teachers so that they are fully abreast of the transitions afoot.
“My major concern, however, is that under these plans two curriculums will be running side by side for a period of around six years.
“This has the potential to cause major chaos for teachers who are essentially being asked to juggle the demands of two syllabuses, and so Welsh Government will need to explain how it intends to manage this so that learning is not adversely affected.”
Plaid Cymru Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Education Llyr Gruffydd said: “Finally, the Cabinet Secretary has accepted what we have been warning for several months – the new National Curriculum should not be rushed through.
“Teachers and experts have expressed their concern that the Welsh Government has continued to attempt too many reforms at the same time without ensuring that the system has the capacity to implement them. It was naïve of the government to think that it can push through reforms to unrealistic timeframes.”
UCAC, the Welsh teachers’ union has welcomed the Plan.
Rebecca Williams, UCAC’s Policy Officer said: “This action plan is a breath of fresh air. It strikes a refreshing balance between ambition and realism, setting out plans for deep and far-reaching reform, but also outlining realistic methods of working and timeframes.
“The plan emphasises progress through co-operation, support and respect for everyone at every level of the education system, in contrast to some of the more threatening methods of the past. This is clearly a joint project, with shared responsibility.
“UCAC very much welcomes the clarity about the introduction of the new curriculum. We believe that the timetable as set out in the action plan will allow sufficient time for design and testing, for training and familiarisation, and for forward-planning of any consequential reforms to qualifications.
“The attitude towards assessment and accountability, with its emphasis on ‘assessment for learning’ rather than artificial comparisons between schools, is another positive step.
“We look forward to being part of the project, as a critical friend, over the next four years and beyond.”
NEU PRAISES STATEMENT
The National Education Union Cymru has also praised the statement by the Cabinet Secretary for Education, which it says recognises the concerns raised by the union over the last year.
David Evans, Wales Secretary of the National Education Union, said: “This announcement will be welcomed by the teaching profession and shows that the Cabinet Secretary is listening to the concerns that have been raised and is acting on the best advice and evidence available to her.
“There is a true consensus behind the new curriculum. The sector is on board with the Welsh Government’s vision but we must all make sure we are not risking that good will by rushing its implementation. The new timescales offer a better opportunity to develop the rigour of the system. At the same time changes to the way it will be introduced, moving from a big bang approach to a phased roll out, will make for a much smoother transition process which better supports school staff and pupils.
“The National Education Union have warned that the delivery of the new curriculum was not going to work under the old timeframe and so we are certainly delighted that the Cabinet Secretary has taken our views on board and has set in place a more realistic and promising strategy.”
University to host industry summit online
SUPPORTING industry’s recovery from the impact of the pandemic is a key priority for the University of Wales Trinity Saint David (UWTSD).
The University has a track record for working with industry through knowledge transfer, research innovation, workforce development and by providing a ready pipeline of skilled students and graduates, in partnership with employers.
In addition, UWTSD’s MADE Cymru initiative was established to support manufacturing industries in Wales to adapt to the challenges of Industry 4.0.
The initiative, funded by the EU via the Welsh Government, aims to support the economic recovery of manufacturers in Wales by offering part and fully funded training to businesses to upskill staff, as well as research and development that improves processes and products to reduce waste and costs.
In addition, UWTSD and MADE Cymru have organised an Industry Summit to be held online between June 8-10 to inform, engage and inspire businesses during this critical period of post-Covid recovery.
Expert speakers will be sharing their insights including James Davies from Industry Wales, Carol Hall, Regional Investment Manager, Development Bank of Wales, Chris Probert, Innovation Specialist, Welsh Government and Geraint Jones, Knowledge Transfer Adviser at KTN.
The line-up also includes Welsh manufacturers who will be sharing their own experiences, including Tim Hawkins, Managing Director, Markes International, Julia Chesney-Roberts, Commercial Manager, Riversimple, Angus Grahame, Founder of Splosh and Jacques Bonfrer, Co-Founder and Team Lead, Bot-Hive.
There will be guest talks from circular economy expert Eoin Bailey and lean author Daryl Powell and an opportunity to find out about the range of services offered by the University.
Graham Howe, Executive Head of the MADE Cymru project at UWTSD says: “This Industry Summit aims to explore issues and challenges facing manufacturing in Wales so that we can work together with employers to find solutions.
“We always start with asking a manufacturer what their biggest problem is today and look at how we can help them with it.
“We aim to unravel potentially confusing challenges like these. Our approach begins by looking at what companies need to increase their productivity and competitiveness.
“We aim to lead the businesses we work with through a journey of continuous improvement – a journey that makes the most of Industry 4.0 technologies and their ever-growing digital capabilities to help solve the specific problems faced by each company.
“All of the feedback we receive from businesses shapes our curriculum – we want to produce employable, digitally literate graduates who can contribute to their workplace from day one”.
Alison Orrells is CEO and Managing Director of Safety Letterbox and has been one of the organisations participating in the MADE Cymru initiative.
She said: “It was important to keep innovating and investing to set us apart and come out stronger. It’s been intense but we had a game plan – now it is all about business future-proofing, being agile, collaborations and being adaptable.”
Covid-19 has affected every part of a business and shifted the focus from production to survival.
UWTSD recently led a round table discussion with Welsh manufacturers about the future of manufacturing in Wales.
That discussion found that their outlook is positive about the future.
Manufacturers accelerated their adoption of new technologies to enhance and optimise production.
With many employees on furlough, managers took the opportunity to rethink and invest in better IT, particularly communications, training and diversified into new product areas. They looked to local colleges and universities to help shift perceptions of jobs in manufacturing and demonstrated the career opportunities and pathways available.
They also loosened their reliance on overseas imports and looked for suppliers in the UK to minimise future risk of disruption.
All sessions of the Industry Summit are free to attend and places can be booked on the UWTSD website: https://uwtsd.ac.uk/made/made-cymru-industry-summit/
A long road back for education
EVEN before schools find out what the new normal will be, the pressure is already on the education system to deliver significantly more.
Some talk about a ‘lost generation’ needing to ’catch-up’ amid concerns those comments stigmatise children. However, the reality is that children have missed months of face-to-face teaching, and that has inescapable consequences.
DISADVANTAGED SLIP FURTHER BEHIND
Wales’s learners have been part of the pandemic’s ‘collateral damage.’
Although, for now, there are more questions than answers, solutions to repair that ‘damage’ will need to be carefully considered and delivered during the Welsh Parliament’s sixth term.
Even before the pandemic, Wales already faced an uphill struggle to secure good educational outcomes for all its learners.
The most disadvantaged learners have extra challenges which can prevent them from achieving their full potential.
Even though the previous Welsh Government invested £585 million since 2012 through the Pupil Development Grant (PDG), the attainment gap it was seeking to close, didn’t narrow.
It also typically widens as learners get older.
There’s a stark difference between children eligible for free school meals and their peers at Key Stage 4, the two years where learners usually take GCSEs and other examinations.
Children and young people themselves are well placed to give their verdict.
A 2021 Children’s Commissioner survey of 20,000 children found that 35% didn’t feel confident about their learning, compared to 25% in May 2020.
63% of 12–18-year-olds were worried about falling behind.
There are countless reports setting out adults’ views about how missing more than half a year of ‘face-to-face’ schooling has affected learners.
One of the major concerns is the variation between what schools have delivered to pupils.
There’s a long list of potential impacts:
· ‘Lost learning’ meaning pupils could underperform academically and have their long-term prospects affected.
· A loss of confidence in the examination and assessment system.
· Long-term reductions in school attendance, a factor known to be key to educational outcomes.
· Difficult transitions between school years and from primary to secondary.
· Challenges in re-engaging learners and addressing low motivation.
· An unhelpful ‘catch up’ narrative about lost learning placing unnecessary psychological pressure on children and young people; and
· A negative effect on learners’ ability and confidence to communicate in Welsh where they haven’t been able to do so at home.
As well as these obvious educational issues, there are wider predicted effects.
Current learners could earn less, with one estimate of up to £40,000 in a lifetime.
The harm to children’s physical health and a higher prevalence of mental health issues, including anxiety and depression, are also serious concerns.
The pandemic’s wider economic impact is also likely to increase the number of children living in low-income families.
Again, it’s the most disadvantaged learners who are predicted to bear the brunt in the longer term.
For example, in March 2021, the Child Poverty Action Group found that 35% of low-income families responding to its UK wide survey were still without essential resources for learning, with laptops and devices most commonly missing.
The Fifth Senedd’s Children, Young People and Education (CYPE) Committee heard that there is “plenty of evidence” that” there are striking differences between families in terms of their ability to support young people in their learning: the resources they have around them, the enthusiasm, the engagement, the commitment”.
There must be work to rebuild relationships that have been under significant strain during the past 12 months.
Those between teaching unions and the decision-makers within the education system; between parents/carers and schools; and perhaps, most importantly, re-establishing the relationship between learners and their teachers.
Some of the immediate solutions which are already on the table or up for discussion are: more money, including the ‘Recruit, Recover and Raise Standards funding’; more teachers and learning assistants on the ground; changing term times; and setting up summer schools, holiday clubs and home tuition.
However, the longer-term problems are far harder to solve.
One estimate puts the cost of Wales’s journey back from COVID-19 at £1.4 bn to meet the challenges to the education system alone.
The opportunity exists for major reform and an examination of the whole approach to and aim of education.
Children and young people’s return to the classroom has been heralded as a big chance to put their well-being at the heart of education. As well as having a positive impact on well-being, put, mentally healthy children are much more likely to learn.
Following pressure from the Fifth Senedd’s CYPE Committee and its stakeholders, Wales has already made a significant shift towards establishing a ‘Whole School Approach to Mental Health’. The challenge during the Sixth Senedd will be to deliver it.
The potential sting in the tail is that, at the same time, the education system is getting children back to school, it also contends with major legislative reform.
This is in the form of wholesale changes to both the school curriculum and support for learners with Additional Learning Needs.
Some may argue that there’s been no better time to have such significant changes.
If the education system can successfully implement these three major reforms, arguably Wales will complete significant leg work and be on a firmer footing to meet the challenges presented by Covid-19.
At this stage there may be many more questions than answers for the education system.
The world into which learners will move has changed forever.
Not only has the pandemic interrupted their schooling, but the future journeys they were expected to make into the workplace or further and higher education could be unrecognisable.
The skills and aptitudes needed in the ‘new normal’ are only now beginning to be identified and are likely to be different from those needed before the pandemic began.
UWTSD launches new Vocal Performance degree
UWTSD has launched a new Vocal Performance degree for the next academic year.
Building on the success of the postgraduate programmes at the Wales International Academy of Voice, the newly devised BMus (Hons) Vocal Performance is a specialist industry-focused programme for singers.
The new programme is delivered by expert academics and practitioners of national and international repute within a specialist facility.
Students will be offered extensive 1-to-1 vocal tuition, and masterclasses from world-renowned artists, and of course all of this will be located within our specialist facility in Cardiff.
Modules on the programme examine areas such as vocal technique, performance studies, movement, music theory, technologies of performance and performance projects designed to develop a holistic approach to vocal performance.
Assessment on this programme is by a range of methods offering opportunities to present learning in a variety of different ways throughout the course.
Learning methods include performances, portfolios, technical assessments, recording, electronic testing, arranging, mock auditions, podcasting, essay writing and presentations.
The staff at the Wales International Academy of Voice are looking forward for students to enrol on this newly designed degree.
David Bebbington, Academy Manager and Programme Director said: “Students on the new BMus programme will study voice in a holistic context, enabling them to engage with performance in a variety of settings, and introducing them to the multitude of opportunities available in their future careers.
“Central to the vision of the programme is ‘the industry’, and as such elements of the course will involve aspects of performance, recording, movement, music theory and studio techniques for example.
“At the end of the course, students will move into performance, music creation, teaching or a host of other session music opportunities.”
Barry Liles, Pro-Vice-Chancellor and Head of the Wales Institute of Science and Art (WISA) said: “The University is pleased to witness the strategic development of a BMus in Vocal Performance at the Wales International Academy of Voice.
“We believe this programme will provide an exciting opportunity for a significantly greater number of undergraduates to join our prestigious, world-class academy.
“Based on our enviable reputation within this vocal domain, the new programme will provide progression opportunities for our students on to postgraduate study or as practitioners in the sector.”
It is anticipated that graduates of the Vocal Performance programme will commence careers as performers, creators, teachers, recording artists and within various other related disciplines. The BMus (Hons) Vocal Performance may also lead to further postgraduate study.
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