Wales: A Change for the Better

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Hollie Anderton

Hollie is currently an English teacher and Head of Year in North Wales with a degree in Theatre. She trained in Bath Spa University to gain her PGCE and is currently a Network Leader for WomenEd Wales Hollie is the author of the Teacher Toolkit...
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What education reforms are taking place in Welsh schools?

In Wales, we currently find ourselves in a similar place to England a few short years ago. And unfortunately, it’s not a great place to be. Wales is right in the centre of an educational reform storm. The feelings accompanying this for teachers could be likened to that of a child whose parents are insisting that they move to a new house because there is simply not enough space; the house is outdated and there are cracks all over the walls.

Despite these valid reasons, parents are still confronted with cries:

But Mum! I like it here! I know all of the shortcuts, I’ve got friends here!

Now, I am a huge advocate for change. However I would be lying to myself if I didn’t express some concerns that I have about the educational changes that are happening in Wales at the moment.

I am not ashamed to say that Wales have always been a step behind England in terms of educational reform. In fact, it’s allowed us to gain a little insight into what our proud nation was to face in a year or so! Therefore, it is no surprise to anyone, that change was coming for Wales. It was expected because it was needed. Currently, Wales are moving over to a new curriculum, founded on a review entitled, ‘Successful Futures‘, by Prof. Graham Donaldson. This new curriculum will be based around 4 purposes:

  1. To create ambitious and capable learners;
  2. To create enterprising and creative contributors;
  3. To create ethical and informed citizens of Wales and the World;
  4.  To create healthy and confident individuals.

And 6 new Areas of Learning:

  1. Expressive arts;
  2. Health and well-being;
  3. Humanities;
  4. Languages, literacy and communication;
  5. Mathematics and numeracy;
  6. Science and technology;

All of which will be underpinned by the cross-curricular core subjects of Literacy, Numeracy and Digital Competency.

This new curriculum promises to be much more experience based, equipping the children of Wales to go into the world with skills that they can use effectively. We’re now in the middle of a schedule set out by Welsh Government, at a stage entitled ‘Design and Development Phase’.

Advantages of New Curriculum:

  1. The new Welsh curriculum does appear to be far more focussed on ‘rich’ and experimental learning which is something that I love doing in my class. From my experience, I think that children learn incredible well from accessing subjects in a real-life context as much as they can.
  2. The depth of the tasks that are encouraged in this reform is fantastic, some could take over weeks and cover a plethora of skills under one umbrella; some could take one hour and still cover a host of opportunities.
  3. The cross-curricular element is always a good thing to have. Showing children that there are links between things that they study in History and Geography, and Numeracy. Often, I have had members of my class say, ‘I didn’t even know we were doing Maths, Miss’. 

Disadvantages of New Curriculum:

  1. Currently, we are stuck in a whirlwind. I don’t feel as though anyone has the right answer to how we are supposed to be teaching, who is supposed to have started which elements of this new curriculum and who’s in charge.
  2. National Tests in Wales were introduced in 2013 for Reading, Procedural and Reasoning Mathematics. There is an issue surrounding how these tests should be used. Some school head teachers set the results of these tests as Performance Management targets for class teachers; some schools use them purely as diagnostics to identify next steps.
  3. As of this moment, there hasn’t been any mention of a replacement for levels. I was teaching in England at the time of the Levels scrapping and it was similar at this time, schools are being left to almost decide for themselves what this alternative should be.

Our Future: Bleak or Bright?

No one can say how smoothly this reform will go, because no one knows. Of course, we can look to our comrades over the border for strength and guidance but ultimately, we need to unite as North and South, East and West, all aiming for that one goal that we all have.

The reason that we all became teachers in the first place. We want to simply teach children …

Hollie Anderton writes for Teacher Toolkit

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