The biggest change to Wales' education since 1988: Here's what you need to know

  • Watch the video report by ITV Wales Political Editor Adrian Masters

The way children are taught will change radically as new curriculum marks the biggest change in education in Wales in over 30 years.

The Curriculum and Assessment (Wales) Bill made history when it reached its final stage in the Senedd before being passed into law.

Members of the Senedd voted to pass the bill meaning a new curriculum will now be introduced in September 2022. 

It will replace the national curriculum which was introduced in 1988 and has been previously described as “prescriptive, narrow and outdated" by the Welsh Government.

Six new Areas of Learning and Experience (AoLEs) will be introduced as boundaries between traditional subjects are abandoned.

But it will focus on three core areas, literacy, numeracy and digital competence.

It comes as the Welsh Government announced on Thursday an additional £30 million to develop new Welsh-medium education.

The funding is part of the Welsh Government's commitment to reach one million Welsh speakers by 2050, by supporting all learners to become Welsh speakers by the time they leave school.  

The Welsh Government aims to increase capacity in Welsh-medium schools. Credit: Welsh Government

Next year the new curriculum will roll out first to children in primary school, in year 5 or bellow and will eventually be taught to all pupils up to the age of 16.

Teachers won't have to follow a strict plan and will be given more freedom to decide what is taught depending on how the pupils develop.

The Welsh government said the new curriculum, which has taken years of consultation and preparation to develop, has been shaped by the best ideas from around the world.

Education Minister Kirsty Williams said the reason for a difference in the curriculum when compared with England is to "drive forward a national mission where we want excellence for all.

She said: "We want to drive up standards, reduce the attainment gap and ensure we've got an education system here in Wales that is a source of national pride."

The Six areas of learning included in the new curriculum are:

  • Expressive Arts

  • Health and Well-being

  • Humanities

  • Languages, Literacy and Communication

  • Mathematics and Numeracy

  • Science and Technology

Welsh-medium education

The new curriculum for Wales aims to build upon progression for first time welsh language learners. Bilingual schools will also teach more of the curriculum through Welsh.

Ms Williams said: “Providing first-class schools for children in Welsh-medium education is a key driver for Cymraeg 2050. Attending a Welsh-medium school ensures children become at least bilingual.  

“We also need to increase the number of learners in English-medium and bilingual schools who are learning Welsh successfully. I want to ensure more bilingual schools introduce a greater proportion of the new curriculum in Welsh, to give learners a strong linguistic foundation."

Welsh will be a mandatory subject along with:

  • Literacy, numeracy, and digital competence

  • Religion, values, and ethics

  • Relationships and sexuality education

What about GCSE's?

The Welsh Government said It is likely that GCSEs will still exist but they will need to adapt over time to reflect the changing curriculum.

It will improve advice and support for all pupils as they prepare for their future careers as consultation led by Qualification Wales is currently underway to decide what exams of the future look like for young people in Wales.

Professional teacher training is taking place and a number of schools have been trailing the new curriculum since 2015.

Ultimately, the aim of a school’s curriculum will be to support its learners to become:

  • 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.

Children of primary school age will be the first to be taught the new Curriculum in 2022.

At Ysgol Y Ddraig Primary school in Llantwit major, the older pupils were optimistic about the prospect of learning subjects in a combined way.

One child said: ''It would be quite hard but it would be quite fun.''

A teacher from the primary school also remained positive and told ITV Wales that the curriculum change had come at a "really good time".

Nicole Cogbill, a teacher at Ysgol Y Ddraig, said: "We've taken time to take a step back and think about what we need and I think it's a positive change to be able to move forward now because we're in a good position."

Unions want to postpone the changes

Due to Covid disruption teaching unions say schools aren't ready for the major change.

NASUWT said giving schools more responsibility "if implemented, risk significant increases in workload and would be likely to distract teachers and school leaders from their core responsibilities for teaching and leading teaching and learning."

Neil Butler, Wales national officer for the NASUWT, told ITV Wales that the changes should be delayed by at least a year.

"This was going to be the year in terms of building up towards the new curriculum.

"Estyn had suspended their expectations, Estyn was going to offer support to schools in terms of working on the new curriculum. This was going to be that year," said Neil.

David Evans, Wales secretary of the National Education Union Cymru said: "Our members welcome the principles behind the curriculum.

"It is critical now that education professionals have the time and space to digest these new documents and plan how they can make the curriculum suitable for learners in their school.

"Critical too, is that the WG considers the impact on education professionals in terms of their wellbeing. We need to ensure there is a thorough impact assessment of workload related to the curriculum"

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