Curriculum and Assessment Review

10 February 2014

Article written by Michael Dauncey, National Assembly for Wales Research Service

The Welsh Government’s consultation closed last month on phase 1 of what Education and Skills Minister, Huw Lewis, described in Plenary recently as the ‘most significant curriculum reform Wales has ever seen’.

The curriculum and assessment review was first announced by former Minister, Leighton Andrews, on 1 October 2012 and is being undertaken in two phases.

Image from Flickr by LizMarie_AK.  Licenced under the Creative Commons.

Image from Flickr by LizMarie_AK. Licensed under the Creative Commons.

The context of the review is closely related to the new Literacy and Numeracy Framework (LNF) which became a statutory curriculum planning tool for Reception to Year 9 (ages attained 5-14) from September 2013.  Raising standards of literacy and numeracy are two of the Welsh Government’s three priorities for education. (The other is reducing the impact of poverty on educational attainment.)

(For further information, see the Research Service’s ‘Literacy and Numeracy in Wales’, published in June 2013.)

Phase 1 of the review covers how the curriculum and assessment arrangements should be updated to align with the LNF.  The consultation was held between 22 October 2013 and 17 January 2014, following a Ministerial statement on 22 October 2013.  (Further details given below)

Phase 2 will concentrate more on curriculum design, looking at the curriculum for individual subjects and the development of a distinctly Welsh curriculum.  This will include issues such as the respective sizes of Key Stages 2 and 3, a concept of ‘graduation’ between Key Stage 3 and Key Stage 4, the place of languages including Welsh second language, and the findings of a number of task and finish groups.

The Minister has said that he will announce further details of phase 2 of the review in due course.

Phase 1: Curriculum

The current school curriculum in Wales was introduced from September 2008.  It contains Programmes of Study at Key Stages 2-4 and Areas of Learning at the Foundation Phase, which set out what schools should cover.  The Welsh Government wants to update these to reflect the requirements of the LNF, realigning the curriculum.  Specifically, it proposes to:

  • Revise the Areas of Learning for Language, Literacy and Communication Skills, and Mathematical Development at the Foundation Phase
  • Revise the Programmes of Study for English, Welsh and Mathematics for Key Stages 2, 3 and 4

The Welsh Government has said that, subject to the consultation outcome, it will introduce these changes on a non-statutory basis from September 2014 and they will then become statutory in academic year 2015/16.

  • Introduce a statutory ‘wider skills’ framework right from Foundation Phase to Key Stage 4.  These skills, considered to be essential for learning, for work and for life, will include:
  • Critical thinking and problem solving
  • Planning and organising
  • Creativity and innovation
  • Personal effectiveness
  • Digital literacy

It is expected this ‘wider skills’ framework would replace the existing skills framework, which is non-statutory and, according to Estyn, not given sufficient priority by schools and local authorities.  The rationale is to develop wider skills across all four key stages, providing a clear route of skills progression.

The Welsh Government only consulted on the statutory wider skills framework in principle at phase 1 and will include more detail at phase 2.

Phase 1: Assessment

Schools will be required to formally assess pupils annually against the expectations of pupils’ progress in the LNF from September 2014.  They will track learner progress from the Foundation Phase to Key Stage 2, based on the LNF expectations, and report to parents / carers annually.

The Welsh Government wants to complement this with a requirement to undertake assessments at the end of each key stage that are of a more summative nature.  The outcomes of these assessments would be reported to parents / carers and the Welsh Government.

The main changes proposed by the Welsh Government are that:

  • Schools report a summative assessment of progress in the Language, Literacy and Communication and Mathematical Development Foundation Phase Areas of Learning (as revised to align with the LNF), at the end of the Foundation Phase.
  • At the end of Key Stages 2 and 3, schools report a summative assessment of progress against the English, Welsh and Mathematics Programmes of Study (as revised to align with the LNF).

Specifically at Key Stage 2, the Welsh Government intends to strengthen the end of stage assessment by introducing ‘rich learning tasks’.  Rich learning tasks are described as open ended exploration of real world topics that are cross-curricular.

The Welsh Government has said that these changes will be introduced on a non-statutory basis in September 2014 and become statutory in academic year 2015/16.