Professor Graham Donaldson reflects on curriculum development to date and explains why teachers in Wales are at the heart of education reform…
One of the most satisfying aspects of my work in Wales is the opportunity it gives me to meet young people, students and teachers and to see excellent practice at first hand.
The enthusiasm for Wales’ curriculum reform is palpable and it is clear to me that there is much to build on in what is already happening in classrooms across the country.
The new curriculum is beginning to take shape. We already have a world-leading Digital Competence Framework (DCF) that has been well received by teachers.
The way in which the DCF was developed and is now taking root in schools presents a working model of the Welsh approach in practice. By blending expertise from research and practice and drawing on the best of current thinking nationally and internationally, Wales is breaking new ground in education reform.
Based on the broad direction set in ‘Successful Futures’, teachers in pioneer schools and their colleagues more widely are addressing some really difficult issues as they develop the Areas of Learning and Experience (AoLE). Progress thus far is encouraging.
Ultimate success will depend on what happens in every classroom and every school across Wales. And that will depend on the extent to which teachers and educational practitioners more generally believe in the importance of the new curriculum and feel both confident and capable about their ability to make it real for the young people in their charge.
That is why Wales is not just reforming curriculum and assessment. One of the strongest lessons from research on educational reform is the need to identify and put in place the conditions necessary for success.
That means identifying implications for professional learning and leadership as well as ensuring that accountability systems help and do not hinder realisation of the opportunities offered by the new curriculum. Wales is perhaps unique in the rigorous and comprehensive way in which it is doing just that.
The pioneer approach roots the development of the new curriculum in the schools themselves. In so doing, it will help to create real ownership of the reform in those who will make it happen.
Of course, it is not just pioneer schools that are engaging in reform, schools and teachers across Wales can and should contribute to the development.
In many ways, new teachers entering the profession in the years ahead will be in the vanguard of the reform. That is why the work of our universities in teacher education is so important.
My meetings with students over the last year suggest that there is both enthusiasm for the reform and a good understanding of what it might mean for their future work.
Many headteachers have commented positively on the positivity of newly-qualified teachers. We must use and not lose that enthusiasm.
- Professor Graham Donaldson is a senior adviser to the Welsh Government and author of ‘Successful Futures’, the blueprint for Wales’ new national curriculum