A new centre aiming to contribute meaningfully to the development and debate of education policy in Wales has been launched by Yr Athrofa, at the University of Wales Trinity Saint David.

CEPRA – the Centre for Education Policy Review and Analysis, led by respected educationalist and commentator Gareth Evans – assumes the role of ‘critical friend’ to support policymakers and those with a stake in Welsh education.

It provides a platform for debate and analysis in the field of education policy, challenges established norms and assumptions, and reflects on the environment in which educators at all levels operate on a daily basis.

CEPRA looks forward to playing a central role in Wales’ National Mission to raise standards for all.

Wales Education Minister Kirsty Williams addressed the audience at the launch held at Cardiff’s Tramshed Tech, which included presentations from partner schools as well as a debate on the Welsh Government’s draft Curriculum for Wales 2022.

The Minister commented: “I am delighted to attend the launch of CEPRA. I note that CEPRA aims to be a critical friend and support the Welsh Government and policy making. As we reach key milestones in our reform journey, we will certainly need plenty of debate and discussion and universities have a key role to play in this.

“As a government, as an education sector, we will all benefit from a deeper analysis and understanding of a policy that is made in Wales, affects and influences Wales. It is from that greater appreciation and understanding that we can expand our critical friends who can and should question and challenge us. We share a common commitment to policy making, which aims to raise standards and high expectations for all concerned in Welsh education and I really look forward to working with the CEPRA as it goes from strength to strength.”

CEPRA Director Gareth Evans said: “The launch of CEPRA comes at a crucial period in Welsh education’s reform journey.  It has been established for a number of reasons, least not the pressing need for scrutiny, analysis and challenge of education policy in Wales.

“But CEPRA does not seek to challenge for selfish or commercial reasons. We do so to challenge misconceptions, test higher-level thinking and contribute constructively to the design, development and implementation of policy that will shape education in Wales for generations.

“Now more than ever, it is important to test what we are doing to iron out potential pitfalls and strengthen our vision for education in Wales. Education policy cannot be developed or implemented in isolation, and whole-system change requires honest appraisal and the input of a broad range of stakeholders. A collaborative effort is needed to deliver Successful Futures.

“CEPRA provides a platform for education policy review and analysis; protected space for comment and critique of contemporary issues facing educators right across Wales.”

“CEPRA draws on the expertise of academics with UWTSD’s Yr Athrofa, which results in a number of different outputs. Current research and analysis includes that housed within the Global Leadership Programme, supported by British Council Wales; research supporting the National Approach to Professional Learning; developing cycles of professional enquiry in schools; as well as an international, five-country study into co-operative learning and inclusion.”

Gareth Evans continues: “Wales’ new draft national curriculum has been published and a consultation on its supporting documents has been recently launched.

“It will not come as a great surprise, therefore, that we have chosen to use today’s launch event to focus on those developments – and give some of those at the forefront of implementation an opportunity to share with us some of their early findings.”

Two schools who have embraced the curriculum challenge are St Joseph’s RC Primary School in the Vale of Glamorgan, one of 16 ‘innovation schools’ chosen by the Welsh Government to consider the draft curriculum as a whole, and Ysgol Llanhari in Rhondda Cynon Taf, a pioneer through-school catering for children aged 3 to 19.

During the launch of CEPRA, Gareth Rein, of St Joseph’s RC Primary School, and Rhian Phillips and Meinir Thomas of Ysgol Llanhari had the opportunity to demonstrate how both schools have approached the new curriculum in different ways and how their approach perfectly encapsulates the notion of subsidiarity on which Wales’ new curriculum is built.

Gareth Evans continued: “Everyone must be given the chance to input into our new national curriculum – and it is vital that all voices contributing to the debate are heard.

“Respecting the scope for variation to suit specific contexts, there is, I believe, a strong argument for the inclusion in our curriculum of a carefully-considered roster of non-negotiables; things that all children, regardless of where in Wales they study, should have an introduction to. These could be broad themes, or items clustered together under respective Areas of Learning and Experience. Of course, parity of teaching and learning will never be possible and there will always be discrepancies within and across schools, but there is certainly some scope for considering how blank a canvas teachers will be given to paint.

“Ultimately, as we each pore through the draft curriculum documents, there are sure to be things we like, things we don’t, and doubtless things we will have done differently. But all in education must be respectful of the time and energy expended by scores of Pioneer Schools in getting us to where we are today.

“Indeed, this is not the time to dismiss anyone’s interpretation of where we are, but is instead an opportunity to embellish and, if necessary, reconfigure the loose framework that has been put in place. We cannot sit idly by and let the opportunity to feed into Successful Futures fall by the wayside. As educators, we have a moral obligation to help get this right.”

Find out more about CEPRA here: http://cepra.wales/en/