Teachers from across South Wales were given a unique insight into Dutch education during an international study visit to the Netherlands.
A five-day trip included a tour around three schools, a meeting with the VO-raad coalition of school governors, and a policy briefing from advisors to the Minister of Education in The Hague.
The delegation was also treated to a presentation from experts leading curriculum reform in the Netherlands, where policymakers are following a very similar course to that being pursued in Wales.
A curriculum outline including nine ‘learning areas’ was published in May and teachers in the Netherlands have been given until the end of summer to comment on draft documents.
The study visit was led by the Centre for Education Policy Review and Analysis (CEPRA) at Yr Athrofa: Institute of Education, University of Wales Trinity Saint David, as part of its Global Leadership Programme funded by the British Council.
Gareth Evans, CEPRA director, said members of the study visit were given a fascinating insight into one of the world’s leading education systems.
“A packed itinerary included visits to local primary and secondary schools, where delegates were given the opportunity to chat freely with principals, teachers and pupils,” he said.
“It was clear from those conversations that Wales and the Netherlands face a number of shared challenges, notably those relating to equity, assessment and accountability.
“Curriculum reform in the Netherlands is also closely aligned to that being undertaken in Wales, and the Welsh Government would be well-advised to keep abreast of developments as the project progresses.
“There is much to learn from the Dutch experience, and it was reassuring to learn that Wales is not alone in working its way through perennial problems for the better of all in education.
“But while the Netherlands excels in many areas, it was evident that our counterparts in Utrecht, The Hague and Almere can learn from what we in Wales are doing as well.”
Teachers from the EAS, ERW and CSC regions took part in the visit, which focussed on curriculum reform, professional learning and teacher education.
As well as learning from colleagues in the Netherlands, the trip allowed travelling teachers the opportunity to engage in professional dialogue around a number of key initiatives being implemented in Wales.
Kelly Gipson, Senior Mentor at Pentrehafod School, Swansea, said: “It was extremely interesting to see how the teacher training reforms in the Netherlands mirrored our own in many aspects, and were driven by the same impetus – the recruitment crisis of teachers.
“As a nation regarded globally as one of the world leaders in education, it was encouraging to see that what they perceived as best practice are prevalent features of the Athrofa Professional Learning Partnership’s exciting new ITE programme which will be launched this autumn.
“Likewise, with regards to the curriculum reforms, it was interesting to note the similarities between theirs and our own. Given the wide gap between the Netherlands and ourselves in the world rankings for education, it was encouraging to note how much progress we have already made and the fact that they are pursuing very similar lines of enquiry.”
Jamie Goddard, assistant headteacher of Chepstow School, Monmouthshire, said: “The visit provided a unique opportunity and insight to professional learning, new curriculum and initial teacher training in the Netherlands.
“A highly effective and successful educational system in Holland was a privilege to see first-hand and meeting key policymakers, together with teachers in schools, gave us a lot of ideas to bring back and use to improve lifelong learning in Wales.”
A report outlining the group’s findings will be published online, and a symposium featuring contributions from all delegates is planned to take place in the autumn.