Curriculum and Qualifications (Wales)

The NASUWT continues to press for the development of a curriculum and qualifications system in Wales that supports teachers in meeting the needs of learners effectively.

This work includes ensuring that systems are manageable, do not add to the workload burdens of teachers and school leaders and allow them to concentrate on their core responsibilities for teaching and leading teaching and learning.

Delay to the start of the curriculum

The NASUWT called on the Welsh Government to delay the implementation of the new curriculum in the face of the disruption to schools and the education system stemming from the health emergency owing to the pandemic of Covid-19.

The Union considers that the current health crisis and the recovery phase that will be necessary is the wrong time to initiate wholesale changes to not only the curriculum, but also the accountability and assessment framework aligned to it. Space is needed to allow teachers and schools to recover from this time of extreme stress. Progressing at this time could lead to irretrievable mistakes being made.

Teachers and teaching will remain disrupted for the foreseeable future and teachers and schools have learnt a whole new way of working online and poured their efforts into secure blended learning opportunities for pupils.

The NASUWT considers that it is entirely unreasonable to place additional burdens on teachers at this time. The Union remains clear that in these circumstances, it would not be appropriate to proceed with implementation of the proposed curriculum by the start of the academic year 2022/23.

The NASUWT is therefore pleased by the Education Minister’s recent decision to postpone the planned roll-out of the New Curriculum for Year 7s in September 2022. This was the right decision given that the teaching profession continues to operate at full capacity providing education in the midst of a global pandemic.

The Union remains concerned, however, at the Welsh Government’s decision to retain the 2022 roll-out date for primary schools and the decision to require the New Curriculum for Year 7 and 8 to be introduced simultaneously in 2023.

The NASUWT is also very concerned regarding the offer of greater ‘flexibility’ to secondary schools in deciding for themselves whether to delay the introduction of the new curriculum.

The Union maintains that this is much too vague and leaves too much to the determination of individual school leaders. We are concerned that some schools will choose to plough on regardless of whether they are ready for these changes. This is not helped by the decision to make schools that do choose to delay roll out the New Curriculum to both Years 7 and 8 next year.

A universal and unified approach by the Welsh Government would have helped avoid a rushed and disjointed patchwork approach to the New Curriculum which risks jeopardising its success, pushing up workload and stress for teachers, and sowing confusion for pupils and parents.

Revised curriculum reform section

The Welsh Government has published detailed proposals on the implementation of a revised curriculum from September 2020. The NASUWT has submitted a detailed response to the consultation setting out its concerns and the steps that the Welsh Government will need to take to get the process of curriculum reform back on track.

The main issues highlighted by the Union in its response are:

  • The NASUWT is clear that in many respects, the current curriculum framework is not fit for purpose and is in need of reform.

  • In general, the report of the review of the curriculum undertaken by Professor Graham Donaldson, Successful Futures, sets out a coherent and rational basis for the future development of the curriculum framework in Wales.

  • However, in a range of critical respects, the proposals for the curriculum published by the Welsh Government have failed to reflect many of the key principles articulated in Successful Futures.

  • In particular, the recommendation that the curriculum should be developed by the workforce, for the workforce, has not been given practical effect. The exclusion of the voice of the profession has resulted in a proposed curriculum model that would, if implemented, generate significant workload burdens for teachers. It could also undermine the ability of schools to secure for all children and young people their entitlement to a broad and balanced range of learning experiences.

  • The failure to develop a coherent implementation plan is a serious omission. As a result, it is not clear how the new curriculum would be resourced and how it would cohere with the qualifications framework. Strategic issues in respect of the workforce implications of curriculum reform have not been subject to meaningful evaluation and planning, particularly in respect of subject specialisms in the secondary sector.

  • The implications of the new curriculum for the school accountability regime and the future of the National Literacy and Numeracy Framework have yet to be finalised, despite their importance for the ways in which schools organise their curricular offers.

  • Proposals to make greater use of school self-evaluation in the context of school accountability would, 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.

  • While the NASUWT recognises that a key aim of the reform process was to address the shortcomings of the current levels-based assessment system, the proposals set out in the consultation document would simply replicate many of these problems and fail to secure consistent and manageable assessment practice across the education system. The assessment proposals would also pose a risk, in practice, to curricular breadth and balance by giving undue prominence to achievement outcomes in the design of schools’ curricular programmes.

  • There is a clear failure on the part of the Welsh Government to recognise that reducing curricular prescription will not, of itself, secure enhanced scope for teachers to make use of their professional discretion. Schools will retain significant power to impose curricular and assessment approaches on teachers in classrooms.

  • The NASUWT remains clear that it will take all legitimate steps, up to and including industrial action, to defend its members from any adverse consequences for their terms and conditions of employment arising from the process of curriculum reform.

  • The Welsh Government should work with the NASUWT and other relevant stakeholders to develop a strategic implementation plan to ensure that the issues noted above are addressed and to secure a sustainable and effective national curriculum framework.

The NASUWT will continue to engage with the Welsh Government in order to secure a curriculum framework that supports the work of teachers and ensures that all learners can benefit from their entitlement to a high quality education.

Qualifications

Since 2015, general qualifications in Wales have been subject to significant reform. These reforms have placed significant pressures on the teaching workforce. The NASUWT continues to work to protect teachers and school leaders from excessive and unnecessary qualifications-related workload.

The NASUWT will continue to engage with the Welsh Government and with Qualifications Wales to ensure that the impact of the reforms for learners and teachers is reviewed and evaluated effectively and, where necessary, to address the concerns of the workforce in terms of qualifications content, structure and manageability. The Union has stressed the importance of learning from the experience of recent reforms in the development of future qualifications policy.

Particular attention in this respect will focus on the Welsh Baccalaureate. While recognising the aims and objectives of this qualification, the NASUWT continues to raise concerns about its currency and the delivery challenges that schools have faced in implementing it in practice. The NASUWT will ensure that the voice of the profession is heard in ongoing evaluation of the Welsh Baccalaureate and press for improvements to be made in these respects.