THE BIGGEST shake-up of Wales’ curriculum since the 1980s took another step forward on Monday (Jan 28) as the Welsh Government launched a consultation on transformative new legislation.
Education Minister, Kirsty Williams, unveiled a White Paper that lays the legal foundations of a curriculum that is currently being designed by Wales’ teachers.
Breaking down traditional subject boundaries and empowering teachers to be more innovative, we will be introducing Areas of Learning and Experience (AoLEs) that cover the Humanities; Health and Wellbeing; Science and Technology; Languages, Literacy and Communications; Expressive Arts; and Maths.
English and Welsh will remain statutory, as will Religious Studies and Relationships and Sexuality Education. Alongside this, the Cross-Curriculum Responsibilities of literacy, numeracy and digital competence will be statutory up to 16 years old.
Key stages will be removed. Instead, there will be Progression Steps relating to expectations for learners ages 5, 8, 11, 14 and 16. These will allow teachers to understand each learner’s development – taking into account their individual abilities, experiences and rates of learning and understanding.
The changes will ensure that schools can move away from the days of a narrow curriculum and instead give teachers the flexibility to be creative in their teaching. By using this approach practitioners will be able to use their professionalism and expert knowledge to create and design lessons that stretch learners’ abilities and horizons.
Kirsty Williams commented: “Wales started on this journey of reform because of a drive to improve standards – we want our young people to develop higher standards of literacy and numeracy, become more digitally and bilingually competent, and grow to be enterprising, creative and critical thinkers.
“I am absolutely clear that to raise standards and extend opportunities, we need to empower schools and teachers by moving away from a narrow, inflexible and crowded curriculum.
“This is an exciting time for education in Wales. Not only are we developing a curriculum that ensures our learners are equipped to meet the needs of the future, but we are developing a curriculum through genuine collaboration with our schools and key stakeholders.
“I am asking people across Wales to contribute to this debate over the coming weeks and months. The White Paper is ambitious and far-reaching. But we will only reach those high standards through a genuine national mission and conversation.”
David Evans, NEU Cymru’s Wales’ Secretary welcomed the consultation on the new Curriculum.
“We’re pleased the Welsh Government are consulting on the new Curriculum and Assessment arrangements. We have always been supportive of the new Curriculum in principle.
“It’s four years since Professor Donaldson created ‘Successful Futures’, with a vision of the new Curriculum for Wales. For our members not in a Pioneer school (who have been working on the curriculum), this consultation provides the first real look at the new Curriculum.
“We know that now is a critical point for the education sector in Wales. Schools are already having to be very creative with budgets as austerity is hitting the education sector hard. We know that cuts have been passed down from Westminster, but the Welsh Government needs to be careful with its expectations on the education workforce at a time when funding and staff wellbeing are at such critical levels.
“We are disappointed this is only an 8-week consultation – as that is a very short time for the education profession to have a thorough look at what is proposed. With that in mind, we will, of course, be highlighting the need to keep workload under review for education professionals as the new Curriculum is brought in.”
Back to school song competition
CALLING all budding Ed Sheeran’s and Ariana Grande’s – it’s time to put your songwriting skills to the test!
Council leader and composer Cllr Emlyn Dole has written a song especially to welcome children back to school following the coronavirus pandemic.
Mynd ‘nôl i’r Ysgol is about the excitement of going back to school to catch up with teachers and friends, and all the fun the children will have when they are there.
The song has been recorded by popular Welsh singer Gwenda Owen from Pontyberem, who is also Cllr Dole’s wife.
Cllr Dole is asking Carmarthenshire primary school pupils for their help to finish it by writing another verse.
The winning pupils will have the opportunity to sing and record the song in a studio with Gwenda at the start of the new school year in September.
Cllr Dole said: “It has been a difficult time for everyone over the last few months, but particularly for our children who have been home from school and missing their friends and teachers.
“We wanted to celebrate their return to school, and I wrote this song to welcome them back and everything they have to look forward to.
“It wasn’t our intention to turn it into a competition at first, but then we had the idea to challenge our primary schools to write another verse.
“I am really excited to see what the children come up with and I would like to wish everyone the best of luck, but most importantly to please just have fun.”
Information on how to enter the competition has been sent to all primary schools in Carmarthenshire. The deadline for entries is Friday, July 17 and the winner will be announced at the start of the autumn term.
Video link: https://vimeo.com/434292752
Adoption worker’s back to school story
RACHEL Cook has always wanted to write a children’s story.
But she has never been able to find the time to sit down and do it.
And then the coronavirus pandemic happened – which gave her some free time and also the inspiration too.
Rachel, who works for Carmarthenshire County Council as an adoption support worker, used her time during lockdown to write and illustrate Sammy Sloth Goes Back to School.
The story will hopefully help children who are feeling anxious about going back to school after being home for so long.
Rachel, aged 36, who has always worked with vulnerable children and children with additional learning needs, said: “I have always enjoyed being creative and have dreamed of writing short children’s stories and illustrating them for a long time.
“I never imagined that the first story I would write would be about a pandemic, but in times of so much change and uncertainty I found myself thinking of the many children I’ve supported over the years through transitions and how challenging this would be for so many.
“Children often find change particularly challenging, and with the changes approaching us as we begin to return to school, with it may come a mix of emotions and feelings. Stories are a natural way for children to learn about their feelings, to help them learn that their experiences of feeling worried or nervous about returning to school are faced by many.
“This story focuses on the familiar, particularly around relationships, as sometimes feelings of anxiety come from the unknown, and while we may not know everything about what school will look like in the coming months, by thinking of some of the things that will be staying the same, we can help our children feel more secure.”
The council’s translation team has translated the story into Welsh, and the council has arranged to print copies to put into the county’s primary schools.
Executive Board Member for Education and Children’s Services Cllr Glynog Davies said: “This is a wonderful story which I am sure will help a lot of children feeling uncertain about returning to school.
“I would like to both congratulate and thank Rachel; I am delighted that the book will be going into our primary schools for pupils to enjoy.”
The story is also available on the council website carmarthenshire.gov.wales/education for parents to download and read with their children.
Video link: https://vimeo.com/432814176
Funding package of £3 million to support ‘digitally excluded’ learners
SCHOOLCHILDREN in Carmarthenshire will benefit from a funding package of £3 million to support ‘digitally excluded’ learners in Wales during the coronavirus pandemic.
Education Minister Kirsty Williams made the announcement as part of Welsh Government’s ‘Stay Safe. Stay Learning’ programme.
A digitally excluded learner is someone who does not have access to a suitable internet-connected device to take part in online learning activities from home.
The funding will be used to provide digitally excluded learners with repurposed school devices and 4G MiFi connectivity. Replacement devices will also be funded for schools out of the wider Hwb infrastructure programme.
In Carmarthenshire, schools have already started contacting parents and carers to identify digitally excluded learners, and the council’s IT department are identifying devices which can be repurposed with up-to-date software.
To date, more than 500 families who require further assistance with access to learning have been identified, with some further work to be carried out over the next week.
Executive Board Member for Education and Children’s Services Cllr Glynog Davies said: “We welcome this extra funding from Welsh Government to provide families with the support they need so that their children can continue to learn. No child should be left behind because they do not have access to a computer or broadband.
“This is a huge logistical effort and colleagues from across the council are working together to deliver this support for families as quickly as possible.
“I would like to thank the schools for working hard with us on this, we have already made a good start; and I would also like to thank parents for their patience, support and understanding whilst we put this into place.”
The council’s Education and Children’s Services department have put together a Distance Learning Plan which sets out the way forward for learning in Carmarthenshire during the coronavirus outbreak.
The main aim is to mitigate the impact of school closures on our children and young people as far as possible so that they can quickly catch up when schools reopen; and access to learning and connectivity is one of the key priorities.
Carmarthenshire’s Distance Learning Plan can be found on the ‘Information and support for Parents’ page on the council website, visit newsroom.carmarthenshire.gov.wales/coronavirus
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