As the education sector in Wales welcomes a new minister, Finola Wilson calls for the implementation of the new curriculum to be delayed.
Congratulations Jeremy Miles, who has become the eighth education minister in post-devolution Wales.
Mr Miles might at first seem an odd choice for the role of education minister, as his professional background is primarily in law and the media, but his recent cabinet roles suggest he might have the skills required to tackle his tough new brief.
As part as his previous appointment as Counsel General for Wales, Mr Miles was also the Brexit Minister and the minister in charge of co-ordinating Wales’ recovery from coronavirus.
Hopefully his experience at dealing with the two biggest challenges to have faced the Welsh Government in the last decade will stand him in good stead for his new role.
Mr Miles will certainly have had a full in tray when he arrived at his new office in Ty Hywel, but the two main challenges he faces will be the implementation of Curriculum for Wales and the recovery from Covid-19.
As it currently stands, all schools in Wales will be required to implement Curriculum for Wales from September 2022 after Members of the Senedd voted to pass the Curriculum and Assessment (Wales) Bill into law in March.
“Over half of teachers questioned think not enough schools will be ready to implement Curriculum for Wales in September 2022.”
This is despite the fact that preparations have been hugely disrupted by the coronavirus closures and lockdowns of the past year.
The new curriculum will see a shift towards a less prescriptive approach for schools and greater responsibility placed on teachers to make decisions about what is taught in the classroom.
Kirsty Williams, Mr Miles’ predecessor who stepped down from the Senedd at the election last month, consistently refused to delay the implementation to help schools recover from the impact of Covid-19.
Several teaching unions have called for a delay and during the election campaign the Welsh Conservatives said they would delay implementation by a year if voted into government.
Before the election we at Impact Wales conducted a survey of educators in Wales to gauge their opinion on Curriculum for Wales readiness.
Just over half of teachers questioned (50.4%) think not enough schools will be ready to implement Curriculum for Wales in September 2022.
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Some 47.2% think some schools will be ready by the deadline and only 2.4% think all schools will be ready.
Primary school teachers are more pessimistic than their secondary school peers, with 54.5% of primary teachers saying not enough schools will be ready compared to 45.6% of secondary teachers.
Asked whether delaying the implementation date would mean schools ‘take their foot off the gas’ in terms of preparations, 73.9% or primary teachers and 67.2 % of secondary teachers disagree.
One teacher said: “We have had so little time, what with having to learn how to teach remotely this year. No work has gone into CfW because it’s not been the ‘priority’.”
Another said: “If the implementation was delayed, it would allow schools some recovery time to assess the impact of the pandemic on an individual level.”
However, other teachers said schools had continued to prepare and delaying further would just lead to more uncertainty.
So it is clear from the survey that teachers don’t share Kirsty Williams’ faith that enough schools will be in a position to implement the new curriculum next year.
“Schools are best placed to determine the needs of their staff and their learners and whether or not are ready for the new curriculum.”
Covid-19 has had an impact on every aspect of schooling in Wales, with teachers and pupils having to learn new skills and adapt to new circumstances, and even though life appears to be returning to some sort of normality, there is a high likelihood of more disruption over the next year.
We strongly believe schools should be spending these next twelve months supporting children to manage the impact the pandemic has had on their learning, not preparing for a drastic overhaul of their curriculum.
Our children deserve the best pedagogy we can provide right now, which is why teachers should be focusing on improving the quality of teaching and learning above all else.
As the educationalist Professor Dylan Wiliam said: “A bad curriculum well taught is invariably a better experience for students than a good curriculum badly taught: pedagogy trumps curriculum.”
Schools are best placed to determine the needs of their staff and their learners and whether or not are ready for the new curriculum.
That’s why we think the formal implementation date of Curriculum for Wales should be delayed by a year to September 2023, while still allowing those schools that feel they are ready to start teaching the curriculum from September 2022.
We hope the new education minister agrees.
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