Common Purposes

A pile of colourful textbooks seen from the side

The IWA’s Common Purposes, the implications of curriculum reform in Wales for further education, higher education, skills and business project has explored practical steps to ensure the implementation of curriculum reform in Wales is integrated with and supported by the further education, higher education, skills and business communities.


Wales is currently undergoing a major educational reform. Following a review undertaken by Professor Graham Donaldson in 2015, Wales is implementing a new curriculum for 3-16 year olds, designed to put literacy, numeracy and digital competence at the heart of the education system.

In order to deliver the vision of Successful Futures, content is presently being developed by various groups. In these initial stages, the development work happening at present is largely through the education community including Pioneer Schools, and in the Areas of Learning and Experience working groups established by the Welsh Government.

Looking ahead, there is a clear opportunity and rationale to engage with institutions beyond schools to identify steps that ensure the roll-out of a new curriculum is well integrated with other areas of policy and to encourage a seamless pathway for learners as they progress from compulsory education.

The Common Purposes project is generously supported by the Learned Society of Wales and the Wales Institute of Social & Economic Research, Data & Methods (WISERD).

Syniadau uchelgeisiol, awdurdodol a mentrus.
Ymunwch â ni i gyfrannu at wneud Cymru gwell.

What we did

Through this project, we undertook a perception audit between October 2018 and January 2019 with representatives of the further education, higher education, skills and business communities in Wales to understand their engagement with the new curriculum to date, as well as their hopes and fears for the future.

We also undertook a programme of engagement in Scotland in early December to learn from their recent experience of introducing Curriculum for Excellence, in which Professor Graham Donaldson also played a crucial role.

What next

Reflecting on the conversations in Scotland and Wales, we have made eight recommendations which we hope will contribute towards the success of the new curriculum:

  1. The Welsh Government should ensure the next phase of development of the curriculum in Pioneer Schools should require the exploration of links and engagement with local community partners.
  2. The Welsh Government should develop a programme of communication and engagement with each interested sector, communicating a shared narrative in a meaningful and accessible format.
  3. The Welsh Government and sector representatives need to communicate actively with the further education, higher education, skills and business communities during both the design and implementation of the new curriculum, to ensure the scale and pace of reform is well understood.
  4. Further education, higher education, skills and business communities need to be empowered to share the conversations they are having with regard to curriculum development, and this may require additional resource from the Welsh Government.
  5. The Welsh Government should ensure that a refreshed accountability framework is in place for the period of implementation which measures the success of the new curriculum against its four key purposes, whilst taking account of the continued demands of schools to deliver an existing programme.
  6. Welsh Government should ensure it has the resource and capacity to provide strategic leadership and support communications which allow schools and other partners to deliver the ambitions of the new curriculum in practice.
  7. The Welsh Government should ensure that effective, meaningful engagement with children, young people and parents is a continuous feature of both curriculum design and implementation.
  8. The Welsh Government should ensure that its proposals are accessible to a broad range of interested parties, including children, young people and parents, and professionals outside the compulsory education sector.

We hope this project is just the start of a much wider conversation. You can read the project report here.

The Institute of Welsh Affairs gratefully acknowledges funding support from the Learned Society of Wales and WISERD.