This time last week, I was in London getting ready to speak at an All Party Parliamentary Group for Dyslexia and Other Specific Learning Difficulties. It was a fantastic event and I really enjoyed my time there talking with policy makers, educators, professionals and those whose lived experiences have involved dyslexia and literacy difficulties. However, there were also some very challenging accounts of schooling and education discussed, and stark data relating to familial experiences of dyslexia shared. I like to think that we’ve started some more discussion on the importance of supporting learners with dyslexia and that dyslexia is not necessarily synonymous with poor literacy (although there is often an overlap). I’m still working on projects and articles linked to this APPG and the study we undertook, so there will be appearing on here in due course.
Welsh Curriculum Reform
I’ve a few contacts in Wales through various networks and meetings I’ve been to. I also only live in Wiltshire, so it’s not that far over to Wales for me and I’ve been aware through these connections that the Welsh school curriculum has been being developed and updated for some years.
Yesterday, it seems that a draft version of the reforms went live and I’ve subsequently seen a lot of traffic on social media and the internet in general about the proposed reforms, so I thought I’d take a look. It can only be a matter of time before the English curriculum gets tweaked more and added to so it’s always worth seeing what’s happening in the other parts of the UK.
When I looked through the document, I was hoping to be in awe of the massively different take that it has on subjects and areas of learning from other curricular documentation I’ve read. I must confess, I wasn’t. One thing that did strike me was a significant emphasis on digital competency, which in the modern world, I think is important to focus on for learners. As long as the kids aren’t programming turtle robots as part of a Computer Science Curriculum, which I’ve seen in English classrooms; it was horrendous. Learners were expected to write algorithms, understand an entire new set of technical language and apply it without being taught how to use ICT. Use of ICT and understanding programming are not mutually exclusive at all, but I just hope that learners are taught to save, copy and back-up documents before they do more complex things. As a classroom teacher whose specialism is not ICT, it is incredibly frustrating that kids in KS3 cannot save a document or send an email attachment!
There was use of ‘I can’ statements so that learning outcomes are learner-friendly (interestingly, my current school has been doing that for years!) and there was clearly a desire not to prescribe how teachers and educators should help their learners achieve those outcomes. This I like very much; since teaching to ‘I can’ statements I have found it much easier to help my students track their own progress.
There were a few things that did stand out, however.
Progression Points: at 5, 8, 11, 14 and 16 there are progression points where learners’ progress is monitored. The breakdown of how this will take place seemed unclear. Are there school-based tests, teacher assessments, national standardised tests? I wasn’t clear. And, given the controversy surrounding testing in England, I think the Welsh government needs to look at what is causing problems here to try to avoid the same mess. For me the jury is out on this one as monitoring progress is vital, but whether it needs to be formalised at certain points, I don’t know. Teachers monitor their students continuously so I don’t know what this would bring to the table per say. It will also be interesting to see how GCSEs and equivalent qualifications progress as the curriculum reforms develop.
Rather than a ‘curriculum’ the documentation seemed to provide an ethos to education where “a duty is placed on schools to provide a curriculum that enables most learners to reach, or go beyond, the achievement outcomes set by the school and progress along the continuum for the progression steps according to the learner’s educational development.” I find the concept of an ethos interesting and potentially very positive, as it does free schools/teachers to set their own programmes of study, and they can be tailored to schools’ own needs. However, the notion that most learners should reach or achieve more than outcomes set within school seems to suggest that all learners must be above average. It seems to me that this may encourage schools to set the bar low, so that they can demonstrate that their cohorts are all ‘exceeding’ their outcomes. This worries me and I would be interested to see how it progresses.
RE: I am really curious as to why RE is a core subject. I think it’s important that I’m clear here too: I am a Christian and I would think it much more productive and educational to promote a philosophy curriculum which includes RE as part of it, rather than focusing on RE. I am puzzled by it. Philosophy would surely offer a much broader understanding of the social world and an insight into cultures other than the learners’ own.
There is no mention in the curriculum documentation that describes how learners’ additional needs will be met within the curriculum. I find this, again, puzzling given that that at present there are reforms taking place around SEN/ALN in Wales. For me, to ensure that provision is holistic and ‘joined up’ the documentation should speak to each other and connect. I didn’t see that in what I read. This troubles me for young people who do have additional learning needs.
I think this curriculum reform looks interesting and I’ll be keeping my ear to the ground to see how the consultation goes. But I remain reserved because I see huge potential for workload increases, vagueness around progression points and how standards, outcomes and curriculum aims will be set in schools.
One to watch, I think!