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How ‘Areas of Learning and Experience’ are being developed as a central element of the new curriculum

Darllenwch y dudalen hon yn Gymraeg

This post has now been updated to reflect the fact that the Curriculum Guidance was published in January 2020. See the new post here!

Group of teachers sharing information - SLO1The new Curriculum for Wales will comprise of Six Areas of Learning and Experience (AoLEs):

Expressive Arts;  Health and Well-being; Humanities;  Languages, Literacy and Communication;  Mathematics and Numeracy; Science and Technology.

But how do they connect to the four purposes set out in ‘Successful Futures’ and what do they comprise?

In this post we answer those questions, accepting that this is all still work in progress as development work continues into the Autumn.

Each AoLE comprises:

  1. An explanation of how it supports the four purposes
  2. ‘What Matters’ statements and rationales – which together describe the essential aspects of learning within the AoLE
  3. The knowledge, skills and experiences relating to each ‘What Matters’ statement
  4. Progression Steps and Achievement Outcomes

Let’s look at these in detail:

1. An explanation of how the AoLE supports the four purposes


This shows how the AoLE makes a distinct and strong contribution to developing the four purposes, whilst also making connections with the ‘What Matters’ statements it contains.

2. The ‘What Matters’ statements and rationales


Each AoLE will have a number of ‘What Matters’ statements (usually between four and seven). Together, they span the breadth of the AoLE, drawing on disciplinary knowledge and skills, making links with the four purposes, and setting out the essential aspects of learning. Each ‘What Matters’ supports at least one of the four purposes.

Here’s an example of a ‘What Matters’ for the Humanities AoLE:

Our natural world is diverse and dynamic, influenced by physical processes and human actions.

Each ‘What Matters’ has an accompanying rationale that justifies why it is so important within the AoLE, and ‘triggers’ connections to the four purposes, the knowledge, skills and experiences needed to achieve it, and the other ‘What Matters’.

See a full update on curriculum development to May 2018, which includes draft statements and rationales for each AoLE

See the AoLE design model

3. The knowledge, skills and experiences identified as key to achieving each of the ‘What Matters’


Recommendation 4 of Successful Futures states that each AoLE should ‘be internally coherent, employ distinctive ways of thinking, and have an identifiable core of disciplinary or instrumental knowledge’. Hence under each ‘What Matters’ statement will be the key knowledge, skills and experiences recommended as essential to achieving it.

The detail in this element of the AoLE will help practitioners design school-level curriculum, and guide as to how learners should progress towards achieving the achievement outcomes linked to the ‘What Matters’ statement.

So this has two sections which describe:

  • An outline of ‘content’ that must be covered at some point on the continuum
  • An outline of progression that explains the nature of change across the continuum of learning

For each ‘What Matters’ these will refer to:

  • Key knowledge, skills & experiences that reflect relevant disciplines and domains within the scope of the AoLE
  • Sequencing where appropriate
  • Cross-Curriculum Responsibilities & Wider Skills
  • Welsh dimension and international perspective where appropriate
  • Links to other ‘What Matters’ statements within the AoLE and other AoLEs where appropriate.

How is ‘content’ selected?

AoLE groups are currently developing this section of the curriculum.

To select ‘content’ (knowledge, skills and/or experiences), the AoLE representatives are working to the principles that it should:

  • Enable progression (described below) and support learners in achieving the ‘What Matters’ and the relevant four purposes.
  • Be deemed as essential to the ‘What Matters’, reflecting relevant subjects, disciplines or domains within the scope of the AoLE, and/or to prepare learners for their future roles in education, work and society.
  • Be broad enough to be meaningful across the continuum of learning (and not tied to specific Progression Steps).

The ‘content’ will help practitioners to plan school-level curriculum whilst allowing appropriate autonomy; it will help schools and clusters to plan their curriculum between progression steps so they achieve each ‘What Matters’.

4. ‘Progression’

For each ‘What Matters’, a broad description of progression is set out, drawing on content and the nature of change across school years considered essential to achieving the statement. These narratives will describe what learners should be working towards throughout the continuum of learning, with expectations broadly at 5,8,11,14 and 16.

This will form the basis for practitioners’ planning to support each individual learner in their journey along the continuum and for professional dialogue between practitioners within and between schools. It will also reflect the aim outlined in Successful Futures that sound foundations in learning are the best basis for progression as well as helping learners to progress along the continuum at their own pace.

Where appropriate, references will be made to literacy, numeracy, digital competence, the wider skills and the Welsh dimension, and international perspective.

Progression Steps and Achievement Outcomes


AoLE groups are working on this area over the Summer term. As outlined in Successful Futures:

  • Progression Steps will be described at five points in the learning continuum, relating broadly to expectations at ages 5, 8, 11, 14 and 16.
  • Progression Steps will take the form of a range of Achievement Outcomes.


  • By signalling an emphasis on achievement in a broad sense, these outcomes broaden the scope of what we value in children and young people’s learning.
  • Achievement Outcomes will be described from the learner’s point of view, using terms like ‘I have…’ for experiences and ‘I can…’ for outcomes.
  • Achievement Outcomes will include:
    • Knowledge, Skills & Experiences
    • Cross-Curriculum Responsibilities and wider skills
    • Welsh dimension/ international perspective where appropriate
  • Achievement Outcomes will contribute to achieving the four purposes.

Achievement Outcomes will be broad but include enough detail and clarity to ensure consistency in understanding and avoid variability in realisation.

1 comment

  1. Kate Thomas on

    Reblogged this on Crickhowell & Gwernyfed Cluster.

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