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How are schools preparing for the Curriculum for Wales? Findings from Estyn’s thematic report

Read this post in Welsh

Estyn has been fully involved throughout the development of the Curriculum for Wales. We have recently published our pilot inspection framework to explain how we will inspect schools during this transition phase and following September 2022. In this post, we hope to help school leaders and teachers consider their response to the Curriculum for Wales, by sharing some of the emerging strengths and perceived barriers to progress that schools have shared with us. We expand on these in a series of webinars.

Since the publication of the Curriculum for Wales 2022, the teaching profession across Wales has had the opportunity to reflect on their current practice and consider how this might change when delivering a purpose led curriculum. Further guidance to support schools has been provided in the Welsh Government document The Journey to rollout.

Although schools have faced a challenging time during the COVID-19 pandemic, increasingly they are beginning to reconsider their planning for Curriculum for Wales. This has also involved considering what they have learnt from this period that they will want to develop further, for example the use of digital platforms.

During the pandemic, Estyn has continued to sensitively engage with schools and work closely with the Welsh Government,, regional consortia and local authorities. We have provided reports summarising how they have responded and adapted to the many challenges.

In May 2018, Estyn published a thematic report looking at curriculum innovation in primary schools. This report provides a useful starting point. Leaders and teachers could use the toolkit to see where their school is on the curriculum journey or explore the links to specific case studies.

Prior to the pandemic we also visited a number of secondary, special and all age schools and, as a result, published our thematic report, Preparing for the Curriculum for Wales.

The report highlights strengths and barriers that we identified during this engagement with schools and provides case studies and cameos that highlight how different schools are approaching this reform.

Where emerging plans are working well:

  • Leaders show a clear commitment to and understanding of the Curriculum for Wales
  • Schools are developing a strong, ambitious vision for their curriculum, teaching and learning and outcomes for pupils
  • Schools focus on improving teaching and learning, developing a common understanding of the ‘how’ of teaching as the key enabler to a strong curriculum
  • Senior leaders encourage staff to take considered risks to improve curriculum design and planning; where this works particularly well there is flexibility on the approach across disciplines or areas of learning and experience
  • School-to-school collaboration, for example between primary and secondary schools, is used effectively to understand what the progression of pupils from 3 to 16 looks like

Some of the barriers that need to be overcome to ensure the successful implementation of the Curriculum for Wales:

  • Finding time to think strategically
  • Providing professional learning opportunities to ensure that all staff understand the curriculum design process
  • Developing an understanding of the link between the curriculum and pedagogy
  • Developing stronger partnership working between schools
  • Planning carefully approaches to design and delivery to avoid superficial links between AoLEs

The aim of sharing these strengths is to encourage school leaders and teachers to take this opportunity to reflect on their current practice and consider ‘how might I do things differently’.

In the Autumn term, Estyn hosted the second in a series of webinars which looks at this report in more detail. This webinar considers approaches schools have taken to develop their vision for curriculum and teaching. It also identified examples where schools have worked to improve teaching.

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