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Education

‘Pause button’ pressed on new curriculum

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Teaching unions: Welcome change of plans

KIRSTY WILLIAMS has listened to concerns expressed by teaching unions and opposition parties and elected to roll out a new curriculum in a phases, as opposed to one ‘big bang’.

Publishing the revised action plan on Tuesday ​(​Sept 26​)​, The Education Secretary revealed details of a plan that aims to continue to raise standards, reduce the attainment gap and deliver an education system that is a source of national pride and public confidence.

Objectives also include introducing a new accountability model and ensuring strong and inclusive schools committed to excellence and well-being.

​PHASED ROLL OUT

The new curriculum will be introduced from nursery to Year 7 in 2022, rolling into Year 8 in 2023, Year 9 in 2024, Year 10 in 2025 and Year 11 in 2026. All schools will have access the final curriculum from 2020, to allow them to move towards full roll-out in 2022.

Kirsty Williams said: “We are entering a fast-changing world that is increasingly competitive, globally connected and technologically advanced. Schools have to prepare our young people for jobs that have not yet been created and challenges that we are yet to encounter. Education has never been more important and, working with the teaching profession, we will continue our national mission to raise standards.

“Our plan is aimed at ensuring every young person in Wales has an equal opportunity to reach the highest standards and their full potential. We can’t achieve those ambitions if we just stand still. Teachers and educators across our system are working together to raise standards and reduce the attainment gap. It is an exciting time to be involved in education in Wales.

“We all share a responsibility to inspire and challenge the next generation. That is why we will support teachers with continuous learning and development, better support and identify our leaders, and reduce class sizes so that we can raise standards for all.”

Commenting on the new curriculum, she added: “Since becoming Education Secretary I have visited schools across the country, spoken to a range of teachers, parents and experts and held talks with unions.

“It’s the right decision to introduce the curriculum as a phased roll-out rather than a ‘big bang’, and for that to start in 2022. This approach, and an extra year, will mean all schools have the time to engage with the development of the curriculum and be full prepared for the changes. As the OECD have recommended, we will continue our drive to create a curriculum for the 21st century.”

​MILLAR AGREES BUT STILL MOANS

In December, Darren Millar AM, Welsh Conservative Shadow Education Secretary, called on the Welsh Government to “push the pause button” on the proposed changes.

Mr Millar has now welcomed the delay, but also predicted “major chaos” if teachers will be expected to teach two separate curriculums at the same time.

He said: “The extra 12 months to prepare for these major changes will be welcomed by schools and I encourage the Welsh Government to use this time to engage with teachers so that they are fully abreast of the transitions afoot.

“My major concern, however, is that under these plans two curriculums will be running side by side for a period of around six years.

“This has the potential to cause major chaos for teachers who are essentially being asked to juggle the demands of two syllabuses, and so Welsh Government will need to explain how it intends to manage this so that learning is not adversely affected.”

​MOVE WELCOMED

Plaid Cymru Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Education Llyr Gruffydd said: “Finally, the Cabinet Secretary has accepted what we have been warning for several months – the new National Curriculum should not be rushed through.

“Teachers and experts have expressed their concern that the Welsh Government has continued to attempt too many reforms at the same time without ensuring that the system has the capacity to implement them. It was naïve of the government to think that it can push through reforms to unrealistic timeframes.”

UCAC, the Welsh teachers’ union has welcomed the Plan.

Rebecca Williams, UCAC’s Policy Officer said​:​ “This action plan is a breath of fresh air. It strikes a refreshing balance between ambition and realism, setting out plans for deep and far-reaching reform, but also outlining realistic methods of working and timeframes.

“The plan emphasises progress through co-operation, support and respect for everyone at every level of the education system, in contrast to some of the more threatening methods of the past. This is clearly a joint project, with shared responsibility.

“UCAC very much welcomes the clarity about the introduction of the new curriculum. We believe that the timetable as set out in the action plan will allow sufficient time for design and testing, for training and familiarisation, and for forward-planning of any consequential reforms to qualifications.

“The attitude towards assessment and accountability, with its emphasis on ‘assessment for learning’ rather than artificial comparisons between schools, is another positive step.

“We look forward to being part of the project, as a critical friend, over the next four years and beyond.”

NEU ​PRAISES STATEMENT

The National Education Union Cymru has also praised the statement by the Cabinet Secretary for Education, which it says recognises the concerns raised by the union over the last year.

David Evans, Wales Secretary of the National Education Union, said: “This announcement will be welcomed by the teaching profession and shows that the Cabinet Secretary is listening to the concerns that have been raised and is acting on the best advice and evidence available to her.

“There is a true consensus behind the new curriculum. The sector is on board with the Welsh Government’s vision but we must all make sure we are not risking that good will by rushing its implementation. The new timescales offer a better opportunity to develop the rigour of the system. At the same time changes to the way it will be introduced, moving from a big bang approach to a phased roll out, will make for a much smoother transition process which better supports school staff and pupils.

“The National Education Union have warned that the delivery of the new curriculum was not going to work under the old timeframe and so we are certainly delighted that the Cabinet Secretary has taken our views on board and has set in place a more realistic and promising strategy.”

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Education

Examination crisis: teacher’s predicted grades to be given to students

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THE Welsh Government has announced today (Mon, Aug 17) that AS, A level, GCSE, Skills Challenge Certificate and Welsh Baccalaureate grades in Wales will now be awarded on the basis of Centre Assessment Grades.

This occurred after the outrage of students, causing protests outside the Senedd after hearing that a total of 42% of A-level grades predicted by their teachers had been lowered when the Welsh results were published last week. This was due to the decision to process these grades through an algorithm.

Education Minister Kirsty Williams said she took the decision to maintain confidence in the system.

Speaking on the decision, Kirsty Williams said: “Working with Qualifications Wales and WJEC we have sought an approach which provides fairness and balances out differences in the standards applied to judgments in schools.

“Given decisions elsewhere, the balance of fairness now lies with awarding Centre Assessment grades to students, despite the strengths of the system in Wales.

“I am taking this decision now ahead of results being released this week, so that there is time for the necessary work to take place.

“For grades issued last week, I have decided that all awards in Wales, will also be made on the basis of teacher assessment.

“For those young people, for whom our system produced higher grades than those predicted by teachers, the higher grades will stand.

“Maintaining standards is not new for 2020, it is a feature of awarding qualifications every year in Wales, and across the UK.

“However, it is clear that maintaining confidence in our qualifications whilst being fair to students requires this difficult decision.

“These have been exceptional circumstances, and in due course I will be making a further statement on an independent review of events following the cancellation of this year’s exams.

“Other Awarding Bodies across the UK are involved in determining the approach to vocational qualifications. This continues to be the case but it is important that I give assurance to GCSE, AS and A level student at the earliest opportunity.”

This was a decision welcomed by Suzy Davies, Shadow Education Minister.

Commenting on the Decision, Suzy Davies said: “This has been an exceptional time, and this news will come as a very welcome relief for the thousands of A-Level students who last week were looking at grades lower than they were predicted to receive. It will also be a relief to pupils expecting results this week as well as an acknowledgement of quite how much effort teachers put into this.

“It is reassuring that the Minister has listened to the Welsh Conservatives and other parties in the Welsh Parliament, but especially pleasing that she heard the voices of young people up and down the country.

“These students – at A, AS, GCSE, Skills Challenge Certificate, and Welsh Baccalaureate level – will now have the confidence to plan their future education or career aspirations, and reach their potential.”

The Education Minister also promised an independent review of the events “following the cancellation of this year’s exams”.

Students who received higher grades than those predicted by teachers will keep them.

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Education

Swansea University appoints new governing body Chair

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Swansea University is pleased to announce that Bleddyn Phillips has been appointed as its new Chair of Council.
Mr Phillips, who joined the University’s governing body in May 2017, has been appointed Chair for a four-year term replacing Sir Roger Jones, whose term of office came to an end in September 2019.

Mr Phillips said: “It is a great honour to be appointed Swansea University’s Chair of Council. As a Welsh-speaker, with strong roots in Llanelli and Gower, and with both parents having studied at Swansea, I have long felt an affinity with the University and have been delighted to serve on the Council.

“I want to acknowledge the contribution made to the University by Sir Roger Jones over almost 14 years and I very much look forward to working with, and serving, the University as it celebrates its centenary in 2020 and beyond.”

Professor Paul Boyle, Vice-Chancellor of the University, said “It will be a privilege to work with Bleddyn as we develop our new strategic plan and look forward to beginning our second century in 2020.”

Mr Phillips is a lawyer by profession, a former commercial director at oil companies BP and Total, and later Global Head of the Oil and Gas practice at the international law firm, Clifford Chance LLP. He is Director of Llanelli Scarlets RFC and was a trustee of the Wales Millennium Centre from 2012-2018.

The Council is the University’s governing body, which approves the mission and strategic vision of the University, long-term academic and business plans, key performance indicators and overall standards. The Council assures that the University discharges its duties in accordance with the Welsh Quality Assessment Framework.

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Education

Experts attack Welsh Government’s proposed smacking ban plan

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PROMINENT academics have criticised the Welsh Government’s bill to criminalise parental smacking during a public debate at Swansea University.

Tonight, experts from the fields of sociology and criminology and parenting studies poured scorn on the plan during an Academy of Ideas debate on state intervention in the family.

A panel of three academics discussed the merits or otherwise of the smacking legislation, which is due to be debated by AMs for a third time in January next year.

Dr Stuart Waiton, a senior lecturer in sociology and criminology at Abertay University and outspoken critic of the Scottish smacking Bill, said: “No longer treated like citizens, as adults who have an opinion and a basic level of autonomy to raise our children, we have culture change imposed from on high – we are made ‘aware’ by the new authoritarians holding the stick above us.

“The smacking act is a disgrace. It is a form of brutality that undermines parents, weakens the meaning of freedom, and will go on to destroy many loving families who dare to think and act differently to the modern elitists.”

Dr Waiton added: “The brutality of the smacking act will mean that a light smack on the hand or bottom of a child will be a criminal offence. Hard smacking is already illegal, but to the middle-class anti-smacking zealots that was not enough. Children, they argue, need equal protection from assault. The very language they use is alien to the millions of parents who occasionally smack rather than assault their children.

“Parents know that smacking a child is a form of discipline often done out of love and concern rather than something that is abusive and criminal.”

Criticising the way politicians at the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assembly have engaged with parents on the smacking legislation, he said: “The new elite think a lot about consultation and inclusion. The reality is a process run by a small section of society, politicians and professionals, who exist in their own bubble and are distant and disconnected from ordinary people.”

Ellie Lee, Professor of Parenting Research at the University of Kent also spoke out on the Welsh Government’s plans.

“Within the context of an authoritative child rearing relationship, aversive discipline including smacking is well accepted by the young child, effective in managing short-term misbehaviour and has no documented harmful long-term effects.”

She added: “It should be the concern of professionals who work with parents to respectfully offer them alternative disciplinary strategies rather than to condemn parents for using methods consonant with their own, but not the counsellors beliefs and values.”

The Professor accused the Welsh Government of using the “full force of the criminal law to attack people who disagree on the comparative merits of using smacking rather than something like timeout”, saying it is a “bureaucratic imposition on parents”.

Only one academic – Dr Gideon Calder, Associate Professor in Sociology and Social Policy at Swansea University – spoke in favour of Government interventions like the smacking ban.

Dr Calder argued that intervention is justifiable in some instances and said something like the smacking ban is not necessarily authoritarian. He said: “the point of the legislation is to safeguard children from potentially harmful interactions.”

Commenting on the debate, Jamie Gillies, spokesman for the Be Reasonable Wales campaign, said:

“The criticism levelled at the Government’s smacking plans tonight by experts in the fields of sociology, criminology and parenting studies should be a wakeup call to Ministers.

“Experts are not convinced that the plan to outlaw parental smacking is viable, needful or helpful in terms of improving child protection.

“I hope AMs hear the concerns of these academics as well as their constituents and scrap the smacking ban bill when it’s voted on in January.”

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