Coronavirus has a lot to answer for, but one of its main impacts has been on the education of children in Wales. Not just for now, but also for the future, as a major new piece of legislation makes its way through the Senedd’s law-making process.
The Chair of the Children, Young People and Education Committee, Lynne Neagle MS, writes about the Curriculum and Assessment (Wales) Bill, which could change what and how children in Wales are taught for generations to come:
In July, while the country was still under lockdown, the Welsh Government introduced its long-awaited Curriculum and Assessment (Wales) Bill. This bill, if passed, would fundamentally change the education system in Wales, but how much do people know about it?
Because it was introduced under the Coronavirus lockdown, much of the media attention was, understandably, invested in covering the pandemic. But with so many people adjusting to home working or even furloughed, there is a danger the bill could slip off the radar.
Delaying introducing the bill would’ve meant the Welsh Government pushing back rolling out a new curriculum as planned from 2022, or giving schools and teachers less time to prepare.
While the decision to introduce it now was a difficult one for ministers to make, they felt it was necessary to keep to the timetable for introducing the new curriculum. They have also argued that the Coronavirus pandemic means changes are needed now more than ever.
With the bill currently going through the Senedd’s law-making process, this could be one of the last chances people have to influence what it says and does.
The new ‘Curriculum for Wales’ is a huge departure from the status quo, giving schools the power to design and adopt a local curriculum based on the needs of its own pupils.
But does this mean there will be sharp differences between the standards and content of what children are learning? The Welsh Government says no, because local curricula will still have to meet key requirements which are set out in the Bill itself.
But if you’re going to be rigid about key requirements, is it wise to allow schools to choose their own ways of meeting them? Is it passing the buck, or empowering teachers? How would it help to bridge the attainment gaps we currently have between schools in the same towns, or across different regions of Wales?
There are further provisions in the bill which would affect arrangements including the teaching of Welsh and English , what children and young people learn about religion, values and ethics, and what schools are expected to provide in terms of relationships and sexuality education for pupils.
Lots of people will have lots of different views about these matters, and I would urge every parent, carer and teacher to consider these issues, and the bill as a whole, to see how it would affect your children’s education, or how you will deliver that education.
The Children, Young People and Education Committee is currently considering the bill and there is a public consultation underway to gather concerns, opinions and ideas. Please take part and help inform our findings and recommendations.
The consultation closes on 29 September.
More information on the Curriculum and Assessment (Wales) Bill can be found here.
More information about the Children, Young People and Education Committee can be found here.
More information about how the Senedd makes laws can be found here.