The draft of the new Welsh curriculum has just been published and has now entered its consultation period. Naturally, opinions vary on its content and how it might work in practice. However, what is clear is that the new plans are very different to what most people will have experienced previously. Whichever way you look at it, the draft curriculum represents a major change in culture and a milestone that will certainly become the biggest shake-up to occur in Welsh schools for decades.

The obvious follow-up question has to be: Is the new draft Welsh curriculum showing the way forward for the rest of the UK?

What does the new Welsh curriculum look like?

Welsh Education Minister, Kirsty Williams, was at pains to emphasise that the new curriculum should not be seen as a prescriptive ‘rule book’, and to highlight the principles behind the approach that have been taken in devising the new framework.

The new proposals are a shift away from a narrow, subject-by-subject curriculum which sets out – by topic and by time spent – what pupils should be learning. The new curriculum aims to reshape and rethink what and how young people should be taught, introducing 6 broad areas of learning and experience (AOLE). The areas are: Maths and Numeracy; Languages, Literacy and Communication, Health and Well-being; Humanities; Science and Technology, and Expressive Arts.

Teaching unions have been very supportive of the vision of the new Welsh curriculum. Many teachers from across the UK will look with interest and a degree of envy at a curriculum that appears to be the antithesis of the narrow, assessment-heavy model currently in place in the England.

An aspirational curriculum model: What do people think?

Whilst unions clearly back the principles at the heart of the new curriculum, they have also expressed concerns that its successful implementation could be held back because of funding issues and job cuts. Indeed, criticism has been scathing, stating that the continued failure to invest in the education workforce leaves the ambitions and aspirations of the new Welsh curriculum plans looking somewhat hollow and empty.
Many teachers in Wales are enthusiastic about the freedom that the new curriculum offers. On the flipside, others have criticised its vagueness and the lack of clarity about what might be expected of them.

The consultation period – which runs until 19 July – is an opportunity for schools, colleges, universities, employers and parents to give their views. A total of £44m has already been set aside to support schools to prepare for the implementation of the new curriculum – set to be in introduced in 2022.

Time will tell what the new Welsh curriculum will look like once all stakeholders have had their say during the consultation period. Of course, it’s only natural that the proposals have been met with a degree of cynicism given the current climate of underfunding. It’s easy to be critical, but the draft curriculum does at least show a government looking forward and thinking how to do things differently.

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