Developing a vision for curriculum design
- Part of
Developing a vision
In reflecting on the questions posed in the introduction, schools and practitioners should develop a vision for their curriculum. This will require schools and practitioners to consider the following.
- What should we teach and why?
- How should we teach it?
- How will this support our learners to realise the four purposes?
This should be an ongoing conversation for the whole school and beyond, engaging with parents/carers and the wider community, including business, academia and public services. It should be informed by the school’s values and ethos, as well as by its location and surroundings. However, it should retain an approach that is consistent with the learning set out in national guidance.
It should also consider, as an intrinsic part of curriculum design, how assessment will support this vision for their curriculum and the learning it will support. It should provide the rationale which schools return to in making sense of what experiences, knowledge and skills will help learners to develop and why.
Schools and practitioners should have a vision to develop a curriculum which:
- contributes to learners’ realisation of the four purposes and acquisition of the integral skills which underpin them
- supports the development of their learners’ sense of identity in Wales
- is broad and balanced
- is appropriate for their learners, with regards to their age, ability and aptitude
- enables appropriate progression for all learners along the continuum of learning
- incorporates opportunities for the application of mandatory cross-curricular skills
- incorporates assessment for learners’ progression
- draws on learner voice and responds to learners’ needs, experiences and input
- fulfils curriculum requirements
Curriculum design and the four purposes
The four purposes should be the starting point and aspiration for schools’ curriculum design. Ultimately, the aim of a school’s curriculum is to support its learners to become:
- ambitious, capable learners, ready to learn throughout their lives
- enterprising, creative contributors, ready to play a full part in life and work
- ethical, informed citizens of Wales and the world
- healthy, confident individuals, ready to lead fulfilling lives as valued members of society
All our children and young people will be supported to develop as:
ambitious, capable learners who:
- set themselves high standards and seek and enjoy challenge
- are building up a body of knowledge and have the skills to connect and apply that knowledge in different contexts
- are questioning and enjoy solving problems
- can communicate effectively in different forms and settings, using both Welsh and English
- can explain the ideas and concepts they are learning about
- can use number effectively in different contexts
- understand how to interpret data and apply mathematical concepts
- use digital technologies creatively to communicate, find and analyse information
- undertake research and evaluate critically what they find
and are ready to learn throughout their lives
enterprising, creative contributors who:
- connect and apply their knowledge and skills to create ideas and products
- think creatively to reframe and solve problems
- identify and grasp opportunities
- take measured risks
- lead and play different roles in teams effectively and responsibly
- express ideas and emotions through different media
- give of their energy and skills so that other people will benefit
and are ready to play a full part in life and work
ethical, informed citizens who:
- find, evaluate and use evidence in forming views
- engage with contemporary issues based upon their knowledge and values
- understand and exercise their human and democratic responsibilities and rights
- understand and consider the impact of their actions when making choices and acting
- are knowledgeable about their culture, community, society and the world, now and in the past
- respect the needs and rights of others, as a member of a diverse society
- show their commitment to the sustainability of the planet
and are ready to be citizens of Wales and the world
healthy, confident individuals who:
- have secure values and are establishing their spiritual and ethical beliefs
- are building their mental and emotional well-being by developing confidence, resilience and empathy
- apply knowledge about the impact of diet and exercise on physical and mental health in their daily lives
- know how to find the information and support to keep safe and well
- take part in physical activity
- take measured decisions about lifestyle and manage risk
- have the confidence to participate in performance
- form positive relationships based upon trust and mutual respect
- face and overcome challenge
- have the skills and knowledge to manage everyday life as independently as they can
and are ready to lead fulfilling lives as valued members of society.
In developing their vision for their curriculum, schools and practitioners should consider what the four purposes mean for their learners and how their curriculum will support their learners to realise them. Their vision – and the four purposes more broadly – should then guide the process of curriculum and assessment design. This will include developing their approach to curriculum design decisions across the whole school.
As schools develop their vision to support their learners to realise the four purposes, learner voice should be central to this. The input of learners should be an important consideration throughout the design process.
British Sign Language (BSL) videos
Skills integral to the four purposes
The four purposes are also underpinned by integral skills which should be developed within a wide range of learning and teaching. At the heart of these skills is the importance of learners recognising, using and creating different types of value. In this context, value means worth and importance in a range of contexts, including financial, cultural, social and learning value.
These skills are noted below.
Creativity and innovation
Learners should be given space to be curious and inquisitive, and to generate many ideas. They should be supported to link and connect disparate experiences, knowledge and skills, and see, explore and justify alternative solutions. They should be able to identify opportunities and communicate their strategies. This should support learners to create different types of value.
Critical thinking and problem-solving
Learners should be supported to ask meaningful questions, and to evaluate information, evidence and situations. They should be able to analyse and justify possible solutions, recognising potential issues and problems. Learners should become objective in their decision-making, identifying and developing arguments. They should be able to propose solutions which generate different types of value.
Learners should develop emotional intelligence and awareness, becoming confident and independent. They should have opportunities to lead debate and discussions, becoming aware of the social, cultural, ethical and legal implications of their arguments. They should be able to evaluate their learning and mistakes, identifying areas for development. They should become responsible and reliable, being able to identify and recognise different types of value and then use that value.
Planning and organising
Where developmentally appropriate, learners should be able to set goals, make decisions and monitor interim results. They should be able to reflect and adapt, as well as manage time, people and resources. They should be able to check for accuracy and be able create different types of value.
The development of these skills allows learners to work across disciplines, providing them with opportunities for both synthesis and analysis. There is particular potential for innovation in making and using connections between different disciplines and Areas.
When developing these skills, learners should:
- develop an appreciation of sustainable development and the challenges facing humanity
- develop awareness of emerging technological advances
- be supported and challenged so that they are prepared to confidently meet the demands of working in uncertain situations, as changing local, national and global contexts result in new challenges and opportunities for success
- be afforded the space to generate creative ideas and to critically evaluate alternatives – in an ever-changing world, flexibility and the ability to develop more ideas will enable learners to consider a wider range of alternative solutions when things change
- build their resilience and develop strategies which will help them manage their well-being – they should be encountering experiences where they can respond positively in the face of challenge, uncertainty or failure
- learn to work effectively with others, valuing the different contributions they and others make – they should also begin to recognise the limitations of their own work and those of others as they build an understanding of how different people play different roles within a team.
The mandatory cross-curricular skills of literacy, numeracy and digital competence are essential for learners to be able to access knowledge. They enable learners to access the breadth of a school’s curriculum and the wealth of opportunities it offers, equipping them with the lifelong skills to realise the four purposes. These are skills that can be transferred to the world of work, enabling learners to adapt and thrive in the modern world.
Schools and settings must develop a curriculum which enables learners to develop competence and capability in these skills and, where there are opportunities, to extend and apply them across all Areas. Developing these skills is therefore a consideration for all practitioners.
Learners must be given opportunities across the curriculum to:
- develop listening, reading, speaking and writing skills
- be able to use numbers and solve problems in real-life situations
- be confident users of a range of technologies to help them function and communicate effectively and make sense of the world
Rather than planning for these skills separately, the whole school should be involved and engaged in order to embed these skills across the curriculum. It will, therefore, be the responsibility of all practitioners across all Areas to develop and reinforce these skills across the curriculum, and not just for specialist practitioners in the fields of mathematics, language and computing.
The cross-curricular skills frameworks
Updated versions of the Literacy and Numeracy Framework and the Digital Competence Framework sit alongside and align with this guidance. They provide supporting guidance for all practitioners, across all Areas, to ensure opportunities for the development of these mandatory skills. They present a common approach supporting schools, settings and practitioners to ensure all learners have frequent authentic opportunities to develop, extend and apply these cross-curricular skills.
A successful curriculum, supported by effective teaching and learning enables learners to make meaningful progress.
Progression in learning is a process of developing and improving in skills and knowledge over time. This focuses on understanding what it means to make progress in a given Area or discipline and how learners should deepen and broaden their knowledge and understanding, skills and capacities, and attributes and dispositions. This is key to them embodying the four purposes and to progressing into different pathways beyond school.
As well as the overarching principles, principles of progression are also described in the context of each Area. However, schools and settings in their curriculum design and development will also wish to cross-reference to the characteristics associated with each of the four purposes in the planning of learning experiences. It is essential that learning progression not only reflects Area knowledge and understanding but also reflects the capabilities reflected in the four purposes, their integral skills, and the cross-curricular skills. While the four purposes do not explicitly refer to progression, they should inform the planning of all learning experiences within the Curriculum for Wales, which brings together content, pedagogical approaches and assessment practices to challenge and support learners.
Supporting learners to make progress is a fundamental driver of the Curriculum for Wales. Progression is reflected in the statements of what matters, the descriptions of learning for each of these statements and is also the primary purpose of assessment. Understanding how learners progress is critical to learning and teaching and should inform curriculum design, classroom planning and assessment.
Effective pedagogy is paramount to supporting progression. The pedagogical approaches used by practitioners should be selected to support progression and these will need to adapt to learners’ needs. The Curriculum for Wales’ 12 pedagogical principles offer a non-exhaustive set of principles of effective teaching that help enable learners to progress, however they are not themselves discrete pedagogical tools. They should be considered alongside these mandatory principles of progression to inform how best to support learners to progress.
The pace at which learners progress will be individual to each learner. For example, progression for those with additional learning needs (ALN) may not correlate with the broad two to three year progression step as expressed in the descriptions of learning. Pace of progression should be evaluated by the professionals working with learners with ALN. More generally, as schools and settings develop their curriculum they need to remain mindful of a variety of ways in which learners may progress at different points in the learning journey, and over different lengths of time. While there may be particular threshold concepts that represent a significant shift in a learner’s understanding, these are not linked to specific ages, nor will they happen at the same time in different Areas for individual learners.
Support for progression should provide space for diversion, reinforcement and reflection as a learner develops over time to new levels. Progression will require learners to revisit the concepts outlined in the statements of what matters, developing a more sophisticated understanding and application of these as they progress. Consequently, this is not linear, or simply moving from one topic to another, without making connections between learning and developing understanding of the underlying, shared fundamental concepts.
The principles of progression provide a mandatory requirement of what progression must look like for learners. As a school or setting develops their curriculum, it must enable learners to progress in the dimensions set out below. This provides national expectations for the ways in which learners are expected to progress throughout the continuum of learning. The principles describe what it means for learners to progress and the capacities and behaviours practitioners must seek to support, regardless of a learners’ stage of development. They are designed to be used by practitioners to:
- understand what progression means and should look like in a given Area
- develop the curriculum and learning experiences to enable learners to progress in the ways described
- develop assessment approaches which seek to understand whether this progress is being made
The principles of progression below are distinct from descriptions of learning which provide specific reference points of what progression looks like as learners work towards the statements of what matters at different points on their journey. Together, practitioners can use these two elements to understand what it means for learners to progress, and use this alongside the four purposes to inform learning, teaching and assessment.
Principles of progression
Five principles of progression underpin progression across all Areas. The principles are as follows.
As learners progress, they become increasingly effective at learning in a social and work-related context. As they become increasingly effective they are able to seek appropriate support and independently identify sources of that support. They ask more sophisticated questions and find and evaluate answers from a range of sources. This includes increasingly successful approaches to self-evaluation, identification of their next steps in learning and more effective means of self-regulation.
Increasing breadth and depth of knowledge
Learners need to acquire both breadth and depth of knowledge. As learners progress, they develop an increasingly sophisticated understanding of concepts that underpin different statements of what matters. They see the relationships between these and use them to further shape, make sense of and apply knowledge. This consolidates their understanding of concepts.
Deepening understanding of the ideas and disciplines within the Areas
Holistic approaches are particularly important in early learning as learners engage with the world around them. Learners should become increasingly aware of ways in which ideas and approaches can be coherently grouped and organised. As they progress they need to experience and understand disciplinary learning in each of the Areas and see these in the context of the four purposes and the statements of what matters.
Refinement and growing sophistication in the use and application of skills
Learners need to develop a range of skills including: physical, communication, cognitive and Area specific skills. In the early stages of learning, this range of skills includes focus on developing gross and fine motor; communicative and social skills. They also develop the skills of evaluating and organising information in applying what they have learned. As learners progress, they demonstrate more refined application of existing skills, and will experience opportunities to develop new, more specific and more sophisticated skills.
Over time, learners become able to effectively organise a growing number of increasingly sophisticated ideas, to apply understanding in various contexts and to communicate their thoughts effectively, using a range of methods, resources or equipment appropriate to their purpose and audience.
Making connections and transferring learning into new contexts
Learners should make connections with increasing independence; across learning within an Area, between Areas, and with their experiences outside of school. Over time these connections will be increasingly sophisticated, explained and justified by learners. They should be able to apply and use previously acquired knowledge and skills in different, unfamiliar and challenging contexts.
Principles of progression for each Area can be found at:
- Expressive arts principles of progression
- Health and well-being principles of progression
- Humanities principles of progression
- Languages, literacy and communication principles of progression
- Mathematics and numeracy principles of progression
- Science and technology principles of progression
Designing a curriculum in Wales and for Wales
The Framework reflects Wales, its cultural heritage and diversity, its languages and the values, histories and traditions of its communities and all of its people.
Instilling learners with passion and pride in themselves, their communities and their country is central to the four purposes. Learners should be grounded in an understanding of the identities, landscapes and histories that come together to form their cynefin. This will not only allow them to develop a strong sense of their own identity and well-being, but to develop an understanding of others’ identities and make connections with people, places and histories elsewhere in Wales and across the world.
It is important for this to be inclusive and to draw on the experiences, perspectives and cultural heritage of contemporary Wales. Confidence in their identities helps learners appreciate the contribution they and others can make within their different communities and to develop and explore their responses to local, national and global matters.
It also helps them to explore, make connections and develop understanding within a diverse society. This also recognises that Wales, like any other society, is not a uniform entity, but encompasses a range of values, perspectives, cultures and histories: that includes everybody who lives in Wales. This cynefin is not simply local but provides a foundation for a national and international citizenship. Further guidance on developing the Welsh context in learning is provided in the section on local, national and international contexts.
The Framework also reflects our bilingual nation. All learners should have appropriate pathways for learning Welsh and English to enable them to develop the confidence to use both languages in everyday life. Opportunities to use Welsh within and beyond the classroom (including on digital platforms) support learners to use Welsh confidently and appreciate its usefulness to communication in a bilingual Wales. Being (at the least) bilingual is not only a communication skill. Access to both languages helps unlock Wales’s rich and unique literatures, geography, democracy, history and culture. To have knowledge, experience and an understanding of these supports learners to be active and successful citizens in contemporary Wales.
Developing learners’ comfort and ability to work in two languages also provides a strong foundation for learners to engage with different languages they encounter and develop learning in other languages as they progress. Schools should ensure rich language environments for all learners and reading, listening, speaking and writing across the curriculum should be developmentally appropriate.
The Siarter Iaith (Welsh Language Charter) is a national framework for all settings and schools to provide a holistic basis for planning experiences across the curriculum in order to increase learners’ use of Welsh and develop their confidence in the language from an early age.
Assessment is an integral part of the learning process, with practitioners working with learners to help identify their strengths, areas for development and next steps in learning. When designing assessment arrangements as part of a school curriculum, the following should be guiding principles.
- The purpose of assessment is to support the progression of each individual learner in relation to the 3 to 16 continuum.
- Learners are at the heart of assessment and should be supported to become active participants in the learning process.
- Assessment is an ongoing process which is indistinguishable from learning and teaching.
- A shared understanding of progression, developed through professional dialogue, is integral to curriculum design and improving learning and teaching.
- Learning across the breadth of the curriculum should draw on a wide range of assessment approaches, building a holistic picture of the learner’s development.
- Engagement between the learners, their parents/carers and practitioners is essential for progression and well-being.
The overarching purpose of assessment is to support every learner to make progress. When planning and delivering learning experiences, schools and practitioners should be clear about the specific role of each assessment being undertaken and what the understanding gained from assessment will be used for and why. In this respect, there are three main roles played by assessment in supporting learner progression.
Supporting individual learners on an ongoing, day to day basis
Assessment should focus on identifying each individual learner’s strengths, achievements, areas for improvement and, if relevant, any barriers to learning. This understanding should be used by the practitioner, in discussion with the learner, to ascertain the next steps required to move learning forward, including any additional challenge or support required. This should be achieved by embedding assessment into practice in a way that engages the learner and makes it indistinguishable from learning and teaching. This allows the practitioner to respond to the individual needs of the full range of learners within their classroom on an ongoing basis.
Identifying, capturing and reflecting on individual learner progress over time
Assessment should support practitioners in identifying the progress being made by an individual learner, recording this where appropriate, to understand their journey over different periods of time and in a variety of ways, in order to ensure there is progression. This includes developing an understanding of how a learner has learned, as well as what they have learned and are able to demonstrate. Reflecting on a learner’s progress over time should enable practitioners to provide feedback and help plan their future learning, including any interventions, additional support or challenge which may be required. This should include both immediate next steps and longer-term objectives and goals that the learner should work towards to help keep them moving forward in their learning. It can also be used as a basis for communicating and engaging with parents/carers.
Understanding group progress in order to reflect on practice
Assessment should also enable practitioners and leaders within the school to understand whether different groups of learners are making expected progress. This should be used to identify strengths and areas for improvement in both the school curriculum and daily practice, including consideration of how the needs of learners as individuals have been met.
For further information, see Supporting learner progression: assessment guidance.
A curriculum accessible to all
A school’s curriculum should raise the aspirations for all learners. It should consider how all learners will be supported to realise the four purposes and to progress. This is essential for learners to play an active part in their community and wider society, and to thrive in an increasingly complex world.
Schools should be aware of the needs and circumstances of all their learners when designing their own curriculum, considering equity of opportunity when putting into place support and interventions or making reasonable adjustments.
This guidance has been developed to be inclusive of all learners, including those with additional learning needs (ALN). It is also intended to support schools to design inclusive school curricula. Learners will progress along the same continuum of learning within each Area from ages 3 to 16. However, the pace at which they progress along the continuum may differ – allowing for a diversion, repetition and reflection as each learner’s thinking, knowledge and skills develop over time. Schools and practitioners have discretion when planning for progression, giving due regard to all learners in their settings/schools.
Key to this is consideration of learners with ALN and this guidance has been developed with ALN practitioners and specialist professionals. It should therefore support the planning for progression for learners with ALN. Where this guidance makes reference to specific verbs such as ‘talk’, ‘move’ or ‘create’, these should be interpreted according to the needs of the learners.
Schools should acknowledge the importance of professional development for staff with responsibility for and who work with learners with ALN. There should be opportunities for collaboration between schools, relevant agencies and wider professionals when designing the school curriculum.
A school’s curriculum should also provide stretch and challenge for more able and talented learners and enable them to progress along the continuum of learning at a pace appropriate to them.
A critical part of raising aspirations for all learners and addressing different gaps in attainment is ensuring that all learners are supported to realise the four purposes through a broad and balanced curriculum with the national framework. This includes gaps influenced by different socio-economic backgrounds but may be far wider. This should be supported by provision which responds to the specific needs and circumstances of learners. In particular, this should consider what specific experiences, knowledge and skills learners may need that they would otherwise not have opportunity to benefit from. Understanding group progress is also an important focus for schools to ensure that their curriculum raises standards and helps raise achievement for all. It is not about external reporting, but is about schools and practitioners understanding what they need to know about their learners, and which other agencies they need to work with, in order for them all to maximise their potential and identifying specific challenge and support which particular groups might need.