As it is implemented, a school’s curriculum should:
- draw on a range of sound evidence, including disciplinary-specific expertise where appropriate, learning from professional inquiry, intelligence from research and local and national information
- be co-constructed, encouraging learners, parents, carers and the local community to understand and contribute to curriculum development; it should also draw on a wider range of experts and stakeholders who can contribute to learning
- be reflected upon and revised, based on understanding gained from all aspects of learning and teaching, and supported by professional inquiry
- be supported by effective pedagogy.
Using evidence and expertise
Learning and teaching should be informed by sound evidence and expertise. This should include:
- disciplinary-specific expertise which will become increasingly relevant in developing a curriculum as learners progress; the guidance promotes inter-disciplinary approaches but also recognises the importance that disciplinary-specific expertise plays in that
- understanding from high-quality educational research and evidence
- relevant information about learners and their communities
- learning from professional inquiry
- evidence and expertise shared through local, cluster, regional and national networks
- partnership with further and higher education
- professional learning.
Working with other settings, schools and further education institutions
Working with other settings, schools and further education institutions provides important opportunities to share learning and develop joined-up experiences for learners across their learning journey. In particular collaboration across settings, schools and further education supports the following.
Developing a shared understanding of curriculum design (including assessment) and progression
To ensure equity for learners within a local area and across Wales, it is important that there is a shared understanding of the fundamentals of curriculum design, along with a shared understanding of learner progression, including expectations around what progression may look like and the pace at which learners may progress. This shared understanding should be developed through both professional learning and as an ongoing process both within and across schools, of which professional dialogue is a fundamental aspect. Working through clusters and networks, schools and practitioners can share and learn from each other’s understanding of progression and collaborate to develop shared approaches to curriculum design.
Schools should consider how collaboration can support the planning of a continuum across different transitions, particularly for the most vulnerable learners. The learner should be at the centre of the transition process. Effective transition is about facilitating the smooth movement of all learners along the learning continuum, supporting them as they move between different groups, different classes, different years and different settings. Ensuring the well-being of all learners should be an important and integral part of the process, recognising the needs of individuals, while also supporting both continuity and progression in their learning.
Sharing best practice
Schools and practitioners should collaborate to develop an understanding of what underpins successful approaches and practices.
Welsh Ministers, working with regional consortia and other stakeholders, are developing networks to support and disseminate learning for practitioners to support understanding of the Curriculum for Wales Framework. More information on these will be provided in 2020 and 2021.
The selection of curriculum content should consider learners’ input and should provide increasing opportunities for learners to help direct their learning as they progress. Learners’ views about their experiences and about what, how and where they learn should be taken seriously when a curriculum is being designed. Participation is a key principle of the UNCRC and enabling participation will create an engaging curriculum that responds to learners’ interests, needs and priorities. It is also a process that supports a dialogue between learners and professionals. It needs to be safe, enabling and inclusive, and it is of itself a valuable learning experience, supporting inquiry and critical thinking.
Learners should be informed about the process the school is taking to design the curriculum and should be given opportunities to be involved in decision-making. It should be made clear to learners how they have influenced decisions, with feedback given about what decisions have been taken and why.
It is important to recognise that there are different levels of participation, and that enabling learners to take part in curriculum design can take place in different forms. Learners can be informed about decisions, can be consulted about decisions, can share decision-making with adults or can own decision-making and set their own areas and questions for consideration by the wider school community. Different forms of participation will be appropriate at different points in curriculum design.
Curriculum design should also use a participation structure that ensures all groups of learners can participate, including those who can be marginalised.
Involving learners directly in the designing of their curriculum could include the following steps.
- Enabling learners to make choices about what and how they learn.
- Collecting qualitative feedback after learning experiences, which informs ongoing curriculum design.
- Considering learners’ perspectives on a daily basis in the classroom through participatory pedagogy.
- Involving learners in setting priorities for the curriculum and for learning content.
- Ensuring that resources are identified to support participation.
- Ensuring that consultation, analysis of learners’ views and feedback are included as steps in the curriculum design and evaluation process.
- Ensuring that feedback on the outcomes of learner voice contributions are given to learners and staff and that this is factored into the timescales for curriculum design.
- Ensuring that learners are informed about the school’s process of curriculum design in an accessible language and format and that they know what opportunities there are to get involved.
Working with parents, carers and stakeholders
In developing their curriculum, schools should involve learners, parents, carers, partner agencies and the local community. This is an important means of ensuring the curriculum meets learners’ needs and is authentic to their context within the national framework. Schools and practitioners also play a critical role in ensuring learners, parents, carers and communities understand the vision and ethos underpinning the curriculum.
Learners, parents, carers and the local community should also have opportunity to contribute to curriculum design. Communicating effectively with parents and carers on an ongoing basis is an important way to foster positive relationships in order to engage them in purposeful and meaningful dialogue. When undertaken well, this can help aid learner progression by helping parents and carers to understand how they can support learning within and outside the school environment. Schools’ curricula should also recognise and reflect the needs and contexts of the communities within and beyond the school. Practitioners should also seek to collaborate and draw on a range of experts and stakeholders who can contribute to learning, providing learners with distinct and enriching experiences.
Reviewing a curriculum
Schools will be required to keep their curriculum under review so that they can respond to the outputs of professional inquiry, changing needs of learners and social contexts and needs. Schools will be required to publish a summary of their curriculum and revise the summary if they make changes to the curriculum.
Pedagogy is at the heart of curriculum. In designing their curriculum, schools should consider the pedagogical approaches they will need to employ to support learners in realising the four purposes. Schools should seek to develop a strong vision of learning and teaching which considers the ‘why’ and ‘how’ as well as the ‘what’. This vision will recognise the integral role of the learning environment in supporting effective learning.
Schools should ensure that practitioners have a deep and thorough understanding of the pedagogical principles and the research on which they are based. Effective pedagogy relies on an in-depth understanding of child and adolescent development. It involves exploring and reflecting on which teaching strategies will best support learning in a given context, and inquiring about the impact of this on learners.
Curriculum design for learners of all ages and abilities should be underpinned by pedagogical principles. These reflect well-documented evidence about effective pedagogy.
The pedagogical principles
Curriculum design for all learners is underpinned by twelve pedagogical principles, which state that good learning and teaching:
- maintains a consistent focus on the overall purposes of the curriculum
- challenges all learners by encouraging them to recognise the importance of sustained effort in meeting expectations that are high but achievable for them
- means employing a blend of approaches including direct teaching
- means employing a blend of approaches including those that promote problem-solving, creative and critical thinking
- sets tasks and selects resources that build on previous knowledge and experience and engage interest
- creates authentic contexts for learning
- means employing assessment for learning principles
- ranges within and across Areas
- regularly reinforces the cross-curricular skills of literacy, numeracy and digital competence, and provides opportunities to practise them
- encourages learners to take increasing responsibility for their own learning
- supports social and emotional development and positive relationships
- encourages collaboration.
To support the curriculum, pedagogy should help learners to develop:
- a strong disposition to learning
- strong metacognitive skills
- critical, creative, problem-solving skills
- highly effective communication skills.
The learning environment is a key enabler for the curriculum. It should:
- encourage learners to be independent, to have a say in their own learning and to take increasing responsibility for it
- include all learners
- allow learners of all ages to experience authentic learning opportunities both indoors and outdoors
- enable learners to apply, use, consolidate and extend skills
- be secure and safe.
To support this, practitioners should:
- form positive and respectful relationships with learners and support good relationships between peers
- respond to all learners
- plan engaging and developmentally appropriate learning opportunities informed by regular observation and ongoing assessment of learning and the learner’s stage of development
- prompt learners to think about and reflect upon their learning in order to extend thinking and make connections
- challenge learners and have high expectations
- actively engage with parents, carers and the wider community as partners in learning
- be reflective and seek to engage in ongoing professional learning.
Early progression steps
The twelve pedagogical principles describe good pedagogy for all the early stages of learners’ development. While it is relevant for all learners, pedagogy for the early progression steps should prioritise:
- the holistic development of cognitive, social, emotional and physical skills
- learning through extended periods of play or recreation and open-ended exploration both indoors and outdoors
- learners initiating, choosing and directing their own learning, along with sensitive interactions from adults who elicit learning from learner-led play or recreation and exploration
- the planning of an environment that can support experiential and schematic learning
- opportunities for physical movement which underpin learning in all Areas
- practitioners who, while respecting learners’ interests, seek to introduce and stimulate new opportunities for knowledge and understanding
- a strong focus on early language acquisition
- learning through first-hand, practical and authentic experiences
- a high-quality learning environment which provides opportunities to move freely between continuous, enhanced and focused activities, located indoors and outdoors.
Key questions for settings and schools to consider
- How will we create a culture which encourages practitioners to develop a deep understanding of pedagogy and the skill to select the most appropriate pedagogical approach?
- How will we ensure the pedagogy of the Foundation Phase is developed and built on?
- How will our vision for learning reflect the twelve pedagogical principles?
- What learning environment do we need to create to fully support our vision for learning?
Preparing for 2022
It is proposed that schools will be required to implement their curriculum from September 2022 for learners up to and including Year 7. Secondary schools will then be expected to roll out their curricula on a year-by-year basis, with Year 8 in September 2023 through to Year 11 in September 2026.
In advance of September 2022, all schools will be required to design their curriculum, including the supporting assessment arrangements, ready for its adoption. To prepare for this, they should develop the vision and methodology detailed in this ‘Designing your curriculum’ guidance.
Secondary schools will be required to design a curriculum for all year groups in advance of 2022, but will need to continue to refine this design in line with the phased roll-out of the curriculum beyond 2022 and to take account of the details of qualifications when they are confirmed. They will also be required to work with their clusters and with other secondary schools.
As the curriculum is rolled out, schools should consider how their curriculum should be revised in response to learning.