Education reform in Wales: A national mission

by Kirsty Williams AM
Cabinet Secretary for Education, Welsh Government

It’s an exciting time for education in Wales.

This was noted by the OECD earlier this year, when it recognised that government and sector are working closely together with a commitment to improvements that are “visible at all levels of the education system”.

This week, as Wales’s Education Secretary, I published our new action plan for the next four years. Entitled ‘Education in Wales: Our national mission’, it builds on the strong foundations already in place in our system. But we are setting the bar even higher, ambitious as we are in our expectations for our young people, for our teaching profession and for our nation.

As a relatively small country and a still-young democracy, we have too often seen these as challenges rather than opportunities. Through the OECD, we have had the opportunity to learn more about other systems and their reform journeys.

It is true that no two countries or systems are the same. However, as a bilingual system committed to both equity and excellence, we are not only learning from others, but our innovative approach is in fact attracting international attention. And Wales will remain open to ideas, visits and co-operation!

It is our approach to curriculum reform, within a reformed system, that is often of most interest. Work is well underway on this, led by a group of pioneer schools who are working in partnership with government, regional education consortia, international experts, universities, business and third sector, and right across the education profession. It is not the product of secret meetings in some Government back-office.

The OECD said in its recent review: “To support the realisation of its education objectives and ultimately its vision of the Welsh learner, Wales should continue its curriculum reform… ensuring that its reform journey is comprehensive and effective.”

Therefore, as we continue with our reforms, we will bring a renewed focus to four key ‘enabling’ objectives.

Education in Wales

Firstly, ensuring a high-quality education profession. We will support teachers in being lifelong professional learners through new standards, a national approach and reformed initial teacher education.

Secondly, identifying and inspiring leaders to raise standards. We need to address a previous lack of emphasis on leadership. Therefore we will establish a national leadership academy, reduce bureaucracy through business managers and improved communication and co-operation, and revise the qualification for school leaders.

Thirdly, ensure that our schools are inclusive, dedicated to excellence, equity and well-being. We will extend our targeted support for learners from disadvantaged backgrounds, provide dedicated support for our ‘more able’ learners, and be innovative in identifying and measuring well-being alongside attainment.

And fourthly, improved assessment, evaluation and accountability within a self-improving system. We will be consistent and clear about the things we wish to value and measure through a new annual national education report and report card, formative assessments and a new assessment & evaluation framework that focuses on improvement all levels.

The OECD report and advice was unambiguous: hold our nerve, stay the course, but do more to communicate, clarify and ensure coherence in our programme. Focus on leadership in delivering a much-needed new curriculum in a timely manner.

‘Education in Wales: Our national mission’ responds to those recommendations and sets out our collective responsibility to raise standards, reduce the attainment gap and deliver a system that is a source of genuine national pride and public confidence.

Education in Wales: Our national mission
The Welsh education reform journey: A rapid policy assessment (OECD)
Curriculum for Wales blog

Follow the conversation on Twitter: #EducationMissionWales

Photo credits: Welsh Government Education

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