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Y Pwyllgor Plant, Pobl Ifanc ac Addysg

Children, Young People and Education Committee

14/07/2020

Aelodau'r Pwyllgor a oedd yn bresennol

Committee Members in Attendance

Dawn Bowden MS
Jack Sargeant MS Yn dirprwyo ar ran Hefin David
Substitute for Hefin David
Janet Finch-Saunders MS
Lynne Neagle MS Cadeirydd y Pwyllgor
Committee Chair
Sian Gwenllian MS
Suzy Davies MS

Y rhai eraill a oedd yn bresennol

Others in Attendance

Ceri Planchant Cyfreithiwr, Llywodraeth Cymru
Lawyer, Welsh Government
Claire Bennett Cyfarwyddwr Cymunedau a Threchu Tlodi, Llywodraeth Cymru
Director of Communities and Tackling Poverty, Welsh Government
Kirsty Williams MS Y Gweinidog Addysg
Minister for Education

Swyddogion y Senedd a oedd yn bresennol

Senedd Officials in Attendance

Lisa Salkeld Cynghorydd Cyfreithiol
Legal Adviser
Llinos Madeley Clerc
Clerk
Rhiannon Lewis Cynghorydd Cyfreithiol
Legal Adviser
Sarah Bartlett Dirprwy Glerc
Deputy Clerk
Sian Hughes Ymchwilydd
Researcher

Cofnodir y trafodion yn yr iaith y llefarwyd hwy ynddi yn y pwyllgor. Yn ogystal, cynhwysir trawsgrifiad o’r cyfieithu ar y pryd. Lle mae cyfranwyr wedi darparu cywiriadau i’w tystiolaeth, nodir y rheini yn y trawsgrifiad.

The proceedings are reported in the language in which they were spoken in the committee. In addition, a transcription of the simultaneous interpretation is included. Where contributors have supplied corrections to their evidence, these are noted in the transcript.

Cyfarfu'r pwyllgor drwy gynhadledd fideo.

Dechreuodd y cyfarfod am 09:30.

The committee met by video-conference.

The meeting began at 09:30. 

1. Cyflwyniad, Ymddiheuriadau, Dirprwyon a Datgan Buddiannau
1. Introductions, Apologies, Substitutions and Declarations of Interest

Good morning, everyone, and welcome to the Children, Young People and Education Committee. In accordance with Standing Order 34.19, I've determined that the public are excluded from the committee's meeting in order to protect public health. In accordance with Standing Order 34.21, notice of this decision was included in the agenda for this meeting, published last Thursday. This meeting is, however, being broadcast live on Senedd TV, with all participants joining via video-conference. A Record of Proceedings will be published as usual. Aside from the procedural adaptation relating to conducting proceedings remotely, all other Standing Order requirements for committees remain in place.

The meeting is bilingual and simultaneous translation from Welsh to English is available. If we become aware that there is an issue with the translation, I'll ask you to pause for a moment while our meeting technicians reset the system. Apologies have been received from Hefin David MS, and I'd like to welcome Jack Sargeant MS who is attending as a substitute for Hefin. Can I ask Members if there are any declarations of interest, please? No. Okay, thank you. Can I also note, then, for the record that if for any reason I drop out of the meeting, it's been agreed that Dawn Bowden MS will temporarily chair while I try to rejoin? 

2. Y Bil Cwricwlwm ac Asesu (Cymru): Sesiwn Dystiolaeth 1 gyda Chynrychiolwyr Llywodraeth Cymru
2. Curriculum and Assessment (Wales) Bill: Evidence Session 1 with Welsh Government Representatives

Item 2 this morning, then, is our first evidence session on the Curriculum and Assessment (Wales) Bill. I'm very pleased to welcome Kirsty Williams MS, Minister for Education and Member in charge of the Bill, Claire Bennett, director of communities and tackling poverty at Welsh Government, and Ceri Planchant, lawyer at Welsh Government. Thank you all for attending. We're very much looking forward to hearing your evidence on the Bill. Given the time constraints, we'll go straight into questions, and I will start by asking you how confident you are that introducing a new curriculum will lead to improving school standards, as the explanatory memorandum suggests, and what evidence you have for this assertion. And isn't there a risk that such large-scale change and disruption could have the opposite effect, leading to a decline in standards? 

Thank you, Lynne, and good morning to colleagues. The Bill before you, as you all know, replaces part 7 of the Education Act 2002, which sets out the current curriculum arrangements. I believe that a curriculum that was, essentially, developed and planned in 1988, before the fall of the Berlin wall, before we all carried computers around in our pockets, no longer meets the needs of Welsh children. The current curriculum is often overcrowded. It is often unmanageable, incoherent and, I believe, does not provide the opportunity for children and young people in Wales to acquire the knowledge, skills and experiences that will ensure that they are successful members of our society after their period of education.

The curriculum is designed to empower our teachers, who find themselves very often working within the straitjacket of the current curriculum requirements. It robs them of their creativity and, in some cases, just reduces them to delivering a checklist of content that other people think is relevant, and does not allow them to truly think about the needs of the children who sit in front of them. 

So, the Bill before us and the Curriculum for Wales has been designed so that it maximises the opportunities for teachers and headteachers to develop a curriculum that truly meets the needs of children, that gives those children, as I said, the knowledge, skills and experiences to not only enable them to acquire qualifications and attributes that will allow them to be contributors to the Welsh, British and, indeed, the world economy, but also allows them to attend to their own mental and physical health and well-being, and allows them to be active citizens.

Now, the question suggests, Lynne, if you don't mind me saying, that the current curriculum currently meets the needs of all children and, therefore, allows all children to excel. We all know, and you all know, from sitting in the committee, that that is not the case. So, the argument that sticking with the status quo alone will address issues around the attainment gap I don't believe necessarily bears out. But the curriculum, of course, is only one aspect of a raft of education policies that are needed to address the attainment gap. But I do believe that the curriculum, in the way that we are proposing, certainly gives our teachers the best chance to develop an education system that truly meets the needs of individuals.

One of the enabling objectives of the new curriculum, of course, is a new robust evaluation and accountability arrangement. And we set out not only the framework for the content of the curriculum, but also a progression expectation for all children of how they will move along and, as I said, a new robust evaluation and accountability arrangement, along with a significant amount of professional training for our staff to embrace the pedagogy that will be associated with the new curriculum also. 

09:35

Okay. Thank you, Minister. And I'm very pleased we've been rejoined by Siân Gwenllian, who is going to pick up some questions in this theme. Siân.   

Diolch yn fawr a bore da. Dwi ddim yn meddwl eich bod chi wedi ateb yr union gwestiwn oedd Lynne Neagle yn holi ynglŷn â chodi safonau. Mae rhai sylwebyddion yn bryderus y bydd y cwricwlwm newydd yn gallu gwaethygu, a dweud y gwir, y bwlch cyrhaeddiad, ac y bydd safonau yn dioddef yn sgil hynny. Beth ydy eich ymateb chi i'r pwynt penodol yna? 

Thank you very much and good morning. I don't think you answered the exact question that Lynne Neagle asked about raising standards. Some commentators are concerned that the new curriculum could actually exacerbate the attainment gap and make it worse, and that standards will suffer as a result of that. What's your response to that specific point?

Well, as I said, that, first of all, suggests that the current curriculum means that standards are high throughout the education system, and I spend lots of time answering questions, Siân Gwenllian, to you, who claims that the standards are not good enough. And, as I said, in answer to Lynne, whilst the curriculum obviously is the bedrock of a wider piece of education reform, the ability for teachers to develop their professional skills and to use that to be able to design a curriculum that truly meets the needs of the students in front of them, that engages them in their learning, that gives them an understanding of not only what they are learning but why they are learning it, and motivates them to develop a passion for lifelong learning, which is one of the purposes of the curriculum, I believe gives us an approach where we can raise standards.

But the curriculum on its own is not going to raise standards. That has to be alongside robust evaluation and accountability measures and investment in our professions. That's why we have radically reformed the content of our initial teacher education curriculum, in terms of how we prepare future teachers, and why we have invested record amounts in professional learning so that our teachers are well equipped to take advantage of the curriculum opportunities. On its own, is it going to by itself raise standards? No, but it's an important part of a wholesale education reform that is outlined in the national mission from the Welsh Government. 

Felly, rydych chi'n credu y bydd o'n cyfrannu tuag at godi Cymru yn y tablau PISA, er enghraifft?  

So, you believe that it will contribute towards raising Wales in the Programme for International Student Assessment league tables, for example? 

Actually, I think the first thing to say is that PISA, which is operated by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development—. The OECD is very supportive of the direction of travel in terms of the curriculum. PISA tests, as you well know, look beyond simple knowledge acquisition. They look at how children utilise the knowledge that they acquire and it is often very much a skills-based and application-of-knowledge assessment. In the past, we have struggled in that. This curriculum has much more focus on not only knowledge acquisition, but skills acquisition and the ability to apply your knowledge, which would be very much in line with the attributes that PISA tests examine. 

Pa bryd fyddwch chi, felly, yn disgwyl gweld Cymru yn dechrau perfformio yn well yn y tablau PISA, o gymryd mae hi'n mynd i gymryd amser i'r cwricwlwm wreiddio, mae'n debyg? Faint o amser ydych chi'n ei roi rŵan? Beth ydy'ch targed chi o ran codi perfformiad Cymru yn PISA?

When would you expect to see Wales starting to perform better in those PISA league tables, given that it is going to take time for the curriculum to bed in? So, how much time will you give it? What's your target in terms of improving Wales's performance in PISA?

09:40

Well, we just did that, Siân. I would point you to the last set of PISA results, which did show an improvement in Welsh test scores across all three domains. It's the first time, actually, that Wales has improved its performance in all three domains in the PISA tests, and our future ambitions for PISA are set out in the national mission.

Perhaps, if Members are not aware—I believe it is in the public domain that there will be, probably, some disruption to this year's PISA tests, because of COVID-19. So, I don't know when the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development will look to run the next series of PISA, but, clearly, we would want continuous improvement in Welsh students' scores, especially at the higher end.

Obviously, this conversation so far has been dominated by, perhaps, some of the previous testimony that good schools will continue to excel in this system, and, those schools for whom we've got concerns—in terms of PISA, we have seen an improvement in performance of Welsh students at lower-level skills. It is higher-level skills—at domain 6, for instance—that we need to see further improvement upon.

Ac yn olaf gen i, Cadeirydd, yn yr adran yma, beth bynnag, y profiad yn yr Alban. Dydy o ddim wedi bod yn hollol unionsyth, y profiad o gyflwyno'r cwricwlwm yn fanno, nac ydy? Beth ydych chi'n ei gymryd o beth sydd wedi digwydd yn yr Alban, a sut ydym ni'n mynd i fedru dysgu o hynny yng Nghymru?

And finally from me in this section, Chair, the Scottish experience. It hasn't been entirely positive in terms of the introduction of the new curriculum there. So, what do you take from what's happened in Scotland, and how can we learn from that here in Wales?

I think it's important to note that we have looked very carefully at the introduction of the new curriculum in Scotland to try and ensure that any challenges that that curriculum faced on introduction—that the lessons were learned. And in some of the external advisory groups that the Welsh Government have, there are people whose specific role has been to look at that experience.

I think the design of the curriculum is very much in line with system change throughout the world. So, people focus, understandably, because it's our closest example, on Scotland. But, actually, the approach that we're taking is also one that has been followed in New Zealand and the Netherlands. So, actually, we're learning from a range of countries about successful curriculum implementation and change.

I think, in Scotland, it's fair to say that it's not the principles of the curriculum that they have struggled with—it has been implementation that, perhaps, they have struggled with. Initially, I think—if you read the commentary—that people were concerned about a lack of scaffolding and guidance to individual schools, and, in reaction to that, then schools were overwhelmed and swamped with huge amounts of implementation guidance. So, we've looked at that about ensuring we get the balance right. But, as I said, understandably, people focus on Scotland, but we're taking learning examples for curriculum change from across the globe.

Okay, thank you. Just before I bring Suzy in, then, can I just ask, Minister: given the ongoing disruption to schooling as a result of COVID-19, have you considered revising your timescale for the implementation of the new curriculum from September 2022?

Absolutely, and I think it's really important to remind people that it's 2022 that we're talking about, and, in 2022, the curriculum will become statutory for the primary sector and year 7. So, I think we need to constantly remind ourselves that that's the goal that we're working to.

Clearly, I cannot ignore the significant disruption caused to the education system by COVID-19. Throughout this process, the curriculum has been a co-constructed process, with our teachers and our schools at the very heart of it. And we will continue to collaborate and to discuss with schools any potential impact. It think it is important to draw the distinction though, between the necessity of passing this Bill, and that's a separate piece of work, which has to happen regardless of when a decision around implementation is needed. So, whilst I accept that there is a lot of discussion to be had around implementation, this Bill stands alone from that. We can't have any implementation at all unless this legislation is passed. At this stage, we have not departed from our 2022 target date, but we will keep that under review.

09:45

Okay. Thank you, Minister. We're going to go on now to some questions from Suzy Davies on the approach to organising the curriculum. Suzy.

Thank you, Chair. Morning, Minister. Obviously, I'm pleased to hear your comments just then, but I just want to go back to what the curriculum will look like in the classroom, and the move from subject lessons to areas of learning and experience. Do you have a vision of what that's going to look like? Are pupils going to be going to AoLE lessons or subject lessons or a mixture of the both, or is that very much left to teachers to decide?

Well, obviously we will—. Within the Bill, we put the AoLEs on a statutory footing and therefore we would expect the curriculum to ensure that all of those AoLEs are delivered. There are six areas, bringing together families of disciplines, and that's to encourage strong links between them, between those disciplines, and, indeed, between the AoLEs themselves. Disciplines will continue to remain important, but this new approach supports learners, as I said, to build those connections across learning, helping them, as I said earlier, to understand not just what they're learning but why they are learning it and the interconnectedness between ideas. 

As I said in answer to Siân Gwenllian, this is not without precedent; there has been an international trend in recent years towards using areas of learning as curriculum organisers, sometimes combining disciplinary learning and wider capabilities and capacities. It's not the intention to stipulate the timetable requirements for each of the AoLEs. The Welsh Ministers provide the 'what matters' statements and the descriptions of learning required to support the progression, but then it is for individual headteachers to craft their curriculum along those lines.

But, clearly, as children progress through their education, and especially at what we would describe as post-14, as you're working towards specific qualifications, subject disciplines that would enable progression on to traditional A-levels—we do need to ensure that there's nothing that departs from that subject specialism that would prevent people from moving on, and we've been very clear around the progression steps, about how that detailed knowledge builds up over a period of time. 

Okay, thank you. So, that suggests that teachers would have some flexibility in how much time they devote to each AoLE and within each year. Some AoLEs may take up more time than others under this new progression code that we're envisaging. 

Well, as I said, what the Bill stipulates for are the four purposes: the AoLEs and a statutory code that includes the 'what matters' statements. So, that's the content that we would expect to be delivered and the progression of what we would expect a child to be able to do at different stages throughout their educational purpose. How that is then organised within a school to meet the legislative requirements within the Bill is a matter for individual headteachers and governing bodies. 

So, would it be fair to say that the progression guidance and code and all this is the safety valve for the localised curriculum? Because it's been raised with us that there's a possibility that, with very localised curricula, you might find that standards might drop and that local influences on the curriculum, for example, actually, could even be quite political. What are the safeguards against that, I want to ask you about, really, just to make sure that a very localised curriculum doesn't lose at least a standard of benchmark, and protects against interference from particular groups? 

Well, I haven't seen any evidence to underpin why standards would drop because an individual school is designing their curriculum; it's conjecture. Clearly, we will have, as I said earlier, an evaluation and an accountability system that sits alongside the curriculum that will hold individual schools accountable. This is not an accountability-free zone and, of course, schools will continue to be subject to all the usual scrutiny from their individual local education authorities, the regional school improvement services and Estyn in terms of the robustness of their curriculum, but, clearly, it's also not fair to say that there is no national guidance. That's why we are, within the Bill and within statutory guidance, stating quite clearly the broad areas that we would expect an individual school to ensure a child had access to. But deciding what is the appropriate topic by which you deliver that knowledge and experience I do not believe is a matter for us; I believe that is best decided at a local level.

In terms of progression, there is, indeed, again, national scaffolding to set a national expectation of how we would expect a child's knowledge, experience and skills to develop during their time in statutory education. That, as I said, then is subject to all the external accountability measures that we have within an education system.

09:50

Okay. So, hopefully, that scaffolding will prevent any current inequality between schools at the moment. Those schools that are struggling at the moment—I think what we're trying to ask is: what's in this scaffolding that'll actually help them improve?

Well, of course, but, again, there's a difference, isn't there, between the pedagogical approach within a curriculum and, actually, school-improvement measures? The curriculum on its own is an important basis on which to build education reform and to raise standards, but it cannot do it simply on its own. I think, you know, it's understandable, when we look at the Bill, that we're just focusing on this, but that's not to forget that we do have a school improvement system that sits alongside it to support those schools that need extra help. 

And, as I said, you've just acknowledged, Suzy, that there are schools currently within our system that need that additional support, but there is nothing—. That doesn't take away from the fact, neither does this curriculum, that schools that do need—individual teachers who need additional support, individual departments and individual schools, and, indeed, sometimes, individual local education authorities, will need challenge and support to raise standards.

It's going to be important to us, I think, to see the development of that work alongside the progress of this Bill. What's going to happen if headteachers and governing bodies can't agree on what the local curriculum can look like? Again, I take you back to that question about how we can ensure that the tallest poppies aren't necessarily over-influential in the creation of a local curriculum. Because, obviously, you mentioned co-construction; that means that people from outside the school will have opinions and influence. So, it's just seeing where the balance of that lies. 

Well, the Bill places a duty on the headteacher to design the curriculum, because they are entrusted with understanding the learning needs of their children above all else. The governing body and the headteacher must jointly adopt the curriculum. Unless they both agree, it cannot be adopted.

I would point the Member to the 'Designing your Curriculum' guidance that we published earlier on this year, where we are absolutely clear in the expectation that, in designing the curriculum for a school, obviously there is a role for the governing body, but there is a role for parents, there is a role for children themselves in having a say in what their school teaches and how it teaches, and there may well be—and, indeed, I would welcome very much indeed—a wider civic engagement in our education reform movement.

I sit in meetings where I listen to representative bodies that moan, sometimes, about the level of skills that children are leaving the education system with, and, when I ask them how many of their members are active school governors, you know, then, all of a sudden, 'Oh, that information isn't available' and people look at the floor. I want—. We call it a national mission for a reason, Suzy. There isn't a single person in Wales who doesn't have something to contribute to education reform and raising standards in our schools. If local employers and businesses were to take an active role in supporting schools to develop a curriculum, I would welcome that very much indeed.

Again, it is about making learning relevant, isn't it, to those children, and greater community involvement and employer involvement, via a school governing body or working with local schools, so that children can see there is a reason for learning this—'It's not because Sir or Miss or Kirsty Williams has told me I've got to learn it; I'm learning this because there is a job out there waiting for me, because there is an employer out there that needs this knowledge, needs these skills, and, if I do this today, I can see that this is leading me on to something bigger and better and raising my aspirations.' So, I would welcome very much wider community involvement in helping schools shape their curriculum that makes that learning really, really relevant to that cohort of children, so they see a real purpose. A real purpose.

And sometimes, for our most disadvantaged children, that is the key. For our highly motivated children who are going on, maybe, to higher education, they see the purpose and they see their progression. Sometimes for our more disadvantaged children, in our disadvantaged communities, perhaps, they don't see the relevance of it, and making connections for them, I think, is one of the ways in which we do actually raise standards.

09:55

Ie, diolch. Rydych chi wedi sôn am yr ysgolion, y rhieni, byd busnes, llawer o bartneriaethau ynglŷn â dyfeisio y cwricwlwm lleol. Beth fydd rôl yr awdurdodau lleol o ran materion strategol addysgol o ran y cwricwlwm, a rôl y consortia hefyd? Ydych chi'n tynnu oddi wrth y gwaith maen nhw'n ei wneud mewn ambell i faes ar hyn o bryd drwy roi y grym yn uniongyrchol yn nwylo'r ysgol?

Yes, thank you. You've mentioned schools, parents, business, a number of different partnerships in terms of devising the local curriculum. What will be the role of the local authorities in terms of strategic educational issues in terms of the curriculum, and what will the role of the consortia be too? Are you taking away from the work that they're currently undertaking in certain areas by providing the power directly to the schools?

Well, as I said, the Bill makes it very clear that the responsibility for devising the curricula lies with the individual headteacher, and implementation of that curriculum is a legal requirement on both the headteacher and the governing body. Local authorities, of course, will continue to have a role. I'm not aware of any school that doesn't have a councillor or local authority members on those governing bodies, so that's a direct link with local elected representatives on that governing body.

With regard to the continuing role, the statutory responsibility for delivering education will remain at a local education authority level. And in terms of school improvement, local authorities have worked collectively on a regional basis to, not merge, but to work together to support schools.

As regards the future, then, obviously, our school improvement services are absolutely crucial to being able to support teachers and headteachers in terms of these reforms. So, they are at the forefront of our professional learning offer and providing support to get schools and individual practitioners ready, and they continue. They don't have a role for the curricula now, school improvement services, nor will they have it in the future. Their role is to support those schools to develop and to raise their standards.

Ond beth fydd yn digwydd, er enghraifft, i gynllunio strategol o gwmpas addysg cyfrwng Cymraeg—y WESPs, er enghraifft—sydd ar hyn o bryd yn cael eu llunio ar lefel awdurdod? Os nad oes ganddyn nhw rôl yn mynd i fod yn yr agweddau yna, a bod y grym yn nwylo'r ysgolion lleol—ac mae yna enghreifftiau eraill, mae'n siŵr, o weithio strategol er mwyn cyrraedd nod mae awdurdod lleol wedi'i osod—beth sy'n mynd i ddigwydd i'r haen yna o waith?

But what will happen, for example, to strategic planning around Welsh-medium education—the Welsh in education strategic plans, for example—which, at the moment, are drawn up at the local authority level? If they won't have a role in those aspects and the power sits with the schools—and there are other examples, I'm sure, of strategic working in order to reach a particular target set by local authorities—what will happen to that strata of work?

That will remain at local education authority level. There are no plans to change that. There's a difference, isn't there, Siân—one that you would well understand—between the strategic planning of Welsh-medium education? We're not talking about that in this Bill; what we're talking about in this Bill is curriculum content. They're two different things.

Yes, I'm sure we'll come back to this at a later point.

Okay. Thank you. Dawn Bowden, now, has got some questions on the mandatory elements of the curriculum.

Thank you. Thank you, Chair. Morning, Minister. Could you tell us how you decided on the four mandatory elements that are stipulated in the Bill?

Well, the Bill reflects a long legacy of work to get us to this point. The mandatory elements include those that were recommended in the original 'Successful Futures' report by Professor Donaldson.

The RSE mandatory elements were as a result of a recommendation made by a specialist group that I set up on becoming education Minister, chaired by Professor Emma Reynolds, that felt that it was necessary for RSE to become a mandatory element.

And the additional element is the inclusion of English. I think it's really important to me to recognise the importance of linguistic ability, not just only, obviously, for its own rights in terms of a subject, but actually that is the key to unlocking education throughout the curriculum. It's what gives you access to your ability to engage with and acquire knowledge throughout the rest of the curriculum.

10:00

I understand that, so I get that, but I think one of the things that we've been looking at, and this committee has been looking at over a number of years, as you know, is mental health and emotional resilience, and yet that wasn't really included. It wasn't considered to be important enough, it would appear, to be on the face of the Bill. It's going to be covered in the 'what matters' code and statutory guidance. So, given that that seems to be something that we're looking to underpin everything—the emotional well-being and resilience of our children and young people—did you not consider that that was important enough to be a specific mandatory element?

Well, it is mandatory, in the sense that the AoLEs are mandatory, Dawn, and one of the statutory requirements is for an area of learning and experience entitled health and well-being. One of the really exciting and innovative changes in the curriculum is ensuring that health and well-being is a strong focus of the work in schools. So, it is important, of course it is, and that's why we have an entire area of learning and experience devoted to health and well-being.

Did you not consider at all whether it would be more explicit if that was called 'physical and mental health and well-being', so that we're all very, very clear about what we're talking about?

No, I haven't considered changing the name. In my book, 'health and well-being' pretty much says what it is in the tin. It is an entire area of learning and experience—one sixth of our curriculum devoted to providing content in that area. I think most people would understand what we mean by 'health and well-being'.

Yes, and you've got the 'what matters' statement, obviously, and we've got the statutory guidance that's going to be accompanying all of this. How far has that progressed and is that still a work in progress? Because you will know that you're being lobbied by many organisations that want their specific interests included, either in the 'what matters' statements or in the statutory guidance. I've been doing quite a lot of work with the Endometriosis UK organisation, and they want something in there about menstrual well-being and so on. So, how wide is that going to be and how much of that is going to be included in the 'what matters' statements and the statutory guidance?

Well, the 'what matters' statements were published in January, and they give what I believe to be a very explicit list of our proposals for what topics should be covered. In terms of menstrual health, there are plenty of opportunities for that to be included in the curriculum, whether that be—. And, again, these are some of the issues, aren't they, about what we're trying to do here? You don't need to just do menstrual health in the way that you and I may or may not have done it, in a biology lesson in secondary school, or sometimes in what would now be called RSE in a primary school. So, there is an expectation there about bodies and how you physically change and what you need to do to keep yourself well as a result of the physical changes that we as human beings go through. So, I think there is plenty of opportunity there, but we've got to get away—. If we end up going to a situation where absolutely every topic is listed, then we'll be back to where we are now, which is something that is massively unwieldy, overwhelming, inflexible and robs teachers of their professional creativity to develop a curriculum that is right.

10:05

And I absolutely understand that. I think what the concern seems to be is that this is very much down to individual schools, and it might depend on individual teachers having a particular interest in a particular subject area. But I'm conscious of time, Chair, so we'll come back to this again, I'm sure.

Can I move on to English and Welsh and ask you why the Bill sets a default position of English being mandatory prior to year 3, when the Government's clear intention appears to be that Welsh-medium schools and nursery schools will teach solely through the medium of Welsh up to that age?

Dawn, as I said earlier, first of all, the Bill reflects the fact that we are a bilingual nation and, secondly, it reflects the point that it is really important and it is a building block to access the rest of the curriculum that children have strong language skills. Without those language skills you simply cannot access successfully. We've talked a lot earlier, haven't we, about our very best performing schools, and children who do well in the system and children who do less well in the system? We know that that fate is often decided because of poor linguistic skills, poor oral skills, the ability to speak and poor listening skills. That then translate into a poor ability to read, and of course if you cannot read, it is incredibly difficult to be able to excel in the rest of the curriculum.

With regard to immersion, as I've said repeatedly, the Welsh Government absolutely supports the principle of immersion. It is a well-tested, well-understood and very successful way in which children can acquire Welsh language skills, and the Bill makes specific provision to allow that to happen, and to put it on a statutory footing.

Thank you. So, just on that point, can you explain why the Bill gives powers to disapply the mandatory status of English prior to year 3 to individual schools rather than to local authorities, who are the bodies that have the statutory duties to promote the language?

This takes us back to the point abut a confusion regarding the role of subject content within a curriculum and the language status of a school. So, the Bill specifically enables schools to disapply English to do what we've just said—to absolutely ensure that immersion has a statutory footing and can happen. That is not the same as what is the linguistic characteristic of a school. Changes to the language of instruction in the school remain governed by the School Standards and Organisation (Wales) Act 2013, and that would be a matter for the local education authority. What we're talking about here is curriculum content, not the language of instruction within a school setting, and the Bill absolutely, via its disapplication process, ensures that immersion happens and there is a legal underpinning for that to happen.

I understand. Can I just move on then to parental rights of withdrawal, and why you decided that the Bill would remove the parental right to withdraw children from sex education and religious education?

Because, Dawn, I don't believe we can deliver the full purposes that are required in the law without ensuring that all children have access to those lessons. The purposes cannot be achieved if we allow children to be denied access to a full, broad and balanced curriculum.

But in terms of faith schools themselves, they have the opportunity to opt out of that wider religious curriculum, don't they? They can deliver religious education within their denomination and are not required to teach the wider religious aspects.

Chair, I don't want to try your patience, but I think these are complex issues, and I know that there has been strong lobbying of the committee with regard to religion, values and ethics. What the Bill provides for is the ability for all children to access, should they request, a pluralistic RVE syllabus. So, there is nothing to stop voluntary-aided schools delivering RVE in a way that is reflective of the tenets of the faith. That is their default position. But what they will have to do is ensure that if a parent requests the agreed RVE syllabus, then they should deliver that. So, that ensures that all children, regardless of the school that they attend, can have access to the agreed RVE syllabus, but it does not—and I want to make this absolutely clear—it does not prevent voluntary-aided schools delivering RVE in a way that reflects their trust deeds and reflects the tenets of the faith of that school. 

10:10

I understand that; I'm just puzzled as to why it isn't mandatory on them, as it is with other schools. I went through faith schools myself as a child; I was brought up in Catholic schools, but we always had education around other religions. It was just part of the process that we learned about other religions. I'm just wondering why, for faith and voluntary-aided schools, that it is almost optional unless it's requested, rather than it just being a compulsory part of the curriculum. 

We would expect all schools to deliver RVE in a pluralistic way, and our voluntary-aided schools often do that. What we're saying is that to be absolutely assured, parents can request that RVE is delivered in conjunction with the agreed syllabus. It might be useful, Chair, if I may, to set out the difference in what the new law does as opposed to what we've got now. So, at the moment, a parent does have a qualified right to ask for a pluralistic agreed-syllabus RVE within the school; it's just at the moment that that voluntary-aided school can deny that right. So, it's a right to ask, but it's a qualified right, and the governing body can turn that request down. Within the new proposals that we have, the governing body could not turn that request down. Claire, Ceri, have I explained that correctly? I'm looking at the lawyer here. 

Yes, Minister, that explains it very clearly. It might be useful to explain why faith schools have the role that they have, and it's really an historical circumstance. Historically, the state has welcomed different churches into the provision of state-mandated education. In return, they are required by existing legislation—so, not allowed but required—to teach religious education in accordance with their own faith basis. That's the quid pro quo, if you like, and many parents will want that for their children. 

So, what the Bill seeks to do is, in removing the right to withdraw, to ensure for all children in all schools there is a right to access the pluralistic agreed-syllabus RVE if that is what is wanted. But we do recognise that, for some parents, they will want to have the RVE provided in accordance with the faith of the schools, and that's available if it's wanted, but that's a matter of parental preference.  

Okay, thank you. The next questions, then, are from me, actually, on exceptions to curriculum requirements. Can I first ask about education other than at school, please, and how you decided that pupils receiving education other than at school are only required to be taught one of the areas of learning and experience—health and well-being—and the other five are only required if it's reasonable and possible to do so? 

What we're trying to do here in the Bill is to state very clearly our expectations around entitlement for children who would find themselves in EOTAS, recognising that those children may have a range of needs, and in crafting a curriculum for them, that should really be at the forefront of a commissioner and of a provider's mind.

So, the Bill places the entitlement of learners in EOTAS, including pupil referral units, to have access to the new curriculum arrangements. Through the Bill, we're putting in place a framework for learners in those settings. The curriculum that would be required to be delivered will have the principles of: to enable the child to develop in the way described in the four purposes; it needs to be broad and balanced; it needs to be suitable for the learner's age, abilities and aptitudes; and that it offers appropriate progression. So, those are the principles that it outsets.

Through the Bill, we're also putting in place a clear framework for learners to ensure that that needs to be as broad as possible and, in discussions with stakeholders, including the chair of the EOTAS steering group and the previous chief inspector for Wales, who have been assisting the Welsh Government in developments in this area, that given the specific challenges facing learners often in these settings, health and well-being has to be a must. It absolutely has to be a must for them. But, Claire, I don't know if there's anything further you could add around that. 

10:15

I think the rest of the requirements are—. It does offer some flexibility, but it's very much around providing what is appropriate to the learner. And I think we felt if we were putting a longer list of must-do requirements, that wouldn't necessarily be suitable for some of the learners in those settings. But the emphasis is on, where it's possible, that as much of the curriculum requirements should be provided, but recognising that it won't necessarily be appropriate for all of it to be provided. So, I think we tried to get that balance, I guess, as right as we can, recognising particularly in the EOTAS context, it really is a very diverse set of learners who are educated in that setting in very different types of provision. But it puts quite a different emphasis now on the commissioner in making sure that, when they're commissioning, they're providing a much more rounded education experience for those learners, whatever the nature of the provision they receive. 

Again, I think it's important to add that the cross-curricular elements and skills are also essential—so, in terms of literacy, numeracy and digital competency. I think what's really important is that we set the expectation from—. All best practice shows us, you know—and if we look at some of the pupil referral units that have recently been deemed 'excellent' by Estyn, the ability for children to move seamlessly, maybe, into PRU provision, back out of PRU provision into mainstream, or spending some time in both, is best practice, and we don't want to do anything in those settings that would make it more difficult for children to move into mainstream if that is what's suitable for them, but ensuring, for those children for whom perhaps education in mainstream is never going to be suitable for them, that there is a higher level of expectation around what is delivered for those children. 

Okay, thank you. And can I just ask, then, for what kind of development work and experiments does the Welsh Government anticipate needing to use the power under section 40 to issue directions on curriculum exceptions for certain schools?

Okay. Even if there was to be an exception, the legal status around delivery of education to achieve the four purposes remains in place. The powers could be used in relation to specific schools or cohorts of schools. If I give you, perhaps, an example, from a little time ago—the introduction of the foundation phase. So, you may have a whole-scale reform of a particular part of the cohort, and the introduction of the foundation phase would be a good example of that previously, where you might want to make some exceptions to be able to do some experimentation. So, I'm not anticipating—. I've got nothing in my mind that says, 'This is what we need to do' in terms of an exception. But it's there to futureproof the legislation to ensure that the legislation wouldn’t confine or negate innovation, and, I think, the experience that most us here this afternoon could relate to would be the introduction of foundation phase and the move to play-based learning, as opposed to the more traditional way in which we did early-years education previously. So, I think, if there was to be a new version of foundation phase or an approach, that’s a good example there where an exception may be used.

10:20

Okay. And similarly to that, then, in what kind of circumstances would you expect regulations made under section 44 to enable headteachers to make temporary exceptions to curriculum requirements in respect of certain pupils? And can you clarify, then, what safeguards are in the Bill to ensure that those pupils continue to receive an appropriate education?

Okay. So, for instance—let me give an example, maybe, of a pupil who has a significant or long-term illness. So, it might not be appropriate for that pupil or that school, who, of course, are held legally responsible to deliver a whole curriculum to that individual. It may be absolutely the right thing to do that a slimmed-down curriculum is in the best interests of that child. So, that might be an example.

The safeguards are built into section 45, which enables regulations to make provisions to the circumstances and requires provisions for an operative period for temporary exceptions. So, section 45 picks up some of those safeguards. But that might be an example where it might be absolutely appropriate for a school to do that.

Claire, can you or Ceri talk us through other exceptions? It may be also when a child might be attending school part-time, and there could be a host of reasons why, perhaps, a child might be only in one particular setting on a part-time basis. I don't know if there's anything else you'd like to add, Claire or Ceri.

Only to say, Minister, that this set of provisions substantially replicates the current provision in Part 7 of the Education Act 2002. There is an existing set of regulations, which would do the job of regulations made under this one. They're very short. They are a little outdated now—they were made, I think from memory, in 1999. So, what we would anticipate doing is just updating those. So, for example, the current regulations say that the headteacher must have regard to the likelihood of a change in the operative period of any decision in the circumstances of the pupil. So, it would just be setting out a few additional criteria the headteacher must be mindful of in exercising his authority here.   

Okay. Thank you. Suzy, you've got a supplementary. You're muted, Suzy.

Just on this, because in reading this, I didn't assume that the Minister can make regulations for individual pupils—it would be a catch-all kind of regulation to accommodate different circumstances. I hear what Mr Planchant has just said, but do you think there might be an argument to have some of this on the face of the Bill, subject to processes to change it later on through regulation? I'd be a bit concerned that there's an option here for the Minister to make quite blanket regulations that allow teachers to do certain things in a way in which they may not themselves then necessarily be scrutinised.

Well, we think that we've got the balance right in terms of the key principles that set out when the regulations can be made. So, for example, in section 44(3) it sets out that if we do make regulations, there are certain things that the regulations must say. So, it's not left entirely to the discretion of Ministers. So, there are criteria there. So, what would then end up in the detail of the regulations is just the smaller technical details, which we would anticipate would need to be viewed and amended more often than those core principles. So, we think the balance is right.

Okay. Thank you. We're going to move on now then to talk about progression and assessment, and Janet Finch-Saunders has got some questions.

Morning. How important is the principle of pupils progressing along a single learning continuum to the Welsh Government's vision for the new curriculum and how will the statutory progression code, issued under section 7, give effect to this?

10:25

Well, as we've said earlier, Janet, progression is a vital part of the curriculum and our expectations of the progress that a child would make during their time in compulsory education. The statutory progression code that would be issued under section 7 will place a duty on schools to ensure that all learners make continual progress in their learning from the ages of three through to 16. The Curriculum for Wales guidance describes the principles of progression for the curriculum as a whole and for each of the individual areas, and these articulate the ways in which the learners would make progress in their acquisition of knowledge, skills and experience and how that contributes to the four purposes.

So, all learning and teaching will contribute to progression and should be at the forefront of the school's thinking when designing and planning a curriculum. So, you don't design the curriculum and then bolt on progression to the side of it; it actually is a single, unified process that the school should be thinking about. And in some ways that's been one of the challenges in the Scottish system, where, actually, it was very much focused on content curriculum and the issue of progression came later on. For us, we've learnt the lessons of that, and for us it has been an integrated process. So, we've thought about content and what matters alongside the principles of how you would assess that a child is making progress. Learners' progress should be then identified through a range of assessment measures. So, it's an integral part of it; you can't have one without the other.

Thank you. And why is there not more detail on the face of the Bill regarding assessment arrangements under the new Curriculum for Wales? For example, the purposes or role of assessment, which will instead be stated in regulations and/or statutory guidance?

Okay. Well, you're right, the powers within the Bill will enable regulations to be made that prescribe the operational details that schools and other settings would need to follow in designing and implementing assessment arrangements as part of their curriculum. They also allow any national assessment arrangements that we may wish to implement, for example online personal assessments that would currently, if COVID wasn't around, be being taken by learners in years 2 to 9 to be mandated. That largely replicates the approach to providing for assessment arrangements within the current Education Act 2002, where the majority of the operational detail is provided for via subordinate legislation made under section 108.

It should also be noted, I think, that existing legislation that provides for key assessment processes, such as communicating and engagement with parents, are being retained in our approach in this new piece of legislation. The subordinate legislation that is made under this section will be subject to scrutiny, so it's not as if it's not subject to ongoing scrutiny.

Okay, thanks. So, shouldn't the regulations regarding assessment arrangements to be made under section 58 be subject to the Senedd's affirmative procedure rather than the negative procedure, given their significance and due to the absence of detail on the face of the Bill?

That's reflective of the status quo; the regulations currently prescribing assessment arrangements under section 108 of the Education Act are followed through a negative procedure. But I know from my experiences of legislation previously that negative, affirmative and superaffirmative procedures do take up a lot of committees' time, so I'm anticipating further debate on these areas as we go forward. I believe that this is appropriate, and, as I said, reflects the status quo, actually, but I know that committee members love a discussion of negative, affirmative and superaffirmative processes. [Laughter.]

Okay, thank you. Right, we've got some questions now on finance from Suzy Davies. 

Thank you, Chair. Yes, you're right there, Minister, some of us really do enjoy those discussions and I'll be seeing you in the Legislation, Justice and Constitution Committee at some point in the autumn on this, I'm sure.

I just wanted to ask you about the finances and the financial implications of this Bill, because the explanatory memorandum is quite frank in saying that the range that this could cost, between just over £300 million and just over £600 million—well, obviously one of those figures is almost twice the other. So, what can you say to us today to assure us that you've got the figures, or at least that you know which financial parameters you're working within, and, particularly, what can you tell us about what schools themselves are going to have to spend on this, and how you will safeguard the money that's needed for that expenditure?

10:30

Well, Chair, I've been duly warned by Suzy Davies around the procedures, and it's at times like this that I reflect on my own past behaviour as a backbencher member of committees, and sometimes I wish it's karma, sometimes I wish—[Inaudible.]—previous Minister, when it comes to these matters, but, yes, it's karma, isn't it? It gets you in the end. [Laughter.]

With regard to the financial implications, the Member is right: there's a significant range of figures contained within the supporting documentation. I should say, though, that the main area of uncertainty is around the value of staff time, so those figures aren't—it isn't real money, in the sense that that is the real money that we have got to find to implement the Bill. It is reflective of the fact that a not inconsiderable amount of time, thought, of teachers and headteachers will go into the preparation, so we've tried to capture it in its broadest possible sense. But Claire can give some more detail, but one of the reasons why the regulatory impact assessment includes a range is because of that.

The cost to schools to design the curriculum as I said will mostly be opportunity costs. Around about 90 per cent of the figures quoted is reflective of the value of staff time. Direct Welsh Government costs are circa £25 million per annum for 2021-2 through to 2025-6, and then drop to approximately £10 million to 2026-7 through to 2030-1. These costs include staffing, communication costs, as well as funding to support professional learning, and the provision of additional resources that may need to be procured to support the implementation of the curriculum. We know that we continue to have some strategic challenges that we need to resolve with regard to Welsh language resources for the curriculum. Most recently, of course, we've all been involved in debating black, Asian, minority ethnic history and BAME contributions to Wales, and you'll be aware that we've set up a working group to look at whether there are adequate resources in that regard to support the curriculum and to support a pluralistic curriculum that we would all want to see.

There are costs to Qualifications Wales, because you'll will be aware that they are consulting and developing qualification criteria to respond to changes within the curriculum, and the RIA also identifies a number of areas where, at the moment, we're slightly unsure as to what we will need to do to equip schools around the six areas of learning and experience. But, Claire, I don't know if there's anything else you'd like to say further with regard to costs that I might not have mentioned.

[Inaudible.]—on that kind of range. I think we based the assessment that's in the Bill from speaking with schools about what they anticipated their costs are likely to be, and that reflected a really wide range, which I guess is reflective of the curriculum, about schools making choices about how they want to—[Inaudible.]—their approach to developing the curriculum and the extent to which they feel that requires significant investment in professional learning and time away from the classroom that might require cover to be provided.

So, we didn't think with that kind of range being presented we could arrive at a figure and go, 'That's the answer.' So, we presented a range and then a central estimate based on that, and we worked with innovation schools, because they had been funded last year to look at the curriculum as a whole, so at the point at which we were able to gather information on costs, they had the most, I suppose, rounded overview of what actually ticking forward the curriculum would mean. Now, they did that work and they made their estimates based on our March or April version of the guidance; the version that we've now got available, which was published in January, contains a lot more detail about how to design your curriculum. So, I think we've done the best we can by asking schools what they think it would cost, and then presented the fact that that was a broad range that they came back with. And I think us plucking a figure wouldn't be accurate and wouldn't have been particularly helpful.

10:35

Okay, well, thank you for that answer. I appreciate the frankness again, but it does illustrate one of the underlying problems with us trying to look at this Bill in the round, which is the level of uncertainty that schools are still experiencing. You said yourself that there was a huge range, and one of my worries would be pinning any kind of figures on the experience of the innovation schools, or in fact the pioneer schools, who've had far more involvement in the development of the whole programme to date. It's your school that's not been involved and what they might be worried about that I would like to hear from—not today, obviously, we don't have time—and where you think that then might increase the cost to that individual school as opposed to Welsh Government or indeed local authorities and consortia.

We've been through on this committee already a serious inquiry on school funding. The cost to schools for this could vary considerably per school, and, well, I, personally, would like some certainty on how their position will be protected. Because where it might be an opportunity cost for teachers taking time out to consider the development of the curriculum, they're still potentially going to have to find cover, which will be a direct cost to them. So, I find this picture very confusing, and what I don't want us to be in is the same position as we were with the additional learning needs Bill where basically we had the start again on the finances, to make sure the Minister gets the best out of a really good idea. 

I think we have tried to capture the direct cost source specifically in terms of the cover and split that out, so that that part is—. There is still a range, but the variation is much smaller in that kind of direct cost space versus the opportunity cost component. 

Yes, I understood that. Anyway, my question is there and I'm sure we'll come back to it. Thank you.

Okay, thank you. We've got some questions now from Jack Sargeant.

Thank you for that, Chair. Minister, the Bill in front of us requires the Welsh Government to publish their curriculum, which funded non-maintained nursery settings may choose to adopt. I'm wondering if you could help us understand why they choose to have that choice to adopt it rather than design their own, whereas schools—all schools, including those of a smaller setting with similar levels of resource—are required, by this Bill, to design their own? What is the difference there in thinking?

Well, the difference in thinking is to reflect the nature of the pre-school sector, and ensuring that there is a choice there. So, as you say, a provider could design their own curriculum, but we felt, because of the nature of the sector, some of which is run on a voluntary basis, that it was only fair that the Welsh Government also produced a curriculum that could be used if the sector felt that it was too onerous—if a setting felt it was too onerous to develop their own. So, the choice is there to be able to assist the sector with an off-the-shelf-type curriculum if that was more appropriate to them, recognising, as I said, there is a great diversity in the range of the settings that deliver that education—that early education. So, if I think of my own constituency, we have voluntary-led childcare settings that are run by groups of volunteers, with very professional staff, but they simply might not have the capacity or the time to do that, which is different, of course, to a school.

Thank you, Minister. We should all say 'thanks' to those who are volunteering in those types of settings, but are you happy, then, that the smaller schools, smaller primary schools, with perhaps not too much in terms of resource, are okay with this, and they will have the support necessary to implement and design their own curriculum? You're not concerned on that front—you know, the resource is sparse, therefore the children may suffer, whereas a school with a larger number of staff may implement and design a better curriculum, for example.

10:40

Okay, well, I'm probably the Assembly Member who has, probably, more of those very small schools than anybody else, maybe with the exception—I don't know, Siân's probably got some very small schools in her area and the Presiding Officer will probably have some very small schools. We recognise that that probably is, in some ways, a more challenging task for those headteachers. That's one of the reasons, Jack, why, on coming into office, we established the small schools grant to recognise some of the logistical challenges that our headteachers in our small schools face, to support collaboration with other colleagues from different schools. Our expectation would be that those networks that have been established—there are networks there to support small rural schools especially—will come into their own in being able to support those.

But we're confident that all schools, regardless of their size, should be able to undertake this work. If they're not, I would question, then, the viability of whether—about not only their ability, then, to deliver—. But I am confident, and we have had no representations to suggest that our smaller schools will not be able to rise to this challenge. There has been no suggestion at all that that would be the case.

I appreciate that clarity, Minister. If I may move on to the other end of the school age groups, really, and focus on sixth forms in this part of the question, we've had quite a lengthy discussion, so I'll try not to take too much time, on religious values and ethics earlier, but can you tell us why the Bill requires schools to deliver religious values and ethics to sixth form students where they request it, but it does not require schools to deliver relationships and sexuality education to sixth formers if they request it? Is it a case of the Government thinking that, perhaps, sixth formers won't want to take that subject? 

Okay, so with regard—first of all, the proposed changes bring consistency between school sixth forms and further education colleges. Currently, there is a disparity between post-16 settings in the provision of statutory religious education. School sixth forms are obliged to provide religion, values and ethics education even if a learner does not elect to undertake RE as an A-level qualification. Colleges, however, are only obliged to provide RE on request. We are aware that some school sixth forms struggle to comply with the obligation that is currently placed upon them.

Of course, there is nothing to prevent a school sixth form from providing RVE to all of its learners if the school elects to do so. Obviously, this Bill is for learners up to the age of 16, as such, and the change also brings RVE in line with the wider curriculum requirements, as with the foundation phase. I believe that that approach is consistent with the principle that learners post-16 are sufficiently mature to be able to make decisions that relate to their own learning.

With regard to relationships and sexuality education, that will be a statutory element of the new curriculum for learners from three to 16, and statutory guidance will be published as to what that should include. RSE is not compulsory for post-16 learners, and the intention is that post-16 providers will use the RSE guidance to support post-16 learners in RSE and other health and well-being matters as part of their wider duty of care and pastoral issues that they would usually provide.

The draft RSE guidance is intended to support education settings to integrate RSE into a whole-school approach to building and maintaining good physical, mental and emotional health and well-being. Therefore, sixth forms and colleges will be expected to consider this guidance as they shape provision as part of that wider whole-school approach, or whole-institution approach, to health and well-being.

Okay, thanks for that, Minister. Just one final question from me, focused on year 10 and 11 students. What assurances can you provide that section 33, which enables headteachers to disapply year 10 and year 11 pupils' right under section 24(5) to exercise a choice over teaching and learning within each AoLE, will not be used excessively or disproportionately to undermine the richness and breadth of the curriculum offer? I think we had a similar line of questioning from Siân Gwenllian earlier, but obviously this is actually in the Bill for year 10s and 11s. Can you give us that same confidence as in the answer you gave to Siân?

10:45

Okay, so section 33, as you said, sets out very specific grounds for which the determination may be made. Similar provision exists in current legislation. I don't know if Claire or Ceri would like to add anything further. Claire.

I think the general duty is that the curriculum must be broad and balanced and it must provide appropriate progression—those all still apply. So, in exercising the function provided by this provision, it's absolutely constrained by the broader framework, so you can use it to unnaturally narrow the options. And as the Minister said, the Bill also specifies the grounds on which it can be used, which then limits again its scope for misuse, and it provides for a review and appeal process, so that if a learner or their parent were dissatisfied with a decision the school has made, they would be able to challenge that decision. So, I think there are quite a few safeguards, both in the way the power is qualified in the Bill, the ability to apply for a review or an appeal and the broader framework within which it sits, if that makes sense.

Yes, it does. My only concern there would be, if it got to the stage where it needed a review or an appeal process—I'd be concerned about the length of time that would take, given the fact that, if a student decides or a parent of the student decides it warrants an appeal, it's quite a serious matter. I wouldn't want that to take too long for it to be looked into. Otherwise, obviously, the pupil then may have moved on to sixth-form college or wherever. So, that's my only concern with that, but, yes, your answer clears the question up, I think.

I think, on that timing question, there is a power to make regulations in relation to this, and that would be exactly the kind of thing we would expect to put in the regulations, and why it would be in regulations would be, for example, a time limit, if it were felt that there was evidence of unreasonable delay occurring.

Jest cwpwl o bethau—dwi'n cymryd ein bod ni'n dod at ddiwedd y sesiwn, felly cwpwl o bethau gen i. Mae gennych chi dri chod yn y Bil: cod yr 'hyn sy'n bwysig', sydd yn nodi'r cysyniadau allweddol ar gyfer y meysydd dysgu a phrofiad; y cod cynnydd, er mwyn nodi'r ffordd y mae'r cwricwlwm yn gwneud darpariaeth ar gyfer cynnydd; ac wedyn mae gennych chi god am yr elfen fandadol addysg cydberthynas a rhywioldeb. Eisiau gwybod oeddwn i pam ydych chi'n meddwl bod angen cynnwys cod penodol ar y maes yma, a pham nad oes dim angen cod ar gyfer elfennau mandadol eraill y Bil, neu feysydd dysgu a phrofiad eraill y Bil.

Just a few things—I assume we're drawing to the end of the session, but there were a few questions that I did want to ask. You have three codes in the Bill: the code on 'what matters', which notes the key concepts for the AoLEs; the progress code, in order to note the way in which the curriculum is providing for progress; and then you have a third code on the mandatory element of relationships and sexuality education. I was wondering why you thought that you needed a particular code to cover that area, and why there isn't a need for a code for other mandatory elements contained within the Bill, or other areas of learning and experience within the Bill.

Okay. So, the decision to issue a code with regard to RSE is to provide absolute clarity around our expectations as to what is taught. I think that's really important because clearly this is an area where parents have an interest. It is an area where already we have seen some people seek to misinform and mislead parents as to what inclusive RSE looks like. And so this gives absolute clarity as to what it is, and perhaps equally as important what it is not, and therefore can give real confidence to parents and practitioners in an area where sometimes there is a great deal—there can be some controversy. It also ensures that we are delivering RSE that is truly pluralistic and inclusive—again, I want to ensure that that happens. Listening to the feedback of young people with regard to RSE, often it has not been delivered in a way that is truly inclusive or respects the lived experience of some of the young people. So, this is about providing absolute clarity and confidence to parents, students and professionals as to what their expectations and entitlements are with regard to RSE. The code will be based on the principles of the work undertaken by the United Nations as to what constitutes high-quality RSE provision. But, Claire, I don't know if there's anything else you'd like to add. 

10:50

I think you've summed it up, Minister. I mean, it really was in response to the considerable feedback we've received at the various stages of the White Paper and consultation on the right to withdraw, around the level of, I suppose, concern about this area. So, we felt it was important, therefore, to be really clear about what the expectations were in response to that—[Inaudible.]—both in terms of the topics, but also the way in which, from the point of view of progression, they might be covered at different points during a learner's journey through school. And it just felt that that was an appropriate response to some of the concerns that had been raised, and also to help practitioners to feel more confident in what they ought to be covering by providing just a bit more scaffolding, I guess, for this area.

Iawn, dwi'n derbyn hynna ac yn croesawu'r eglurder sydd, gobeithio, yn mynd i fod yn y cod. Fy mhwynt i ydy bod yna ardaloedd eraill o'r cwricwlwm sydd angen yr un eglurder er mwyn cael yr un cysondeb ar draws ysgolion. Felly, a fyddech chi'n agored, wrth i'r Bil yma fynd drwyddo, fod yna godau eraill yn cael eu hychwanegu, os daw'r teimlad yn glir mewn meysydd eraill bod angen yr eglurder hefyd?

Yes, I accept that and welcome the clarity that the code will hopefully provide. My point is that there are other areas of the curriculum that need the same level of clarity in order to have that same consistency across schools. So, would you be open, as we go through scrutiny of this Bill, that there could be additional codes added if the feeling emerges in other areas that we would need that clarity too?

I think, Siân, that, throughout, there is a natural tension, and I understand it, that people want specific issues put on the face of the Bill, or a specific thing that people absolutely want clarity about what is taught, and potentially the code is another way of putting that straitjacket on the decisions of individual teachers. As I said, RSE evokes a certain level of concern and anxiety and, indeed, I have to say sometimes misinformation. And we want to be absolutely clear that what we are proposing here is age and developmentally appropriate lessons for children in this curriculum.

If we're to achieve the purposes of the curriculum, I think RSE lessons absolutely have to be a part of that. It is an area where there is, again, sometimes nervousness on behalf of professionals, and therefore being able to give them clarity, and parents and students clarity, around what they should be getting is particularly important in this area, where there are very strong feelings because of the nature of the lessons that we're talking about. But there are people out there who want to misinform parents about what this means for their children, and we want to be absolutely clear to parents that they can have confidence that what we are proposing is age appropriate, developmentally appropriate and will support their children's health and well-being.

Iawn, dwi'n derbyn eich dadl chi ynglŷn â'r cod penodol yma. Fy nadl i ydy efallai y byddai eglurder mewn meysydd eraill yn cael ei groesawu hefyd, a'r ffordd o wneud hynny fyddai efallai ychwanegu cod i wneud hynny.

Yn olaf gen i, Gadeirydd—a diolch am adael i fi ofyn am faterion cyffredinol ar y diwedd fel hyn—yn eich datganiad ysgrifenedig wythnos diwethaf, gwnaethoch chi ddweud y bydd y cwricwlwm yn rhoi fframwaith i ganiatáu i bob ysgol gynllunio a gweithredu ei chwricwlwm ei hun—ac rydyn ni wedi bod yn trafod hynny. Ond aethoch chi ymlaen i ddweud 'o fewn national approach', gwnaethoch chi ei ddweud—o fewn fframwaith cenedlaethol. Beth yw 'approach'? A gwnaethoch chi ddweud yn eich datganiad eich bod chi angen gweld hwnna er mwyn cael cysondeb i ddysgwyr ar draws Cymru. Beth, yn y Bil, sydd yn mynd i sicrhau'r cysondeb yna, a beth yw'r fframwaith cenedlaethol yma roeddech chi'n sôn amdano fo yr wythnos diwethaf?

I do accept your argument on this specific code, but my point would be that clarity could be provided in other areas and that would be welcomed, and the way to do that would be to add a code.

Now, finally from me, Chair—and thank you for allowing me to ask on these general issues at the end—in your written statement of last week, you stated that the curriculum will provide a framework to allow every school to plan and implement its own curriculum—and we've discussed that. But you went on to say 'within a national approach'—within a national framework, I suppose. And you also said in the statement that you need to see that in order to have consistency for learners across Wales. So, what, in the Bill, will secure that consistency, and what is the national framework that you mentioned last week?

10:55

Well, the national framework is the guidance that we published back in January, and the Bill that sits before us today is the legislation that provides a statutory underpinning for that.

So, the national framework are the purposes, the AoLEs, the code around the 'what matters' statements, and the code around what good progression looks like. So, that's been published in January. So, the national scaffolding has been out there for a number of months, and I think it's really important to remember that in getting to that point in January, that has been the product of many years' work, not just by civil servants in Cardiff, but by those teachers who excel in those subject areas and in those disciplines who have worked tirelessly from a schools' perspective, from academia, from civic society, from higher education to arrive at that point. So, the national scaffolding is what we published in January; the Bill before the committee today is the legislation that gives that legal effect.

Okay. My point was that you said last week that you wanted the curriculum to have a national approach that secures a consistency of approach for learners across the country. My argument is that, as the Bill is at the moment, that is not necessarily going to happen. The consistency is what I'm asking about.

So, you want what we've got now, Siân. You want to dictate to teachers in every school what they should teach, which topics they should teach. We've created a national system that says why we send our children to school, what we want them to be at the end of their time in the Welsh education system, the areas of learning and experience that every single child will have to have, and a school will have to provide, and the 'what matters' within those individuals areas of learning and experience. I don't think it's necessary or indeed desirable for Welsh Ministers to dictate the topics by which those experiences, skills and knowledge are developed. I think that's for the professionals. I think that's for teachers.

Yes. Just to clear up, Lynne. I mean, I'm not arguing that we should have the status quo—not at all. I gladly, you know, appreciate what's in the curriculum. I'm just saying that, maybe, around some areas, there's need for more clarity than what we have at the moment, and there is maybe an inconsistency within the Bill itself, because one specific area, there is a code for that, and there is more clarity around that. My argument is that maybe we should have more of that, that kind of coding and clarity so that we have the consistency.

And we're very lucky that we've got this Stage 1 ahead of us where we'll be able to unpick all these issues in detail.

We have come to the end of our time. Minister, can I just say, on the issues of RSE and RVE, that the issues are clearly complex? So, the committee will be wanting to write to you to seek some clarification on the points that have come up this morning in order to aid our scrutiny going forward.

But can I thank you and your officials for your attendance this morning and for answering all our questions? As usual, you will be sent a transcript to check for accuracy following the meeting, but thank you, all, for your attendance this morning. Diolch yn fawr.

3. Papurau i’w Nodi
3. Papers to Note

Item 3, then, is papers to note: paper to note 1 is a letter from us to the Welsh Government on the impact of COVID-19 on the physical and mental health of children and young people; paper to note 2 is a letter from the Chair of the Health, Social Care and Sport Committee to the First Minister regarding childcare for key workers over the summer break; paper to note 3 is a letter from us to the Minister for Education regarding elective home education; paper to note 4 is a letter from the Children’s Commissioner for Wales to the Minister for Education regarding the expectations of schools' provision in the autumn term; paper to note 5 is a letter from the children's commissioner to the First Minister regarding children and measures to ease restrictions due to COVID-19; and paper to note 6 is a letter from the children's commissioner to all teaching unions in Wales regarding the role of the unions and the re-opening of schools in the autumn term. Are Members happy to note those? Thank you very much. 

Can I just, then, remind Members that our next meeting is Monday 20 July, when we'll be having our second scrutiny session on the Curriculum and Assessment (Wales) Bill? We'll be hearing from the Welsh Local Government Association, the Association of Directors of Education in Wales and the regional education consortia. Can I also remind Members that we've got our debate tomorrow on the committee's interim report on the impact of COVID-19 on children and young people? That's in Plenary tomorrow. And finally, can I thank Members for your attendance this morning? Thank you very much. Diolch yn fawr. 

11:00

Daeth y cyfarfod i ben am 11:00.

The meeting ended at 11:00.

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