Y Pwyllgor Plant, Pobl Ifanc ac Addysg - Y Bumed Senedd

Children, Young People and Education Committee - Fifth Senedd

20/07/2020

Aelodau'r Pwyllgor a oedd yn bresennol

Committee Members in Attendance

Dawn Bowden MS
Hefin David 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

Anna Bolt Pennaeth Diwygio’r Cwricwlwm ac Arloesedd, Ein Rhanbarth ar Waith (ERW)
Head of Curriculum Reform and Innovation, Education through Regional Working (ERW)
Arwyn Thomas Rheolwr Gyfarwyddwr, Gwasanaeth Effeithiolrwydd a Gwella Ysgolion Gogledd Cymru (GwE)
Managing Director, North Wales School Effectiveness and Improvement Service (GwE)
Clara Seery Rheolwr Gyfarwyddwr, Gwasanaeth Addysg ar y Cyd Consortiwm Canolbarth y De (CSC)
Managing Director, Central South Consortium Joint Education Service (CSC)
Debbie Harteveld Rheolwr Gyfarwyddwr, Gwasanaeth Cyflawni Addysg i Dde-ddwyrain Cymru
Managing Director, Education Achievement Service (EAS) for South East Wales
Ellen ap Gwynn Dirprwy Lefarydd ar gyfer Addysg a’r Gymraeg, Cymdeithas Llywodraeth Leol Cymru
Deputy Spokesperson for Education and Welsh Language, Welsh Local Government Association
Karen Evans Cadeirydd, Cymdeithas Cyfarwyddwyr Addysg Cymru
Chair, Association of Directors of Education in Wales
Natalie Gould Uwch-arweinydd o ran Diwygio'r Cwricwlwm, Gwasanaeth Addysg ar y Cyd Consortiwm Canolbarth y De (CSC)
Senior Lead for Curriculum Reform, Central South Consortium Joint Education (CSC)
Sharon Davies Pennaeth Addysg, Cymdeithas Llywodraeth Leol Cymru
Head of Education, Welsh Local Government Association

Swyddogion y Senedd a oedd yn bresennol

Senedd Officials in Attendance

Lisa Salkeld Cynghorydd Cyfreithiol
Legal Adviser
Llinos Madeley Clerc
Clerk
Michael Dauncey Ymchwilydd
Researcher
Sarah Bartlett Dirprwy Glerc
Deputy Clerk
Sian Hughes Ymchwilydd
Researcher
Tanwen Summers Ail Glerc
Second Clerk

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. Can I welcome Members to this virtual meeting of the Children, Young People and Education Committee? In accordance with Standing Order 34.19, I determine 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 the meeting, which was 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's an issue with the translation, I will ask you to pause for a moment while our meeting technicians reset the system.

We've received apologies for absence from Janet Finch-Saunders, and there is no substitution. Can I ask Members if there are any declarations of interest, please? No. Okay, thank you. Can I just, then, note 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 2 gyda Chynrychiolwyr Cymdeithas Llywodraeth Leol Cymru a Chymdeithas Cyfarwyddwyr Addysg Cymru
2. Curriculum and Assessment (Wales) Bill: Evidence Session 2 with Representatives from the Welsh Local Government Association and the Association of Directors of Education in Wales

Item 2 this morning, then, is our second evidence session on the Curriculum and Assessment (Wales) Bill with representatives of the Welsh Local Government Association and Association of Directors of Education in Wales. I'm very pleased to welcome our witnesses this morning: Councillor Ellen ap Gwynn, who is deputy spokesperson for education and Welsh language at the Welsh Local Government Association; Sharon Davies, head of education at the Welsh Local Government Association; and Karen Evans, who is chair of the Association of Directors of Education in Wales. Welcome to all of you and thank you for joining us this morning. Due to the time constraint, we'll go straight to questions, and the first questions are from Siân Gwenllian.

Diolch yn fawr iawn, Cadeirydd, a bore da i chi a diolch am ymuno â ni heddiw yma. Y cwestiwn mwyaf amlwg ydy: pam fod angen gwneud hyn? Ydych chi o'r farn nad ydy'r cwricwlwm, fel mae o ar hyn o bryd, yn addas at y diben? A pam fod angen ailwampio yn llwyr, a dweud y gwir, yr hyn sy'n cael ei addysgu i blant a phobl ifanc?

Thank you very much, Chair, and a very good morning to you and thank you for joining us. The most obvious question is: why do we need to do this? Are you of the view that the current curriculum is no longer fit for purpose? And why do we need a complete overhaul of what's taught to our children and young people?

Os caf i ddechrau. Yn gyntaf, bore da i chi gyd. Diolch, Siân. Dwi o'r farn, yn bendant, fod angen moderneiddio'r cwricwlwm. Fel mae'n digwydd, dwi'n cofio mynd i Lundain i lobïo pan oedd Deddf 1988 yn cael ei thrafod—ar y pryd hynny, i sicrhau bod y Gymraeg yn cael ei lle perthnasol yn y cwricwlwm hynny. Wel, mae yna sawl blwyddyn wedi mynd ers 1988, ac mae'n hen bryd, dwi'n meddwl, inni foderneiddio'r cwricwlwm a dwyn o i fyny i anghenion yr unfed ganrif ar hugain. Felly, dwi'n croesawu'r ffaith bod y cwricwlwm wedi newid yn ôl canllawiau adroddiad Donaldson.

Mae'n rhaid bod yn ofalus, wrth gwrs, wrth symud ymlaen i weithredu'r cwricwlwm newydd, ein bod ni ddim yn anghofio pethau. Fel y dywedais i'n gynharach, bues i'n lobïo i gael lle priodol i'r Gymraeg yn 1988, a dwi'n credu bod yn rhaid inni sicrhau ein bod ni'n cadw, nawr bod y ddwy iaith yn gyfartal—ein bod ni'n gwneud yn siŵr ein bod ni yn sicrhau bod pob un o'n plant ni yn ddwyieithog erbyn o leiaf 11 neu 16, os yn bosib. Mae yn her, ond dwi'n credu ei fod e'n rhywbeth y dylen ni gadw o flaen ein llygaid.

A hefyd ein bod ni ddim yn anghofio, er ein bod ni'n rhoi ambarél ar draws y dyniaethau—ein bod ni ddim yn anghofio pwysigrwydd hanes Cymru, hanes pobl dduon, a hanes y bobl ethnig sydd wedi dod i fyw yn ein mysg ni, dros y canrifoedd, wir, a'n bod ni ddim yn anghofio, trwy adael i ysgolion unigol, efallai, gymryd drosodd yn llwyr. Mae'n rhaid rhoi canllawiau iddyn nhw a'u bod nhw yn gweithio o dan y canllawiau eang rheini. Felly, dwi yn croesawu'r ffaith ein bod ni yn cael cwricwlwm newydd ond bod rhaid inni fod yn ofalus ei fod o'n mynd i weithio i ni.

If I could begin. Good morning to you all, and thank you, Siân. I'm certainly of the view that we do need to update and modernise the curriculum. As it happens, I remember going to London to lobby when changes were being discussed in 1988, and, at that point, it was to ensure that the Welsh language was given its proper place in that curriculum. Well, a number of years have passed since 1988, and it's about time that we modernised our curriculum and brought it up to date so that it is fit for purpose in the twenty-first century. So, I welcome the fact that the curriculum is changing, according to the Donaldson guidelines.

We do have to be cautious, of course, in making progress and in implementing the new curriculum, that we don't forget certain things. As I said earlier, I was lobbying to ensure a proper place for the Welsh language in 1988, and I do think that we must ensure, now that both languages are equal, that each and every one of our children is bilingual by 11, or certainly by 16. It's a challenge, but it's certainly something that we should keep in the front of our minds.

And also that we shouldn't forget, although we are providing an umbrella across the humanities—we shouldn't forget the importance of Welsh history and black, Asian, minority ethnic history, those who have come to live among us over a period of centuries, and that we shouldn't forget that by allowing individual schools to take full responsibility. We do have to provide guidance to schools so that they can work under those broad guidelines. So, I do welcome the fact that we are having a new curriculum, but we do have to be cautious to ensure that it does work for us.

A dwi'n cymryd bod Sharon a Karen yn cytuno bod angen cwricwlwm newydd. Gaf i ehangu'r drafodaeth ychydig bach, felly, i ofyn: ydych chi'n credu, Karen, y bydd y cwricwlwm newydd yn arwain at wella ysgolion a chodi safonau? 

And I assume that Sharon and Karen agree that we do need a new curriculum. Can I open out the discussion a little to ask whether, Karen, you believe that the new curriculum will lead to school improvements and raising standards?

09:35

Bore da. Yes, we do believe that the new curriculum will lead to improving standards. As Councillor Ellen ap Gwynn has said, the current curriculum is very outdated; it's 30 years old. It reflects a time that some of our learners actually don't recognise. Also, although there have been changes to the curriculum over the last 30 years, those changes haven't been coherent and consistent. So, there's been a focus, for example, on primary education and qualifications at key stage 4, but not key stage 3.

So, what we're looking to do is build a coherent curriculum, focusing on the skills, knowledge and experience that children need for success and achievement in the twenty-first century. And I think everybody, as a reassurance, in the system within the education community and family is committed to delivering the best-quality learning and education experience for our children today. As a result of that commitment, within the new curriculum we believe that we will see an improvement in standards, outcomes and experience for equality of provision for our children. 

Oes gennych chi dystiolaeth bod newid cwricwlwm yn arwain at godi safonau ac, yn benodol, yn cau'r bwlch cyrhaeddiad? Pwy sydd am ateb? 

Do you have any evidence that the change of curriculum does lead to an improvement in standards and, specifically, narrows the attainment gap? Who'd like to go first? 

Os caf i ddechrau, felly. Dyna'r bwriad ond mae'n rhaid inni fod yn ofalus sut ydyn ni'n diffinio cyrhaeddiad fan hyn, achos mae gofynion mwy modern yr unfed ganrif ar hugain, dwi'n meddwl, yn wahanol iawn i beth roedden ni'n edrych ac yn anelu ato fo cynt. Beth sy'n bwysig i fi ydy bod plant yn cael eu paratoi ar gyfer y byd modern: llythrennedd, rhifedd a'r sgiliau digidol. Fel rydyn ni wedi sylwi'n llawer iawn fwy yn ddiweddar, mae'n rhaid inni gyd fod yn barod i weithio yn llawer mwy digidol nag oedden ni, ac efallai heb bapur hyd yn oed. Wedyn, mae'r sgiliau sylfaenol newydd—mae'n rhaid inni roi sylw iddyn nhw, ond hefyd agor eu meddyliau nhw. I fi, addysg yw agor meddyliau, nid hyfforddiant pur i ddysgu, dysgu, dysgu ffeithiau, ond ein bod ni'n agor eu meddyliau nhw yn fwy i'r byd sydd o'u hamgylch nhw, a dwi'n credu bod y syniadau sydd tu ôl i'r cwricwlwm newydd yma yn mynd i roi'r cyfleoedd yna i ymestyn gorwelion, yn ogystal â rhoi sgiliau angenrheidiol i blant. 

If I could start, then. That's the intention, of course, but we must be cautious how we define attainment here, because the requirements of the twenty-first century are very different to what we were aiming for previously. What's important for me is that children are prepared for the modern world: literacy, numeracy and digital skills. As we have really understood recently, we must all be prepared to work far more digitally than we were in the past, and in a paperless manner too. Therefore, those new fundamental skills have to be addressed, but also we need to open pupils' minds. For me, education is about opening minds; it's not just learning facts—it's opening pupils' minds to the world around them, and I do believe that the ideas underpinning this new curriculum will provide those opportunities to extend horizons, as well as giving the necessary skills for children. 

Iawn. Cytuno efo'r dadansoddiad yna, ond—. Sori—

Well, I agree with that analysis—. Sorry—

I think Sharon wanted to come in; she was indicating. 

Dim ond i gytuno gyda beth oedd Ellen yn ddweud, a hefyd mae'n rhaid inni gofio nôl i'r Donaldson review. Dyna le mae'r dystiolaeth. Mae gwaith mawr wedi mynd tu ôl i hwnna, ac mae'r cwricwlwm wedyn wedi dod o'r review hynny, yn seiliedig ar y review.

I just wanted to agree with Ellen's point, and we must think back to the Donaldson review. That's where the evidence is. There was a great deal of work done on that, and then the curriculum has emerged from that review, and is based on that. 

Ond mae o'n gorfod arwain at godi safonau, onid ydy, a chau yr attainment gap? Mae hwnna'n gorfod bod yn greiddiol i pam fod angen dod â'r cwricwlwm ymlaen. A oes yna ddigon o dystiolaeth y bydd hynna yn digwydd ac, er enghraifft, y gwelwn ni Gymru yn dringo i fyny'r tablau PISA? 

But it must lead to raising standards, surely, and closing that attainment gap. That does have to be at the core of why the curriculum is being introduced. Is there sufficient evidence that that will actually happen, and that we will see Wales climbing the Programme for International Student Assessment league tables, for example? 

Mae hwnna wedi dechrau'n barod; rŷn ni wedi gweld o'r canlyniadau diweddaraf ddaeth mas bod hwnna wedi dechrau, ac felly bydd y cwricwlwm nawr yn adeiladu ar sail hwnna. A hefyd, mae'n rhaid inni gofio gyda'r cwricwlwm newydd, mae fyny i bob ysgol nawr i gynllunio ac i ddatblygu cwricwlwm eu hunain, a nhw sy'n adnabod eu plant nhw yn fwy na neb arall. Felly, fe ddylai, wedyn, godi safonau. 

That's already started; we have seen from the most recent results that that process has started, and therefore the new curriculum will build on that foundation. And we must bear in mind too that the new curriculum allows every school to plan and develop their own curriculum, and they know their children better than anyone else. Therefore, it should certainly raise standards. 

Siân, before you come back in, Suzy's got a supplementary on this as well. 

Diolch. Thank you. Just on—. I hear here quite a level of confidence that this will raise standards, notwithstanding the point that Siân was making about the attainment gap. Where do you see local authority school improvement services contributing to that, bearing in mind that we'll have questions for the consortia a little bit later on?

09:40

Bore da, Suzy. Shwmae?

Good morning, Suzy. How are you?

Mae hwnna'n bwynt teg, ond y consortia sydd yn gyfrifol am y gwaith yna bellach, nid yr awdurdodau unigol. Felly, rydyn ni'n cydweithio, yn enwedig gyda ni fan hyn yma o dan ERW; mae o'n bartneriaeth rhwng awdurdodau lleol a'r consortia. Ond ar y cyfan, o ran y gwella a'r gefnogaeth broffesiynol yma, mae o'n dod trwy'r consortia yn hytrach na'r awdurdodau yn fwyfwy y dyddiau yma, y ffordd mae pethau wedi'u gosod allan.

Ond rydyn ni i gyd—wel, dwi'n eistedd ar fwrdd y consortiwm, felly rydyn ni yn gallu, fel aelodau etholedig, gadw llygad ar y ffordd mae pethau'n mynd a gofyn am weld y canlyniadau a chyrhaeddiad a chau'r bylchau cyrhaeddiad yma, fel sy'n rhaid inni wneud. Mae hwn yn gyfnod newydd. Dydy o ddim yn mynd i ddechrau am ddwy flynedd arall, ond rydw i wedi clywed plant Ysgol Gymraeg Aberystwyth, er enghraifft, sy'n un o'r ysgolion sydd wedi bod yn treialu—roedd y plant i'w gweld wrth eu boddau, a'r athrawon hefyd, â'r ffordd newydd yma o weithio. Ac rydw i'n credu bod athrawon yn gallu teilwra yn ôl yr angen yn fwy manwl, felly—yn ôl angen y plant unigol o fewn y dosbarth. Mewn ffordd, mae o'n rhoi mwy o hyblygrwydd iddyn nhw a'n sicrhau bod y plant yna'n gallu datblygu'n ôl eu galluoedd eu hunain i gael y cyrhaeddiad gorau y gallan nhw ar gyfer y plentyn unigol. So, i fi, rydw i'n credu ei fod e'n agor drysau i weithio'n wahanol ac i gefnogi plant yn well.

That's a fair point, but the consortia will be responsible for that now, not the individual authorities. So, we are working, particularly in ERW; it's a partnership between local authorities and the consortia. But generally speaking, in terms of improvement and professional support, it is provided through the consortia rather than the local authorities, and that's more and more the case now in the way that things are set out.

I sit on the consortium board, so we as elected members can have an oversight of how things are going and can ask to see the outcomes and the way in which the attainment gap is being closed, which is so fundamental. This is a new period; it won't start for another two years, of course, but I have heard children at Ysgol Gymraeg Aberystwyth, for example, which is one of the schools that's been piloting this—the children seemed delighted, as were the teachers, in terms of this new way of working. And I do think that teachers can tailor the curriculum according to the needs of individual children within the classroom. In a way, it provides that flexibility to them and it ensures that those children can develop according to their own abilities in getting the best possible attainment for that individual pupil. So, for me, I think it opens doors to working differently and to support children in a more effective manner.

Gaf i ofyn un cwestiwn, Ellen? Rydych chi'n lladmerydd dros lywodraeth leol, onid ydych? Ydych chi'n gyfforddus efo'r ffaith rŵan y bydd ysgolion unigol yn llawer mwy grymus o ran dyfeisio'r cwricwlwm unigol eu hunain? Onid ydy hwnna'n tynnu'r awdurdod oddi wrthoch chi mewn llywodraeth leol?

Can I just ask one question, Ellen? You're an advocate for local government, of course. Are you comfortable with the fact that individual schools now will be far more powerful in terms of drawing up their own curriculum? Doesn't that take the authority away from you in local government?

Mae'n rhaid inni fod yn ofalus fan hyn fod yna falans yn cael ei gadw, achos rydw i'n gwybod, er enghraifft—. Dydw i ddim yn siŵr beth sydd ar y Bil ar hyn o bryd, ond yn yr un gwreiddiol welon ni, roedd yna hawl gan gyrff llywodraethol i fynnu bod y Saesneg yn bwnc gorfodol, er efallai fod y cyfnod sylfaen yn rhoi cyfle i blant gael eu trochi er mwyn dysgu'r Gymraeg yn dda yn y blynyddoedd cynnar, pan maen nhw fel sbwnjys bach yn gallu pigo'r iaith i fyny'n rhwydd.

Roedd hwnna'n rhoi hawl i gorff llywodraethol reoli ar lawr beth oedd wir yn mynd yn erbyn polisi cenedlaethol, sydd yn gofyn i bob awdurdod lleol i gael cynllun datblygu addysg Gymraeg yn ei le, er enghraifft. Wel, os ydych chi'n rhoi polisi hawl neu ddyletswydd ar lywodraeth leol i roi polisi datblygu'r Gymraeg, mae'n anorfod bod rhaid iddyn nhw felly gael yr awdurdod dros elfennau o'r cwricwlwm am o leiaf—neu gyfrwng o'r cwricwlwm, neu dydyn ni ddim yn mynd i allu gwireddu'r ddeddfwriaeth yma. Mae hwnna hefyd efallai'n mynd yn erbyn deddfwriaeth y Llywodraeth Lafur i gael miliwn o siaradwyr Cymraeg erbyn 2050.

Mae yna dipyn bach o wrthdaro fan hyn ac rydw i'n credu bod rhaid inni fod yn ofalus ein bod ni ddim yn taflu'r babi allan efo elfennau o'r Bil yma. Ond dwi ddim yn siŵr. Dwi angen eglurder a ydy hyn wedi cael ei newid nawr, achos mi oedd, yn wreiddiol, beth bynnag, hawl gan y cyrff llywodraethol a'r prifathrawon i wneud y penderfyniad yna ynglŷn â chyfrwng yn y blynyddoedd cynnar.

We do have to be cautious here that we retain a balance, because I know, for example—. I'm not sure exactly what's on the face of the Bill at the moment, but in the original draft, there was a right for governing bodies to insist that English should be a core subject, although the foundation phase provides an opportunity for children to be immersed in the Welsh language in the early years when they're like sponges and they can pick up languages easily.

Now, that gave the right to a governing body to do what, in truth, was contrary to national policy, which requires every local authority to have a Welsh in education strategic plan in place. Well, if you place a duty on local government to develop a WESP, then it's necessary then for them to have authority over certain elements of the curriculum, or the medium of the curriculum, or we're not going to be able to deliver against that legislation. And that too perhaps is contrary to the Labour Government target of having a million Welsh speakers by 2050.

So, there is some conflict here and I do think we need to be careful that we don't throw the baby out with the bath water with elements of this Bill. But I do need some clarity as to whether this has now been changed, because originally, certainly, there was a right for governing bodies and headteachers to make that decision themselves on the medium of education in the early years.

Mae hwnna'n dal yn y Bil sydd wedi cael ei gyhoeddi, ond mae o'n rhywbeth mae angen trafodaeth yn ei gylch, yn amlwg.

Gaf i droi yn olaf, felly, o'm rhan i, jest i ofyn am weithredu'r cwricwlwm newydd? Mae o i fod yn digwydd yn Medi 2022. O gofio rŵan y cyfnod COVID a'r holl waith sydd wedi gorfod digwydd yn yr ysgolion yn sgil COVID ac efallai ail don o'n blaenau ni, ydy hi'n rhy fuan disgwyl i ysgolion weithredu y cwricwlwm newydd yn 2022?

That is still on the face of the published Bill, but it is something that certainly needs to be discussed, clearly.

If I could turn finally, then, and ask about the implementation of the new curriculum that's supposed to be implemented in September 2022. Now, given COVID-19 and all of the work that had to happen in schools as a result of COVID, and that we may be facing a second wave, is it too early now to expect schools to implement this new curriculum in 2022?

09:45

Can I—? Because we have spent quite a lot of time on this first set of questions, can I make an appeal for brief answers, please?

Yn ôl ein cyfarwyddwr addysg ni, mae hi'n berffaith hapus ein bod ni jest yn symud ymlaen fel ydyn ni. Dwi'n credu yn broffesiynol, mae'r proffesiwn yn barod i symud erbyn hyn.

According to our director of education, she is entirely content that we make progress according to the timetable, I think. The profession is ready to move on this now.

Yes. Sorry, apologies. Just to say that the profession has been working to prepare for the implementation of this for a number of months now, and so it is important that we continue to work with urgency and maintain momentum and work in a connected way to address any challenges that might come, because we've been anticipating this change for a long time, and we believe that, actually, the change will benefit our learners.

Yes, just to say that the framework guidance was released in January, so schools are well rehearsed on what's expected of them. The Bill is—. That's where the policy is, and there's the implementation, and we have been looking as well with the learning guidance that's coming out in September for schools opening. It's all built in within the framework of the national curriculum, so it's not—. COVID: yes, it's a blip, but we are working within the implementation.

Okay, thank you. And the next questions are from Suzy Davies anyway. Thank you.

Thank you, Chair. Before we move on, though, I think I need to challenge again the confidence that you've had in that everything is going swimmingly in terms of keeping to a timetable on this. Certainly, we've had some pushback from teachers, and you may have started to hear a little bit from unions as well that even though in the scheme of things this looks like, let's say, six months out, the autumn term is going to be contributing to catch-up as well, so the space available for curriculum development is shorter, perhaps, than we think it is. I think there's a mixed picture out there that you need to be aware of; whereas some schools are probably hurtling ahead with this, there are some who definitely feel that they've been affected by the COVID gap, and that the level of contact between some schools and the pioneer schools, for example, who've been leading the way—maybe now the innovation schools—hasn't been that marvellous. Again, it's a really, really mixed pictures.

So, it's not a criticism, but I think we need to be careful of presenting a picture that everything is hunky-dory, because certainly the survey we did over the early part of this COVID—when I say 'we', I mean my party—we had 76 per cent of respondents saying there's been a negative effect on the development.

On—I'm sorry, I should say I agree with Sharon as well; the Bill and the implementation are two different things, so I don't have an issue with the implementation of the Bill at this time.

Can I just go back as well to this issue of where there may be disagreement between headteachers and maybe the local authority with regard to WESPs and so forth, and maybe disagreements between a school and a community—whether you think there's enough in the Bill to resolve those disputes, or potential disputes?

Dim ar y funud, na—dyw e ddim yn eglur, a dyna pam dwi wedi codi'r mater beth bynnag. Dwi ddim yn credu ei fod o'n glir, ac mae angen eglurder ar hynny neu mae e'n mynd i achosi problemau, achos mae yna dyndra fan hyn rhwng dwy Ddeddf—rhwng y Ddeddf yma, pan fydd hi'n Ddeddf, a'r Ddeddf ynglŷn â'r WESPs. Felly, mae'n rhaid ichi ddatrys y tyndra cyn i'r Bil fynd trwyddo, mi fyddwn i'n awgrymu, achos os ydy'r cynlluniau trochi i gynyddu nifer y plant sy'n gallu bod yn rhugl yn y Gymraeg yn mynd i lwyddo, mae'n rhaid bod y Saesneg yn cadw allan tan fod y plant yn saith, achos dyna'r drefn, mewn gwirionedd. Os ewch chi dros y cyfandir, dyw plant ddim yn dysgu—ddim yn mynd i addysg ffurfiol nes eu bod nhw'n saith oed beth bynnag. Maen nhw mewn blynyddoedd cynnar, a dyna'r patrwm rŷn ni wedi trio ei sefydlu yma. A dwi'n credu, os yw rhieni am i'w plant nhw fod yn blant dwyieithog ac nad ydyn nhw'n dod o gartref Cymraeg, dyna'r unig ffordd dŷch chi'n mynd i lwyddo i gynyddu'r niferoedd—[Torri ar draws.]

Not at the moment, no—it's not clear and that's why I've raised the issue. I don't think it is clear, and we do need clarity on that, or it will cause problems, because there is tension here between two pieces of legislation—between this legislation, when it is enacted, and the legislation on the WESPs. So, you do have to resolve that tension before the Bill goes through, I would suggest, because if the immersion process to increase the number of children who are fluent in Welsh is to succeed, then English has to be excluded until the age of seven, because if you look across the continent, children don't enter formal education until they're seven. They're in early years, and that's the pattern that we have tried to establish here. If parents want their children to be bilingual and they're not from a Welsh-speaking household, that's the only way that you're going to succeed in increasing the numbers—[Interruption.]

09:50

Ie, ond hoffwn i fynd heibio hynny, achos dwi wedi clywed eich ymateb ynglŷn â'r Gymraeg—ond jest lle bydd e'n ffrae rhwng y gymuned a'r prifathro neu'r brifathrawes neu bwy bynnag arall, achos dyw hynny ddim yn glir yn y Bil chwaith, yn fy marn i.

Yes, but I'd like to get past that because I have heard your response on the Welsh language. I'm thinking here of areas where there may be arguments between the community and the headteacher and anyone else, as that's not clear in the Bill either, in my opinion.

Na, dwi'n cytuno. Dwi'n credu y dylai polisi fel yna—polisi blanced—fod yn eiddo i lywodraeth leol yn hytrach na'r ysgol unigol o ran polisi'r ffordd mae pethau'n mynd i weithio. Mae rhoi cwricwlwm addas i'r plant yn lleol i mewn o dan ymbarél polisi yn haws ei wneud, a dwi'n credu y byddai'n arbed lot o ffraeo yn y gymuned, fel dŷch chi wedi sôn amdano fe yn fanna. Os oes yna ormod o rwydd hynt i bobl benderfynu beth maen nhw eisiau, mi all fod yn broblemus, a dwi'n meddwl y dylai fod yna bolisi ymbarél a bod yr ysgolion yn cael hyblygrwydd o dan bolisi ymbarél i weithredu.

No, I agree. I think that the blanket policy should sit with the local authority rather than individual schools in terms of how things work. Providing an appropriate curriculum under a policy umbrella is easier to do, and I do think it would save a great deal of disagreement in the community, as you just mentioned there. If there is too much freedom for individual schools to decide what they want, it could be problematic, and I do think there should be an overarching policy and that schools should have flexibility underneath that overarching policy.

Ocê, diolch. Ydych chi i gyd yn cytuno? Karen neu Sharon?

Okay, thank you. Are you all agreed on that? Karen or Sharon?

Just to add, I would say that the LAs retain statutory responsibilities. So, it is about co-working with the schools, with the governors and headteachers, but also with our self-improvement agencies as well, and the consortia, because that's how we have been doing it. It's about co-constructing the curriculum in going forward, ensuring that all these messages, those ongoing discussions, are taking place, and that, where we need to get to a compromise, we can get there really quickly. We've just got to be mindful that we're all in this together, and that it is about keeping those dialogues ongoing. But LAs do retain statutory responsibilities for a whole range or plethora, so it's really difficult, then, for a school to be able to go off on a tangent. And I think that's where, as Ellen mentioned earlier, we need to be mindful of the balance and everybody's got to be part of that balance.

Okay, thank you for that, because actually weighing up who has the weightiest influences I think is going to be important as this one goes through in terms of implementation.

Just a final one from me then, if that's ok. Originally, I think there was some concern from the WLGA in particular, but ADEW as well, that the areas of learning and experience weren't detailed enough for practitioners for use with any certainty. I think you've moved on from that position there. Can you tell me, then, whether you're now satisfied that the level of curriculum content that's on the face of the Bill is appropriate, because a lot of stuff is now in statutory guidance? And what do you think should have happened to those four integral skills that were to be developed to reinforce the four purposes? Should they be on the face of the Bill, as well? 

I think that, since the original initial discussions, things have moved on, and I think there's been a lot of focus and discussion on developing and ensuring the detail that underpins this. Can I just say, going back to the earlier point that you made, I think it's really important to reassure you that we are committed strategically to ensuring that this Bill works, but we are by no means not mindful of the level of challenging work that still has to be done to ensure that all of our practitioners in the system are comfortable with delivery within the classroom at the front line. And this is where it's really important that local authorities, regional school improvement services and schools work in absolute partnership together to make sure that we're contributing within the context of our role and responsibility, to ensure that this happens successfully for our learners to get the best out of the new curriculum. 

So, I come back to the question that you've just asked, and I think that, over the time that the discussions have been taking place, there's been a lot of discussion between regional school improvement services, who've actually been taking a lead in supporting schools to think about the implementation of the Bill, to make sure that the areas of learning and experience, and the skills that underpin those, are right, robust, and will give children the offer that they need. But, I come back to the fact that, as we move into the guidance and the implementation stage over a period of time, I'm sure that there will be further detailed discussions and work that need to take place.

09:55

Do we need to see anything else on the face of the Bill? That's kind of what I was coming to, though. 

I don't think so, because I think, with anything, it's what underpins it, and it's the agreement around how the detail develops that's really, really important. I do think it's vitally important, going forward, that we work within our roles and responsibilities collegiately and in a connected way. I think that's the challenge for us, in terms of implementation.

Okay, thank you. We'll move now, then, to some questions on the mandatory elements in the Bill, and those are coming from Dawn Bowden.

I thought I was on an iPad for a minute—I was trying to unmute with my finger, so apologies. [Laughter.]

Good morning, everybody. Can I just follow on very briefly from the Welsh language questions? I've got a few other questions around some other areas, but I think this follows on from earlier questions, particularly the answers that Ellen gave around schools being able to disapply English up to year 2. I understand exactly where you're coming from on that. I'm just wondering whether any of you feel that there is the potential for some unintended consequences for schools that choose to go down that route—that is, to disapply English completely up until age seven.

That's the way we work here in Ceredigion. I think most of our schools do disapply English until the children are seven, in a formal way—you know, in formal teaching. But they pick it up very, very quickly, and, as you know, all children are familiar with English by the time they get to that age anyway. We don't find that it pulls them back at all. In fact, if we're serious about having a bilingual nation and your policy to have a million speakers by 2050, then it's the only way, in my view, of being able to give the children the skills they need to become fully bilingual by the time they're 16.

Anybody else? I was thinking more in line with the statutory obligations of local authorities, because this is a decision that's not going to be taken by a local authority, is it? This is a decision that's going to be taken specifically by a headteacher in a particular school. So, my thinking was more around the unintended consequences of tensions between the local authority and the school.

You're right—you're right on it. That's why I was making the point earlier that local authorities, as the statutory authorities, need to retain the right to put a wider blanket policy in place for things like this, especially as, as I've said before, there's this tension between this new legislation and legislation we have to work to now to prepare Welsh in education strategic plans for developing Welsh language education. If we don't, as authorities, have the right to put that policy in place, we're not going to be able to deliver on the WESPs. So, that needs to be reviewed urgently to make sure that they're hand in hand and not—

So, your view is that this shouldn't be a decision left to an individual headteacher; this should be a local authority decision.

Indeed. I've written to the Minister to that effect.

Sharon, you—. But I don't want you to repeat anything that's been said, please, because we are short of time. 

It is about working together and using the consortia, then, to work with the schools to understand their curriculum when they're designing their curriculum—to understand the reasons behind it—and having those ongoing conversations, then, to ensure that the curriculum they've got is the right curriculum for their community.

Yes, I understand—I understand. Okay, well, if nobody else has got anything to say on that, can I move on to the mandatory elements of the Bill and ask for your views on the four mandatory elements? Are you satisfied that they are right? Do you think that there should be more mandatory elements on the face of the Bill? What are your views on that?

10:00

Dawn, I think we can go on and speak about the specifics, if that's okay. Shall we go on to relationships and sexuality education and religion, values and ethics, otherwise we're short of time?

Yes. We can do that, yes. So, my questions on RSE and RVE, really, are around the—again, it's about the unintended consequences of no parental control over these subjects, which we currently have—or parental rights to withdraw. The new Bill is proposing that we won't have that anymore. What are your thoughts and views on that?

I think Karen wanted to come in, or were you indicating for the last section? Okay. Sharon.

I think we just need to be mindful that the Bill is coherent with the Donaldson review, as I mentioned earlier, and that's it's all integral, and if you pick one element out it's going to have a knock-on effect on other elements because they're all intertwined. I think we've got to bear in mind where we are. We're in the twenty-first century, this is a curriculum for the twenty-first century, and if we want our learners to be citizens, ethical citizens, of the twenty-first century, I think it's important then that they learn about different cultures and different faiths across the world, so that we can be more tolerant of each other.

Personally, I'm not in favour of faith schools, because I think you've seen the result of them in Northern Ireland, for example. I think having a broad based, more philosophical based, curriculum that allows children to understand the different beliefs there are—or lack of—across the world gives them a much better basis going forward. So, I would support this. I think that every child should be aware of these religious beliefs and it's up to them to decide whether they are acceptable to them or not going forward. But to insist that children are only taught in one way I think really hamstrings children going forward.

I suppose where my question was leading around unintended consequences is: do you think there is a danger that we could see more parents withdrawing children from school and resorting to home education, rather than allowing their child to be taught in subjects that they personally have an objection to?

There's a danger. There's always a danger. You get children being pulled out of school because of their parents' beliefs, not necessarily religious beliefs, but the way that they want their child to be brought up. It may affect a few, but on the whole I think—as I've said before, I think a broad-based education would serve all children in good stead going forward, so that they understand better how other people think and feel and their viewpoints going forward.

Thank you. I think what will be important is the way in which the new curriculum is communicated to parents and children themselves, and I think there will be work to be done going forward to ensure that we reassure parents what the intention and the detail of the new curriculum is so that, if any parents have concerns about the type of education that their children will be receiving, those concerns are addressed and they're supported.

As Councillor Ellen ap Gwynn says, there may be some individual cases where parents choose to withdraw their children, and I think that those conversations will need to be had on an individual basis. But I think the overarching aim is to ensure that children receive that broad balanced curriculum, and ethical curriculum, to ensure that they become informed and ethical citizens, knowledgeable of the world that they're growing up in. I think we shouldn't lose sight of that, but I do think we do need to give thought to how we share that intention, so that parents and broader communities support that going forward.

So, leading on from that, then, I suppose you're kind of confirming what—my next question was around the role of the local authority in ensuring that those particular elements around RSE and RVE are delivered in an objective, critical and pluralistic way. You see the local authority having a critical role in all of that.

10:05

Karen. No, no, I'm going to bring Karen in, thank you. Karen was—

I beg your pardon.

Apologies. Yes, I do think the local authority has a role in this. The local authority has a key role. As Councillor Ellen ap Gwynn and Sharon have said, the local authority retains statutory responsibility and has a duty to ensure that all schools offer quality provision for their learners. That is key going forward, and what is key also is the local authority setting the expectation for partnership working, and not just, actually, with regional school improvement services and schools, but also with other stakeholders, because other stakeholders have a role in input such as health, such as children's services and so on. So, I do see that.

And I also see the local authority as having a role in supporting schools with parents who may have concerns. Local authority officers work very closely with some families and some parents and seek to sometimes negotiate and mitigate and mediate regarding situations. So, I think it's about everybody understanding their role and responsibility in delivering this.

Okay. If there's nothing to add to that, Dawn, do you want to ask your next question?

Yes. So, I've got a question on RSE and whether you're satisfied that the level of detail on the face of the Bill is adequate: are you satisfied that the guidance that's likely to—well, that will—accompany that will be sufficient? What more do you feel you need around RSE?

I'll come in on that. I think, at this stage, I think that, from a personal, professional point of view, I'm satisfied with this, and I will declare an interest, because I used to teach religious education myself many years ago. I am satisfied, but, again, I think, going forward, we have to closely monitor and contribute to, and play a part in, the way that the curriculum and learning offer is developed. Because I think it's one thing to have a broad set of principles and outcomes and aims, but, moving forward, it's what it looks like in the classroom, with regard to the offer that the child is receiving that's really important. So, moving forward again, we've got to have an eye and a focus on the detail of what that looks like and we've got to ensure that we're working together to have the right, informed discussions about what needs to improve as this progresses.

Sorry, can I just clarify? My comment was about RSE not RVE, which I think is—

Oh, sorry. Sorry, I misheard.

[Inaudible.]—slightly differently in the Bill, yes.

Sorry, I misheard.

Sorry. That's okay. I should have had my mike on, perhaps. No problem.

No, it's my fault, I misheard. Apologies. I've answered, then, for a different question. Apologies.

Okay. Well, I'll come on to RVE in a moment, but, for RSE, it was just—the question was, really: do you think what is on the face of the Bill is sufficient and that the guidance that will accompany that will be adequate?

Okay. Okay, then, in terms of RVE, your views on how the Bill treats schools that have a religious character. Ellen, you touched on this earlier on in terms of, really, you favouring non-denominational schools. How do you feel the Bill is treating the delivery of this subject across all its schools?

Yes, I think I've made my views clear on this. I think that children should be educated in the broadest way possible about different beliefs across the world, and within our own communities, for that matter. I think it's important that they understand them so that they don't see them there, whatever view they've been fed early, if that had been the case, and it tends to have been the case in the past—that they don't understand the viewpoints of other belief systems. And I think it's extremely important that—you know, the way this has been set out is a good way of working, in my view. And I'm sure the guidance that comes with it will strengthen the Bill initially.

10:10

Just to be clear, though, coming back to your earlier point about having non-denominational education, within the Bill, my understanding is that faith schools actually can opt out of that wider syllabus. So, are you suggesting that you feel that faith schools, whether it's requested or not, should be forced to include that in their syllabus?

From a personal point of view, I think all children should be given a broad-based education, whatever type of school they go to. I don't know what the situation with faith schools will be under this system. They're obviously being given some sort of an exception. Personally, as I've said before, I wouldn't agree with that, but there are other views. I don't think that's included in the Bill here; I think they're still going to be allowed to work as they are.

Yes, my understanding is that faith schools will be able to opt out.

Karen, is there a general position on this across local authorities?

At this stage, no, we haven't discussed a general position on this, to be honest with you, but I think probably that is something that we may need to do, going forward. I think what is a challenge in relation to this is, obviously, balancing parental choice here as well, because, clearly, parents will choose to send their children to certain types of schools because they want a certain type of education. So, I think there are some challenges here in terms of balancing that alongside the commitment to ensuring that every child has a broad and balanced curriculum.

Did you have anything to add on that, Sharon, just before we move on?

Just to say, as both Karen and Ellen have said, it's about that broad, balanced curriculum as well, regardless of what the make-up of the school essentially is. It's the entitlement of the learner to have accurate information across a range so that they can make those decisions for themselves, and that they're able to because they've had the right learning skills behind them.

Okay, thank you. I've got a couple of questions now on some of the exemptions to curriculum requirements. First of all, can I ask if you're content with the powers in relation to exceptions to implement the curriculum in relation to certain circumstances, such as to allow development work or experiments or exceptions with certain pupils? Do you think there are sufficient safeguards in the Bill as it stands on this? Sharon, do you want to start on that?

Yes, I think so. There are circumstances where exemptions will be needed, and that's then down to the local authority to work within the schools, then, to find out what these exemptions are, what the discussions are and whether it's appropriate or not at that time. But that's going to be down to individual circumstances within the school, within families and with learners. But it's nice to have that—not nice, but that flexibility is there should it be required. I can't imagine that it's going to be used too frequently, but it does allow for those needs where it may be needed. 

Okay. Nobody's got anything to add on that? No. If I can ask about young people who are educated other than at schools, then, only being required to be taught the health and well-being area of learning and experience, and the other AoLEs being required only if it is reasonably possible and appropriate to do so: what are your views on that, please? Who'd like to go first there?

I think that all children, whichever curriculum they're following, should be given basic skills, and I can't see that in here. Basic literacy, numeracy—and digital, these days—I think are important. They can be taught in different ways, according to the needs of the individual child, but every child under EOTAS normally has a personalised curriculum, and I think it needs to ensure that it gives them the skills they need as far as they are able to develop—you know, according to their own needs and ability to develop. I think they should be given that flexibility, so that each child is given a personal curriculum, if that's what they actually need.

10:15

Did you feel the Bill is not sufficiently strong in that regard, then?

That's what struck me. We all need to be aware of health and well-being issues, but there are wider issues here for all children to be able to fit into society as best they can, and if we don't give them those basic skills, they're not going to be able to, are they?

Thank you. Can I ask, then, about the requirements for EOTAS pupils who are not in pupil referral units, and for whom the local authority are responsible? Have you got any views on the provisions in the Bill for those pupils? Who'd like to start? Sharon.

When you think, a lot of the PRUs are within local authorities and we keep coming back to the fact that it's about a broad curriculum. It's got to look at the individual learner's needs: what are their essential needs; what's their way of working as well? Because we know that, for these students, mainstream education isn't working for them, so it's about finding out what does work for them and building on that, so that they can access the curriculum, as much of the curriculum as they can, but it will be different to those in mainstream schools.

Okay, thank you. We've got some questions now on progression and assessment from Hefin David.

Can I ask the panel if they are concerned that the details of assessment are not on the face of the Bill?

Perhaps Karen could answer this one.

Apologies, I'm having a few problems hearing this morning.

Apologies. I think that it's really important that we have a clear and consistent and coherent understanding of what the assessment system requires from our pupils, but I think it's really important as well that we are not driven by a performance accountability based system, so that there's flexibility in the system for children to develop at a stage that is appropriate to them, with the overall aim of them achieving the best that they possibly can.

My view is that I think there's still some work to do on understanding what that assessment process and system is going to look like, and I think it's really important that we don't start by being overly prescriptive, but we allow teachers to engage in discussion about what that assessment system needs to look like.

I think, to be honest with you, moving forward with this, the devil is in the detail, and it's the detail that we need to really have our eye on. We need to ensure that we're engaged in constant communication and discussion over taking account of all views within the profession so that we get it right. So, I think there's still work to be done, to be honest, in this area.

So, with you saying that, are you concerned that less thought has gone into assessment than has gone into the rest of the issues around the curriculum?

No, I'm not concerned that less thought's gone in, because I think thought has gone in, but I think it's really important that—how can I put this—we take forward both together, so that assessment, the way that we assess, gives us the opportunity to measure the impact of the new curriculum effectively. I'm not concerned that less thought's gone in, but I'm concerned that we continue to take the discussion about the right type of assessment forward, so that we don't lose the opportunity to ensure that we achieve what we need to be achieving with assessment and it doesn't become—it becomes meaningful for the child in terms of informing the child's progress.

I like the idea, I have to say, of progression steps, because that builds into the system an expectation that we are all going to be focused on children continuing to progress and develop over a period of time. I like the idea of acknowledging that for some children, they will reach their steps at a different time to other children, that children aren't all going to reach the same level at the same time, and that we're building into the system, then, opportunity for targeted intervention and support that meets the individual needs of the learners, as opposed to saying, 'At this point in a child's learning career, they're going to have to achieve this level and then they move on.' It's a much more continuous, I believe, improvement journey, hopefully, for the child.

10:20

Okay, and I'd like to just look at the two ends of the education career for pupils of different ages. Are you content that there is a sufficient duty on local authorities to ensure that the curriculum for non-maintained nurseries is implemented?

I think it's important that—. At the moment, the moneys that come through to the non-maintained sector come through the local authorities, and I think it's important that there is that link. In fact, in Ceredigion from the beginning we've always supported the non-maintained sector; we give them use of the same advisory staff as our schools have if they have that element within the school—not all schools do have. But because we've got the mixed economy, then we make sure that the support is given across the board, whether it's non-maintained or maintained, and I think that that should continue and it should have that overview from the local authority to ensure there's consistency across the board there. 

Could I just say that I think is a really, really important area, because I think the way that we work with this particular sector to ensure that children get the best start to education is vitally important? And I think, as Ellen says, it's really important that particularly local authorities work in partnership and, more importantly, bring everybody together in terms of focusing on the needs of the children and their families in this particular sector because, actually, the support that goes in for children in the early years can define what their education provision looks like further down the line. At the moment in local authorities, schools and officers within local authorities, and other local authority services such as family support services, and so on, all work really closely with this sector to ensure that where individual family needs are present, they're targeted and supported so that that transition is supported effectively.

So, do you have any views on the requirements in the Bill for schools to deliver religion, values and ethics education to sixth-form students when they request it, but not relationships and sexuality education?

I think we've just got to be mindful in the sixth form that these are learners now who want to take on their learning further, and it's about giving them the choice within the curriculum because it is their choice what they take on when they go to sixth form; they decide on their subjects and things. And we've just got to be flexible, then, that we're ensuring that we're in line with any other further education institution; we don't want to alienate. We want the same curriculum in sixth forms as they would have if they were going to college or any other provision at that stage, and I think it's ensuring that consistency across the board.

And why should sixth formers have an RVE choice but then it's compulsory for everyone else?

By the time they get to sixth form, they're more mature, they've had all the curriculum behind them, and they're at a better place to be able to make those choices.

You didn't know me in sixth form, then. [Laughter.] That's a fair enough point, and I think it goes with the principle of where we've always been with sixth formers. Thanks, Chair.  

Okay. And the final questions, then, are on the financial implications of the Bill, which I'm sure are of great interest to local government, from Suzy Davies. 

Thank you, Chair. Yes, you're absolutely right here. There's huge uncertainty over how much this is going to cost at the moment. I'm just wondering whether, after the pause because of COVID in preparing a useful, shall we call it, financial impact assessment, whether both organisations know the state of play on the progress of that work. Are we any nearer knowing what this is really going to cost?

10:25

Sharon's nodding her head—shaking her head. Do you want to go first?

Yes. I just think—[Interruption.]

I've got Sharon first, Ellen, and then I'll bring you in.

I think, although we do know some elements, there are still unknown elements, and regardless of whether we had COVID or not, I think there are some elements of the curriculum in going forward with the framework and the guidance that are unknown and that's why it's key then having those discussions and it is about monitoring as we go forward.

When do you think we need to know or have some certainty with this?

Well, we've been asked through WLGA and through the Association of Directors of Education in Wales to submit an updated RIA form to Welsh Government by 4 September, so there's that ongoing piece of work, and that's for the next financial year and the following financial year. So, we'll have a better understanding in September and that also will include, obviously, the knock-on effect COVID had as well. So, we should know in September, which is quite soon on, a rough approximation.

Are you content that a lot of the focus has been on the 16 innovation schools in gleaning the information, when, as you know, as I mentioned earlier on, schools' experiences have been so different over this short-term period that the longer term effects are likely to be quite different for different schools?

Yes, I think it is. It's about looking at those, but wider, especially in relation to COVID; we have now got to look further afield and broaden that remit.

Thank you. I agree with what Sharon says. I think the challenge is that we know how much money has been spent in terms of investment with professional learning and so on, to prepare for the new Bill to date. Obviously, there will be challenges going forward in terms of ensuring that the Bill is supported as it's implemented, but I think we've got to be pragmatic here, and we are where we are with COVID; we know that the financial climate that we're going to be working in going forward is different because of the pressures that COVID has created. And what we've got a duty to do going forward is to make sure that any money spent, or every penny spent is spent in the right way and will have the most impact. So, obviously, we'll be working now to prepare the information for 4 September, so that we can give a comprehensive response.

I do think that the point that you raise in terms of ensuring that there's—[Inaudible.]—with regard to all schools, and those schools that may have experienced more challenges in preparing to implement the Bill going forward are supported, and we understand what those needs are and how we can manage and support those needs better, because obviously we've got to prioritise our money and our funding going forward to get the biggest value out of whatever money is available to us. 

From a leader's point of view, I would like to know as soon as possible what sort of level of funding is going to be available. We start preparing budgets—. You're looking forward, we're in 2020-21 now, 2021-22 and then 2022-23, and 2021-22, sorry, is the relevant—. No, it isn't; 2022-23 is the relevant year because it's September 2022 that it's coming through. So, we need to be prepared. We'll be preparing budgets six months before the start of that year. So, the sooner we're clear on the level of funding available, the better, from all points of view, as far as funding local authorities are concerned.

Okay. Well, that's my final question here, because whatever money is coming forward from Welsh Government, it's not clear yet whether it'll be coming through the education budget or whether it'll be coming through the local government budget, and if it's coming through the local government budget, you'll know the work that this committee's done before on school funding and our concerns around that. What reassurance can you give us now that school funding in support of the curriculum is safe—whatever it is that you get, that that's where it's going to go?

At the moment, the moneys for developing the curriculum and preparing teachers comes through the consortia, not through the local authority. But education funding per se comes the through local government settlement. So, there is a difference here, and how that pattern is going to be carried forward, I don't know. I haven't heard anybody talking—

10:30

Okay. Well, that's my question, because at some point, it's over to the schools to deliver the curriculum, and they're still going to need money to do that, at which point it will probably come through local government funding, I imagine—[Inaudible.]

Yes. The number of teachers that will be needed on the ground to deliver the new curriculum definitely will come through local government funding, yes. And then support staff—[Inaudible.]

Okay. Can I ask a slightly cheeky one? You may not want to answer. Do you foresee any potential tensions between WLGA and ADEW over the question that I've just asked?

I'll sit back and let them—[Laughter.]

Okay. There may be tensions, to be truthful, but tensions are healthy, aren't they, because what we do as WLGA and ADEW is we come to the table, we discuss concerns, we share our views and then we agree a way forward. WLGA and ADEW have a very, very mutually supportive and engaged working relationship, and I see no reason why that shouldn't continue. I think it's vitally important that we work in a climate where we can challenge each other, where we can disagree, but what is important is we continue to work forward in this mutually beneficial partnership, so that we get the best approach and the best outcome within the circumstances and challenges that we're working in for the benefit of our schools and, ultimately, our children.

Okay, well we've come to the end of our time, so can I thank the three of you for attending today and for answering all of our questions? As usual, we'll send you a transcript to check for accuracy following the meeting. But thank you again for your attendance this morning. The committee very much appreciates your time. Diolch yn fawr.

Diolch yn fawr am y cyfle.

Thank you very much for the opportunity. 

3. Cynnig o dan Reol Sefydlog 17.42(ix) i Benderfynu Gwahardd y Cyhoedd o'r Cyfarfod ar gyfer Eitem 4
3. Motion under Standing Order 17.42(ix) to Resolve to Exclude the Public from the Meeting for Item 4

Cynnig:

bod y pwyllgor yn penderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o'r cyfarfod ar gyfer eitem 4 yn unol â Rheol Sefydlog 17.42(ix).

Motion:

that the committee resolves to exclude the public from meeting for item 4 in accordance with Standing Order 17.42(ix).

Cynigiwyd y cynnig.

Motion moved.

I propose, then, in accordance with Standing Order 17.42, that the committee resolves to meet in private for item 4 of today's meeting. Are Members content? Thank you. We will now proceed in private, then.

Derbyniwyd y cynnig.

Daeth rhan gyhoeddus y cyfarfod i ben am 10:32.

Ailymgynullodd y pwyllgor yn gyhoeddus am 10:59.

Motion agreed.

The public part of the meeting ended 10:32.

The committee reconvened in public at 10:59.

10:55
5. Y Bil Cwricwlwm ac Asesu (Cymru): Sesiwn Dystiolaeth 3 gyda Chynrychiolwyr y Consortia Addysg Rhanbarthol
5. Curriculum and Assessment (Wales) Bill: Evidence Session 3 with Representatives from the Regional Education Consortia

Can I welcome Members back to this virtual meeting of the Children, Young People and Education Committee? Item 5 this morning is our third evidence session on the Curriculum and Assessment (Wales) Bill, an evidence session with representatives of the regional education consortia. I'm very pleased to welcome Debbie Harteveld, managing director, Education Achievement Service—EAS—for south-east Wales; Anna Bolt, head of curriculum reform and innovation, Education through Regional Working; Clara Seery, managing director of Central South Consortium; Natalie Gould, senior lead for curriculum reform, Central South Consortium; and Arwyn Thomas, managing director of the North Wales School Effectiveness and Improvement Service, GwE. Thank you all for your attendance this morning. We've got lots to cover, so we'll go straight into questions from Siân Gwenllian.

11:00

Bore da. Hoffwn i gael eich barn chi ynglŷn â pham bod angen newid neu ddiwygio y cwricwlwm mewn ffordd mor sylweddol, ac yn eich barn chi, pa dystiolaeth—pa dystiolaeth; nid jest barn, ond tystiolaeth—sydd i ddangos y bydd y cwricwlwm newydd yn arwain at wella ysgolion a chodi safonau?

Good morning. I'd like to hear your views as to why we need to change or reform the curriculum in such a fundamental manner, and in your view, what evidence is there to demonstrate that the new curriculum will lead to school improvement and raising the standards?

I understand somebody's going to lead on each area. Arwyn.

Bore da, Siân. Buaswn i'n edrych yn ôl i'r 1980au, mae'n debyg, pan mae'r cwricwlwm presennol wedi cael ei ffurfio. Dwi'n meddwl bod yna lawer iawn wedi newid, onid oes, yng Nghymru fel gwlad ers yr 1980au, a bod y cwricwlwm gafodd ei ddarparu a'i baratoi yr adeg honno, gan gynnwys y newidiadau sydd wedi digwydd yn y cyfamser—mae'n gwricwlwm sydd wedi canolbwyntio llawer iawn ar wybodaeth yn hytrach na sgiliau ac angen ehangach. Mae o hefyd, oherwydd y natur bresgriptif iawn sydd ynddo fo, wedi tynnu, mae'n debyg, llawer iawn o greadigrwydd oddi wrth athrawon yn ystod y cyfnod estynedig ers hynny. Mae yna gwestiwn sydd wedi codi, onid oes—sy'n codi'n aml iawn—sef ydy o'n addas ar gyfer dysgwyr yn lleol yn benodol hefyd.

Wrth inni edrych yn ein blaenau, beth sydd gyda ni ydy pwrpas penodol i'r cwricwlwm yn y pedwar diben. Rydym ni hefyd yn cario pethau drosodd, mae'n siŵr, onid ydym, yn y llythrennedd a'r rhifedd a'r sgiliau technoleg sydd yn ganolog i'r cwricwlwm yn ei hun. Felly, dydyn ni ddim yn gadael pob peth wrth inni fynd yn ein blaenau; mae yna fframwaith cadarn yn ei le, yn cael ei osod ar gyfer y cwricwlwm. 

Wrth inni edrych hefyd ar ddyheadau'r Llywodraeth—Cymru sydd yn hyderus, un sydd yn ffynnu, Cymru sydd yn iach—yna mae angen agwedd a lle a gofod yn y cwricwlwm i addysgu'r plant a'r bobl ifanc at y dyheadau hynny, sy'n cynnwys Cymru sydd yn ddwyieithog hefyd, yn ogystal. 

Rhaid inni edrych yn rhyngwladol, mae'n debyg, sef yr ail ran o'r cwestiwn, ac at y gwaith rydym ni wedi'i wneud yng Nghymru yn gweithio efo'r Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development ac edrych ar wledydd sydd wedi mynd drwy'r broses o newid. Un darn o newid ydy'r cwricwlwm. Mae Cymru wedi bod yn ddewr iawn yn mynd ar y daith ddiwygio yma. Mae'n daith—mae'n her sylweddol, onid ydy? Ond, wrth roi'r dysgwr yn y canol, mae'n trawsnewid anghenion dysgu ychwanegol, safonau newydd ar gyfer prifathrawon ac athrawon—yn greiddiol i'r newid yma.

Mae'n debyg mai'r buddsoddiad, os ydyn ni'n symud yn ein blaenau, ydy yn y proffesiwn addysgu a dysgu, a bod yn glir am y ddarpariaeth sydd angen yn lleol i dyfu yn y lle cyntaf ac i wreiddio. Dwi'n meddwl bod yna le a gofod wedyn yn cael ei greu yn y cwricwlwm newydd sydd yn cael ei gadarnhau gan y dystiolaeth ryngwladol o'r gwaith y mae'r OECD wedi'i wneud wrth edrych ar y system yma yng Nghymru a'i chymharu efo systemau eraill. 

Good morning, Siân. I would look back to the 1980s when the current curriculum was drawn up. I think a great deal has changed in Wales as a nation since the 1980s, and the curriculum provided or prepared at that time, including the changes that have happened in the meantime—it is a curriculum that is very much focused on information rather than skills and broader issues. Also, because of its prescriptive nature, it has taken a great deal of creativity away from teachers during the extended period that's passed since that point. There is a question that is often raised as to whether it is appropriate at a local level too. 

Now, as we look forward, what we have is a specific purpose for the curriculum in the four purposes set out. We're also carrying things over in terms of literacy, numeracy and technology skills, which will be central to the curriculum. So, we're not leaving everything behind; there is a robust framework in place for this new curriculum.

Now, if we look at Government aspirations—a confident Wales, a healthy Wales, a prosperous Wales—then you need scope and space within the curriculum to teach towards those aims, which includes a bilingual Wales, of course.

We need to look internationally, which is the second part of your question, and to the work that we have done in Wales working with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and looking at those nations that have gone through processes of change. One part of that change is the curriculum, of course. And Wales has been very courageous on going on this reform journey. It's a significant challenge, but in placing the learner at the heart of things, it transforms additional learning needs education, it places new standards for teachers and headteachers as a core part of this change. 

And I suppose the investment that we would want to see, moving forward, is in the education profession, and to be clear about the provision required locally to grow in the first instance. Then, I do think that space can be created in the new curriculum that is confirmed by international evidence in the work that the OECD has done in looking at the system here in Wales as compared to other nations.

Rydych chi'n sôn am wledydd eraill—yn anffodus, cymysglyd ydy'r profiad sydd wedi bod yn yr Alban, er enghraifft, efo cyflwyno cwricwlwm newydd.

You mention other nations—unfortunately, the experience in Scotland has been mixed in terms of the introduction of a new curriculum.  

Mae'r Alban yn un wlad, Siân, onid ydy? Mae yna nifer o wledydd eraill y buaswn i'n dadlau sydd wedi bod yn llwyddiannus. Ond dwi'n meddwl, pan rydym ni'n edrych ar wledydd fel yr Alban—. Rydych chi'n sôn am y cymysglyd; mae'n debyg rydych chi'n edrych ar ddwy system yn cymharu Cymru a'r Alban. Mae'n debyg ein bod ni'n rhoi ein pennau ni'n hunain ar y bloc yn fan hyn, ond mae gyda ni rôl allweddol fel y pedwar consortia gwella ysgolion. Doedd y gefnogaeth yna ddim ar gael yn yr Alban yn y cyfnod yna i gefnogi ysgolion i ddysgu oddi wrth y naill a'r llall wrth symud yn eu blaenau. Dwi'n meddwl, hefyd, wrth edrych ar beth sydd wedi digwydd yn yr Alban, bod y cwestiwn o atebolrwydd ac asesu a chael yr elfennau yno mewn trafodaeth aeddfed—fod hynny'n briodol ar gyfer Cymru. Dwi'n meddwl mai'r rheini ydy'r hualau pwysig sy'n rhaid i ni eu cael nhw yn eu lle yn gadarn ac yn ddealladwy. Oherwydd un o'r pethau yn y gyfundrefn sydd gennym ni ar hyn o bryd sydd angen ei newid, ac sydd wrthi'n cael ei newid, ydy'r atebolrwydd sy'n dod o'r top i lawr, ac nid yn edrych ar beth ydy anghenion y dysgwyr yn lleol yn ddigonol, hefyd. Felly, mae yna wersi i'w dysgu o wledydd eraill, yn naturiol, sydd ddim wedi bod yn hollol lwyddiannus—fuaswn i ddim yn dweud eu bod nhw wedi methu—yn eu newidiadau.

Well, Scotland is one nation, isn't it? There are other nations that I would argue have been successful. But if you look at places such as Scotland—. You say that the experience is mixed, but you are looking at two systems in comparing Wales with Scotland. I suppose we're putting our own heads on the block here, but we, as the four consortia, have a key role here as well as schools. That support wasn't available in Scotland to support schools in the transition from one to the other in moving forward. And I also think, if you look at what's happened in Scotland too, then the question of accountability and assessment and ensuring that they're included in a mature debate—that is relevant to Wales. I think those are the important things that we do have to have in place, and that they are well understood and that they are robust. Because one of the things that we have that needs to be changed, and is being changed, is the accountability from the top down, rather than looking at the needs of learners at a local level sufficiently. So, there are lessons to be learnt from other nations, of course, who haven't been entirely successful—they haven't failed entirely—in those changes.

11:05

Gaf i ofyn i rai o'r lleill ddod i mewn, efallai, ynglŷn â'r bwlch cyrhaeddiad?

Could I ask some of the others to come in, perhaps, on the attainment gap?

Can you hear me?

Just a few points, really, just to add to what Arwyn has said and just to follow up on your initial question. I think it's worth noting that the current curriculum is somewhat fragmented and it doesn't encourage that exploitation of the links between, and the connections between, individual subject areas. So, I think the new framework that we will be working towards does increase the focus on that.

Also, the new curriculum does place the focus on the 'why?' and I think it's probably worth saying that it does outline the importance of the wider experiences that learners undertake, which, I think it's fair to say, in the existing curriculum is less clear.

For me, I think the importance and the greater focus that this curriculum will place on learner well-being is absolutely critical, and I think that came through in the report—from the sex and relationships report in 2017—where they talked about, at the present time, too little focus being placed on rights, equity and relationships. So, for me, they're some of the key things that I think are important to note as well at this point. Thank you.

Dwi ddim yn argyhoeddedig fod yna dystiolaeth gadarn yn dangos bod y bwlch cyrhaeddiad yn mynd i fedru lleihau—rhywbeth rydym ni i gyd eisiau gweld yn digwydd—yn sgil y cwricwlwm newydd. Fedrwch chi ateb y pwynt penodol yna, ynglŷn â sut mae'r cwricwlwm yn mynd i leihau'r bwlch cyrhaeddiad?

I'm not convinced that there is robust evidence that shows that the attainment gap will be narrowed—something that we all want to see happening—as a result of the new curriculum. So, can you refer to that specific point on how the curriculum is going to narrow the attainment gap?

Mae'n debyg, Siân, os ydyn ni'n edrych ar beth sydd gennym ni ar hyn o bryd, dydy hwnnw ddim yn cau'r bwlch chwaith. Mae honno'n her sydd yn y system ar hyn o bryd. Mae'n debyg mai beth fyddwn ni'n gobeithio symud yn ei flaen—. Dydyn ni ddim yn gallu rhagweld y dyfodol, ond dwi'n meddwl bod yna le fan hyn, wrth greu gofod i athrawon fod yn fwy creadigol—a beth dwi'n feddwl wrth 'fwy creadigol' yw eu bod nhw ddim efo hualau'r cwricwlwm cenedlaethol a'u bod nhw'n gallu cynnig bwydlen sydd yn addas i'r dysgwyr yn lleol, ac nid, ar adegau, yn cael eu gorfodi i lenwi'r gofod efo cynnwys, efallai, nad ydy rhai o'r dysgwyr yma efo dim llawer o ddiddordeb ynddo fo, o bosib.

Dwi'n meddwl bod cael y cyfleoedd i fynd at wraidd anghenion y dysgwyr unigol—os byddech chi'n clymu hynny i mewn efo trawsnewid anghenion dysgu ychwanegol a'r cynlluniau sydd yn digwydd yn fanno, dwi'n meddwl bod yna gyfle i ddod â'r ddwy ddeddfwriaeth hynny at ei gilydd i wneud yn siŵr bod yr her rydych chi'n ei gosod yn fanna—mae hynny'n mynd i fod yn her oesol inni, onid ydy hi? Faint ydyn ni'n cau'r bwlch ydy'r cwestiwn, mae'n debyg, a sut rydyn ni'n ei wneud o. Mae yna fwlch yn wastad, buaswn i'n tybio, yn mynd i fod. Mae'n debyg mai cwricwlwm lleol ydy'r arf gorau, wedyn, i symud a chau'r bwlch penodol yna. 

I suppose, Siân, if we look at what we currently have, that doesn't narrow the gap either, does it? That is a challenge that's in the system at the moment. What I would hope for, in moving forward—. We can't predict the future, of course, but I do think that in giving a space for teachers to be more creative—what I mean by that is that they are not restricted by a national curriculum, so that they can provide a menu that's appropriate to their learners locally and that they aren't forced to fill those spaces with content that many of the learners, perhaps, wouldn't be interested in.

I think that providing those opportunities to get to the heart of the needs of individual learners—if you tied that in with the transformation of additional learning needs and the plans taking shape there, I think there is an opportunity for bringing those two pieces of legislation together in order to ensure that the challenge that you've set out there—it's going to be an age-old challenge for us, of course. By how much can we narrow that gap, I suppose, and how can we do that? There will always be a gap, I would suppose. But, a local curriculum is, I would say, the best tool in narrowing that particular gap. 

Beth fuaswn i'n rhoi yn ôl i'r ateb yna yw bod hynny'n dibynnu llawer iawn ar athrawon yn ysbrydoli pobl—plant—yn y dosbarth. Os nad ydy'r elfen yna yn ei lle, ydy'r cwricwlwm mewn peryg o waethygu'r sefyllfa, oherwydd rydych chi'n mynd i gael mwy o anghysondeb ar draws?

Well, I would respond to that by saying that that depends a great deal on teachers inspiring pupils in the classroom. If that element isn't in place, then is the curriculum at risk of exacerbating the situation, because you will have greater inconsistency across the board?

Wel, mae hynny'n gwestiwn teg—

Well, that's a fair question—

Sorry, Arwyn—I jumped in. Just to pick up on that point, I suppose the professional standards will play an absolutely key role here in ensuring, I suppose, that there is a set of expectations that schools will need to place right at the forefront of their professional learning plans to enable teachers and all practitioners in schools to understand how the new pedagogies need to be implemented at school level.

I don't think that we can look at the curriculum, in particular the point you raised around reducing the attainment gap and in turn improving outcomes for all learners, without looking at the broader reform agenda, because they all work in tandem. So, things around the schools as learning organisations will help schools to reflect on the changes that are required, the focus on consistent effective self-evaluation, the focus on schools placing a more consistent emphasis on professional learning, and of course the changes to the accountability and evaluation framework across our country will be absolutely critical to how we hold schools appropriately to account for the outcomes learners achieve. 

And, of course, I think Arwyn mentioned that the quality of teaching and learning is absolutely central to raising and improving outcomes for learners. So, the role of the regions will be critical, I believe, in providing high-quality professional learning, but also in enabling schools to collaborate with each other and, particularly within their cluster of schools, to be able to share that effective practice.

11:10

Gaf i jest wneud un pwynt arall? Diolch, Cadeirydd. Mae'n debyg hefyd, Siân, pan fyddwn ni'n sôn am gau bwlch, fod eisiau bod yn glir beth ydyn ni eisiau ei fesur hefyd. Os ydyn ni'n mesur beth rydyn ni wastad wedi'i fesur, ai dyna ydyn ni ei angen wrth inni symud yn ein blaenau? Roedd Debbie'n gwneud y pwynt, onid oedd, fod lles yr unigolyn yn mynd i fod yn ganolog yn y cwricwlwm newydd. Os ydyn ni'n ystyried mai rhan o bwrpas addysg ydy dinasyddion y dyfodol, dwi'n meddwl hefyd fod yn rhaid inni edrych yn ehangach na'r hyn rydyn ni wedi arfer ei wneud ar beth sydd yn cyfrif ar gyfer cyfundrefn lwyddiannus.

Can I just make one further point? Thank you, Chair. I suppose, Siân, as we're talking about narrowing the gap, we need to be clear about what we're seeking to measure. If we're measuring the things that we've always measured, is that what we need in moving forward? Debbie made the point that the well-being of the individual will be central within the new curriculum. If we look at the purpose of education as being forming the citizens of the future, I think we also need to look more broadly than we're used to doing in terms of what a successful system would look like.

Iawn. Fe wnawn ni symud i'r cwestiwn olaf gen i, ynglŷn ag amserlen gweithredu'r cwricwlwm newydd: ydych chi'n gweld problemau efo hynny yn sgil COVID?

Okay. If I can move to my final question, on the timetable for the implementation of the new curriculum: do you anticipate any problems with that as a result of COVID?

Unmuted. Good morning. I think, looking at the timetable, we do agree that it is possible to maintain the timescales that are planned. Partly that's because the workforce has already been focused on implementing the new curriculum. So, the guidance has been available, teachers and leaders are well aware of that. There's also been a significant amount of professional learning that's taken place, both nationally, regionally, in clusters and in individual schools.

What we're doing is making sure that this programme of professional learning can be adapted to meet the current circumstances, so it will be delivered in a blended way as we move forward. So, we're not expecting teachers to necessarily come together to engage with that. The professional learning for teachers grant continues, so that is enabling schools, despite the circumstances, to create some time and space to engage with the new Curriculum for Wales framework.

As has already been mentioned, the wider educational reforms have been implemented, and these underpin that curriculum, and schools and practitioners have been engaging with those. So, we've seen that the professional standards have been implemented, schools as learning organisations is really giving them the opportunity to think about what conditions they need in order for the curriculum in their school to enable children to thrive.

We've seen changes to initial teacher education. We're responding to those changes as we move forward through the COVID crisis. Initial teacher education and the NQT programme are evolving to enable teachers to meet those needs.

I think we've also got to recognise that, in this time, there have been some unexpected opportunities for teachers and schools, and they've really had an opportunity to evaluate what it is that they want to achieve during this time. Teachers have been far more flexible and innovative, and this could really support the timeline moving forward. I think teachers have had the opportunity to reflect and to develop their own digital skills.

We've seen such a massive increase in the digital capabilities of the workforce over the last few months. However, it is really important to recognise that this isn't the case everywhere and there is significant variability, both within schools, within regions and right across the country. One of the things that we're doing as regions, in response to this, is making sure that there is that bespoke offer to support schools. So, we know that some schools are further along on that journey, and using our challenge advisers and school improvement staff to really make sure that that support is there for those children and young people.

And I think it's about looking at the flexibility that we can have with the current curriculum. So, we've seen the learning guidance that's come out from Welsh Government in helping schools to prepare for learning in the autumn term, and that's really building on the expectations and the understanding of the Curriculum for Wales. So, it's kind of helping people along that journey.

We are expecting the shared expectation documents to be published again in the autumn term, and that's been created by middle-tier organisations, and that's, again, really going to help schools to see where they are on that journey and what it is that they need to do as they move forward.

11:15

Thank you. Next questions, then, are from Suzy Davies.

Thank you, Chair. I just want to start with that response, though, if I can, before if I go on to my questions—most of which have been covered, actually—about these unexpected opportunities for teachers to reflect. You were frank enough to go on later, Clara, to say that that's not the picture everywhere and, actually, the feedback that I'm getting is it's more the case of the latter than the former, with schools generally not really engaging with pioneer schools during this period at all in order to get support.

Can you tell me how you'll be identifying those schools that need the extra support, because there are plenty of them, and that we don't get caught up in the experiences of the innovation schools, for example, who will have obviously started—well, certainly the pioneer schools—will have started their journey much, much sooner? And while it's also true, I think, to say that some primary schools will have got into this a little more quickly because of their foundation phase experience, I don't think that's true for a lot of secondary schools. I suspect you're going to have to do quite a lot of support in secondary schools in a short period of time, at the same time that they're doing all their COVID catch-up. Can you give us an indication of how you're going to be doing that?

Yes. I think, right across the country, the consortia are supporting schools. So, it's the role of the challenge advisers identifying where the school needs to go next, and I think we've got to be really careful with this period of time. We've got this catch-up, the concept of a catch-up, but what are we trying to catch children up on? And how are we really thinking about what it is that we're teaching our children and making sure that it's giving them the right opportunities as they move forward?

And, yes, we do have to be mindful, particularly in secondary schools. We have challenges around GCSE and A-level content that needs to be covered, and I think it's working with those schools to be able to identify what are the key elements that need to be covered and how do they map their curriculum as they move forward. I think there have been lots of opportunities around key stage 3, particularly, in secondary schools where teachers have been more creative. I completely accept that it's much harder to be creative around exam content because there is a required syllabus, but I think we're starting to see, in key stage 3, that more of those teachers are being creative and really thinking about why they are teaching particular aspects. And that support will carry on as we move forward.

So, the professional learning offer that's offered right across all of the regions will reflect on the information and the intelligence that's been gathered through those challenge adviser and school improvement visits to schools. I think what we've been able to do, and we've demonstrated that we've been able to do it during this crisis, is really provide a bespoke response to schools. The curriculum is saying that it should be a local curriculum that meets the needs of children and engages them, and, actually, the professional learning programme that we're offering right across the country is taking that principle as well. So, we have national programmes, but we're then saying, 'How do we make those fit in a local way to ensure that schools are ready to implement the curriculum and to move forward with it?' So, I think, over the coming term and the coming year, there will be a lot of dialogue with schools, and then it's really about making sure that that support offer is bespoke and meets their needs as we move forward.

11:20

Just to add if I can to the response around how will we know where those schools are that require that additional support, I think that was one of your questions at the outset. I think what's important is that the shared expectations document that's been co-constructed with Estyn, ourselves, local authorities and Welsh Government will set out those timescales for schools and will enable schools to be able to self-evaluate where they are against each of those expectations.

For regions, then, it becomes that dialogue with the challenge adviser and other partners within the system to enable that bespoke support to go in alongside that shared expectations document, so each individual milestone of expectation. It will also be important—you also mentioned the pioneer schools or innovation schools at the outset. As we start back to a more normal schooling in September, it will be absolutely critical that regions make those networks of practice to enable schools to learn and share their experiences of where they've been, because I do concur with what Clara has said in that they have had a rapid improvement journey for their own professional learning as well.

So, I suppose, in essence, that document, which was due to come out just before lockdown happened, will be one of those critical documents to help schools, and also to help the bespoke support.

I've got a couple of people indicating to come in on this. Sorry, Suzy.

Mine is just a very quick point. Reflecting on this period, quite rightly there's been lots of learning, especially, as colleagues have said, in key stage 3, but I think people, on reflection, have seen the importance of engaging parents widely and comprehensively in their children's education. Where schools have really had strong engagements with the parents and a clear understanding of the purpose of what's being offered and their own role, I think that has been very successful during this period as well. So, I think there's some strong learning there to take on board as well.

Yes, very briefly, just to add that it's been interesting in the last few weeks just how high the requests have been for support. Coming up towards the end of term, we've had significant numbers of requests from local authorities, schools, clusters, lots of secondary schools that, actually, are raring to go in September and really wanting to engage as quickly as possible on the back of reflecting on how they've managed the blended learning experience.

I'm not surprised at all, actually, because there have been no indications that there would be some choice about implementation dates, I think some schools are starting to panic now. Can I just come back on one final point, if you don't mind? This is about this co-constructed shared expectations document. I didn't hear that school leaders were part of the co-construction there, so I'd be curious to know what immediate feedback you've had from teachers about possible delayed implementation dates, bearing in mind that they really, really want to do this well—it's not about just delaying things for the sake of it—and how much support they want from you. I don't know who wants to answer that.

I'll come in. So, the pioneer schools, as were, have obviously been part of those discussions, and more importantly the learning from those schools has been taken into account through the shared expectations document. So, what was important is the learning that they've had through their experiences; that's the whole point of them pioneering. Can you just remind me on the second point that you raised?

Yes, about the type of support that schools will be wanting and the pace at which they want it, because, obviously, if they're feeling constrained by the timetable and they still want to do a good job, they're going to need speedy support.

11:25

Yes. So, I think we probably all will be in the same boat as Anna. Schools—there is variance, but, in the main, schools are keen to get on with that professional learning. And, as regions, we—alongside Welsh Government and Estyn and local authorities, there is a national professional learning programme that accompanies the shared expectations document that will assist schools, all practitioners in schools, to be able to engage in the key themes around curriculum design, the purposes, and to help them to be able to share their experiences of co-creation of and design of curriculum.

Okay. Any changes that have speeded up what you think should be happening at that point? Pace is a big deal here.

I think one of the key learnings from this period is—and Clara alluded to it; it's two things, really. When there's a problem, people like to come together to share that problem and to sort the problem out. We've seen that in addressing the COVID. But the behaviours, I think, of schools wanting to work in clusters and, again, building on Anna's point, towards the latter half of this term, working together on new teaching and learning approaches—. The speed of it, which is, I think, part of the challenge in your question—. I think new technology and new technological skills in the profession and within our own staff as well will allow different ways to get a wider reach and a quicker reach. We're so used, aren't we—? In the north here, we're up and down the A55 and knowing it extremely well. We can save a lot of time—we've learnt that in this period—by being forced to work differently. We can get to save a lot of that travelling time and put that into the energy of supporting schools through this period. School staff have improved their technological skills, so that will allow some debates to happen more often and wider as well.

Thank you. If I can just ask about the four mandatory elements on the face of the Bill, are you happy that those are the right four elements? Is there anything you think should be on there that has been left out? Who'd like to start?

I think it's my turn to start on this one, Chair. I think the—. If I start on the linguistic ones first of all, the English and the Welsh, those, quite clearly, if we're looking at a bilingual Wales, should be at the forefront of the Bill itself. The issue with the—. I think this is where we need to be clear that the Bill is talking to other legislation as well, and it's clear, around the introduction of Welsh in schools and the introduction of English at seven, that is a particular challenge if we want to be working towards a million Welsh speakers. I think the other elements where we need to be clear are with the local authority Welsh in education strategic plans and how the curriculum statements of individual schools then marry to the delivery of the local WESP. So, there are some challenges there around the English and Welsh, quite naturally.

But I think probably the key element of it I just touched on, on the religion and the values one. I think values and ethics, if you're looking at—. Going back to Siân's initial question, really, I think Wales as a country has changed significantly since the 1980s, and I think this particular element is, you could argue, along with the well-being, probably—if you're looking at informed citizens and a tolerant society, our understanding has got to be broader and wider than it ever has been if we are going to have a society that's going to be working together and, from a social perspective, understanding one another's needs going forward. So, I really welcome that particular element in the Bill itself. It will bring its own challenges for the profession, but getting the right values, I think, and ethics is extremely important. I think Debbie will support on the other elements, on mandatory elements here, if that's okay, Chair.

Yes, Debbie, and maybe you could comment on whether you think anything has been left out.

11:30

Okay. Collectively, we don't feel that there is anything left out of those mandatory elements, but I think it's worth saying that each of the areas of learning and experience are of equal value and status. We think that that is important. And, obviously, they've been designed to operate as part of that holistic curriculum. Specifically around RSE, we collectively think it's very positive that this has been given such a priority in the Curriculum for Wales. As we all know, it plays that vital role in learner well-being and safety, and we think that learners—. Of huge benefit, with it being in that mandatory element, is to make sure that learners have that right to diversity, equality, rights, empowering them to be able to make effective decisions about their own futures and, indeed, enabling them to form healthy relationships. So, for us, we think that both the RSE and RVE and the other elements are where they need to be.

Okay, thank you. And in terms of the balance between what's on the face of the Bill and what's in statutory codes and guidance, the four areas of learning and experience are not going to be on the face of the Bill. Are you satisfied that that is the correct balance? Who'd like to start? Anna.

We feel that the curriculum guidance clearly sets out the ultimate aim for learners to move towards the four purposes, which is what underpins the framework that schools will design the curriculum around for their learners, and that is what provides the balance. The statements of 'what matters' themselves were agreed upon after considerable collaboration and lots of research and reading and evidence gathering in order to pinpoint accurately the aspects of the six areas that are most important to children and young people today. Those statements, they emerged initially from the concept of the big ideas, and they really are the non-negotiables in relation to the knowledge, skills and experiences that children and young people need now and in their future. We feel there's enough detail in the statements, followed by the descriptions of learning, which go hand in hand with them, to plan a comprehensive but meaningful curriculum. 

The autonomy aspect provides schools with their opportunity to build a meaningful and authentic context for learning, again for their learners in their contexts. So, it gives scope for learning to focus on new and emerging issues, rather than being tied to outdated or irrelevant content. The cross-curricular skills, the integral skills, the cross-cutting themes and the wider elements of the curriculum provide a comprehensive curriculum on which to build a design for each school and setting. And the final edit was the result of a rigorous process of testing, editing, refining prior to the comprehensive consultation period, during which it was scrutinised by a wide variety of organisations to ensure that the balance was there. The framework and the subsequent job for schools—what schools will have to do—is to ensure that schools put professional learning and collaboration clearly into the development and planning so that their curriculum focuses on their learners. 

Okay, thank you. We're going to move on now, then, to some questions on progression and assessment from Dawn. 

Thank you, Chair. Can I just ask you about your thoughts on the replacement of the separate foundation and key stages in the single learning continuum, and how you think that that may help support learners' progress through their entire schooling? 

Bore da. Just to say that we think that the whole three to 16 continuum is going to be a strength of the new curriculum, and it's widely welcomed for a number of reasons. So, it supports effective transition between year groups across schools and across settings. It facilitates the movement of learners across the learning continuum and throughout their schooling. It supports continuity and progression, both in learning and well-being for all learners, and it facilitates collaboration and co-construction within and across schools, and we've already talked about within clusters and within networks of schools. That's really important. The three to 16 facilitates that. 

It does all need to be underpinned by a deep understanding from all practitioners of child development, of pedagogy and curriculum design, and, obviously, we'll be supporting the further development of that across and within schools through the professional learning offer and through school-to-school working. 

11:35

If I can just add to that that, if we have a continuum, then we're less likely to have a cap on the possibility of achievement that learners make, and more likely to allow learners to make appropriate and realistic progress, and, additionally, the sound pedagogical approaches that we are supporting within this curriculum, which will support learners early on in their education, such as independent and investigative skills that they learn, will continue beyond those artificial barriers that currently exist and therefore support their learning as they continue through the continuum.

Any other comments? No. Okay. That's fine. So, can I just ask you then—? I've only got one other question, really. It's just to ask you about whether you're content that there isn't more detail on the face of the Bill regarding assessments and—. Well, I'll just ask you that first and then I can follow up, depending on your answers.

I think Anna was going to lead on this.

Yes, I'm leading on this one. I'm not on mute, am I? No.

Okay. So, yes, the Curriculum for Wales has addressed the bad practice in learning and teaching that has evolved from the current assessment and accountability arrangements, which focus on school performance rather than on the learner, and I think years of unhelpful terminology and constructs have resulted in a system in which the end goal is measures of attainment, data and targets, and, coming back to what Arwyn was saying earlier, valuing what we can measure rather than measuring what matters.

I think, through decoupling assessment and accountability and instead placing assessment into pedagogical practice, where it belongs, it becomes an integral part of the curriculum and will therefore have a greater impact on both the professional understanding of assessment and the impact on outcomes for learners, so driving progress and achievement rather than attainment.

Schools now have the autonomy to design a curriculum for their context and their learners' individual needs whilst fully including the learners in the process. So, learners will not simply move just from one progression step to the next, ticking boxes: they'll get there through the equitable and authentic learning experiences that are created, the knowledge and the skills they gather, and, most importantly, the formative feedback that they receive in that process. This isn't written into the framework, because it's individual to the learner or the group or the setting and the community. So, I think assessing what matters needs to be our guiding principle, and, whilst that may seem an obvious analysis, it's not always reflective of what we do in schools today, and, now more than ever, a purpose-driven curriculum needs purpose-driven assessment, reflecting and enhancing learning rather than detracting from it.

There's additional guidance to be provided and further consultations planned—for example, on qualifications—but much of this can only be determined with an agreed curriculum in place. Additionally, schools have a job to do themselves in making arrangements within their school-based curriculum for effective assessment, enabling every learner to make that progress, and, with appropriate support and challenge, the learners themselves will not only make the progress but they'll also learn to recognise their individual achievements and identify their next steps in learning independently, and they'll be part of the process of assessment being done with them rather than to them.

I understand what you're saying, and that's really helpful to get your take on the different arrangements and how you feel that will benefit the learners. Just to be clear, my initial question was about whether you're satisfied about what's actually on the face of the Bill, but I take from what you're saying that you are satisfied that it's actually quite thin on detail on the face of the Bill but the detail will apply in regulation or in statutory guidance and you're quite satisfied with that.

Yes, because—[Interruption.] Oh, was that me? Sorry. I don't know what happened there.

Yes, because I think it has enough detail in relation to the statutory elements that will be part of what the schools have to build around, but it leaves that autonomy for schools to be able to build the assessment as they build their curriculum. And it comes back to, I think, what Arwyn also said at the beginning of the session, that, currently, assessment drives the curriculum. What needs to happen now is that learning is part of the curriculum: learning, assessment, pedagogy, they all become one integral focus for the learner, and therefore the assessment can only be written into a curriculum as the school writes its curriculum.