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

Children, Young People and Education Committee - Fifth Senedd

21/10/2020

Aelodau'r Pwyllgor a oedd yn bresennol

Committee Members in Attendance

Hefin David MS
Jack Sargeant MS Yn dirprwyo ar ran Dawn Bowden
Substitute for Dawn Bowden
Laura Anne Jones 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

Georgina Haarhoff Dirprwy Gyfarwyddwr—Cwricwlwm ac Asesu, Llywodraeth Cymru
Deputy Director—Curriculum and Assessment, Welsh Government
Kate Johnson Uwch-gyfreithiwr, Llywodraeth Cymru
Senior Lawyer, Welsh Government
Kirsty Williams AM Y Gweinidog Addysg
Minister for Education

Swyddogion y Senedd a oedd yn bresennol

Senedd Officials in Attendance

Lisa Salkeld Cynghorydd Cyfreithiol
Legal Adviser
Llinos Madeley Clerc
Clerk
Masudah Ali Cynghorydd Cyfreithiol
Legal Adviser
Michael Dauncey Ymchwilydd
Researcher
Phil Boshier Ymchwilydd
Researcher
Rhiannon Lewis Cynghorydd Cyfreithiol
Legal Adviser
Sarah Bartlett Dirprwy Glerc
Deputy Clerk
Sian Hughes Ymchwilydd
Researcher
Sian Thomas 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 09:31.

The committee met by video-conference.

The meeting began at 09:31. 

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

Good morning, everyone, and welcome to the Children, Young People and Education Committee this morning. It's a virtual meeting. In accordance with Standing Order 34.19, I have determined that the public are excluded from the committee's meeting in order to protect public health. In accordance with Standing 34.21, notice of this decision was included in the agenda for the meeting, which was published on Monday. The meeting is, however, being broadcast live on Senedd.tv, and all participants are joining via video-conference. As usual, a record of proceedings will be published. Aside from the procedural adaptation relating to conducting proceedings remotely, all other Standing Order requirements for committee are to remain in place. As usual, the meeting is bilingual, and simultaneous translation from Welsh to English is available. If I become aware that there's an issue with the translation, I'll ask for you to pause for a moment while our meeting technicians reset the system. 

I've received apologies from Dawn Bowden MS, and I'm very pleased to welcome Jack Sargeant MS, who is substituting today. Can I ask Members if there are any declarations of interest please? No. Okay. Well, finally, then, can I remind Members that, if I drop out, it's agreed that we'll have a temporary Chair while I try to rejoin? And that's going to be Suzy Davies today. 

2. Y Bil Cwricwlwm ac Asesu (Cymru): Sesiwn Dystiolaeth 12 gyda Chynrychiolwyr Llywodraeth Cymru
2. Curriculum and Assessment (Wales) Bill: Evidence Session 12 with Welsh Government Representatives

Okay. We'll move on then to item 2, which is our final evidence session on the Curriculum and Assessment (Wales) Bill. I'm very pleased to welcome Kirsty Williams MS, Minister for Education, Georgina Haarhoff, deputy director, curriculum and assessment at Welsh Government, and Kate Johnson, senior lawyer at Welsh Government. Thank you all for joining us this morning. We've got lots to cover, so we'll go straight to questions from Members, and the first ones are from Laura Jones. 

Thank you, Chair. Good morning Minister; thanks for coming in. We've had a great deal of evidence given to us by a great variety of people, all largely, you'll be glad to hear, supportive of the Bill in principle. What they are concerned about, like all of us, is the detail and getting it right—those details right—to ensure that the Bill delivers on the best of its potential. 

What was also welcomed was the degree of flexibility. I think that's quite an exciting prospect, going forward. But people across the board, and in all different evidence sections, were a bit concerned about the level of flexibility meaning that consistency, an appropriate level of consistency—that education young people got across schools, across Wales, across local authorities, might differ too much. So, I'd like your thoughts on that, please, because the last thing we want to see is exacerbation of inequalities between different schools and hindering efforts. What we want to see, obviously, is the raising of standards across the board, which—the potential is there, but it's those sorts of details that we're worried about. So, how would you go about ensuring that there is that appropriate level of consistency across schools? Thank you, Minister. 

Thank you, Laura. And can I say, Chair, I'm very grateful for the committee's hard work on the Bill to date, and doing that when members of the committee also have a million other things COVID-related to be engaging with? So, I'm very grateful for the committee's determination to push on with scrutiny of the legislation.

Laura, the Bill provides a robust national framework in which individual schools will operate. The idea of schools doing totally random things is simply not borne out by how the legislation is structured or, indeed, the approach of our strategic partners. A defining feature is the framework and the curriculum requirements, which provide that balance of approach with national expectations and requirements, but also recognising that, within that national framework, schools and practitioners are best placed to make decisions about the needs of their specific learners, specific cohorts, and that includes choosing the topics and activities that best support learning in that context.

So, if I can just, for the record, remind everybody about the curriculum requirements to demonstrate there are significant national expectations. The Bill requires a curriculum to be developed in a way that is described in the four purposes. It has to be broad and balanced. It has to be suitable for learners of different ages, abilities and aptitudes and provide the appropriate progression for learners throughout their time at school. It must contain the six areas of learning and experience. It must encompass the statements of 'what matters', which will be set out in the 'what matters' code. It has to encompass the mandatory cross-curricular skills. And, of course, the curriculum that individual settings create will be subject to review.

So, there's a substantial amount of national scaffolding in framework and requirements, but then allowing the freedom for individual practitioners. And that is key. If we go back to the very beginnings of why we're changing the curriculum, one of the issues is that our teaching profession has been constrained and that professional autonomy and agency has been, in large parts, removed, and that has had a detrimental effect on the profession and on standards, and therefore this is an appropriate mix of unleashing that professional agency, but doing so in the context of a national framework that ensures the entitlement for every child, no matter which setting they're in.

09:35

Thank you, Minister. Yes, it is exciting, the involvement of the community in developing the curriculum. But do you recognise that there needs to be some sort of check on the curriculum the headteacher designs and the one, obviously, the governing body then adopts? Would you consider, for example, using the regulation-making powers in section 17(a) of the Bill to take necessary steps to ensure schools' curriculums are suitable for adoption?

Okay. Well, first of all, you're absolutely right, Laura, to point to the requirement in the Bill that it's not an endeavour of the headteacher alone, and the first element of ensuring that the curriculum is suitable lies with the governing body that has to adopt what the headteacher brings forward. So, that's the first level of check and balance.

And, of course, schools will not be operating in an accountability-free zone. So, when you think about the role of the school improvement services and an ongoing accountability regime, our school improvement services and challenge and support advisers will be looking to the school to demonstrate the suitability and the compliance of their local curriculum with the Bill. And, of course, the curriculum that is adopted by the school needs to be published in summary form so there is wider community scrutiny, and, of course, Estyn will be continuing to carry out its role in ensuring that curricula are suitable. And as we develop our new accountability framework to look at a wider set of performance within our school system, the nature of that curriculum and its suitability is something that we would expect the school to be reporting on and held accountable for. So, there's a variety of levels of accountability to ensure that the curriculum is suitable and is scrutinised by organisations outside of the individual school itself.

Brilliant. That's good to hear; that's reassuring. Thanks, Minister. We're talking about encouraging wider involvement when developing the curriculum and within schools when we're starting to use that curriculum. We had a few people come in and evidence, including from young people themselves, that said when they're doing—. Because it's all-encompassing, rather than separate things like maths—doing a maths lesson now, then doing English—. Because it's an all-encompassing lesson, how to start a business, for example, they were suggesting that maybe businesses came in themselves, as did the Gwent federation of businesses, and actually—because they've got the expertise, rather than pinning it all on the teacher, to come in and teach them how to start a business and that sort of thing, which obviously incorporates maths and this that and the other. How are you going to ensure that that's embedded in the curriculum so all schools take that on board and use that, because that's an exciting prospect, that you use people with that sort of knowledge and bring them into the school?

09:40

First of all, Laura, I think it's right—one of the strengths of the new approach is the ability to break down traditional subject boundaries and to be able to incorporate key learning and development of skills in a more holistic way. I think that also gives us the opportunity to make learning really relevant. I think that's particularly important sometimes for some children, who question, 'Why am I sitting here doing this particular lesson? Why is it going to be of use to me?' So, again, that focus on making those connections between what you're learning in the classroom and how that then equips you to be a successful individual, whether in your own personal life, or equips you with your opportunity to be successful in the world of work, is really important.

The curriculum, clearly, needs to take into consideration, when developing the curriculum, the views of young people themselves, children themselves. We have evidence from schools that, where children and greater learner voice are included in the development of what's being taught and what is learnt, actually, attendance goes up, because children want to be in there, because they've had a say in their learning. Clearly, parents' views are crucially important, but also the wider community.

One of the underdeveloped areas of our curriculum at the moment is those broader community links, linking up schools with businesses and other organisations in their local areas and forging those new partnerships. Now, it happens in some schools with some companies, but we need to encourage schools and the expectations around curriculum content, and, indeed, the world of work, to develop those linkages. I would encourage the world of business to get involved. For many, many years, I'm sure we've all sat in those conversations where business organisations have told us that people leaving our education system do not have the skills that they are requiring and looking for, but it's a two-way street. It has to be the responsibility of everybody, so it can't just be for schools reaching out. We want businesses to reach out to their local schools to develop those relationships. So, there is definitely a role to play here. You can't complain about the end product if you're not willing to put your money where your mouth is in the sense of your time and your willingness to engage with your local schools to help them develop their curriculum and to develop the young people within that individual school.

Yes, Minister. The business organisations that we had in were very encouraged by that, and they did think it was a good idea and wanted to get involved. It was just how we'd ensure that there's the same level of connection with business across the board, so it doesn't differentiate between schools too much—they're not attracted to go into the more well-off schools rather than the disadvantaged schools. Do you know what I'm saying? That's something that maybe we need to ensure.

Before you come in, Minister, on that, one of the key concerns of stakeholders in our stakeholder event was that there needed to be a join-up with local, regional and economic priorities and how that would be ensured. So, maybe you could say something about that as well if that's possible, please.

Well, the development of our regional skills partnership, which, of course, is already helping us mould curriculum in the post-16 sector and ensuring that our further education colleges are providing courses for people that are really relevant to their local jobs market—there is scope there to be able to use the data from the regional skills partnership to be able to do work, especially in the high school scenarios, around making sure that the curriculum content—. Now, as I said, in some cases, this happens already and there are successful partnerships between schools and businesses. But they're called areas of learning and experience for a reason, and clearly what I detect out there is a great enthusiasm for people to work together. Again, one of the challenges I would say—. So, we can make those linkages between the regional skills partnership and high schools as they develop their curriculum, but one of the best ways that businesses could be involved is perhaps, where there is scope, becoming a governor of a school. For larger companies, this is a fantastic professional development opportunity for members of their staff, and so trying to encourage people to become members of governing bodies is a really good way in which you can support your local education system by taking that active role.

09:45

Thanks. My final question, then, Minister: are you fully confident that the Bill adequately safeguards the interests of vulnerable and disadvantaged pupils, including those educated otherwise than at schools, those with additional learning needs, minority ethnic and Gypsy/Traveller learners, and pupils from income-deprived backgrounds? Will it improve their life chances as much as their peers?

Well, Laura, the guidance provides details on ensuring that schools consider the needs of all of their learners, and learners will have a wide range of needs and backgrounds, and the framework offers schools and practitioners that agency that we were talking about at the beginning, rather than slavishly having to follow a national diktat. So, each school community is different, and, as I said, this balance between a national requirement and the individual ability of a school to develop a curriculum that meets the needs of the cohort of those children gives us a better chance of developing a curriculum that is really relevant to those children. As part of approaching curriculum design, the guidance challenges schools to consider how that is informed by a recognition of learners' identity, language ability, and background, so we're very clear in our expectations around schools and the guidance that we're developing.

Okay, thank you, Minister and Laura. Just before we move on to Siân Gwenllian, can I ask, Minister, whether you considered the possibility that commercial organisations might offer schools a template curriculum, seeking to capitalise on what some of them might perceive to be a void in terms of a national curriculum in Wales? We've seen in the mental health field how many commercial organisations are operating, offering schools packages to buy. Is that a concern, and do you think that would undermine the ethos, then, of the school taking ownership of their own curriculum?

It certainly would undermine the ethos of the new curriculum, and our requirements are quite clear, and the expectations of professional leads and headteachers of schools that the curriculum should be designed for their individual institution, their setting and the children that attend that. So, it would not be appropriate to buy off-the-shelf, pre-prepared curriculum frameworks, and 'Curriculum for Wales: The journey to 2022', which was published earlier this month and sets out the steps of how we move from where we are at the moment to the statutory implementation, states very clearly that schools should not invest in off-the-shelf, ready-made curriculum offers. It would not be appropriate and it would not fulfil the needs of this legislation.

Okay, well, thank you for the clarity on that, it's very helpful. We'll move on now, then, to talk about some of the detail on the face of the Bill with Siân Gwenllian.

Diolch, Cadeirydd, a bore da. Yn amodol ar basio'r Bil, pryd mae Llywodraeth Cymru yn rhagweld y bydd yn cyhoeddi'r tri chod statudol gofynnol, sef cod 'yr hyn sy'n bwysig', y cod addysg cydberthynas a rhywioldeb, a'r cod cynnydd? Pryd fyddwch chi yn cyhoeddi fersiynau terfynol y gyfres o ganllawiau statudol ar gyfer y cwricwlwm newydd? Ac o ran y canllawiau statudol, ai cyhoeddi'r hyn sydd wedi cael ei gyhoeddi yn barod yn Ionawr fydd yn digwydd, ynteu fydd yna adolygiad pellach i fanylion y cwricwlwm newydd?

Thank you, Chair, and good morning. Subject to the Bill being passed, when does the Welsh Government anticipate publishing the three statutory codes it is required to issue, namely the 'what matters' code, the relationships and sexuality education code, and the progression code? When will you be publishing the final versions of the suite of statutory guidance on the new Curriculum for Wales? And in terms of the statutory guidance, will it be a case of formally issuing what was published already in January of this year, or will there be any further revision to the detail of the new curriculum?

Okay, so the intention is that the codes and the suite of statutory and non-statutory guidance will be published in 2021 in order for there to be a good time for headteachers and schools to prepare for implementation, and to incorporate that in their curriculum planning. It is fair to say that the 'what matters' statements are the key concepts in each of the areas of learning and experience, and therefore will be the content of the code. As you said, that has already been published as part of the Curriculum for Wales guidance. Those 'what matters' statements were subject to a huge amount of co-construction and consulted on widely back in 2019. So, we would expect those to be a read-across into the code. 

Now, the guidance with regard to progression: we've already described the principles of progression in the guidance that has been published. So, that's for the curriculum as a whole, and then there is guidance around progression for each of the individual areas of learning and experience. So, that will make up the body of the progression code. So, again, that's there, really, and it'll be a read-across. And, again, that's been subject to co-construction and consultation.

I guess the biggest piece of work in the sense of what people have not seen to date will be the RSE code. So, that's the bit that people won't really have seen the detail of, as opposed to the progression and the 'what matters'. The process, again, there is very much one of co-construction by the RSE working group, in conjunction with our community and religious reference group that is sitting alongside that. We would expect the RSE code to be published in 2021, after we've had a period of consultation on it. So, we need the working group to publish it, consult on it and then formally publish it as the final document. 

09:50

Ocê, diolch. I droi at y manylion ar wyneb y Bil ynglŷn â sgiliau bywyd yn benodol, mi ydych chi'n cynnwys addysg cydberthynas a rhywioldeb a chrefydd, gwerthoedd a moeseg ar wyneb y Bil, a dwi'n cyd-fynd yn llwyr efo hynny, os ydyn ni am greu newid. Ond mae yna feysydd eraill hefyd sydd—. Mae tystiolaeth rhai o'r bobl rydyn ni wedi trafod efo nhw yn pwyntio i'r cyfeiriad bod angen cynnwys, ar wyneb y Bil, iechyd meddwl a lles. Ac mae yna ddadl hefyd yn dechrau datblygu ynglŷn â chynnwys materion yn ymwneud â hunaniaeth ac amrywiaeth y Gymru fodern, gan gynnwys edrych ar hanes Cymru a hanes pobl ddu a phob o liw.

So, dwi wedi sôn am ddau faes mawr yn fanna, o'u gosod ar wyneb y Bil, a allai wneud newidiadau systematig i'n gwlad ni. A dwi'n trio deall pam fod y rheina, y ddau faes pwysig yna, ddim ar wyneb y Bil tra mae yna ddau faes cydradd pwysig yn mynd ar wyneb y Bil. Beth ydy'r rhesymeg y tu ôl i hynny? 

Okay, thank you. Turning to the detail on the face of the Bill with regard to life skills in particular, you do include RSE and religion, values and ethics on the face of the Bill, and I agree with that decision, if we want to create that change. But there are other areas too that evidence from some of the witnesses we've talked to point towards, namely that there is a need on the face of the Bill to include mental health and well-being. And there is an argument starting to develop with regard to including issues with regard to identity and diversity in modern Wales, including looking at the history of Wales and the history of black people and people of colour.

So, I've talked about two major areas there. So, in setting them on the face of the Bill, that could lead to systematic changes to our nation. And I'm trying to understand why those major, important areas aren't on the face of the Bill, whilst there are two other equally important areas included on the face of the Bill. What's the reasoning behind that decision?

Thank you, Siân. I think, first of all, with regard to the issue of what goes on to the face of the Bill and what doesn't go on to the face of the Bill, there is that balancing act again, isn't there, that we're trying to create a national framework and expectation but not undermine the ethos and the principle of the Bill around dictating from the centre? So, I believe we absolutely, through the purposes, the AoLEs and the 'what matters' statements, which will be statutory, which underpin individual AoLEs—that many of these issues that you have just talked about will be there and are there.

So, if we think about life skills—and we've had lots of feedback from young people themselves about whether the current curriculum and approach is very good at getting you to pass exams but doesn't necessarily prepare you for the things that you need to be a successful person and the things that you encounter in your everyday life—we are looking—. You can see and you can read those now in the AoLEs and the 'what matters' statements. So, for instance, in the mathematics AoLE, it's very explicit about the need for children to understand and to develop the mathematical skills that allow them to have financial literacy, to be able to understand how to work out a credit card or a mortgage repayment plan, or how you manage your money and you develop a budget. So, those life skills are there.

With regard to mental health, one of the best things about the new curriculum is a massive focus on the AoLE on health and well-being, which is absolutely explicit about the importance of mental health and mental well-being. So, for instance, it talks about having an awareness of our own feelings and emotions, and that's the foundation of how we experience life. So, there's plenty of description and requirements around the field of mental health, which is so important.

And in terms of identity, cultural identity, and some of the issues that you're talking about in terms of history, again, there is absolutely a theme running right the way through the AoLEs of the importance of this in the 'what matters' statements. So, for instance, in the humanities area, we talk about how societies are characterised by a range of cultural, linguistic, economic, legal, political norms and values. So, it's there, and you can read about it now, and schools can be planning for that now. And I think what's really important, especially with regard to cultural identities, and some of the issues that we've all been grappling with recently—that's why we've set up the work of Charlotte Williams. And what she's absolutely clear about, in conversations with us already, is that we can't pigeonhole those issues into one aspect of the curriculum—they have to be cross-curricular. So, simply putting it in one AoLE, under the content of history, is not good enough and will not meet the needs of students.

So, I just would urge Members to go back and have a look at the AoLEs and the 'what matters' statements.

09:55

Diolch yn fawr. Trafodaeth i'w pharhau ydy honna, dwi'n credu.

Symudaf ymlaen at addysg gyrfaoedd ac addysg gysylltiedig â gwaith. Trwy ba fecanwaith fydd y rhain yn orfodol yn y cwricwlwm newydd? Dŷn nhw ddim wedi'u cynnwys ar wyneb y Bil, dwi ddim yn credu.

Thank you very much. The discussion will continue on that, I believe.

Moving on to careers education and work-related education, through which mechanism will this education be compulsory in the new curriculum? They haven't been included on the face of the Bill, I don't believe.

Okay. So, with regard to mainstream learners, our expectation is that they would access careers education and work-related education across all areas of the curriculum, which is in line with the ethos of what we're designing. We also propose additional statutory guidance for careers education, aiming at supporting schools to ensure that they do that well. It's really important that that happens across the curriculum, from the age of three. We know that children's expectations and aspirations around careers form when they're very, very young, so simply leaving this back to the secondary school, or even the upper end of secondary school, is not going to meet our students' needs. So, we have a working group that has been set up to help us refine that guidance, to ensure that it's fit for purpose. But, Georgina, I don't know if I've left anything out about any other changes we might make around the world of work.

No, not in particular, Minister. We continue to consider this as we work with the working group and think about the guidance.

Ocê. Trof, felly, at fater arall sydd wedi dod i sylw'r pwyllgor: pam nad ydy'r Bil yn cynnwys dyletswydd ar gyrff perthnasol sy'n arfer swyddogaethau o dan y Bil i roi sylw dyledus i Gonfensiwn y Cenhedloedd Unedig ar Hawliau'r Plentyn, yn wahanol i Ddeddf Gwasanaethau Cymdeithasol a Llesiant (Cymru) 2014 a Deddf Anghenion Dysgu Ychwanegol a'r Tribiwnlys Addysg (Cymru) 2018? Sut ydych chi'n ymateb i sylwadau Comisiynydd Plant Cymru fod y rhesymau y mae'r Llywodraeth wedi eu rhoi dros beidio â gwneud hynny yn seiliedig ar honiad gwallus, sef nad yw'n angenrheidiol oherwydd dyletswyddau statudol presennol sydd gan Weinidogion Cymru? Ac mae'r comisiynydd o'r farn, yn absenoldeb dyletswydd sylw, y bydd angen nifer o welliannau i'r Bil er mwyn sicrhau ei fod yn cydymffurfio â chonfensiwn y Cenhedloedd Unedig.

Okay. Turning to another issue that has come to the fore in the committee's considerations: why does the Bill not include a duty on relevant bodies exercising functions under the Bill to have due regard to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, unlike the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014 and the Additional Learning Needs and Education Tribunal (Wales) Act 2018? How do you respond to the comments of the Children's Commissioner for Wales that the reasons the Government have given for not doing so are based on an erroneous assertion, namely that it is not necessary due to the existing statutory duties on the Welsh Ministers. And the commissioner is of the view that, in the absence of a duty of due regard, the Bill will require numerous amendments to ensure that it does comply with the UNCRC.

10:00

Well, the first thing I would say is that there is nothing erroneous around the legal requirements of the Welsh Government to protect the rights of children and young people that were enshrined in that Measure of 2011. I would argue that the curriculum and assessment Bill is paying more than a due regard—it is children's rights in action, I think. So, rather than something to have due regard, it's delivering actual children's rights in their ability to receive an education that they require.

So, Kate will be able to help me out on the erroneous nature of our legal interpretation of our current legal duties, as I said, under the Rights of Children and Young Persons (Wales) Measure 2011. Rights are a mandatory part of the schools' curriculum. Under the statements of what matters, it will be statutory. And the accompanying rationales of the statements of what matters in the humanities area of learning and experience makes reference to children's rights. Having a duty on bodies is for nothing unless children themselves understand and know how to exercise their rights, and that has been the priority in ensuring that children have the opportunity to learn about them and then to be able to press them.

The office of the children's commissioner was involved in the development of the statutory guidance to support elements on rights and the UNCRC. And by law, headteachers and governing bodies of schools must design, adopt and implement a curriculum that includes the learning about those rights. But, Kate, maybe you could assist me.

Can you hear me?

Yes. It's as the Minister has said, really. The duty to have due regard to the UNCRC has been an integral part of the development of the Bill. In relation to the application of the duty to other bodies on the face of the Bill, that was considered inappropriate and perhaps the Minister could offer to set out the reasons why in a letter to the committee about that—about why we consider it to be inappropriate.

Byddai hynna'n ddefnyddiol iawn, os gwelwch yn dda, yn enwedig pam nad ydy o'n addas ar gyfer y cyrff llywodraethol fydd y tu allan i gwmpas hyn. Felly, byddai cael nodyn ar hwnna i ni gael deall yn well yn ddefnyddiol iawn. Diolch.

Sut mae'r Bil yn ategu Deddf Llesiant Cenedlaethau'r Dyfodol (Cymru) 2015 a pha ystyriaeth ydych chi wedi rhoi i gyfeirio at y nodau llesiant statudol ar wyneb y Bil?

That would be very useful, please, especially why it isn't appropriate for the government bodies that will be outwith the scope of this legislation. So, having a note on that for us to understand that better would be very useful. Thank you very much. 

So, how does the Bill specifically complement the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015 and what consideration have you given to a reference to the statutory well-being goals on the face of the Bill?

Okay. So, when it comes to the well-being goals, providing an education for our children and young people, led by the four purposes, well, that is central to improving the social, economic, environmental and cultural well-being of Wales. So, the curriculum is being designed to maximise its contribution to each one of the goals that are outlined in the future generations Act. We've tested that in terms of its impact and the explanatory memorandum outlines in some detail the contribution that we feel the curriculum makes in this regard. I'm content that those will also be reflected in the codes and statutory guidance. So, if we think about a purpose-led curriculum, that is very much more in line than what we have at present with those seven well-being goals, as outlined in the legislation.

Ocê, diolch. Mae yna gwestiwn yn codi: sut ydych chi'n sicrhau bod y cyrff llywodraethol yn cyd-fynd efo'r cwricwla fyddan nhw'n eu creu, yn cydfynd efo'r nodau llesiant, os ydyn nhw tu draw i anghenion due diligence, ond efallai bod hwnna'n bwnc i ni drafod mewn fwy o fanylder. Cadeirydd—

Okay, thank very much. A question does arise in terms of how you will ensure that the government bodies will act in accordance with—that are involved in the curriculum, how they will act in accordance with the well-being goals, if they are outwith the due diligence requirements, but perhaps that's an issue for us to discuss in greater detail. Chair—

10:05

But my understanding, Siân, if you're a government body, you are subject to the— 

Oh, 'governing'. I thought you said 'government', sorry. 

So, if you're a governing body, you're outside of the due diligence asks. That's my understanding, but I'm not a lawyer, so I'll leave that to you to discuss. Shall I move on, Cadeirydd? 

Mae'r cwestiynau nesaf ynglŷn â'r Gymraeg. Mae Comisiynydd y Gymraeg wedi dweud wrth y pwyllgor nad ydy'r Bil yn darparu sylfaen ddigon cryf ar gyfer ehangu addysg Gymraeg, ac nad ydy o'n dweud digon i gynyddu datblygiad sgiliau Cymraeg mewn ysgolion cyfrwng Saesneg. Ac, felly, fod yna beryg i'r Bil, nid yn unig beidio cefnogi datblygiad y Gymraeg, ond tanseilio agenda 'Cymraeg 2050' Llywodraeth Cymru. Rŵan, dwi'n gwybod nad dyna ydy eich amcan chi o gwbl, ond beth ydy eich ymateb chi i farn Comisiynydd y Gymraeg?

So, the next questions involve the Welsh language. The Welsh Language Commissioner has told the committee that the Bill does not provide a robust basis for the advancement of Welsh language education, and that it doesn't do enough to support the development of Welsh language skills in English-medium schools. And, so, there is a risk that the Bill will not only not support the development and advancement of the Welsh language, but will undermine the Welsh Government's 'Cymraeg 2050' agenda. Now, I know that that's not your aim at all, but what is your response to the Welsh Language Commissioner's views?

Well, my response would be that the Bill, and the contents of it, are very much in alignment with and are necessary to support the advancement of the 2050 agenda, especially with regards to the higher expectations that I believe that the languages and literacy and communications area of learning and experience has for the teaching of Welsh in English-medium schools, compared to our current curriculum. There's a lot of detail, I would argue, within that AoLE around expectations of progression and the development of Welsh language skills in the English-medium setting.

Clearly, the Bill requires Welsh to be mandatory for every learner from three to 16, and it gets away from the idea of having a Welsh first-language curriculum and a Welsh second-language curriculum. We get away from that in this legislation by saying that there is a progression. There is a mapping out of how those skills will be developed for all of our learners, rather than what we have at the moment, where some learners are regarded as first-language and second-language learners. We have an expectation around progression for all learners in the development of their Welsh language skills. 

Dwi'n credu mai'r broblem mae'r comisiynydd yn ei weld ydy diffyg canllawiau clir ynglŷn â sut bydd y continwwm rydych chi'n sôn amdano fo yn gweithio yn ymarferol ac yn enwedig mewn ysgolion cyfrwng Saesneg. Felly, tybed a fyddwch chi yn ystyried dod a chod statudol ymlaen sydd yn amlinellu'n gliriach yr hyn sydd yn ddisgwyliedig, fel rydych yn ei ddweud, wrth inni symud i ffwrdd o'r ffordd o gyflwyno'r Gymraeg ar hyn o bryd.

I believe that the issue that the commissioner perceives is a lack of clear guidance with regard to how the continuum that you mention will operate in practical terms, especially in English-medium schools. So, perhaps you would consider bringing forward a statutory code that does outline more clearly what is expected, as you say, as we move away from the way of presenting and teaching the Welsh language at the moment.

Well, I'd be interested to know the details of what details people think are missing, because I would regard the detail set out in the languages and literacy area of learning as very clear around expectations and progression. I think it's very detailed indeed. At this point, I have to say, we don't have any plans for introducing any other codes than those that are already accounted for in the Bill, because we think the detail is there in the AoLE and in the progression points.

Ocê. Ond efallai byddwch chi'n fodlon ystyried rhai o'r pwyntiau yna a'r angen efallai, oherwydd y diffyg canllawiau, sydd wedi bod yn faes trafod ers tro rŵan, fod hwn yn gyfle i ddod â'r canllawiau clir yma i mewn.

Troi at fater trochi dysgwyr yn y Gymraeg yn llwyr cyn eu bod nhw'n saith oed: ydych chi'n ystyried unrhyw ddewisiadau eraill i'r mecanwaith y mae'r Bill yn ei ddarparu drwy adrannau 26 a 27?

Okay. But perhaps you would be willing to consider some of those points and the need perhaps, because of the lack of guidance, which has been a topic of conversation for some time now, that this is an opportunity to bring that clear guidance forward. 

Turning to the issue of immersion of learners in the Welsh language before they turn seven years of age: are you actively considering any alternatives to the mechanism that the Bill provides via sections 26 and 27?

10:10

Yes. Can I go back to your question, sorry—your original question around Welsh in English-medium settings? I think it's important to recognise—and the Government certainly recognises—the challenges in delivering what's in this Bill. I don't think it's the Bill itself, actually, that is the issue; I think it is the mechanism by which you deliver the Bill, and I think changing the Bill and giving greater detail in the Bill is not what's needed. What's needed is Government action, and I would argue we're taking that action in how we can deliver what is in the Bill, and that's around initial teacher education and professional learning and resources. So, I think, to answer your question—I don't want to give the impression that we think everything is fine—I think the challenge is not the Bill; the challenge is making good what is in the Bill, and that requires policy interventions in other areas to operationalise what is in the Bill.

With regard to immersion, as you know, Siân—and you and I have had many conversations about this in recent months, and I've had many conversations with stakeholders—I think it's important to recognise that the Bill puts immersion on a secure statutory footing, in some ways in a way that we don't have at the moment. I am very clear, and I have been very clear, on the value of Welsh immersion, and I am very keen to avoid any possible unintended consequences for the principle of immersion arising out of the way that the Bill is currently drafted. So, I have been listening to those concerns, reflecting on those concerns, and it certainly would be my intention, following those conversations, to look to make English mandatory from seven, through an amendment at Stage 2, therefore addressing some of the concerns that you, Siân, and others have brought to my attention. We will continue to look at bringing that forward as a result of those representations that we have received. I'm currently looking to see if there are any smaller alterations needed arising out of such a change, and I will write to the committee after half term to set out my intended approach. But you are right: it is my intention to bring forward amendments to address the concerns that you and others have raised.

Diolch yn fawr. Troi rŵan at y diffiniadau o gategorïau iaith ysgol: pam nad ydy'r Bil yn cynnwys pŵer penodol i Weinidogion Cymru ragnodi y diffiniadau yma fel eu bod nhw'n gallu cael eu defnyddio i osod y disgwyliadau ar ysgolion ar gyfer—unwaith eto, sôn am y continwwm? Mi oedd hyn yn cael ei drafod ym Mhapur Gwyn 2019. Felly, fedrwch chi jest ymhelaethu beth rydych chi'n bwriadu ei wneud gyda'r rhan yma o'r drafodaeth?

Thank you very much. Turning now to the definitions of school language categories: why does the Bill not include a specific power for the Welsh Ministers to prescribe these definitions so that they can be used for setting expectations on schools for—once again, talking about this continuum? This was raised in the White Paper of 2019. So, could you just expand on your intentions with regard to this part of the discussion?

You're right, Siân, that linguistic categorisation was originally included in the White Paper, but as we've continued to work on the Bill, a decision was taken that schools categorisation was a schools organisation mater and, therefore, outside of a curriculum matter. If I'm brutally honest, in terms of the work streams, there was further work that needed to be done on categorisation. So, that work is ongoing and, indeed, it's my intention, if at all possible, that we'll be consulting on new arrangements around designation in a few weeks' time. So, that work has fallen a little bit behind, but it's imminent. But a decision was taken that that was a matter for schools organisation, rather than a matter for curriculum. But, Georgina, I don't know if there's anything further to add. But I want to give some reassurance that that work hasn't stopped—it's just been carried out separately from the curriculum.

Okay. Siân, if you're happy—. Unless Georgina wanted—. Did you want to come in? No. If it's okay, Siân, we'll move on to the next section because of time and we'll move on to some questions on RSE from Hefin David, who is here, we just can't see him.

10:15

Okay. Can I ask how commonly do parents currently exercise their right to withdraw their child from sex education that is not part of the national curriculum subject and what reasons would they usually have for doing so?

Hefin, I have to admit that no formal data is currently kept with regard to the use of the right to withdraw in the current curriculum. However, anecdotal evidence indicates that a small number of children are withdrawn.

Can I just say that I think this is a really, really important part of our new curriculum approach? It is absolutely, in my eyes, essential that children and young people have access to high-quality RSE. We cannot achieve the purposes of our curriculum if children are prevented from accessing the full curriculum, including this very important part of the curriculum. I'm very grateful to members of this committee for their understanding and, indeed, their strong support in conversations I've had with committee members around the importance of this subject for children. And, indeed, if we listen to young people themselves—back to the point that Siân Gwenllian made earlier around life skills—how we manage our relationships, how we keep ourselves safe, how we relate to one another are important life skills, and therefore it is important that all children have access to that part of the curriculum.

Okay. The Bill requires RSE to be developmentally appropriate for learners rather than age appropriate, for example, which has been welcomed by stakeholders, but how in practice will this be delivered if pupils in the same class are considered to be at different stages in what they're ready to be taught?

Well, Hefin, teachers deal with differentiation every day of their working life and they are well able to—and they do on a daily basis—meet the different requirements of children within their class. Now, they clearly need to be supported to do this in this very important area and that's why we will be issuing, as was referenced earlier, statutory guidance on RSE, and we will be co-constructing that guidance with key stakeholders and I can assure you we will be taking advice and input from child development experts. The RSE working group will also advise on pedagogy, the professional learning requirements for RSE and the teaching resources that will be required to support the delivery of RSE within the new curriculum. So, this is important to provide that reassurance, and that's why we are working closely to create that statutory guidance as well as the professional learning to ensure that teachers have the skills to do that appropriately.

And what can be done to effectively engage and communicate with parents regarding the new RSE arrangements in schools, and how important will this be to ensure they have an accurate picture of the changes, including to address any potential misinformation that might be circulating?

Well, thank you, Hefin, for that. It is really important that clear and accurate information is developed for parents and carers, emphasising the importance of this area of learning and to proactively counter misinformation that is there in communities that seeks to frighten and undermine the teaching of this important aspect of the curriculum. Ongoing community engagement is planned to ensure that myths about RSE are dispelled through dialogue with our newly established BAME and faith community involvement group. This group consists of members from both, as I said, community groups, faith groups, for them to feed in, in the spirit of co-construction, to the RSE guidance, and to be able to, as I said, dispel those myths that can certainly be propagated by people. We will need—and I recognise, as a Government that we will need—a robust communication plan to ensure meaningful and sustained engagement with our schools and our parents, our carers and learners, so that they are very clear about what is being taught. That's the purpose of having statutory guidance in this area, because we recognise the room for misinformation and myth to exist, and that's why we have taken the decision to have a statutory code in this area, so it is very clear what children will be taught.

10:20

Okay. But there still remains a considerable degree of flexibility and freedom for schools in what they teach. So, as to that clarity and the RSE code, would you consider using the Senedd's affirmative rather than negative procedure to ensure that greater scrutiny?

I gave a commitment when I appeared before the—I'm not quite sure what its name is these days—legislation committee that we would indeed consider their views that a different legislative procedure may be necessary perhaps in the first instance when the code is first established, and then perhaps in subsequent amendments to the code, that could be done by a different—. But I am currently actively considering the legislative process that is most applicable to this code.

We're considering—. As I rehearsed in the legislative committee, this code is co-constructed and, therefore, we wouldn't want—. Potentially, a vote that turned that down undermines all of that work that will have happened in terms of co-constructing the guidance that will come forward. So, it's not a 'yes' or a 'no'; we're actively considering the pros and the cons of adopting that approach. That's an open answer, Hefin. We're trying to take on board people's views and listen, and respond appropriately as to what is the most appropriate legislative mechanism. So, it's not a 'yes' or a 'no' because we are genuinely thinking, in the commitment I gave to the other committee, about how best to address this. If the committee had a view on it, we'd be very happy to hear this committee's view on it. That's the reason why we have these committee reports, isn't it? And if the committee—

So, in your view, it will be clear in your mind when we produce our report—that's when you'll make up your mind.

Well, I'm interested to hear your views. That's what I'm saying. I'm interested to hear this committee's views.

Very satisfying. Why will school sixth formers not be entitled to receive RSE when they request it, whereas it'll be available in the case of RVE? Stakeholders, including the NSPCC, have told us that ages 16-19 are the most common ages for young people to experience abuse in relationships. Isn’t it important that RSE taught at earlier stages is consolidated beyond age 16?

You're right. Hopefully, by the time that young people are 16 and 19, and may be experiencing abuse in their relationships, they will have had access to a curriculum that allows them to respond appropriately to that. The intention is that post-16 providers will use the RSE guidance to support post-16 learners in a wider context that they have around a duty of care and pastoral duties. So, we wouldn't expect that that was an end to any RSE education that children received, but they would take that guidance as a basis on how to support learners post 16.

Okay. Just before we break, then, can I just ask the Minister whether you think there is a greater need for clarity about what will be taught, and whether the RSE code will provide that clarity? And, as you know, there is already a very reactive campaign of misinformation about RSE. Do you think Welsh Government needs to be doing more now to address those concerns because, until we have the code, we don't have anything that we can point people to, to reassure them and to correct that misinformation?

10:25

Thank you, Lynne. I think it is really important that misinformation that is being placed in the public domain is challenged. Some of what I have seen is positively dangerous to young people and is causing unnecessary fear to parents and carers, and that's why the code is so important. I will be having conversations with a range of stakeholders on how we can work together so that that information is challenged and the Government's intentions are clear. Because I think, as I said, it is positively dangerous, it presents some real safeguarding issues to children and young people, and it is causing unnecessary fear amongst parents. And, I have to say, some of it is wilful; it is wilful misinterpretation and fearmongering.

Okay. Thank you for that, Minister. The committee will now take a break for 10 minutes, and we'll restart in 10 minutes.

Gohiriwyd y cyfarfod rhwng 10:26 a 10:37.

The meeting adjourned between 10:26 and 10:37.

10:35

Welcome back, everyone, to our evidence session on the Curriculum and Assessment (Wales) Bill. We'll go now to questions from Suzy Davies.

Thank you, Chair. My questions, Minister, are about religion, values and ethics. I just want to begin with a simple question, really: how much of a compromise is Schedule 1?

It's not a compromise; it is about trying to give effect to the recommendations, first of all, that religion, values and ethics are an important part of the curriculum. It recognises the importance of religion, but also recognises that other people have philosophical convictions that also need an opportunity for children and young people to engage in.

We recognise the important role of schools of a religious character to our education system and the contribution that they make, and we want to be able to continue to allow them very explicitly to deliver RVE in perfect harmony with the tenets of their particular faith. But also, then, recognising that, for some children—. It may be a common belief that any learner in a school of a religious character is there to receive denominational education, but that's not always the case. Therefore, given the fact that we are removing the right to withdraw children from RVE, we need to ensure that there are arrangements in place for all pupils to have access to pluralistic RVE if that is what they or their parents or carers desire. So, what we're trying to do here is give effect to an important aspect of the curriculum whilst recognising the important role of schools of a religious character, but also protecting children's rights and human rights to have pluralistic RVE education, if they want.

Thank you for that answer. Can you give us some sort of sense of where you've been told that the agreed syllabus might actually clash with the trust deeds or tenets of a faith school? I'm trying to understand quite what would be missing from a denominational-only RVE syllabus.

10:40

Well, certainly we have had representations from, for instance, the Catholic Education Service, that say that there would be no conflict between how they approach RVE and then an agreed syllabus. I think it's really important, as I said, to ensure that what we are proposing is compliant with human rights and equality legislation, and that there is the opportunity for all children to receive non-denominational and pluralistic RVE if that's what they require. But Georgina—officials have been having considerable conversations with those that have an interest in and deliver faith-based schools, and maybe Georgina can assist me.

Yes, thank you. So, we've talked frequently to the Catholic Education Service to understand the issues around this for them. I think it's important to emphasise that the Bill provides for and supports the wish to teach a denominational syllabus, and as a result of that—and sort of expects them to do that—and then, consistent with that, the Bill expects them to provide an agreed syllabus to those parents who don't want a denominational syllabus, and that provides consistency for the Catholic Education Service in terms of their expectations under the Bill in relation to those two areas. We have talked to them about it at length, and we're still in discussions with them, so we're still thinking about it.

Okay, thank you. That's a very frank answer, actually, because if a faith school turns round and says, 'Look, everything that we're offering here is consistent with the agreed syllabus. Why should I have to provide a separate version of it if the denominational one is including every element of the agreed syllabus?'—if that's the case, do they need to provide two syllabuses? Or is it the case that if a student or a parent says, 'Well, no, I only want an agreed syllabus, and I don't want the denominational wraparound', if you like, that they would be entitled to exclude the denominational side of what that school is providing? Because there are two different situations there, aren't there? One which doesn't seem to be the hugest of problems, and one which could be a massive problem.

I think this may be a question for Kate on the legal side, but the provision of the pluralistic education requires there to be a pluralistic education. Because of the trust deeds and the fact that we haven't seen them, we don't know what's in them. So, although stakeholders have said they are pluralistic, from a legal and Government point of view, because we haven't seen them, we cannot guarantee that. So we have to provide for the agreed syllabus.

I have to ask, then: why haven't you seen some of these trust deeds, so that we know what the problem is that this part of the Bill is trying to resolve? The attempt to resolve it is very welcome, but we don’t quite know what the problem is, by the sound of it.

I wonder if that's a matter for Kate from the legal perspective on trust deeds and whether they are accessible to us.

Hello. Yes, I'm not quite sure that I can add anything to what Georgina has already said, really, and the extent to which we can actually say whether the syllabus, the denominational syllabus, would incorporate pluralistic or not. I'm not sure I can add anything to what Georgina said.

Okay, well at least we know as a committee now that that work's not been done.

Do you mind if I just move on to some of the wording in the Bill? We've got voluntary aided schools having to provide non-denominational RVE if a parent requests it; that only has to be RVE that accords with the agreed syllabus. If you compare that with the voluntary controlled schools and community schools, they need to have regard to the agreed syllabus. Is there a particular reason for the distinction in those forms of words?

Yes. This was the point that I was referring to previously. Because voluntary aided schools are expected to provide a syllabus consistent with their denominational convictions through the Bill, for consistency with that, they are also expected to provide a syllabus that is consistent with the agreed syllabus. So, there is an even-handed approach in relation to voluntary aided schools. And that is the consistency. We have had discussions with them, and we continue to discuss the point that the Member has mentioned about the difference between voluntary controlled schools and maintained schools, and that is the sort of conversation that we do continue to have. But there are two ways of looking at it, and one of them is the consistency within the voluntary aided schools in relation to the provision of both the denominational and agreed syllabus.

Can I just go back to the point raised previously? I do not think voluntary aided schools provide us with their trust deeds. It's not that we haven't had those conversations with them, that's not information they provide to us. And that is within their gift. So, the provisions in the Bill reflect their role as providers of education in Wales, and reflect our relationship with them.

10:45

Okay. These trust deeds are publicly available, so—. Anyway, I don't want to labour the point on that one. I'm still not quite sure: which is the stronger, 'accords with an agreed syllabus' or 'has regard to an agreed syllabus'?

'Accordance with an agreed'—

That's what I was trying to get to in my previous question. 

I'm sorry. 'Accordance with an agreed syllabus' is stronger. The agreed syllabus is something that will be developed by a range of stakeholders, including religious groups and non-religious groups. And it will be something that is public. So, it will be something that is developed and the various religious groups and voluntary aided schools will participate in the development of that. 

The phrase 'accordance with', I think, is to treat both exactly the same within that school. So, the legislation says explicitly that schools should deliver RVE in accordance with their trust deeds, and therefore that phrase, then, is replicated when looking to ensure it's pluralistic. So that's why that phrase is used in both terms, to treat both equally.

Okay. That is a helpful answer. Thank you for that, Minister.

Just on practical things now: how realistic or how viable would it be for a faith-based school to provide two syllabuses? I'm just thinking in terms of resources, really, and staffing expertise. I'm rather hoping that the answer would be, 'There'd be no difficulty because these schools are saying that they're already providing a pluralistic syllabus, so what's the problem?' But what have they been telling you about potential problems here?

Well, you're right, Suzy, undoubtedly, the schools talk about practical difficulties if this is a requirement on them, but at the same time they also say that there's no need because their teaching is pluralistic and because parents never, never, never want to seek an alternative. So, we think, practically and operationally, given the fact that they have provided reassurances around the nature of that curriculum and the fact that parents never seek to withdraw their children from that, then those organisational difficulties that they do talk about then shouldn't materialise.

But, clearly, we continue to work and to have conversations to understand that and, indeed, we've also been providing funding to the Catholic Education Service and the Church in Wales to help prepare some curriculum guidance documentation. So, we're actively looking to work alongside the Catholic Education Service to further understand those practicalities, but they assure us that their teaching is pluralistic and that parents never withdraw.

Okay. And so that would mean, for example, that if a complaint was made to a school that their denominational curriculum wasn't pluralistic enough and the school turned around and said, 'Oh, okay, then we'll just fill in those gaps', they wouldn't necessarily then have to respond to a parent's right to not have the denominational curriculum and to only have an agreed syllabus.

'Will filling the gaps do?' is what I guess I'm asking.

Suzy, off the top of my head—. I would have to check that with Kate, because what's really important is that the legislation and the rights that are conferred on parents are adequately protected. So, off the top of my head, I don't know whether filling in the gaps provides that. Georgina knows whether filling in the gaps provides that.

10:50

Our understanding, from talking to the Catholic Education Service, is that when they meet with parents who perhaps aren't of the same religious view, and they talk them through their syllabus and their approach to this issue, that quite a lot of parents are comfortable. So, from that perspective, it would be up to the parents what they are comfortable with. But, the Bill, as the Minister said, must provide for a pluralistic education, and that is why there is this requirement within the Bill. But, it is absolutely up to parents if they are comfortable with what the school provides, and the adjustments that the school can make, but it is their right to choose a pluralistic education and an agreed syllabus.

Forgive me, but that doesn't quite answer the question about filling in the gaps. If a parent is fine with it, then there's not an issue. If they say, 'Well, actually, I want this bit of the agreed syllabus taught', can they choose to say that, rather than saying, 'I tell you what, scrap everything; I only want the agreed syllabus'? And can I also ask whether children under this Bill have got the same right as the parents to ask for that?

The way the Bill is currently drafted would require a school, if a parent requested it—that pluralistic RVE—that then ensures that the legislation is compliant with human rights and equality legislation. So, ultimately, there is a right to pluralistic, non-denominational RVE within the Bill. There's no getting away from that. The evidence that we have received is that parents never request it, and that they wouldn't request it because RVE is taught in a pluralistic way in schools of faith. 

Suzy, I'm afraid we are going to have to move on, because of the time, to the next section. 

We can write with any queries that haven't been answered. Sorry. 

Thank you, Chair, and good morning, Minister and officials. Just before I start, I'm having a few difficulties with my internet connection, so apologies for that, and hopefully all will be well throughout this part of scrutiny.

Minister, have you considered the need for an earlier progression step, prior to age five, to inform and to give direction to assessment arrangements and expected achievements in early years, and, if so, could this potentially build on the good practice with the foundation phase profile, which currently supports assessments at this age?

Thank you, Jack. Can I just absolutely reassure you that the ethos and the principles of the current foundation phase curriculum have formed the very starting point for much of the ongoing curriculum development work for learners in early years, and it will form the basis of the curriculum for non-maintained settings? So, we're working very closely with key stakeholders from both the maintained and non-maintained sectors to ensure that what is being developed for our youngest learners is appropriate for their stages of development. And, following feedback from those conversations, we're developing supplementary guidance for practitioners working with three and four-year-old learners in schools and settings, to support their learning to progression step 1. 

Now, I have to admit, because of the circumstances we do find ourselves in, there has been a slight delay in the development of this work, but progress is being made. 

Thank you for that answer, Minister. For a piece of legislation named 'the curriculum and assessment Bill', you could argue that there is very little on the face of the Bill regarding assessments—the detail of which will be left to the regulations. Do you not see the need for the Bill to say more about the role of assessments in terms of informing teaching and learning? And in the absence of such detail, shouldn't the regulations be subject to the affirmative rather than the negative procedure, at least on the very first occasion?

Assessment is an intrinsic part of the Curriculum for Wales, and it's certainly not separate from teaching and learning, and schools need to plan for that in their assessment arrangements. We often talk, don't we, about the experience in Scotland and lessons learnt from the introduction of the Curriculum for Excellence in Scotland, where one of the main criticisms of that process was that assessment was bolted on at the end, and that caused significant problems. So assessment, as I said, is not separate from teaching and learning, and is an intrinsic part of the process. The powers within the Bill do enable regulations to be made that prescribe the operational details that schools and other settings will need to follow in designing and implementing assessment arrangements. They also allow for any national assessment arrangements that we may wish to implement. So for instance, we currently have online personal assessments that are taken by learners who are in years 2 up to 9—so we could mandate those. It should also be noted that existing legislation that provides for key assessment processes, such as communicating and engaging with parents, and transition arrangements, are also being retained within the Bill, so there's no diminution of that. I don't know, Georgina, if there's anything else to add about the regulation processes that we've chosen.

10:55

No, Minister. I think the important point, which you've already mentioned, is that assessment is absolutely intrinsic to the process of designing and thinking about curricula, and that a lot of this work, as we've talked about previously, is about the implementation and the mindset change and how schools think—it's not just about the legislative requirements. And the challenge really is about how we take this forward.

Could I just add that, in terms of the detail that the Minister has already provided about how the regulation-making power is intended to be used, this largely replicates the current approach taken in education legislation at the moment, where the majority of the operational detail is provided for via secondary legislation.

Okay. Thank you for those answers. One of the interesting parts of this scrutiny today really for me—and I think it's a really important part—over two thirds of children responded to the committee survey, to say that the feedback on their work that teachers gave them could actually be improved. Now, I think this is particularly important because it's actually children who are saying this. What will the Bill do to address this issue?

It is telling, isn't it, Jack—very telling indeed. What's really important for children is that they want to know how they can improve—they want to do better, and that feedback from teachers is a key way in which they can understand about what their next steps in their learning are. There are sections in the Bill that would provide Ministers with the powers to make regulations outlining provision about assessment arrangements, and to issue guidance about assessment arrangements. So we could use powers to dictate the nature of that. However, draft guidance on assessment, to support learner progression, was published in January of this year, so the guidance is already out there to schools. I guess, if we felt it was necessary, we could use powers within the Act to mandate that.

Okay. Thank you, Minister. To me, it seems guidance is the best way forward with this, because each child is different to one another, so I don't think mandating someone to do so—. But I'd appreciate an ongoing look with that, and obviously guidance will be updated if necessary. What kinds of alignments do you expect to see between the main organising principles of the new curriculum—the four purposes and the six AoLEs—and the qualifications taken by 16-year-olds? Will the qualifications demonstrate achievements against the purposes, the AoLEs, or subject disciplines at present, or even a combination of all these? And will the approach vary for different qualifications?

Well, Jack, I've been very clear, and Qualifications Wales, our regulatory body, recognises, that qualifications will need to change to reflect the new curriculum, without a shadow of a doubt. But it's a really important point of principle that it's the curriculum that dictates the nature of the qualification and we don't retrofit the curriculum to fit the nature of the qualification. And sometimes—and I understand why—there's a culture that has grown up in Welsh education that says, 'Well, you just tell us what's in the qualification spec and the exam and then we will teach that.' If we carry on doing that, this reform will not succeed. The qualifications have to come at the end and be dictated by the curriculum. And that's why there has to be change—there has to be change. I think this gives us a new chance to look afresh at the nature of qualifications and the role of qualifications taken by our older learners. So, I think it is a new opportunity to look at how wider skills can be recognised and how children's learning can be quantified and certified.

So, you'll be aware that Qualifications Wales is taking a phased approach to consulting on this, to look at developing new or refined qualifications. The second phase of their work looks at what is the range and the nature, and that will start later on this year [correction: early next year]. So, there's a real chance again to look at qualifications: the number of qualifications children are taking, the nature of them and, obviously, as well, the role of the qualifications in our accountability system, because that's become intrinsically linked and that has led to unintended consequences for children and learning. So, there's an opportunity to think afresh about what qualifications are and what we expect our children to do.

11:00

Thanks for that answer, Minister. I welcome those comments in terms of qualifications. Certainly, when I was growing up, you just learned to pass the test and I don't think that's good enough, so we do need change, definitely, because otherwise, we are missing out on some serious life skills that children need to develop, certainly as they go into working life and so on. Just touching on qualifications, finally, and what you've said, do you still believe there is no need for the Bill to refer to the role of qualifications and set out a coherent relationship with the curriculum?

I think what's really important is to reinforce, and the Bill does. The Bill is about a curriculum and designing a curriculum—it's not about qualification. So, I'm satisfied with how the Bill is drafted at the moment. But, as I say, the Bill inevitably leads to the need to review the nature of qualifications and it gives us, as I've said, a valuable chance to really think about qualifications for the future. And you're right, Jack; if we carry on creating a system that is about teaching to the test—and there's no criticism of the profession; we've created a system that they've responded to in that way—then that has the potential to really limit a child's and young person's education, and potentially does not provide for that broad and balanced educational experience that we're trying to give children here.

Thank you for that. I agree, Minister. We're not saying that anything's wrong with the profession. The profession is very good and I think this would only enhance what they do.

We've created the circumstances that have led to that. This gives us an opportunity to review.

Okay. Thank you, Minister. Thank you, Jack. The next questions are from myself on implementation. Minister, as you've set out, the curriculum is due to be introduced in September 2022. What factors, for example disruption caused by COVID, might influence your ongoing consideration of the viability of sticking to that timescale?

Well, Lynne, you'll be aware that earlier this month, we published 'Curriculum for Wales: The journey to 2022'. That sets out shared expectations of what curriculum realisation really means for practitioners and school settings. The aim of that document is to help schools prepare for designing and implementing the new curriculum. Those shared expectations, I think, understand and reflect that schools will be in different places in designing their curriculum and the aim of that document is to support schools wherever they are on that journey. It allows schools to move at a pace that is appropriate to them, recognising the challenges they're facing at the moment—just keeping the doors open in some cases and dealing with the challenges that COVID brings.

To further support schools over this term, we're looking with our partners to develop a curriculum implementation plan, and the plan, then, will sit alongside the shared expectation document and, crucially, that will set out the roles and responsibilities for different parts of the education system, so outlining what support schools can expect to have as they make their journey forward. I have to say, in meetings with practitioners—. I meet formally with unions and I speak on a weekly basis to headteachers. Just this week, in my conversations with the president of the NAHT, she expressed a strong desire amongst her members to continue to push on, even in these most difficult of circumstances. And in some ways, there's a belief that moving more quickly to some of the principles in the curriculum is even more important than ever, because of COVID-19.

As you know, Estyn were not going to be inspecting schools, in their regular fashion anyway, this term, and because of some of the other things that the Government have taken away from schools at this moment to manage workload and to recognise the situation of COVID-19, actually, that has freed up some time that schools are then being able to use to work towards some of the implementation. So, I was speaking to a headteacher of a large primary school in a really challenged area of south-west Wales recently, and he said, actually, 'Because of the space that you've provided, by lessening some of the workload arrangements that we usually use to feed the machine, actually I'm using that space to get on with my planning for my curriculum; I feel like we've got a bit more time and space to do that, and not to be fearful of inspection regimes and loads and loads of paperwork that we'd usually be required to do and putting that energy into designing the new curriculum.' But we keep it under review. We have to be cognisant to that, and we'll keep it under review. 

11:05

Okay. Thank you. As Laura Jones said at the start, the majority of stakeholders have indicated to us their support for the general principles of the Bill. But what a number of stakeholders have said is that they're worried about implementation. You've been in the Senedd a long time, like me, and you know that we can have the best policies, but there's often an implementation gap, then. What assurances can you offer that not just Welsh Government, but the whole sector, are going to deliver on this very radical reform? 

I agree with you, Lynne, and I've been very open in answering questions from Members about recognising that the real challenge starts when, hopefully, this piece of legislation is passed. In some ways, this is the easier part of it. The real challenge will be how we move from the concept and the legislation into realising that in schools. You'll be aware that that was the challenge laid at our door by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, about how you operationalise this and how you make it real for practitioners' individual schools. 

So, using and building on the work of the recommendations from the OECD, it's really important that we understand what success of implementation looks like. So, that's why we are setting up a research and evaluation programme, and that will begin prior to Royal Assent. That's why we've published the journey document, that's why we're publishing our shared expectation document so every part of the system knows what they're expected to do between now and 2022.

I am more than aware of the challenges of implementation. That's why we've had, now, for the last two years, money set aside for professional development to help get the profession ready. That's why we've invested in our college of leadership to make sure that our school leaders are ready for this challenge. So, there are a number of work programmes set out to ensure that implementation is successful and how we hold ourselves to account for that—so, how will we know if it's been successful. 

Okay. Thank you. You mentioned professional learning, and that has been a significant issue that's been raised around implementation by stakeholders. I'm also conscious that Estyn has regularly told this committee that the quality of teaching in Wales is the weakest part of the system in Wales. Have you factored in sufficiently in the costs of this Bill, and also in terms of implementation plans, the professional learning that is going to be needed to actually deliver effectively on this?

11:10

Well, no education system can exceed the quality of the people that stand in front of our children day in, day out. That's why we have invested record amounts of money into professional learning. We're funding—. As I said, we've established and are funding the National Academy of Educational Leadership. We've provided provisions to increase in-service training days. We're allocating funding to regional consortia to support professional learning and cluster work among schools. We're funding the schools as learning organisation models to develop the whole-schools capacity. So, we absolutely recognise the fundamental importance of professional learning. We're making resources available, both in terms of financial resources and support. And the curriculum is at the centre, isn't it, for a number of our reforms—so, ITE reform, ensuring that our initial teacher education is as good as it needs to be. We're reforming our newly qualified teachers' induction years and mentoring, looking to provide those ongoing professional qualifications right through to Master's level. So, the curriculum is driving reform in other areas, not least in professional learning, from the beginning of a teacher's career right the way through to those that aspire to and lead our schools.

Okay. Thank you. Finally from me, can I just ask about finance? When the Bill was introduced, the regulatory impact assessment stated that some of the work with stakeholders, including local government, has had to be paused due to COVID. Has that work now been completed, and how does it affect the estimated costs set out in the RIA?

Most of the work, I have to admit, is completed. There are one or two areas that are outstanding, and officials are progressing this, and it is my plan to write to update committee—the Finance Committee as well—in the next couple of weeks. We expect that work to be completed in early November. But, Georgina, perhaps you can give some further detail.

Yes, I'm happy to. So, after the Bill was laid, as promised, we wrote out to the various stakeholders who had not been able to provide their costs or may have wanted to update their costs in the context of updating the RIA. We've had a number of conversations with various stakeholders to understand what their costs are likely to look like and see whether they want to update them. We've had responses back. As the Minister mentioned, there's one area that is outstanding, which we're hoping to have a response back as soon as possible, and we will write to the Finance Committee to update. There will not be any significant changes to the costs in the RIA, partly because a number of stakeholders have confirmed that the costs in the RIA were their best estimate, and others have confirmed that they're content with what's already in there.

Okay. Thank you. We're going to move on now to a short section where I'm going to give individual Members an opportunity to ask some questions that they'd like to ask. I'm going to be very firm with time, so concise questions and concise answers please, and firstly from Siân.

Less succinct, sorry. Minister, I know this isn't directly connected to the Bill, but can you give us an indication of the status of vocational qualifications—the current ones—and where they will fit in with the curriculum? There will be certain things like BTECs and 16-year-olds' vocational qualifications that won't be curriculum compliant. How are we going to deal with those?

As I referred to earlier, the whole future of qualifications at the age of 16 is a matter for discussion and debate with Qualifications Wales. My expectation would be that there would be a range of qualifications available to children at 16 that are reflective of the curriculum. But, as I said, that's a matter that is currently under discussion and for debate above and beyond the contents of this Bill.

Okay, because there's a timing issue there. Did you give any thought to including a need for mandatory continual professional development in the Bill, bearing in mind some of the comments we had about Welsh language and RSE in particular?

11:15

Well, our expectations about ongoing professional learning—is that what you're referring to, Suzy?

That is clearly stated and that expectation is there amongst the profession in our professional standards that were adopted a few years ago now. So, it is the expectation first of school leaders to provide the opportunities for professional learning within the school environment and it is an expectation of your accreditation as a teacher that you will commit to ongoing professional learning. What we're doing at the moment, having completed reforms to ITE, is now turning our attention to early-years career development and what that looks like in terms of your induction year and mentoring and what are our expectations around learning in that period as well as providing an opportunity to go on to study for a Master's level qualification in education in a variety of routes.

So, one of the routes that we're exploring, actually, is a Master's qualification in language and communication. So, we're actively exploring the possibility of gaining a Master's to help us with our agenda of improving the quality of teaching of Welsh in our English-medium schools. So, you could become a specialist in that area, as well as specialisms in additional learning needs—so, looking at a variety of routes to provide opportunities for accredited ongoing professional learning. 

That's helpful. Maybe that could apply to modern foreign languages as well, that last point. 

And then, finally from me, you mentioned the range of expectations there. Is there anything in the Bill on which either teachers, or, in fact, learners, can rely in order to enforce—make sure that obligations that are due to them can be enforced? It's fine to have expectations, but, if they're not met, what happens? 

If we're talking about ongoing professional learning, the Bill is a curriculum Bill, so I'm not sure whether it is appropriate to have professional learning expectations in this particular Bill. As I said, we have looked to develop those professional learning standards where there is an absolute expectation around both professionals to engage in that, both in an accredited and a non-accredited way. 

And if children aren't getting what they should be entitled to under the curriculum?

Well, with regards to the entitlement under the curriculum, the first basis of that would be at a local, school level to engage in that and then the usual legal processes would apply. So, for instance, I know, Suzy, you and I have had conversations about the ability of a headteacher to make decisions on an entitlement. We're looking to use potentially the regulation powers to set out about how that would be dealt with and the timescales that would be dealt with, but there are a variety of mechanisms both within the Bill and outside the Bill that we would expect an individual learner or a parent or carer to utilise. Georgina, I don't know if there's anything else you can add. 

Can I just say, I appreciate there's an appeals system built into the Bill? It was whether there was anything new that had been considered, that's all.

Sorry, can I just add very briefly that the needs and the wishes of learners are really, really central to a lot of the work that we're doing? It's not just about the changes within the education sector, it's the changes for learners—that's really at the core of this. So, you may not see a lot of it in the Bill, but a lot of it is about understanding learner expectations, learner preferences, learner hopes in terms of their futures and their experiences within school, and that's really quite central to some of the work that we're doing around implementation as well. So, I think we'd expect to be thinking about what that means and how we continue to engage with learners around their experiences at schools and whether it is meeting their needs as well as our wider national needs too. 

Thank you. Okay, if I can just ask a few questions to close, then, I'd like to go back to mental health, Minister, which has been a source of great interest and concern to this committee. I just wanted to say that I do really recognise your personal commitment to the emotional and mental health of children and young people and also how hard you and your officials have worked on taking forward the whole-school approach to mental health. Obviously, I heard your answers to Siân about whether there should be more on the face of the Bill about mental health, and it is critical that all young people get to learn about resilience and coping in school. When we had the RSE panel in, one of the things they said was that there needed to be more prescription, because sometimes teachers were uncomfortable with certain subjects, and therefore they were worried that they wouldn't teach some aspects of RSE, and I think that argument could be made about mental health. We know that some teachers are very uncomfortable talking about self-harm, suicide, topics like that. Can you give us any more assurances that all young people, when this Bill is in place and implemented, will be given the tools that they need to become resilient and strong in the face of what is becoming an increasingly more challenging world for them, really?

11:20

I absolutely accept your premise about the challenges that our young people face, and what they're negotiating in their everyday life. I believe that the way we address that cannot be left to the curriculum alone, and quite rightly, as you said, even if we had high levels of perception, that in itself doesn't translate into what children really, really need. So, I believe—in terms of content, I believe that there is a clear expectation around what should be available to young people and taught, but, around that, we cannot leave it to the Bill alone; that's why we have to have the whole-school approach, because learning a lesson about mental health is all very well, but, if you're in an environment that is fundamentally unhealthy, then we're not doing the best by our children. So, the curriculum content is important, but the whole-school approach and their expectations around that, you know that we're putting in statutory guidance, so that school itself becomes a healthy environment, not just for children, but for the people who work within our schools and work alongside our children.

And those conversations that you had about teachers shying away from things, that is best addressed, I believe, by investing in the profession so that they do absolutely feel confident about addressing these really important topics. And you'll be aware that we have been working with our initial teacher education colleagues in higher education to make sure that some of these issues are addressed in initial teacher education, and we have provided additional resources to support higher education to develop models on child development, mental—. You'll be aware of the work of Estyn; sometimes teachers aren't necessarily well-versed in child development, and what happens to a teenager's brain and how to address that. Also, looking at issues around mental health and conversations around mental health and neurodiversity—which is a slightly separate issue, but, again, we need to have knowledge and understanding about neurodiverse children and how best to work alongside those.

And again there is the possibility of exploring—as we begin to develop our Master's programme, to look for a specialist route here as well, where individual practitioners look to develop their skills in this area. Now, it's early days for our revamped Master's programme, and we've got to walk before we can run, but I think there's a real scope there to develop expertise. So, I think the curriculum can't do it on its own. I believe that the content is well understood and the expectations are understood, but we have to do that in the context of the whole-school approach and good professional learning.

Okay. Thank you, Minister. Can I just go back to the issue of the Welsh language, then, and ask for your response to concerns that have been expressed to the committee that the Bill undermines the role of local authorities in strategic planning for Welsh-medium education by giving the decision about this application of English prior to age 7 to individual schools rather than the local authority?

Certainly, there's nothing in this Bill that removes any current powers that local education authorities would have in this regard. But that is one of the unintended consequences that we discussed earlier, and hence the commitment that I gave earlier to bring forward amendments to address that, because that's one of the unintended consequences. So, while no powers are taken away, I understand that local authorities feel that that could be undermined, and thus that's one of the considerations in bringing forward the amendments I gave the commitment to Siân Gwenllian earlier on in the committee to bring forward.

11:25

Thank you. And just on the finance, then, there's no money included in the RIA for early years settings and education other than at school provision, and given that there have been 16 innovation schools that have been involved in the calculation of the estimated costs, how confident can you be, then, that the RIA is accurate and that the Bill is going to be affordable?

Well, we felt it was appropriate to ask those schools—some of the schools—that had been most deeply involved in the development to date, and therefore had the deepest understanding of what would be required under the curriculum to provide those costs. It would have been very difficult for a school that perhaps hadn't been so greatly involved to be able to give an estimation. Those schools are ones that had been deeply involved in the development of the curriculum, had been trialling new approaches, had been looking at professional development needs, and therefore we felt that they were best placed, although I acknowledge that there is a limited number. Georgina, I don't know if there's anything further to add.

Yes, Minister. I think our feeling from talking to people, and, as the committee are aware, we continue to work really, really closely with a number of settings, not least in the early years space, but also EOTAS and other types of school settings—. The principles that underpin the foundation phase are already quite well established, obviously, and they are quite similar to the principles of curriculum reform. So, the approach to this is already something that we're progressing, and is very familiar to people already. The numbers of particularly EOTAS settings—there aren't as many as there are for schools, so we consider that the sorts of numbers and financial implications for innovation schools, which was set out in the RIA, will be sufficient to enable us to work with those settings, and a range of settings, in order to deliver curriculum reform. 

Okay, thank you. And the final question, then, is about the United Kingdom Internal Market Bill and the automatic recognition principle. Are you concerned that teachers who have qualified in other parts of the UK may not be properly equipped to deliver the curriculum in Wales?

You wanted a succinct answer, Chair, and I don't think there is much about the UK Internal Market Bill that I could reply to in a succinct way. We have real concerns about the implications for education. You'll be aware, in answers to questions yesterday in First Minister's questions, of the concerns around our ability to protect entry into school leadership in Wales. We have a high bar, rightly so, for those that can lead our schools, and qualifications necessary to do that. Potentially there are items within this Bill that fundamentally, potentially, challenge our ability to continue to do that. 

Okay, thank you. We've come to the end of our time, so can I thank you, Minister, and your officials? It's been a long session, and we've covered a lot of ground, so thank you very much for your time this morning. Even with the time we've had, there were questions we didn't get to ask, so we will write to you about those, which we're keen to get responses to in time to inform the report deadline, which is 4 December. But thank you to all of you again for your time this morning, it's much appreciated. Diolch yn fawr.

3. Papurau i’w Nodi
3. Papers to Note

Item 3, then, is papers to note. Paper to note 1 is a letter from Qualifications Wales to the committee following the committee meeting on 18 August. Paper to note 2 is a letter from Bangor University to me regarding the arrangements to support students in light of COVID-19. Are Members happy to note those? Thank you.

4. Cynnig o dan Reol Sefydlog 17.42(ix) i Benderfynu Gwahardd y Cyhoedd o Weddill y Cyfarfod
4. Motion under Standing Order 17.42(ix) to Resolve to Exclude the Public from the Remainder of the Meeting

Cynnig:

bod y pwyllgor yn penderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o weddill y cyfarfod yn unol â Rheol Sefydlog 17.42(ix).

Motion:

that the committee resolves to exclude the public from the remainder of the meeting in accordance with Standing Order 17.42(ix).

Cynigiwyd y cynnig.

Motion moved.

Item 4, then: can I propose in accordance with Standing Order 17.42 that the committee resolves to meet in private for the remainder of the meeting? Are Members content? Thank you. We'll now proceed in private, then. Thank you.

11:30

Derbyniwyd y cynnig.

Daeth rhan gyhoeddus y cyfarfod i ben am 11:30.

Motion agreed.

The public part of the meeting ended at 11:30.