Following the recent publication of the draft Curriculum for Wales 2022, Rhys Jones, Headteacher of Treorchy Comprehensive School, explores how the changes will impact on provision for more able and talented (MAT) learners.
As a Professional Learning Pioneer School we have been involved in the development of the new Curriculum for Wales and its supporting actions and agencies since its inception. Specifically, we are tasked with helping to research, understand and develop the pedagogy to teach the new curriculum; to collaborate with the Curriculum Pioneers to develop the draft Areas of Learning and Experience (AoLEs); and to support non-pioneer schools (known as partner schools) in their preparation for the new curriculum.
Drawing on our longstanding relationship with NACE, consideration of MAT learners has been a core focus in our co-construction work on the new curriculum – including consideration of the following questions:

1. Will the new curriculum help schools identify and challenge MAT learners? 

The progression framework in each AoLE spans the age range from three to 16; the new curriculum works on a continuum rather than being split into key stages like the current national curriculum. Although the five progression steps outlined in the “what matters” statements provided for each AoLE are loosely related to ages, teachers are encouraged to look at the whole span of progression. This means that MAT learners in each area will be challenged to work at an appropriately high level.
An example may be seen in the expressive arts AoLE. If a pupil is a MAT musician, they might already be demonstrating performance skills from Progression Step 4 or 5 quite early in their school career and this is readily accepted and promoted by the Curriculum for Wales.

2. How will the new curriculum impact on primary/secondary collaboration? 

It is anticipated that there will be much closer collaboration between primary and secondary schools. As mentioned above, the concept of the curriculum as a continuum without key stages is a central principle. It is anticipated that there will be co-construction in terms of planning, implementation and assessment. The primary and secondary sectors will need to learn from one another if the curriculum is to be successful.
Because of the continuum in terms of ongoing and formative assessment, information about MAT pupils will be easily available to all schools at this key transition point.

3. Will the new curriculum offer opportunities for MAT learners? 

It should offer opportunities in all AoLEs. Two key strands to highlight at this stage are extracurricular activities and authentic pupil-led learning.
Across the curriculum the artificial divide between extracurricular and curricular activities is being removed. Recognition of the significance of a wide range of rich activities for pupils of all abilities, and of course for our MAT pupils, is positively encouraged in the new curriculum.
This connects to the idea of providing authentic activities in which to base pupils’ learning. Giving learners a voice to help decide the direction of their learning will encourage ownership of learning both inside and outside the classroom.
Both of these examples provide opportunities for our MAT learners, who are particularly likely to appreciate and benefit from independent self-determination in authentic settings.

4. Will teachers need to work differently with MAT learners? 

At Treorchy, we would say we have a great tradition of working differently with MAT learners; differentiation by its nature implies working differently.
Because of the innovations mentioned above and because of the greater balance between knowledge, skills and experience, the new curriculum should give us even greater freedom to work with MAT pupils.  
What do you think about the draft new Curriculum for Wales? How is your school preparing? Share your views by completing our short survey.
Thursday, May 16, 2019