When I came into office I set three clear objectives: to reduce the attainment gap, raise standards, and deliver an education system that is a source of national pride and public confidence. However, this endeavour, set out in Education in Wales: Our national mission, is not something anyone can do alone.
Together, we are all responsible for ensuring our children and young people are equipped with the knowledge, skills and experiences they need to get on and get ahead in life. Education reform is our national mission and Curriculum for Wales is fundamental in helping to achieve that.
Since 2015, teachers from pioneer schools across Wales have been working together on a draft framework that deliberately breaks away from the prescriptive, narrow and outdated curriculum first introduced in 1988.
Our new curriculum is being constructed around four purposes that will help learners to become ambitious and capable, enterprising and creative, ethical and informed, and healthy and confident. In April we reached a key milestone in our reform journey as the draft curriculum and assessment arrangements were published for feedback, and I urge everyone to have their say.
I fully recognise that managing workload is a challenge in many schools, which is why I set out in plenary what we’re doing to tackle this. Under plans to accelerate the pace in developing the professional learning culture, I recently made the single biggest investment of £24 million in teacher development. But I also know, from my discussions with teachers, that we need to go beyond this to give teachers the time they need.
Some of our changes, starting from inside the classroom, include moving towards online personalised assessments. This gives teachers feedback on their learners earlier in the school year so that they can plan ahead. I can’t say it enough – these assessments are not to be used as any high-stakes accountability measure and are just one piece in the jigsaw of information teachers need to support their pupils’ learning.
Through these changes, and our investment in broadband and Hwb, we’re inviting classrooms into the 21st Century and aiming to make teachers' lives easier. I’m constantly blown away by new technologies in our schools, like our E-sgol project, which is transforming teaching and connecting classrooms, ensuring every young person in Wales has an equal opportunity to reach the highest standards.
Outside of the classroom, I recently consulted on proposals to introduce a new, specific ‘National Professional Learning’ INSET day next year. A good teacher knows that the lessons they teach tomorrow will be better than the lessons they teach today, and allowing that extra day of training is a small step towards ensuring our pupils receive a first class education.
We know that the world’s highest performing education systems have vibrant, engaged educators and support staff who are committed to continuous learning. That’s why last year I introduced the National Approach to Professional Learning (NAPL) – our own approach to professional learning - so that we can better support those already in the job and others who aspire to leadership in our education system.
All of these changes are part of wider plans to give teachers the time they need to deliver the new Curriculum for Wales - our first ever made in Wales curriculum.
In closing, I want to thank everyone working in our schools and colleges across Wales for the invaluable work that you do. Day in and day out you are changing lives and inspiring future generations. Thank you.