The National Curriculum
The Curriculum covers what children must be taught, with a strong focus on literacy and numeracy. An interesting addition to the curriculum in Wales is 'Oracy', a focus on the tradition of the spoken word in Welsh culture.
If you move to Wales from Scotland, you will find the National Curriculum pins down what is taught more closely than Scotland's national guidelines, so there is less flexibility between schools.
The Welsh Assembly believes that children have the right to access to a range of play, leisure sporting and cultural activities, and in February 2006 announced their plan for making sure this is a reality. The 'Play in Wales' Plan includes things like quality out of school childcare, after school clubs and holiday clubs which provide opportunities for play.
A levels and baccalaureate
The Welsh Assembly is piloting a new form of qualification for post-16 education, a Welsh Baccalaureate, in a few schools and colleges. The Assembly will judge in September 2006 if the project is successful, and then the Baccalaureate may become more widespread. The 'Bac' involves covering of a broader range of subjects than A levels, but still allowing depth of study. More about this on Learning in Wales.
Wales is well provided for with many universities of high quality, some well known such as Cardiff and Aberystwyth. Welsh young people who want to study near home will be able to choose from a wide range of courses, and study alongside students from all over the UK and beyond.
Learning Wales, the Welsh Assembly's training and education department, deals with student finance for Welsh students.
Welsh language in schools
Wales is a land of two languages, and that means learning in both Welsh and English. How this is done will depend on the policy of a school and on the area you live in; but wherever you are in Wales, it is compulsory for children from 5 - 16 to learn Welsh, at least as a second language.
Many schools, however, teach primarily in Welsh, particularly in the 'heartlands' of West and North Wales where many people speak Welsh every day. These schools are known as Welsh medium or Welsh language schools.
In 2005 there were 455 Welsh language primary schools; 14.8% of secondary school pupils up to 16 are taught Welsh as a first language. Very few independent (private) schools teach Welsh as a second language and there is no designated Welsh medium private school in Wales.
- Welsh medium schools
Welsh medium secondary schools teach the majority of subjects in Welsh or bilingually. Some prefer to teach science and maths in English, because this is seen as the international language of science. However, supporters of an all-Welsh curriculum say they get better exam results teaching everything in Welsh.
English is introduced as a second language at around age 7 for children from Welsh language homes. Generally, pupils learn quickly to read, write and use the language just as well as children from English language homes, helped by the dominance of English in the mass media and popular culture.
- Choosing a school
Choices may include the possibility of sending your child to a Welsh medium school, or involve looking at how well Welsh is taught in English language schools. There is a lot of information about the pros and cons of Welsh medium schools on the BBC's School Gate website.
- Catching up
Children aged 7-14 who move into Welsh-speaking areas may need to catch up on their Welsh language skills so they can join a Welsh medium school. Some local authorities provide language centres for latecomers.
- Pre-school in Welsh
Muchiad Ysgolion Meithrin, the Welsh Medium Nursing Association, provides pre-school education in Welsh through a network of over a thousand playgroups and parent and toddler groups.