Curriculum reform: 'Lessons to be learned from Scotland'

Roderic Gillespie
Image caption Roderic Gillespie, the new chief executive of exam board WJEC

There are lessons to be learned from Scotland over the introduction of the new curriculum, according to the new head of Wales' biggest exam board.

Initially lauded as a blueprint for the new Welsh curriculum, more recently concerns have emerged about the implementation of the Scottish reforms.

Roderic Gillespie previously had a key role in developing qualifications for the new Scottish curriculum.

He said teachers must be given "very very clear" guidance on expectations.

In an interview with BBC Wales, the new head of WJEC also said many reforms had been introduced in Scotland at the same time.

The overhaul of Wales' curriculum is based on the recommendations of Professor Graham Donaldson who was also involved in the development of the Scottish curriculum.

The new Welsh curriculum sets broad areas of learning rather than specific subjects and puts the same importance on computer skills as literacy and numeracy.

It will be introduced in 2022 for all primary school pupils and the first year of secondary school and then continue to be rolled out as children move through their schooling.

That means all children currently in Year 2 and below will be transferred into the new curriculum from September 2022.

Mr Gillespie said his background of education reform in Scotland gave him important experience.

Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption Prof Graham Donaldson's independent review set out a shake-up of the curriculum in Wales

"Nobody argued about the broad principles - it was the implementation," he said.

"Teachers do want some autonomy but they want very very clear guidance in terms of the expectations - what do we expect of teachers and clarity of that guidance for teachers in the classroom - that should be the starting point".

"I think on reflection very much engaging far more [was needed]...think very very carefully are your messages getting across and crucially support teachers in the classroom."

He said Wales like Scotland was clear about the purpose of education and "it's not about exams".

A Welsh Government spokeswoman said they had been closely monitoring Scotland's progress on how its curriculum was being implemented.

"We are making sure that this helps inform the design of our curriculum and our plans for its roll out," she said.

"We have made learning from the experience of other countries a key part of ensuring we get the new curriculum in Wales right and are working with academics from around the world, to make sure that this happens."

Welsh language

Mr Gillespie joined as chief executive at the WJEC at the start of June from the Cambridge International exam board, having previously worked for the Scottish Qualifications Authority.

The WJEC sets exams including GCSE and A levels at by pupils in Wales, and has around 400 staff.

The UCAC teaching union has previously said it was disappointed that the ability to communicate in Welsh was not a requirement for the position.

He said he understood the concerns that he does not speak Welsh and has pledged to do his "homework" on the Welsh education system.

He said Welsh speakers on the WJEC's board and across the organisation would be able to "guide and advise" him in supporting the language.

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