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Education is changing

“Our national mission in Wales is to raise standards, raise the attainment of all children and ensure we have an education system that is a source of national pride and public confidence. 

Kirsty Williams, Minister for Education

What is changing?

The biggest change is a new curriculum for schools and funded non-maintained settings (such as sessional day care settings like play groups and cylchoedd meithrin or private day nurseries registered to deliver education) in Wales from September 2022. It will affect all schools other than independent schools. The curriculum has been made in Wales but shaped by the best ideas from around the world.

There will also be changes to improve how we assess children and young people in education, support children with additional learning needs and teacher and practitioner training and accountability. These improvements will complement the new curriculum.

Why must we make these changes? 

Evidence from international surveys, and evaluations from Estyn (the education and training inspectorate for Wales), suggest levels of achievement are not as high as they could be. 

The national curriculum was first introduced in 1988 before on-line shopping, Google and the Cloud. Now, work is different, technology is different, society is changing. The curriculum must prepare young people to thrive in a future where digital skills, adaptability and creativity - alongside knowledge - are crucial, especially as:

“Given the scale and pace of change, it is likely that many children in primary school today will work in jobs that either do not exist today, or at least have constituent tasks that are very different from those of today

The Future of Work in Wales, Mair Bell, Dan Bristow and Steve Martin, Public Policy Institute for Wales
(1 November 2017)

Since it was created, the curriculum has become narrow, inflexible and crowded, limiting creative approaches in schools.

We want children to enjoy learning, and develop skills, knowledge and emotional resilience.  By the age of 16, they should be confident, ethical individuals who play an active part in their community and society. They should be prepared to thrive in the new world of work.

When will it happen?

The new curriculum will be taught in all schools and funded non-maintained settings up to Year 7 from September 2022. It will then roll out year by year until it includes Year 11 by 2026.



2023 2024 2025 2026

Up to Year 7

New curriculum New curriculum New curriculum New curriculum New curriculum
Year 8 Existing curriculum New curriculum New curriculum New curriculum New curriculum
Year 9 Existing curriculum Existing curriculum New curriculum New curriculum New curriculum
Year 10 Existing curriculum Existing curriculum Existing curriculum New curriculum New curriculum
Year 11 Existing curriculum Existing curriculum Existing curriculum Existing curriculum New curriculum
Existing curriculum Existing curriculum New curriculum New curriculum   

The new Curriculum Guidance for schools was published in January 2020. School leaders and teachers will receive support and training to help them to bring it to life, between now and 2022. 

A children and young people’s version of the new curriculum makes it accessible to the younger audience.

New pupil assessment arrangements will be introduced alongside the new curriculum. These will help learners and parents understand how they are performing and what they need to do next.

We are currently making improvements to the way we support children with additional learning needs. Next we’ll place more focus on physical and mental well-being so all children are ready to learn at school and cope with the demands of life.

What could this look like in schools?

Pupils at Olchfa School give their thoughts on how their curriculum is delivered. 

Will there be changes to school hours?

Children will still be taught by qualified teachers, and there won’t be any changes to the length of the school day or school holidays.

Will the way children learn change?

The way children learn in primary and secondary schools will be different. Learning will include skills and experiences, as well as knowledge.

Teachers will have more freedom to teach in ways they feel will have the best outcomes for their learners.

What about the current ‘Key Stages’?

Key Stages 2, 3 and 4 will disappear. The principles of the Foundation Phase will remain, but will become a part of one seamless curriculum for children aged 3 to 16, providing more joined-up learning.

Progression steps will now be in place at age 5, 8, 11, 14 and 16 years of age, relating to broad expectations of a child’s progress.

Will traditional subjects still be taught?

Subjects will be grouped into six Areas of Learning and Experience but this doesn’t mean an end to traditional subjects. For example, in the Humanities Area of Learning and Experience, History will still be taught but perhaps with broader context by comparing its religious and societal impact to events happening today.

The six Areas of Learning and Experience are:

  • Expressive Arts
  • Health and Well-being
  • Humanities
  • Languages, Literacy and Communication
  • Mathematics and Numeracy 
  • Science and Technology

See our videos and presentations for more information about each of the Areas of Learning and Experience.

What will happen with assessment?

Children will continue to be assessed and this will focus on ensuring that all pupils understand where they are and what they need to do next in order to progress. The change includes a move to online Personalised Assessments from National Tests.

Will children still study for GCSEs?

It is likely that GCSEs will still exist but they will need to adapt over time to reflect the changing curriculum, so may look quite different from today's GCSEs. We will improve advice and support for all pupils on their options as they prepare for their future careers. 

What’s changing with Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE)?

A new code will make clear what should be taught within RSE. It will include learning about healthy relationships, keeping safe including online, and being confident to raise issues with responsible adults. Teaching will be age-appropriate, gradually building learners’ knowledge, skills and ethical values.

Faith groups and others representing children’s interests are helping teaching professionals to develop the code. It will be consulted upon before it is finalised. To find out when the consultation is open, sign up to Welsh Government alerts.

For more on the code and the process, read this leaflet.