Jeremy Miles MS, Minister for Education and Welsh Language
My priorities for the coming year are to renew and reform, putting learners’ progression and wellbeing at the heart of everything we do. As we recover from the pandemic, working towards implementation of the new curriculum and associated reforms, I want to build on the innovation, flexibility and focus on wellbeing that have helped us through this period of disruption.
Today, I am setting out a series of measures that we will take, to create more capacity and ease potential pressures within the system, and to provide further clarity on what next year will look like.
In July 2020, given the implications of ongoing disruption to schools and post-16 providers for qualifications awarded in 2021, the Welsh Government announced that the suspension of performance measures would continue for 2020/21. We find ourselves in a similar situation as we near the end of the current academic year. I, therefore, want to provide early clarity again, by confirming that the suspension of Key Stage 4 and legacy sixth form performance measures will be extended to the 2021/22 academic year. Qualification awards data will not be used to report on attainment outcomes at a school, local authority or regional consortium level and must not be used to hold schools to account for their learners’ outcomes.
In the post-16 sector, the range of providers (sixth forms, FE institutions, work-based learning and adult learning) and different types of programmes are affected in different ways. Some outcomes in 2021/22 will reflect a two-year programme for learners, while others are covering a single year of study. We will, therefore, consider the best approach to post-16 performance measures for 2021/22. The sector will be consulted, before any firm decision is taken, in order to consider what would be useful to help their own monitoring and quality assurance processes.
I can also confirm that School Categorisation will not take place in academic year 2021/22. Regional consortia and local authorities will continue to work in partnership with schools to help provide them with the support they need to improve and to successfully implement our ambitious reforms. Schools will not be assigned a published category as part of this support process. Following the Welsh Government’s recent consultation on non-statutory school improvement guidance, I intend to publish our longer-term plans for evaluation, improvement and accountability in the autumn.
In addition, the Relaxation of School Reporting Requirements (Wales) (Coronavirus) Regulations 2021 came into force on 18 June 2021. The Regulations amend certain statutory requirements related to school based reports for 2020/21, supporting the assurances previously provided around the use of school data affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
All schools and post-16 providers will continue to be required to undertake effective self-evaluation to support continuous improvement. Our evaluation, improvement and accountability arrangements require consideration of a broad range of information, relevant to a school’s own context, when undertaking self-evaluation and identifying improvement priorities. This will involve schools, with support from local authorities and regional consortia, using the learner level information they have to reflect on and improve their existing arrangements.
I have also agreed with Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector that the suspension of Estyn’s core inspection programme for schools and pupil referral units (PRUs) will be extended to include the autumn term 2021. This will enable Estyn to focus on continuing engagement visits to schools and PRUs, prioritising those providers that need most support, ahead of the roll-out of the new curriculum. During spring term 2022, Estyn will pilot new inspection arrangements, seeking agreement from individual providers to be involved. Other than these pilot inspections and monitoring visits to schools currently in an Estyn category, schools and PRUs will not be inspected before Easter 2022, unless there are exceptional circumstances. Ahead of summer term 2022, Welsh Government and Estyn will continue to consider the best balance of engagement and inspection activity to support the journey towards Curriculum for Wales, reviewing this on a termly basis.
These actions follow a range of measures taken this academic year, to alleviate pressure and provide flexibility. The Welsh Government has, among many policy and legislative changes, removed end of key stage assessment and moderation requirements, cancelled some annual data collections and provided additional funding to support learners and our education workforce.
All of these actions have been taken as our number one priority remains supporting learners as we recover from the pandemic. That is why we continue to reduce administrative burdens on schools and enable a more individualised approach to supporting our young people. I will continue to work with stakeholders on practical steps we can take to reduce external pressures on the system as part of our collective efforts to renew and reform.