Our Curriculum

It’s an exciting time for learners in Wales because the National Curriculum is changing. Welsh Government commissioned an expert named Professor Donaldson to carry out a review of the existing curriculum. He listened to other experts, teachers, parents and pupils to hear their views and wrote a report entitled ‘Successful Futures‘ containing a number of recommendations to improve the curriculum for children in Wales.


We want our curriculum to be relevant to our learners and to their context.

Engaging & Equitable

We want our curriculum to be engaging for our learners so that they enjoy learning and become absorbed in it. We also want our curriculum to be equitable, meeting the needs of all our learners from a diverse catchment area.

Authentic & Aspirational

We want our curriculum to be authentic, providing real life opportunities for children to apply their learning and see the relevance of their learning to the world beyond the school gates. We also want our curriculum to be aspirational, having high expectations for pupils and pushing them to have high expectations for themselves.


We want our curriculum to be lifelong, equipping our children with the knowledge, skills and experiences that will help them thrive throughout their lives.

What’s Changing?

The whole approach to developing young people aged 3 to 16 will change.

The new curriculum will have more emphasis on equipping young people for life. It will build their ability to learn new skills and apply their subject knowledge more positively and creatively. As the world changes, they will be more able to adapt positively.

They will also get a deep understanding of how to thrive in an increasingly digital world. A new digital competence framework is now introducing digital skills across the curriculum, preparing them for the opportunities and risks that an online world presents.

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

The central focus of assessment arrangements will be to ensure learners understand how they are performing and what they need to do next. There will be a renewed emphasis on assessment for learning as an essential and integral feature of learning and teaching.

The purpose of the new curriculum is to support our children and young people to be:

  • ambitious, capable learners, ready to learn throughout their lives
  • enterprising, creative contributors, ready to play a full part in life and work
  • ethical, informed citizens of Wales and the world
  • healthy, confident individuals, ready to lead fulfilling lives as valued members of society.

It will have six ‘Areas of Learning and Experience (AoLE).

  • Expressive arts.
  • Health and well-being.
  • Humanities (including RE which should remain compulsory to age 16).
  • Languages, literacy and communication (including Welsh, which should remain compulsory to age 16, and modern foreign languages).
  • Mathematics and numeracy.
  • Science and technology.

It will also include three cross-curricular responsibilities: literacy, numeracy and digital competence.

Assessment is a continuous process and takes place on a daily basis in schools. Progression reference points help learners, teachers, parents and carers to understand if appropriate progress is being made. They will set out expectations for learners in each area of their learning relating broadly to ages 5, 8, 11, 14 and 16.

Why it’s changing

Now more than ever, young people need to be adaptable to change, capable of learning new skills throughout life and equipped to cope with new life scenarios.

Advances in technology and globalisation have transformed the way we live and work. These changes have profound implications for what, and how, children and young people need to learn. After all, tablets and smart phones didn’t even exist when the last curriculum was introduced in 1993.

Schools and teachers need more flexibility to respond to this environment, using a new curriculum which will promote high achievement and engage the interest of all children and young people to help them reach their potential.

The new curriculum will bring this about by making learning more experience-based, the assessment of progress more developmental, and by giving teachers the flexibility to deliver in more creative ways that suit the learners they teach.

This new approach was informed by Professor Graham Donaldson’s independent review of curriculum and assessment arrangements in Wales, Successful Futures, in February 2015 which provided the foundations for a twenty-first Century curriculum shaped by the very latest national and international thinking.

Since the report, teachers and stakeholders have been consulted at events across Wales to gather their thoughts and start to shape future curriculum and assessment arrangements.

When it’s changing

Work on developing the new curriculum is well underway, but this is not a process that will be rushed. The key milestones on the journey are set out below.

2015 – 2016: Pioneer Network established (St. Julian’s Primary School was selected as a Digital Pioneer School and Professional Learning Pioneer School)

2015 – 2019: Design and development phase of the new curriculum

September 2016: Digital Competence Framework available

December 2017: Digital Professional Learning Approach (DPLA) Available

2017 – 2022: Practical support to schools to prepare for the new curriculum

April 2018: Initial National Approach to Professional Learning Available (Phase 1)

April 2019: National Approach to Professional Learning Available (Phase 2)

April 2019: New curriculum and assessment arrangements available for feedback

January 2020: Final curriculum and assessment arrangements available

April 2020: Full Implementation of National Approach to Professional Learning (Phase 3)

September 2022: All maintained schools and settings using the new curriculum and assessment arrangements

The first teaching of all year groups from primary school to Year 7 will begin in September 2022 and the new curriculum will roll out year-on-year from this point.

A plan for designing and developing the new curriculum and assessment framework has also been developed in collaboration with Pioneer Schools and key stakeholders.

How it’s happening

The new curriculum is being developed by teachers and practitioners through a network of Pioneer Schools. These schools have been drawn from across Wales, including settings that are rural and urban; bilingual, English-medium and Welsh-medium; primary, secondary, special schools, schools with a religious character and a range of school sizes.

The Pioneer Schools Network is working as part of an all-Wales partnership with:

  • local authorities
  • regional consortia
  • the schools inspection body Estyn
  • external experts
  • the further and higher education sectors
  • employers
  • Welsh Government
  • other key stakeholders.

Initially, Pioneer Schools were identified to lead on three distinct work streams.

  • Design and development of the Digital Competence Framework. This has now been made available and Pioneers are acting as ambassadors to encourage take-up
  • Design and development of the new national curriculum
  • Effective professional learning to ensure teachers and practitioners can deliver the new curriculum

A new group of 25 Pioneer Schools joined the original cohort in January 2017, giving added impetus to work on the six Areas of Learning and Experience which contain the subject content.

Regardless of their initial focus, all Pioneer Schools work closely together and with their clusters, networks and wider stakeholder groups, to involve as many schools as possible in this exciting work.

The first element of the new curriculum to be developed was the Digital Competence Framework (external link).

The framework introduces and develops the skills needed to live and work in an increasingly online and digital world, ranging from communicating and collaborating to problem solving and handling online bullying.

Like literacy and numeracy it will apply across all subjects, developing skills and confidence in learners that make them adaptable to changes in technology over time.

The framework has four strands of equal importance. Each has a number of elements which explore the detail within it. The strands are:

  • Citizenship – which includes the elements of ‘Identity, image and reputation’, ‘Health and well-being’, ‘Digital rights, licensing and ownership’, and ‘Online behaviour and cyberbullying’
  • Interacting and collaborating – which includes the elements of ‘Communication’, ‘Collaboration’, and ‘Storing and sharing’
  • Producing – which includes the elements of ‘Planning, sourcing and searching’, ‘Creating’, and ‘Evaluating and improving’
  • Data and computational thinking – which includes the elements of ‘Problem solving and modelling’, and ‘Data and information literacy’.

Following its launch in September 2016, settings and schools are now responsible for familiarising themselves with the framework, agreeing their strategic vision for cross-curricular digital competence and considering how to translate this into practice.

Regional Education consortia and Digital Pioneer schools are now actively looking to help schools with implementation. A range of resources on Hwb has been developed by Digital Pioneers which can be adapted to support multiple elements of the framework.

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