The early years curriculum is top of everyone’s minds in England, with Ofsted’s new Education Inspection Framework putting the focus on the intent, implementation and impact of settings’ practice, and the revision of the EYFS still very much in progress.
So it is really interesting to see the planned new curriculum for Wales, due to arrive in 2022 (see News, pages 8-9).
This will mean the end of the Foundation Phase for three- to seven-year-olds, as the new curriculum covers three to 16. However, much good ‘early years’ practice features in the draft, which means that the change in content will probably affect older children and their teachers much more.
The curriculum takes a holistic approach which is experience-based. Traditional subjects have been replaced with Areas of Learning and Experience, including Health and well-being and Expressive arts. A version of the characteristics of effective learning is also prominent, and assessment moves away from ‘best-fit’ judgements to ‘progression steps’ at different ages.
It all adds up to a curriculum which looks innovative and uses the kind of language that early years experts will be pleased to hear.
However, the really big challenge will be in training and development of staff. Moving to an approach which demands a deep understanding of children’s learning and development and more individual responsibility for supporting each child and their progression puts the onus on staff’s ability to implement this.
A curriculum is only as good as the people who teach it, so the Government must provide high-quality training and guidance for the workforce.
Ofsted’s new framework puts this under the spotlight too, with providers needing to make sure they can demonstrate what they do, explain why they do it and show that children progress as a result. The challenge is on.