I’m writing to respond to the Welsh Government’s Draft Curriculum for Wales consultation. I have included responses to certain questions that interest me, below.
Question A1. To what extent do you agree that the draft Curriculum for Wales 2022 guidance will help children and young people to become:
I welcome the introduction of this ambitious new curriculum which, once implemented, I believe will be the most inclusive in the UK, particularly with respect to Religious Education. The inclusion of religious and non-religious views equally is a hugely positive step which brings Wales in line with the Human Rights Act of 1998 and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, according to which freedom of belief is a right.
However, I strongly urge the Welsh Government to add evolution to the Science and Technology AoLE for pupils of primary age, and to include an explicit prohibition on the teaching of pseudoscience as science across the curriculum. Both of these reforms are vital in ensuring that young people have a proper understanding of how life came to be. They were made in England as part of the 2011-14 curriculum reforms and should be made in Wales too.
A3. Do you think the draft Curriculum for Wales 2022 guidance could be improved?
With respect to RE, I am concerned that the continuance of Agreed Syllabus Conferences (ASCs) could lead to great variations in the content of the RE curriculum. The intention of Successful Futures is to produce one national curriculum across Wales, and one of the four key purposes of the curriculum is ‘to support our children and young people to be… ethical informed citizens of Wales and the World.’ This will be very difficult to achieve if we allow 22 different versions of the curriculum to be created so that there is no standardisation of content between different areas of the country.
With respect to the name ‘religious education’, in my view, it is completely unsustainable for the subject to continue with this antiquated and misleading name. I believe that religious education should be as inclusive as possible, not just of all religions, but of humanism too. Since the proposed changes to the legislation are designed to reflect the fact that humanism is a worldview which is ‘analogous to religious views’, the name of the subject should be amended to recognise this broadened scope.My preference would therefore be for a subject name along the lines of ‘beliefs and values’. ‘Religions and worldviews’ would also be better, as it would be accurate and inclusive, albeit not putting that values-led emphasis first and foremost. I note the Commission on RE proposes ‘religion and worldviews’.
Relationships and Sexuality education is a key enabler of health and wellbeing. I like the rights- and gender equity-based approach to the What Matters statements, but am concerned that, without further guidance, there still isn’t enough substance to ensure appropriate fact-based RSE. There is no detailed information about what should be taught to reach each progression step and a lack of clarity over what is developmentally appropriate for different age groups.
There should be no right for parents to withdraw their children from developmentally appropriate, factually accurate RSE. Unlike some forms of RE (particularly that which is provided by denominational schools) RSE is a fact-based subject designed to provide pupils with the information they require to establish the kind of happy, healthy, and safe relationships (including sexual relationships) that are conducive to physical, mental and emotional wellbeing. For this reason, it is a crucial subject for all children in Wales, and all schools should be following a national curriculum which outlines key learning outcomes for each stage of education.
The Science and Technology AoLE enables learners to develop their critical thinking skills and to learn about the world around us, as well as how it was formed as a factual subject. There must be no room faith-based education. Evolution, fact-based RSE and environmental education need to be delivered consistently in all schools.
Progression step 5 of What Matters 3 mentions understanding of evolution and extinction, but this should come earlier in the progression and be linked through to other What Matters statements as a key concept in understanding our world.
Collective worship has been entirely excluded from any consultation on curriculum reforms and is, therefore, not mentioned in the draft curriculum documentation. This is despite the fact that the outdated requirement for daily worship that is ‘wholly or mainly… Christian’ both contradicts the new legislation by not treating religious and non-religious beliefs equally, and fails to uphold the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child’s requirement for freedom of belief. Assemblies are an important part of the school day and to continue with collective worship contradicts much of the rationale for the new curriculum and risks diminishing the impact of the important changes being made. I therefore strongly urge the Welsh Government to remove the requirement for collective worship in all Welsh schools and replace it with fully inclusive assemblies, respectful of all religions and beliefs.
B7. How well do you think the guidance for each area of learning and experience will support children during the Foundation Phase years?
Most foundation phase teaching already follows the pedagogical principles outlined in the AoLEs. Earlier introduction of evolution as a topic in Science would nevertheless be beneficial. The teaching of RSE and RE from foundation phase is critical and support will be required in nursery settings to understand how the curriculum can be developed appropriately for the age group – this is not currently clear enough in the guidance, particularly as it will be a new skill for the teachers to be able to write the appropriate content.
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