Yesterday, using powers under the Coronavirus Act 2020, I issued a notice temporarily modifying the basic curriculum requirements for Wales and associated assessment arrangements for schools and funded non-maintained nursery settings (those funded pursuant to arrangements with local authorities).
I am absolutely clear that schools should provide learners with the best possible support from the autumn term. I published learning and operational guidance in July 2020 to support schools, which emphasises the need to keep learners and teachers safe and also the priority attached to promoting wellbeing and the continuation of learning.
I recognise there will continue to be some additional burdens for schools in September, as they reintegrate learners into the school and nursery environment, and seek to progress teaching and learning ambitiously in all key areas. There will also be logistical challenges, managing contacts between different learners (specifically in areas of learning including sport, music and practical science), potential periods of self-isolation for individuals or groups and other possible scenarios.
Given these risks and challenges, not least to learners’ continued progress, I have decided to modify the basic curriculum and associated assessment requirements to a reasonable endeavours basis for the first 30 days of September. This will provide schools with flexibility, where needed, to reintegrate students and develop a plan for learning over the autumn which is resilient and relevant in all operational scenarios. I hope that this also will be helpful for parents, given the uncertainty over coronavirus risk.
The provisions that have been modified so that schools are required to use their reasonable endeavours to discharge the duty include:
- Section 101 of the Education Act 2002 (“the 2002 Act”) which places requirements on maintained schools in Wales to provide a basic curriculum including; the national curriculum, religious education, personal and social education, work related education and for secondary schools, sex education.
- Section 109 of the 2002 Act which requires the National Curriculum for Wales to be implemented in maintained schools in Wales, as well as section 110 which requires it to be implemented in maintained nursery schools and some other nursery education settings in Wales.
- Sections 116A to 116K of the 2002 Act which make provision about the local curriculum including requirements that all young people are provided with a minimum offer of choices: 25 choices at KS4 with a minimum of 3 vocational choices and 30 choices at post-16 with a minimum of 5 vocational choices.
- Orders made under section 108 of the 2002 Act relating to the national curriculum which impose requirements on schools to deliver:
- Desirable outcomes, education programmes, and assessment arrangements for Foundation Phase provision.
- Attainment targets, assessment arrangements including moderation and programmes of study in respect of Key Stages 2, 3 and 4.
- The paper based reasoning tests and the online personalised numeracy and reading assessments for all learners in Years 2 to 9.
- Section 69 of the School Standards and Framework Act 1998 which contains a duty to secure due provision of religious education.
- Section 43 of the Education Act 1997 which makes provision about careers education in schools in Wales.
The modification of the duties to a reasonable endeavours means that the person must use its reasonable endeavours to discharge the duty. If despite such reasonable endeavours it fails to do so, the duty will be deemed to be discharged.
I am clear that this modification enables schools to have some flexibility in how they comply with their duties where that flexibility is needed. I encourage schools to continue to utilise appropriate assessment arrangements such as the personalised assessments, where these are appropriate to their local context and the needs of their learners.
As mandated under the powers in the Coronavirus Act 2020, the notice will apply for a period of one month from 1 September to 30 September 2020. I will keep this under review.
This statement is being issued during recess in order to keep members informed. Should members wish me to make a further statement or to answer questions on this when the Senedd returns I would be happy to do so.
A copy of the notice can be viewed here: