Agenda item 6 of Senedd Plenary session held on 5 July saw Education Minister Jeremy Miles delivering a statement on the roll-out of the new Curriculum for Wales:
“The process of embedding our new curriculum and continuously improving it in schools and settings will truly begin in earnest from September.”
It is clear from his introduction [293-302] that the minister has high hopes for this venture:
“We must make sure that our transformational curriculum delivers for the next generation.”
“the new curriculum moves away from just having narrow subjects to having six broader areas of learning and experience. Learning will be purpose-based; through the four purposes, we articulate the kind of citizens that Wales wants and needs.” (emphasis added throughout)
Home educating parents may query the relevance of this to them at first glance, but it may give further insight into Miles’ recently reported motivation to encourage newly deregistered children back into school.
In response to questions from Heledd Fychan MS, the Minister addressed her concern about “the attendance challenge,” restating and expanding on his desire to encourage recently deregistered children back into school:
“She’s absolutely right to say that in order to benefit fully from the advantages of the new curriculum pupils need to be in school, which is why we’re prioritising our response to ensuring that pupils are in school. She’ll know the investment we’ve made in relation to family engagement officers, and we had a very fruitful discussion in the committee the other day in relation to some of the other interventions that we’re putting in place.
She will also know, I think, that even for those parents and carers who have made the choice to home-educate their children, we’re looking at ways to make available to them access to the Hwb network, so that they have a suite of resources, many of which obviously will have been tailored to the approaches of the new curriculum.
So, we will always try and find ways of minimising those differences, but there is a practical limitation to that, which is why I’m so keen to make sure that perhaps in particular those who have made a recent decision to stay at home, as a consequence of the COVID pandemic, that we encourage those back into school to take full advantage of this fantastic new chapter in our education story here in Wales.”
There are reassurances that schools are being freed up to give learners “their individual learning journey,” but there are also statements about the new curriculum involving, “a common set of purposes, a common set of expectations” and references to “a consistent standard across the system.”
“Family engagement officers,” “finding ways of minimising the differences” and a curriculum that shapes “the kind of citizens that Wales wants and needs” seem to indicate a burgeoning objective that all children be taught the same thing, and preferably in the same place – or at the very least, that their parents have easy access to the material which they would be taught were they in school.
One has to ask if this all sounds more like social engineering than equipping each child to reach their full personal potential.
So this serves as a reminder of the need for constant reassertion of home education as a legally valid alternative to state schooling. Though lip-service is paid to identifying individual schools’ “unique factors,” compliance with the prescribed model appears to be the cardinal virtue.
Given the Minister’s stated desire that “our transformational curriculum delivers for the next generation,” and his intention to make “our professional learning offer accessible to all [teaching staff],” home educating parents who have chosen the road less travelled need to be prepared to resist further pressure and subtle discrimination. The notion of state education being free of political control may be rather idealistic, but the adage about the one who pays the piper calling the tune should certainly apply to who determines curriculum content in the case of home educated children.
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