Written - The Review of Education 8-14 in Wales
Members will recall that earlier this year I approved the setting up of a Task and Finish Group on 8-14 education provision in Wales. After our progress with the Foundation Phase and the introduction of 14 to 19 Pathways, the intervening years became an increasing focus. This phase of education includes three major transitions: from Foundation Phase at 7; between primary and secondary education at 11; and into 14-19 Learning Pathways. I saw in particular, a pressing need to break the link between social disadvantage and low educational attainment by tackling the roots of disaffection and disengagement from learning during the ‘middle’ years. Webb also identified the importance of this broad area. I am delighted to say that we will be tackling this area through the recognition of 8 to 14 as a distinct phase of education. .
Briefly the background is as follows. In December 2007 the Independent Webb Review on Further Education in Wales recommended that the Welsh Assembly Government should commission an independent and wide-ranging review of 11-16 education. I accepted this recommendation in principle and after further reflection; I concluded that it would be more appropriate for the Task and Finish Group to consider the educational experience of 8 to 14 year olds, including their transition from primary to secondary education. This review of the underpinning philosophy and structure of the educational experience of 8 to14 year olds was a better fit with the ongoing development of the Foundation Phase (for 3-7 year olds) and 14-19 Learning Pathways in Wales.
In February 2009, Professor David Egan of the University of Wales Institute Cardiff agreed to chair the Task and Finish Group. After other members, representing a broad range of educational interests, were appointed to the Group, it began its work in March 2009.
I am now pleased to welcome the first stage report from the Group and its key recommendation that that we should in Wales designate 8-14 as a discrete Phase for education, underpinned by a distinct and coherent educational philosophy. This is not a matter of creating middle schools. Rather, we can take this forward in an integrated way with the development of the School Effectiveness Framework (SEF).The critical areas that we need to address include curriculum, pedagogy, leadership, inclusion and accountability. Leading 8-14 reform through SEF represents the best way forward for children, schools and local authorities in Wales. It also offers a contribution to international thinking on educational reform in this area.
I am particularly grateful to Professor David Egan and the members of this Task Force for the work they undertook in analysing the issues that we need to address and for their recommendations on how we should tackle them. I hope they will be willing to continue to support this work going forward as a reference group, within the SEF.
As an immediate next step, I have asked my officials to discuss the report’s detailed recommendations widely across Wales, through regional conferences and other events. The plans for taking the work forward will be informed by all those discussions.
In this way we will develop in Wales a shared understanding between and commitment from all key partners and stakeholders on how best, by pulling together, we can win the gains we seek for all learners.