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Are Wales’ School Curriculums in Line with Emerging Technologies?

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As part of our ongoing series of weekly features we asked our expert panel and contributor network;

Are Wales’ School Curriculums in Line with Emerging Technologies?

Our panel’s thoughts can be found below, but if you would like to contribute to this feature, or any of our future features, please contact [email protected]

Welsh Government

Kirsty Williams | Education Secretary

Wales is currently building a new school curriculum to reflect the seismic changes currently underway in technology, society and the world of work. It will be introduced from 2022, with emphasis on equipping young people to learn new skills and apply their subject knowledge more positively and creatively. As the world changes, they will be more able to adapt positively.

It will be based on four ‘purposes’ of learning, helping young people become:

  • Ambitious, capable learners,
  • Enterprising, creative contributors,
  • Ethical, informed citizens of Wales and the world
  • Healthy, confident individuals

Science and Technology will be an important area of learning. Pupils will also get a deep understanding of how to thrive in our digital world; a new digital competence framework was introduced in 2016 and is already introducing digital skills across the curriculum. Digital competence will be a cross-cutting responsibility alongside literacy and numeracy in the new curriculum.

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The Prince’s Trust

Philip Jones | Director of The Prince’s Trust Cymru

The well-documented growth of the tech sector poses an exciting prospect for young people in Wales. In our mission to give every young person the chance to succeed, the commitment of Welsh Government to support emerging technologies and the development of the new curriculum is very much welcomed.

At The Prince’s Trust Cymru we are continuously evolving the support we offer, as Generation Z begin their journey into the world of work. Our latest digital employability programme with Codez Academy, providing free coding and HTML training to enthused young adults, seeks to promote new ways of learning ahead of the fourth industrial revolution.

After more than 40 years of helping young people into education, employment and training, we have seen significant changes to the environment around us. By working with both education providers and some of Wales’ largest employers, we have a unique opportunity to match the right people to these opportunities as they are created.

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Engineering Education Scheme Wales Ltd

Robert Cater | CEO

The National Curriculum was first introduced in Wales as part of the Education Reform Act 1988. A lot happens in thirty years and the curriculum in schools has fallen behind the needs of the 21st century, particularly in terms of technology and engineering. There are several factors that prevent schools from keeping up with emerging technologies; the two most important are, lack of teacher professional development and lack of funding to purchase new teaching resources. There is also a lack of emphasis on encouraging students to take up careers in engineering and manufacturing.

Following the Donaldson review, a new curriculum will be introduced in Welsh schools in 2021. This should change teaching styles so that there will be more use of the advances in technology. These changes should have profound implications for what, and how, young people learn. They will use their subject knowledge more positively and creatively so that as the world changes, they will be more able to adapt positively.

The new curriculum should bring about a long overdue change by making learning more experience-based, using knowledge in real and meaningful contexts.

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Barclays

Karen Thomas | Head of Corporate Banking

How many schools would have foreseen the emergence of Blockchain 5 years ago? Predict the impact AI (artificial intelligence) will have on future generations and address the prediction that China will be the globes leading economy by 2030

The evolution of technology isn’t likely to subside as we continue to operate in a world where we are constantly looking at ways to improve our offerings and processes. So how can we best prepare?

There is no doubt that those best placed to benefit from roles in the future will need to embrace change, have portable skills and be willing to try new things.

Whilst education provides an environment to learn we cannot underestimate how important it is for industry to work with education establishments.  Employers need to ensure they have a work force of the future.

If business owners can collaborate with schools and colleges to support with industry based knowledge this may encourage more innovative and progressive thinking.  Whilst apprenticeships are important, it is also vital that we share  career opportunities with students at an early stage to help them transform our future and ensure that Wales is at the forefront of emerging technologies.

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Techniquest

Andrea Meyrick | Head of Education

The new 3-16 curriculum will be an ambitious curriculum that will enthuse learners giving them the foundation needed to succeed in a changing world, making our young people more adaptable and motivated with a desire to keep learning new skills as life and the world around them changes – exactly the capabilities that employers say they want to see.

Employers have a vested interest in the curriculum succeeding and so should be more proactive in working with schools. Techniquest’s mission is to see Wales as the leading nation in scientific and technological endeavour through a sustained supply of young people entering STEM careers.  We want to work with existing and new partners to support the new curriculum by providing schools with an exciting, challenging, relevant and STEM focussed enrichment programme. Working in partnership with the education system we WILL enthuse the next generation of STEM professionals.

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STEM Learning Hub Wales

Cerian Angharad | ASE Field Officer Wales and IOP Teacher Network Coordinator

See Science is committed to supporting STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) delivery across the whole of Wales to all schools, FE colleges HE Institutions and community groups.

We offer a range of services that support the teaching and learning of STEM subjects in Wales within a real world context to enthuse and develop the scientists of tomorrow.

See Science coordinate the STEM Ambassador Hub in Wales to help inspire young people about STEM. STEM Ambassadors demonstrate the possibilities of STEM subjects and careers by revealing how essential STEM is throughout the world in which we live. This service is FREE to all schools and colleges.

We keep schools in Wales informed about high-quality activities that they can access to enrich and enhance the STEM curriculum including CREST Awards so that teachers can incorporate into their teaching exemplary links to the world of work.

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Swansea University

Professor Tom Crick MBE | Professor of Digital Education & Policy

Rapid technological change makes it harder to anticipate which job-specific skills will thrive and which will become obsolete in the near future. So what does this mean for Wales, in the context of UK and global competitiveness, both now and sustainably for the future?

We are in the midst of the most substantial curriculum reform journey ever seen in Wales, providing transformational change to the structure, assessment and accountability in our educational system. Through some of these changes – from cross-curricular digital competencies, to a new Science & Technology Area of Learning and Experience — we recognise the societal, cultural and economic importance of developing scientifically and digitally confident, capable and creative young people, preparing them for living, studying and working in our data-driven and computational world.

Ensuring we effectively support and resource this change will be vital, to take advantage of this once in a generation opportunity to mainstream science and technology as a part of our culture and provide the foundation for a future innovation and technology-driven economy for Wales.

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St David’s Catholic Sixth Form College

Geraint Williams | STEM enrichment manager and teacher of chemistry

At St David’s Catholic College, we have seen a continual increase in the number of students studying STEM subjects. This is thanks to the dedication of the staff as well as the Welsh government’s reform of GCSEs where learners are now completing at least four GCSEs in mathematics and science.

The Welsh Government is undertaking a significant reform of the national curriculum following the work of Professor Donaldson and we believe it has the capacity to prepare young people to meet the needs of the future, with greater focus on developing creative and enterprising learners. There does however, need to be significant investment in CPD to provide teachers with up-to-date knowledge of their disciplines as well as continuous review of exam specifications to meet the needs of the future.

The current reforms to the national curriculum are radical and transformational but gradual and this is important to ensure teachers are well prepared for delivery in the future. It will be several years before the new curriculum is embedded and with a lot of work I am sure it will be robust platform for developing the scientists and engineers of the future.

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Cardiff and Vale College

Hannah Mathias | E-Learning Manager

ColegauCymru reports that further education colleges in line with the new Welsh curriculum are embedding the Digital Competency framework throughout all areas of learning experiences. This reflects what it is like in the real world, where engineers work with computer scientists etc. on joint projects. Learners need to understand the importance of these links and not compartmentalise their learning and skills.

Gender imbalance needs improvement within these sectors and the promotion of female role models to learners and parents, to encourage engagement with engineering and science. The delivery of these subjects needs to be more relevant and interesting to all learners with links to industry to fulfill the jobs pipeline.

At CAVC, we are opening a Digital Makerspace this year to address this precise issue. We are giving learners from all departments the opportunity to develop these creative digital skills through engineering, design and computing.

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Cardiff Metropolitan University

Professor Jon Platts | Dean of the new Cardiff School of Technologies

Cardiff Metropolitan University this year launched a new Cardiff School of Technologies with a focus on cyber security, data science and informatics, electronic, robotics, artificial intelligence and systems engineering.

“As education providers, we have a responsibility to prepare our graduates for future industry requirements. Working closely with industry partners is key in fostering high-value digital skills. Our new School of Technologies will work with a wide range of employers across the tech industry to be at the cutting edge of meeting both student demand and employer need.”

“With the rapid pace of technology development and evolution, it has become necessary for individuals to continually “top-up” skills to be technologically competent and relevant. We aim to instil a culture of life learning in our students by working in partnership with employers to develop and deliver specific modules to support training needs. Our students are also given the opportunity to undertake workplace internships nationally and internationally, offering them real world experiences which will be invaluable to their learning journey and their future careers.”

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Sitka Recruitment

Ita McNeil Jones | Co Founder and Director

Encouraging diversity in both teaching staff and the students who take up STEM subjects is one way the Welsh education system can help develop the scientists and engineers of tomorrow. But it also needs to consider how the future leaders of these individuals are educated on emerging technologies, the success of which depends largely on organisational processes and culture. Cardiff and Vale College’s employer boards are a great example of how educators can work with employers to better shape the curriculum.

I don’t believe the current change management processes are fit for purpose and, historically, the education system has been slow to adapt to industry changes. In my view, the best way to keep the curriculum up to date is for schools, colleges & universities to recruit and learn from people with specific industry experience.

There needs to be more agility and responsiveness in the education system; a lot can change during the course of a three-year degree and if things move too slowly our young people simply won’t have the skills their future careers will demand. But we need to be realistic about what can be achieved within funding constraints too.

Transformational change will only come about if we consistently look to build a more inclusive and collaborative culture in education: further education, higher education, schools, government and employers working in partnership with the greater goal in sight.

We can’t predict which jobs young people will be doing in the future, but we can expect one thing to remain constant, and that’s change.

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Affinity Education

Hayley Stockdale-Smith | Director

As a teaching recruitment agency, we have witnessed the changing shape of the ‘Teacher’. While once an individual that requires a certain set of skills, modern teachers need to be resilient, innovative and most importantly; embrace emerging technologies.

With 21st century children developing by using tools such as iPads and subjects such as coding being taught at school, what we believe we are seeing is a community of teachers and pupils developing their knowledge of emerging technologies simultaneously.

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Lime R&D

Matthew Jones | Managing Director

With Wales’ continued investment in the development of technologies such as AI and automation, as a country, we are well and truly ahead of the curve.

While Welsh children mature and grow up in a tech-savvy world centered on emerging technologies, some teachers may not have. This could result in teachers finding it hard to absorb and understand the current and future Welsh curriculum.

In our opinion, research needs to be carried out into the role educators play in developing the minds of tomorrow and the necessary support should be provided to teachers. When those teaching future engineers and scientists boast the knowledge of what is going on in the wider world of technology, it will encourage the concept of innovation in the classroom. Teaching in line with emerging technologies will get the best results from students. By doing so, Wales can nurture future tech talent, driving the nation forward as a hub for developing new technologies.