Nurtureuk welcomes draft proposals for wellbeing in the new Welsh curriculum

Nurtureuk welcomes much of the content of the new draft curriculum. We hope the Welsh Government will prioritise resources to help empower teachers to make the most of the changes.

Last week, the Welsh Government finished its consultation on the draft proposals for the new Welsh curriculum. From September 2022 all maintained schools and settings in Wales will use this curriculum. 

The curriculum is composed of six areas of learning: Languages, Literacy and Communication, Mathematics and Numeracy, Science and Technology, Expressive Arts and Health and Well-being.

We welcome that the planned curriculum places health and wellbeing on par with more academic areas in this way. Given we know that poor social and emotional wellbeing has a detrimental impact on learning, prioritising support for children’s social and emotional needs will support their ability to learn.

The principles behind, and practical application of, nurtureuk’s whole-school approach supports the delivery of the health and wellbeing elements of the new curriculum. The National Nurturing Schools Programme (NNSP) is a whole-school approach that upskills teachers and other school staff to embed a nurturing culture to improve the mental health and wellbeing of all pupils and staff in a school. With one in 10 school children in the UK suffering from a mental health problems and worrying levels of stress and exhaustion among teaching staff, whole-school approaches like the NNSP offers schools a way to develop a happier, more resilient and more successful school community.

The health and wellbeing aspects of the new curriculum also include ways that progression will be measured, including children’s ability to self-regulate. Many criteria and principles laid down in the curriculum around progression are similar to the strands measured through the Boxall Profile. The Boxall Profile is a tool teachers use to help understand the social, emotional and mental health needs of their pupils. Our Now You See Us report into using it to assess the social and emotional wellbeing of all pupils found that it helped even experienced nurture teachers identify children with needs they may not have identified before, as they presented in a non-evident manner. By helping teachers understand their pupils needs, using the Boxall Profile can also support early intervention for emotional wellbeing, a focus of the Welsh Assembly’s Children and Young People Committee’s Mind Over Matter report.

We therefore believe that the new draft curriculum could be an excellent framework to help schools support their pupil's social, emotional and mental wellbeing.

However, the Welsh Assembly's Children and Young People’s Committee noted in their report on school funding that:

“Stakeholders, including teaching unions and local authorities have expressed real concern that insufficient provision for school budgets could inhibit the delivery of the Welsh Government’s education reform agenda and key objectives of the Education in Wales: Our National Mission action plan, including school improvement, the new curriculum and teachers’ professional learning and pupil wellbeing (including the whole school approach to emotional and mental health).”

Speaking to Welsh Assembly Members in 2017 Professor Graham Donaldson, who played a key role in designing the curriculum, noted that recognising the need to support teachers in order to enable them to effectively teach the curriculum was a key lesson from the implementation of a similar curriculum in Scotland.

To ensure Wales fully grasps the opportunities in the new curriculum, we would welcome more resources and funding in order to help schools support the whole-school approaches to health and wellbeing proposed in the curriculum.

Estyn, the Welsh Assembly and the Welsh Government have all increasingly acknowledged the importance of social and emotional wellbeing, and specifically of nurture, in education over the last few years. If properly resourced, the new curriculum could effectively support children with social, emotional and mental health needs and remove key barriers to learning for these children, giving them the education they deserve.