I’m determined to make the education system in Wales a source of national pride

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13 June 2017 by ATL
Kirsty Williams, the Welsh Government’s Cabinet Secretary for Education, marks a year in the post.

More than a year has now passed since I became Cabinet Secretary for Education.  More than ever, I remain determined by our national mission to raise school standards and create an education system that is a source of national pride.

Of course, this is a collective effort - one which must be carried out with optimism, ambition and innovation - but it is a great honour to help lead this charge.

Over the past 12 months I have enjoyed getting out and about, talking to children and teachers about our education reforms and how they can help us create an education system we can all have confidence in.

What changes have we made?

At the heart of these changes is our new national curriculum, which will equip our young people with the essential skills they need to be successful in a rapidly changing world.

As well as ensuring our young people can be successful, I am also keen to make Wales an attractive place for a teacher.

To achieve this we've introduced several new initiatives already this year, like new initial teacher education, professional teaching standards and our new National Academy for Educational Leadership.

These actions reflect our shared ambitions and pride for the profession. From initial teacher education (ITE), into the classroom and through career-long professional learning - our national approach focuses on ensuring and further developing a high-quality teaching profession.

Our expectations are clear and simple, but no less ambitious because of that simplicity. The criteria set out fundamental changes so that there is an increased role for schools; a clearer role for universities; joint ownership of the ITE programme; structured opportunities to link school and university learning; and the centrality of research.

I have always said that to become the best, we must learn from the best, and I have been seeking out creative thinking from the wider international community. Earlier this year we welcomed educationalists from Australia, Scandinavia, North America, Asia and across Europe at an international OECD workshop in Cardiff to help further develop ITE in Wales.

I am determined that ITE in Wales is strengthened through a truly collaborative system, where universities and schools work in partnership, supported by the consortia, recognising the centrality of research.

It is essential that we build greater capacity for research in teacher education, both at the school level and the training provider level. Unlike some education systems that ignore evidence in a rush to promote selection and segregation, we continue to value best practice and research.

Our whole approach is about supporting student teachers to become competent, thoughtful, reflective and innovative practitioners who are committed to providing high-quality teaching and learning for all their pupils.

I have often said that teachers themselves need to be the best students in the classroom. Always learning, improving and researching so that they develop and adapt. Our national mission to reform education depends on that commitment and collaboration. Only then can we be sure that we are always raising standards, reducing the attainment gap and delivering a system that is a true source of national pride and national confidence.

Our new professional standards are aligned with the reform of initial teacher education, and the new curriculum, and will ensure that practitioners are supported with the right skills, knowledge and behaviours necessary to meet these challenges and opportunities.  A public consultation on new professional standards for teaching and leadership in schools closed last month and we will be publishing the responses shortly.

I will continue to listen to the views of learners, parents and those working in the education sector to ensure that we are delivering our ambitious plans with pace, and in ways that meet the future needs of Wales.

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