Y Pwyllgor Plant, Pobl Ifanc ac Addysg

Children, Young People and Education Committee

14/07/2022

Aelodau'r Pwyllgor a oedd yn bresennol

Committee Members in Attendance

Heledd Fychan AS Yn dirprwyo ar ran Sioned Williams
Substitute for Sioned Williams
James Evans AS
Jayne Bryant AS Cadeirydd y Pwyllgor
Committee Chair
Ken Skates AS
Laura Anne Jones AS
Vikki Howells AS Yn dirprwyo ar ran Buffy Williams
Substitute for Buffy Williams

Y rhai eraill a oedd yn bresennol

Others in Attendance

Georgina Haarhoff Dirprwy Gyfarwyddwr, Cwricwlwm ac Asesu, Llywodraeth Cymru
Deputy Director, Curriculum and Assessment, Welsh Government
Hannah Wharf Dirprwy Gyfarwyddwr yr Is-adran Cymorth i Ddysgwyr, Llywodraeth Cymru
Deputy Director Support for Learners Division, Welsh Government
Jeremy Miles AS Gweinidog y Gymraeg ac Addysg
Minister for Education and the Welsh Language

Swyddogion y Senedd a oedd yn bresennol

Senedd Officials in Attendance

Jennifer Cottle Cynghorydd Cyfreithiol
Legal Adviser
Michael Dauncey Ymchwilydd
Researcher
Naomi Stocks Clerc
Clerk
Sarah Bartlett Dirprwy Glerc
Deputy Clerk
Siân Hughes Ymchwilydd
Researcher
Tom Lewis-White Ail Glerc
Second Clerk

Cofnodir y trafodion yn yr iaith y llefarwyd hwy ynddi yn y pwyllgor. Yn ogystal, cynhwysir trawsgrifiad o’r cyfieithu ar y pryd. Lle mae cyfranwyr wedi darparu cywiriadau i’w tystiolaeth, nodir y rheini yn y trawsgrifiad.

The proceedings are reported in the language in which they were spoken in the committee. In addition, a transcription of the simultaneous interpretation is included. Where contributors have supplied corrections to their evidence, these are noted in the transcript.

Cyfarfu’r pwyllgor drwy gynhadledd fideo.

Dechreuodd y cyfarfod am 10:45.

The committee met by video-conference.

The meeting began at 10:45. 

1. Cyflwyniad, ymddiheuriadau, dirprwyon a datgan buddiannau
1. Introductions, apologies, substitutions and declarations of interest

Croeso i gyfarfod y Pwyllgor Plant, Pobl Ifanc ac Addysg heddiw.

Welcome to this meeting of the Children, Young People, and Education Committee today.

Good morning and welcome to the meeting of the Children, Young People, and Education Committee. This is the last meeting of the summer term. We've had a packed term already. The public items of the meeting are being broadcast live on Senedd.tv with all participants joining by video-conference. A Record of Proceedings will be published as usual. Aside from the procedural adaptations relating to conducting proceedings remotely, all other Standing Order requirements for committee remain in place. The meeting is bilingual and simultaneous translation is available. Apologies have been received from Buffy Williams, and I'm pleased to welcome Vikki Howells here this morning, who is substituting. Welcome, Vikki. Are there any declarations of interest from Members? No. I can see no declarations of interests.

2. Gweithredu diwygiadau addysg—sesiwn dystiolaeth 1
2. Implementation of education reforms—evidence session 1

So, we'll move on to item 2, which is the implementation of education reforms. This is our first evidence session, and we have with us today the Minister Jeremy Miles, Minister for Education and Welsh Language. Welcome. We have his two officials with him: Georgina Haarhoff, deputy director, curriculum, Welsh Government, and Hannah Wharf, deputy director, support for learners division, Welsh Government. Welcome to you all. We've got a number of questions from Members—quite a lot to get through this morning, so we'll go straight into questions from Laura Jones. Laura.

Thank you, Chair. Good morning, Minister. How satisfied are you, as we approach the end of this academic year, that the implementation of the new curriculum, and of course the new additional learning needs system, is on track and how much of a challenge do you think it's been for the Government, and, more importantly, the education sector, to continue with these reforms during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Diolch, Gadeirydd. Thank you for that question. I think, as a system, overall, we're in good shape to roll out the curriculum for next year. I think the vast majority of schools and settings have made good progress and are well prepared. The committee obviously will have seen a number of reports that have been published in recent months, which I think give an assessment. I think you see a strong commitment, for example, in the Government Social Research report, a good, strong knowledge of the reforms, but, equally, where schools are identifying the need for further support—for example, in that report, it was around progression and assessment. The committee will recognise that those are two areas, for example, that we've been focusing on very, very significantly over the last year and providing additional support recognising those two areas, where our own engagement has also indicated a need for further support, which we've been providing.

The Estyn work has been telling us that we are generally on track to roll out on time. The annual report, which I published last week [correction: on 1 July], was telling us that nearly all schools. I think, have grasped the fundamentals of the curriculum, and most of them are designing, planning, and actually testing and trialling as well, the curriculum now.

So, in terms of the challenge, I think it isn't to be underestimated how difficult that has been over the course of the last two years in particular. So, I think it's an outstanding achievement for the school system to be in the place that it is today. Obviously, from our discussions and from research that the committee will be aware of, secondary schools have probably had more pronounced challenges in the last two years in terms of their preparation for the curriculum. So, I was very keen to provide what I did last summer: that level of flexibility for secondary schools to opt to go this year or next year for the roll-out. Obviously, I'm very pleased that almost half of them have decided to go a year before they're required to go. I think that's an incredible signal of their commitment, really. So, I think that's the picture on the curriculum side. I'm sure there'll be further detailed questions on those that the committee will want to ask.

On the ALN side, just as context, we are nine months into a three-year implementation programme for a series of reforms that replaces a system that we had for 30 or so years previously. So, that's the kind of state, that's the place where we are on our journey. Again, I think, despite incredible challenges, we are on track. There have been—. The impacts of COVID have been obviously felt in the system's capacity to be able to maintain the original timetable that we were looking to. So, I've provided some additional flexibility again within that three-year implementation period to reflect those pressures on schools. But, again, this is a series of long-term systemic changes. Children have started to receive their first individual development plans. The process of moving from SEN to ALN has started from January of this year, so with that part of the process we're only six months in, really. But the extension of time and the additional funding that we've made available I think recognises the particular challenges that there have been. 

The legislative arrangements for the ALN reforms are on track. There are some further commencement Orders to be made, and they will be made before the start of the new term. And in terms of the support for the sector, the range of guides—I'm sure the committee will have access to all of that—the guides that we've been providing I hope have become a useful set of tools; they provide guidance on the mandatory timetable.

And I guess the last thing I just wanted to say was in relation to the post-16 placements. They will be transferring, as you know, from the Welsh Government to the local authorities, and we are yet to publish guidance on that, but we're planning on doing that shortly. 

Just on the overall picture, finally, on ALN, we're establishing a national steering group, as the committee may be aware, which will help, perhaps, put in place an accountability mechanism within the programme, which will combine education and health leads. And I hope that that will provide useful information for the committee as well, but certainly for us, in terms of our oversight of the reform programme. 

10:50

Thank you, Minister. You're completely right, everybody in education is doing an incredible job considering all the pressures they're under. And from the schools I've been to, and visited and spoken to, they're finding it all a bit overwhelming in terms of the amount that they've got to deal with—the new curriculum, ALN, COVID, absenteeism; there's a lot going on at the moment. So, the fact that they're storming ahead is a credit to them. But the—[Inaudible.]—pilot schools I visited recently, they're finding a bit difficult having, as you say, to do their own programmes, and they found that they probably need more support, if possible, in terms of how to lay it out, for parents particularly to tell them what they're doing. So, maybe some support from the Government on that would be good. And the national network, even though, to me, on the face of it, it sounds a really good idea, they found, I hate to say it, but 'useless' was the word that they were using. And I find that a shock because it sounds to me like a really good idea, and the importance of sharing best practice I think is a really important part of this. I'm just wondering if you've looked at other ways of possibly sharing best practice, and ensuring that that is getting through in a simple way and effective way to our schools who desperately need more support.

In terms of ALN, that's great what you said. You seem to be on track, and obviously that's really needed. How are you making sure, Minister, in the time where we're swapping from one to the other, that those children in the middle are not being left behind, and that their own cases are speeded up in terms of recognising their needs? I'm just wondering if you could just allay fears on that. 

Sorry, can I just understand: when you say children in the middle, who do you mean?

Whilst we're swapping from one system to another, those children that are still on the old system as we move to the new ALN system, if they've been identified or whatever, and that that process of the waiting list that they're already on is speeded up, so everything slots nicely into the new system and we can start afresh almost. Am I being clear? Not very. [Laughter.] But if you know what I mean. I just wanted to make sure that those children aren't left behind, and I was just wondering if you could comment on those things. Thank you. 

10:55

Well, certainly, obviously, the ALN transition process is programmed in over three years. I was keen not to extend that three-year period, because, obviously, I want to make sure, as far as we possibly can, that we remain on track in terms of the overall time frame. But it has been challenging for all parts of the system, really. So, what I have done is to extend the time periods for some of the movement of young people from the special educational needs system to the ALN system. Now, that doesn't, of course, change the individual entitlement for someone to seek an IDP. So, that is not affected by the change in timetable—that right remains. So, any individual presenting [correction: newly presenting] with potential ALN, the system will respond to that individual by applying the terms of the ALN code, so just to give you that assurance. And for those children and young people who are already, as you say, in the system, who already have a statement, or who are designated as having special educational needs under the pre-ALN system, of course their needs will continue to be met under that system. So, as I know you know, it's a very, very—. It's a system change, isn't it? So, doing it in a way that is gradual and smooth I think is obviously very important, not just from the perspective of the capacity in the system to deliver that, but, clearly as well, in terms of the young people having their needs met. So, that's the plan.

There is a very, very significant programme, both at professional learning, which you will be aware of, which provides increasing amounts of professional learning support for teachers and teaching assistants, and an ongoing cycle of the commissioning of resources in all aspects of the curriculum. You'll recall a speech I made, for example, back in February, which set out some of our plans for this year, which we have been delivering—so whether it's in the area of sharing best practice out of the national network, whether it's in the simplified resources that were released immediately after that speech, which is being followed up together with best-practice materials. There have been successive waves of them—most recently, I think, from memory, at the end of June, around assessment. And there's a continuing process here. You will know as well that we'll be replacing those arrangements from next year, with the establishment of the new arm's-length resource commissioning company, which we hope will be up and running from April, which will be an opportunity to consolidate and streamline, perhaps, some of the activity in this space.

But I'm mindful, as I know that you, the committee, have expressed an interest in the past, that, despite the very, very large sums of money that we invest in professional learning and the development of resources, clearly it's really important for that to be straightforwardly accessible and navigable by practitioners, who've got many calls on their time, and are looking for the best available resource to support their curriculum development and assessment and analysis of progression. So, from the beginning of next term, a practitioner in any part of Wales will be able to access the resources of the consortia from any other parts of Wales. It will be a common-access arrangement, reflecting that it's a curriculum for Wales. So, you'll have access to your own consortia's resources, but also in other parts of Wales. I think that's a big step forward. And, secondly, there's the national professional learning entitlement, which will support teachers and teaching assistants at any stage of their journey, of their career, to know what they're entitled to, in terms of professional learning, and then where to find it. So, that's happening, and I hope that will make it easier for practitioners. And, as it were, behind the scenes, there is ongoing work, actually, about making Hwb and other platforms just more easily navigable, to search materials more straightforwardly. That is an ongoing process; that's one that we will always want to make sure we're doing as much as we can. So, that's where we are on that.

Okay. Thank you, Minister. That's reassuring, because obviously the initial feedback has been it's been too complex, too much, they can't navigate it, so that would hopefully go some way towards that.

There are worries, of course, from teachers and school leaders, that standards could drop whilst people are getting used to teaching the new curriculum and finding their feet in that regard. And in terms of accountability measures that you've announced recently, do you find there's a risk in moving towards school self-evaluation when there is already so much changing and the stakes are so high in that regard? Thanks.

11:00

I think, on the standards point, raising standards is obviously central to our ambition and the point of the curriculum is that every individual learner has the best possible progression and the best educational needs are met, so driving up standards across the system. The Act itself places a legal duty on schools to design a curriculum in a way that drives that individual progression. Progression is now analysed in ways that are specific, evidence-based and there are clear principles applicable across the system by which schools need to identify progression. So, I think there’s a very clear framework that drives standards, reflecting, as I was saying earlier, the Curriculum for Wales or Wales-wide framework, but allowing that local flexibility, which I think is critical to enabling each school to address the particular cohort of learners that they have.

But you’ll have seen yesterday that we published a scoping report for plans to evaluate the impact of the curriculum in the longer term. So, we will be responding to that next year and, in the meantime, putting in place initial, smaller scale evaluation plans, but that will enable us to—. If you’ve not yet had a chance to look at that, it’s a very, very wide-ranging set of recommendations about how we can take forward evaluation. And that will play a critical part, then, in making sure that standards are continuously being driven up.

I think on the self-evaluation, and I’ve heard this question previously—there’s a lot going on, there’s a lot of change, so is now the time to change how self-evaluation and accountability is addressed? That’s a seductive argument at the highest level, but I think what it underestimates is the extent to which each part of our reform proposals affects another. So, it’s clear—there is very, very clear evidence of this—that when you blur assessment and accountability, you incentivise the wrong behaviours in schools. So, if we continue to do that, while bringing in substantial reforms to the curriculum, it won’t succeed. So, we need to make sure that the progression, assessment, self-evaluation and accountability all sit together in a way that is consistent. And getting rid of the categorisation system, providing schools with the ability to have an open discussion about their self-improvement journey, reflecting the journey their learners are on, obviously, is absolutely fundamental, really. And I think, you were asking about standards earlier, the curriculum is about ensuring that learners progress; the assessment is about understanding how that’s happening; self-evaluation is the school understanding whether it’s happening across the system sufficiently. And so having those three aligned is really important for the success of the curriculum.

Thank you, Minister. There are obviously concerns around that and the consistency of standards across Wales that I'll go into maybe, and other Members will, at a later date. But I just wanted to ask you, in terms of making a success of this, how confident are you that (a) the necessary funding and (b) the professional learning will be available for the education sector throughout the implementation of the new curriculum and the ALN reform and that any lack of successful delivery will not be down to a lack of resources or skills available? Thank you.

I'm embarking on it not assuming there'll be a lack of successful delivery, but I'll take the question that you're asking. So, I think I've probably said quite a lot about professional learning, so if there's anything specifically I can say further to that, I'm happy to.

On funding, we're making available over £21 million in this financial year to support schools on preparing and realising the curriculum, and that's part of a larger package of £37 million, which is directly attributable to curriculum reform. So, that's at the higher end. You'll have seen in the auditor general's report, I think probably, that that is at the higher end of the expectation, but I think that is clearly justified, given the experience of schools, in particular in the last two years. And on the ALN reforms, again I think it's about £35 million of investment to date and a yearly budget now until 2025 of £21 million a year, and that's in addition to the transition funding specifically, which we’ve made available to respond to the particular COVID pressures. So, I’m confident that the resources have been made available and you’ll have seen the observations that the auditor general’s made around that. But I’m clear that the reforms justify that and have been properly funded.

11:05

Thank you, Chair. Good morning, Minister. It’s good to be able to join you and join the committee this morning. I’ve got a series of questions around progress towards introducing the Curriculum for Wales. So, firstly, if we start with non-maintained publicly funded nursery. I’m just wondering what discussions the Welsh Government has been having with those about their curriculum preparations, and if you could tell us what proportion are adopting the early years curriculum the Welsh Government published and how many are going to design their own.

I think practitioners have been very closely involved. I was talking to some who’d been helping us very much with the resources for non-maintained settings earlier this week, and it was just really encouraging, actually, hearing at first-hand about the work that they’ve been contributing to. So, the curriculum itself, essentially, has been co-constructed; it was published in January this year. As you might remember, the professional learning modules that have supported that, again, we’ve drawn on first-hand experience of practitioners in that. The draft guidance, which comes out on 1 September, has been co-constructed, effectively, by practitioners. So, across the piece, practitioners have been crucial to the development of the curriculum and the supporting resources, and obviously, we’ve maintained ongoing dialogue with the various umbrella organisations as well.

My most recent understanding was that local authorities were reporting that all of their funded settings were intending to implement the curriculum for funded non-maintained settings in September, and we’ve been doing a lot of work with them in terms of working with the Association of Directors of Education in Wales and the umbrella organisations, providing questionnaires to understand the level of knowledge and understanding and the kind of confidence of practitioners. I think I would describe it as a positive picture. It's certainly presenting an improving picture, if you like, in terms of people feeling increasingly ready, as it were. And I think that’s good. Where there are settings that say they need more support because of the nature of the sector, we’re able to give reasonably bespoke support. So, we’ll do another exercise in the autumn, again to get a sense at that point of how people feel about implementation and obviously we can respond to anything we hear from that as well.

Thank you. And moving to secondary schools, I note that in your paper, you said that there were no notable patterns in the way that secondary schools have decided to introduce the new curriculum this September, but could there be any correlation according to the stage that schools are at on their school improvement journey? So, for example, are schools that are causing concern less likely to go ahead this September and, if so, to what extent is a different approach being taken with those schools, and supporting them to introduce that new curriculum?

Just to say, just to remind Members: 95 per cent of schools will effectively be introducing the curriculum from September and the option to delay to next year [correction: to roll out next year] was obviously only available to secondary, so these comments are limited in that sense. What I don’t think one can say is that all the schools that have chosen to wait until 2023 are schools that have concerns about the curriculum; that is absolutely not the case. I’ve been to many schools who have a very clear strategy for implementing the curriculum and are wanting to remain on that strategy, if you like. So, I think it’s quite a nuanced picture.

I think clearly, as you would expect, secondaries that were more confident have decided to start in September, so it’s not a perfect correlation, but that’s a pretty intuitive point. I would say there’s a small minority of schools making slower progress than expected. I just want to be clear: that is not the entire cohort that have decided to wait for next year; many of them are trialling curriculum approaches in the meantime. But where there are schools that are making significantly slower progress, it's unlikely to be because of the curriculum; it's probably a reflection of other considerations as well. So, those schools have bespoke intensive support, which any school in that situation has.

11:10

Thank you. Do you know whether all the schools that are due to introduce the new curriculum in September have finished the design of their curriculum yet? And when would you expect them to publish the summary of their adopted curriculum, as required by the 2021 Act?

On the first point about the design, they'll need to have their initial curriculum designs in place by September, obviously. The point at which each of them is on their journey depends on arrangements to do with their own governing bodies approving them and so on, but they will have them all in place and designed by the start of next term. I do think it is worth reminding ourselves though that this isn't a task and finish, this is a process of iteration that will be refined, and it's designed like that, into the future. So, it's not as though it's about finishing a task for September; the curriculum that's designed for them will be iterated, reiterated, there'll be ongoing cycles of development of it. I think it's quite important for us to bear that in mind. 

On the publication point, what is absolutely critical is that schools have communicated to their parents the curriculum plans. And we've been giving schools tools in order to help them do that. So, I would expect all schools to have done that before September. It's really important that that has happened.

On the question of technical publication, that is not necessarily something that needs to happen for the first day of term next term. I would expect for that to have happened early in the academic year. And, I suppose, when I'm saying 'early in the academic year', I mean before the half term. Each school will have its own arrangements for doing that. So, that's slightly separate from communicating to parents.

Thank you. Moving to pupil referral units, your annual report on curriculum reform referred to the review of settings' progress towards introducing the new curriculum, undertaken in the summer term. How well placed do you feel that PRUs are in their preparations, and how many are introducing the curriculum this September?

Four PRUs have finished the process to be ready for September. I think the principles of the new curriculum are ones that mean that PRUs, generally speaking, are well placed to deliver the curriculum because of the focus on the individual learner, which is, obviously, very much the ethos of PRUs anyway, for obvious reasons. And I think that the flexibility in the curriculum, and the bespoke nature of it, if you like, means that learners who might otherwise be disengaged from the life of the school, their needs are more likely to be able to be met in a mainstream school setting under the curriculum. That's my expectation. But whether it's about the systemic collaboration between the learners and the parents, or whether it's about the inclusive curriculum I've just been talking about, I think all of those principles mean that PRUs are going to be well placed, as I say, to deliver the curriculum.

Thank you. And one final question from me, if I may, on assessment and learner progression. To what extent are settings' preparations in terms of assessment and learner progression as advanced as their preparations for curriculum design? And how confident are you that settings will have the shared understanding of progression, which you have stated is crucial to effective assessment arrangements?

So, the two things are slightly different. I think I would summarise it in short hand, in a way, by saying, clearly, a clear understanding, consideration of and embedding of the principles of progression in their curriculum plans are essential, not least because it's a mandatory requirement. So, heads ought to be already, obviously, and have been, discussing progression with their teams. Also I would expect schools to be discussing that within their clusters, certainly, and ideally, at this point, beyond, but certainly within their clusters. And I think I would expect them to have descriptions of learning, having considered those in a way that reflects the principles of progression. That is all core. And I think most schools are there, by the way.

On the question of assessment, that is a more evolving picture. We've provided lots of resources and there's more on the way, actually, around workshops to support schools in assessment approaches into the future. But, by the nature of assessment, I would expect that to be continuously evolving, really, because it's meant to be iterative and respond to the individual learner's needs. But you'll have seen the direction that I published at the end of June, which supports what I've just said, really, and provides a kind of regulatory framework for some of the things that I've just been talking about.

11:15

Diolch, Cadeirydd. Minister, I want to talk about ongoing support and other issues regarding the implementation of the curriculum. Minister, an Estyn report found that the consortia do not have a clear enough understanding of the quality of teaching and learning in all their schools and the PRUs across Wales, and that their support is too variable. Estyn did recommend that the consortia and local authorities improve their support for schools. So, how effectively do you believe that local authorities and regional consortia are supporting schools in preparing for the new curriculum? And have the improvements that Estyn called for in their report in March 2022 been made across all the consortia?

I think, just to say, the Estyn report back in March was a balanced view of where we are. So, I'm not challenging what you just said, because what you said is true, but it also provides quite a lot of other context about the good work that is happening through school improvement services. Just to say that I think it's important to see the full picture. But, you'll recall that I published our response to the Estyn report at the end of March and set out there how we are responding to it, and implementing our response is already under way. For example, one of the things that I committed to doing was, in response directly to the Estyn report, to look at the way in which we are applying terms and conditions to grants, so that they can more closely drive the outcomes that we want. So, that has happened, and there's an ongoing process now of engagement between my officials and school improvement services to make sure that we're continuously developing and improving the offer, if you like. So, it's not a kind of checklist of doing it once and putting it in a drawer, I think what Estyn was recommending was a set of ongoing behaviours, which are now happening, and I think we're already seeing the positive outcome of that.

Diolch, Minister. I want to talk about costs now, if that's okay. When the Curriculum and Assessment (Wales) Bill first came through the Senedd, there were estimates made by the Welsh Government at the time of how much it was going to cost to implement. I know that Audit Wales reported in May 2022 that they expected that the likely spend was going to be at the higher end. So, can you provide any updated assessments of the cost of the new curriculum roll-out, and are these likely to be higher than what was envisaged at the time, when the Curriculum and Assessment (Wales) Act 2021 came through the Senedd? And has anything about this been reported back to Audit Wales?

I will ask Georgina to help me on the question of what has been reported back to Audit Wales. But, as I was saying earlier, I absolutely recognise that the costs, and therefore the funding that has been made available, are at the higher end of the projections. Those projections, of course, were pre pandemic, so I think we would all understand that the context for that has changed. So, I confirmed some of that in the recent annual report, as I know Members will be aware. I question, really, the value of—how best to put this—trying to compartmentalise elements of funding in a system that is intended to—. You can't really divorce the context in which curriculum reform is happening from the reform itself, really. So, we've been investing very significantly in schools, obviously, around renew and reform over the last couple of years. That funding is obviously supporting schools in a wide range of ways, and some of the support that we've been providing is around schools working in more innovative ways, more with their clusters. So, all of that—. I'm not sure it's that helpful, to be honest, to unpack that separately, since it's all leading in the same direction. But I absolutely recognise that the costs of it will be at the higher end of the projections. But I'll ask Georgina to help me with that question of what Audit Wales's current understanding is of the cost.

11:20

Thank you. So, we shared with Audit Wales the updated regulatory impact assessment costs, which were published in the budget last year, and, obviously, their report came out after that, with their recommendations that we were very transparent about the costs of curriculum reform. And I hope that you will see that the curriculum reform annual report does provide quite a lot of information about updated costs. So, what we're doing—and what Audit Wales have asked us to do—is to be really, really transparent about that and share that publicly.

Thank you. Another part that came in that Audit Wales report in May 2022 was some risks that the new curriculum might not contribute to reducing inequalities in education, for example, as a result of differences in schools with the curriculum. So, how are you mitigating such risks, ensuring that while schools' curriculums will not all necessarily be the same, they will sufficiently be consistent across Wales?

Well, I think what auditors describe as risks are things that those of us who aren't auditors might describe as part of the debate around curriculum reform since the start, really. So, one of the ongoing questions has been the balance between a central framework and a level of local autonomy. So, that's one of the fundamental conceptual debates that's the context for curriculum reform in its entirety. So, just to say that, really, when they talk about risks, that's really what we're talking about in this context.

And the other thing, which I think is probably more important, is, there are existing risks, aren't there? So, it's not like these risks are simply futurist—there are existing risks that the curriculum is intended to address. So, I just think it's important to put that context around it. But the fundamental point is the balance between central designation, if you like, and local autonomy, and I think that strikes the right balance. Schools right across Wales will be teaching the same areas of learning and experience; they'll have the same 'what matters' statements; they'll have to deliver the same mandatory elements, the same cross-cutting elements; they'll have the same professional learning entitlement; they'll have access to the same commissioned resources; they'll be inspected in the same way by Estyn.

So, all of these elements are there to provide for the fact that it's a Curriculum for Wales, but then each school will have a different cohort of learners, will operate in different communities, they'll have different clusters, they'll be at different stages of their improvement journey, and so the flexibility's there to enable that to be recognised as well. So, I think that balance provides the best means of making sure that individual learners progress and that, across the system, there's a moderation of standards and an overall consistency in terms of what is the objective of the curriculum, even if it looks different in different schools.

Yes, that's right. And a key part of the curriculum, obviously, in coming out the other side, is the qualifications. And with changes to the curriculum, there's going to have to be the development of new qualifications to align with the new Curriculum for Wales. So, how much of a challenge has it been proving for Qualifications Wales and the wider sector to design those qualifications in line with the six areas of learning and experience and its components?

Well, I think, if the question is: what is the challenge? That's happening at the moment, isn't it? So the sector are engaging with Qualifications Wales at the moment around how qualifications reform will look. I hope myself, and I've certainly set this expectation of QW—and I know they share it—that we want to see ambitious reform. We've got ambitious curriculum reform, and that needs to be matched, doesn't it, in terms of the approach that we take to qualifications. They'll be first taught in 2025 and first awarded in 2027, but it takes a while to get to that stage, and the work is obviously ongoing at the moment. Teachers are—[Interruption.]

Sorry to interrupt. Where are they with that work, Minister, in terms of progress to get there?

Yes, well, there is a series of stakeholder engagements going on at the moment, which heads and other practitioners are feeding in to to refine that. So, the structure, as you know, has been declared, if you like, and then the content is being designed and devised now. My personal hope is that we also are able to take account of some of the things that we've learnt in the last two years about how assessment can look different, what the role of digital can be, do we really have to examine all our exams in one block? Is there not a more flexible way of doing that? So, I'm very much hopeful that that will be part of what comes out of this as well.

11:25

That's great. My final question, Chair, to the Minister: you talked there about all the stakeholders you're bringing together, so, how effective has the national network been in supporting the implementation of the Curriculum for Wales? What does it do to add to the existing governance and quality assurance arrangements for the delivery of the new curriculum? And that's it for me, thank you, Cadeirydd.

I think it's a really important part. I think about 800 practitioners have engaged with it over the course of the last year, so it won't have been something that most practitioners have yet engaged with, which may account for the point that Laura Anne Jones was making earlier. But that is what you'd expect when you're into that sort of innovation.

I think it's a critical part of the way in which we can make sure that practitioners' voices are heard in the development and evolution of the curriculum. It reflects their experiences, it enables them to contribute to policy, it enables them to co-construct with us the various guidance and resource that supports the curriculum. But I'm really clear, and I set myself this challenge, really, that in order to maintain and to build on practitioners' engagement and their goodwill, if you like—. Obviously, we provide funding to the system to release practitioner time to engage with the network, but the inclination of practitioners to engage with it, which we will obviously depend on, does mean that they need to feel the tangible benefits of it, unsurprisingly.

But I think there are definitely examples of supporting materials being very much informed by the network's work; the resources and support materials guidance that, if it hasn't yet been published is about to be published, very much draws on that. The Camau'r Dyfodol project, which is a progression project, very much draws on that. The Welsh history teaching resources that we've been working on together with Plaid Cymru as part of the co-operation agreement, very much draws on that. Actually, on the point you were making earlier, Qualifications Wales has been able to draw on some of that work in informing its qualifications reforms. So, all of those are practical, tangible outturns of the network.

On your second question: how does that play a part in the longer term review and oversight, if you like, of the curriculum? I hope that the network itself can become a pretty key vehicle really for—. You'll remember the auditor general's recommendation of the need for an ongoing review of the curriculum to make sure it remains fit for purpose, and I think the network will play a very important part in delivering that.

Thank you, James; thank you, Minister. Now for some questions from Ken Skates. Ken.

Thanks, Chair. Good morning, Minister. I'm going to ask about the definition of additional learning needs, if I may, and the number of learners that have been registered. The provisional data for 2021-22 shows, as you're aware, quite a considerable decrease in the number of learners identified with ALN. And I know that the Government's refuted repeatedly that it suggests that there may be a raising of the bar in the way that schools are applying the definition of ALN under the Act, despite it being essentially the same as the previous definition of special educational needs. But what do you put that pretty significant decrease down to? What's the reason for it in your view?

In a way, I'm not surprised to see a decrease. I'll come to the reasons for that in a second, but I'm not surprised to see a decrease, because we have seen that elsewhere when this kind of reform was introduced. So, we saw that to some extent in England when they introduced reforms. So, I think, in terms of, is it surprising, it's not hugely surprising, but the real question is: why is it happening? I should say that, in England, the figures then started going back up again, so, we may see that happening in Wales as well, but we obviously don't know yet. I think our best understanding at this point of why it's happening probably is that this is the first pupil level annual school census return, which is February of this year—the first PLASC return that has involved the new additional learning needs co-ordinator role, which is a new statutory role; it's a senior role, and I think you could imagine ALNCOs feeling empowered by the new framework to make these judgments as the new reforms are coming forward.

We've spoken to a number of local authorities to understand better what's behind this. They tell us that they think there was some inconsistency in reporting previously. They think that some schools have taken the opportunity of the new reforms coming in to review their SEN registers. It's too early, I think, in all honesty, to be certain about whether there has been that raising of the bar. I think it's also probably partly to do with the fact that, as schools have been preparing curriculum approaches, if you like, that slightly more inclusive way, which is really quite an important part of the curriculum, obviously, may have persuaded schools that that inclusive learning means that those individual children and young people don't have the SEN designation in the same way they previously would have—that their needs are being provided for in a more mainstreamed way.

So, that's our best understanding at the moment, but, obviously, as your question implies, we will need to keep this under very, very active review. Obviously, any young person who is no longer designated still has the right to be designated, or to request designation, under the new ALN code. So, it's not as though those individuals are now excluded from the system—there's definitely a mechanism for them to be a part of the new system if their needs reflect that.

11:30

Thanks, Minister. You say it's too early to determine whether it's down to the bar being raised—potentially down to the bar being raised. It would be really helpful for the committee, I think, to have any updated information or data or explanation, as you're able, to ascertain the reasons behind this drop. As far as you're aware, have the 18,000 learners on the special educational needs register who are not on the additional learning needs register for 2021-22 been issued with no IDP notices?

Okay. So, we're talking about the same cohort of individuals as your previous question—

—that group who have been moved, who don't appear on the new register. So, I think it's probably reasonable—. Well, let's take a step back. So, the PLASC figures came through in mid February; the reforms in terms of moving individuals from SEN to ALN started on 1 January. So, we're talking about a six-week period between the two. I think, given the brevity of that period, it's probably fair to conclude that the majority of those were removed before the ALN reforms started on 1 January. We don't have that data, but it's probably the case. So, they will therefore not have had a no IDP notice because they will not have been subject to the new regime. So, it's unlikely, I think, that they will have had a no IDP notice.

Okay. So, of the learners newly identified with ALN since September of last year, or moved over from the SEN system to an individual development plan since January, how many—or roughly how many—have an IDP maintained by the school, and how many have it maintained by the local authority? Is the balance similar to the balance between those supported under school action and local-authority-issued statements under the SEN system?

It's roughly 50:50 at the moment, as we understand it. It's roughly 50:50, but there's a big health warning with that because it is very early to draw conclusions from that, and I think it will be a reasonable assumption that we would expect to see the numbers maintained by local authorities increasing. So, I don't think the 50:50 will remain the proportion, if you like, but it's quite early for us to draw longer term conclusions from that yet. 

Diolch, Gadeirydd, a bore da, Weinidog. Dwi hefyd eisiau canolbwyntio ar anghenion dysgu ychwanegol a'r diwygiadau, os gwelwch yn dda. Ym mis Mawrth, mi oeddech chi wedi cyhoeddi o ran adolygu'r amserlen ar gyfer trosglwyddo dysgwyr o'r system bresennol i'r system newydd fel y bydd rhai dysgwyr yn trosglwyddo'n hwyrach yn yr amserlen dair blynedd nag y bwriadwyd yn wreiddiol. Pa mor hyderus ydych chi y bydd hyn yn rhoi'r hyblygrwydd y mae ysgolion ei angen, ac ydych chi'n rhagweld y bydd angen unrhyw newidiadau pellach i’r amserlen o gwbl?

Thank you, Chair, and good morning, Minister. I also want to concentrate on additional learning needs and the reforms. In March, you revised the profile of the schedule for transferring learners from the SEN system to the new ALN system so that some learners will transfer later in the three-year time frame than initially intended. How confident are you that this gives schools the flexibility they need, and do you foresee that there will be a need for any further changes to the timetable?

11:35

Bydd yn rhaid i ni jest gadw’r sefyllfa o dan drosolwg. Beth rŷn ni’n clywed oddi wrth ysgolion ac awdurdodau lleol—a gwnaethon ni ofyn am safbwyntiau dysgwyr a rhieni, hefyd—a chyrff y trydydd sector oedd bod cymaint o bwysau yn y system yn sgil COVID bod angen darparu mwy o hyblygrwydd. Ond roeddem ni hefyd yn awyddus ein bod ni ddim yn ymestyn y cyfnod trosglwyddo ar y cyfan, a bod y tair blynedd yn aros yn eu lle. Rwy'n gobeithio ein bod ni’n gallu parhau gyda hynny, am resymau amlwg. Felly, o ran y cohort cyntaf, mae blwyddyn yn hirach gyda nhw i gael eu trosglwyddo, ac mae’r grŵp sydd yn dod mewn yn y flwyddyn ysgol nesaf yn llai na fyddai fe wedi bod fel arall, so mae hynny’n golygu bod mwy o hyblygrwydd, mwy o ofod gan ysgolion. Jest i ddweud, beth sydd wir yn bwysig yw dyw hynny ddim yn effeithio ar hawl unigolion i ofyn am gynllun. Felly, mae hynny’n dal yn parhau. Rŷn ni wedi darparu arian ychwanegol i’r system, fel rych chi’n gwybod, ac rwy’n credu beth mae nifer o ysgolion wedi bod yn gwneud yw defnyddio’r arian yna tuag at roi amser non-contact i'w ALNCOs i allu mynd i’r afael â’r rhifau, os hoffech chi. Felly, byddwn ni jest yn ei gadw e dan drosolwg, a gobeithio bod yr hyblygrwydd hwn yn ddigonol. Ond byddwn ni’n ei gadw fe dan drosolwg.

We’ll just have to keep an overview of the situation. What we were hearing from schools, local authorities—and we asked the views of parents and pupils—and the third sector was that there was so much pressure in the system during COVID that there was a need for more flexibility. But we were also keen that we didn't extend the transfer stage as a whole, and that the three-year period remained. We hope that we can continue with that, for obvious reasons. So, the first cohort have one additional year to transfer, and then the group that’s coming in in the next school year is less than what it would have been, so that means that there’s more flexibility in terms of space for schools. Just to say that what’s important is that that doesn’t affect individuals’ rights to ask for a plan, so that continues. We have provided additional funding for the system, as you know, and I think what a number of schools have been doing is using the money to create non-contact time for their ALNCOs to get used to the situation. But we will just be keeping an eye on this, and hopefully this flexibility will be adequate. But we will be keeping an eye on it.

Diolch. Ac yn amlwg, dwi’n siŵr y byddwch chi’n ein diweddaru ni fel pwyllgor wrth i bethau fynd rhagddo, hefyd. Diolch.

Fyddwch chi’n gallu rhoi mwy o wybodaeth i ni am waith y tri arweinydd gweithredu cenedlaethol newydd, a beth fydd eu cyfrifoldebau? Sut bydd eu gwaith nhw yn wahanol i’r pedwar arweinydd trawsnewid rhanbarthol sydd wedi bod yn eu swyddi ers 2018?

Thank you. I’m sure you will be updating us as a committee as things get under way.

Could you tell us a little bit more about the work of the three new national implementation leads and what their responsibilities will be? How will their role differ from the four regional transformation leads that have been in post since 2018?

Mae’r newid yn sifft sy’n ymateb i beth rŷn ni’n clywed yn y system, os hoffech chi—bod angen symud tuag at footprint cenedlaethol fel bod y ddarpariaeth yn gyson ym mhob rhan o Gymru. Rŷn ni wedi bod wrth y gwaith yma am gyfnod, ac mae’r gwaith rhanbarthol wedi bod yn hollbwysig i symud capasiti’r system ymlaen. Ond rydych chi’n cyrraedd pwynt mewn unrhyw ddatblygiad o ran cyflwyno diwygiadau pan eich bod chi’n gorfod edrych ar y darlun cenedlaethol, wrth gwrs. Felly, dyna’r meddylfryd tu ôl i’r newid. Mae’r tri arweinydd gweithredol yn ffocysu ar y darlun cenedlaethol, y darlun yn addysg bellach, a’r darlun o ran darpariaeth yn y Gymraeg. Maen nhw’n cymryd lle, os hoffech chi, yr unigolion a oedd yn gweithio ar lefel rhanbarthol. Felly, mae gwaith yr implementation leads rhanbarthol wedi dod i ben, oni bai am yr un sydd ynghlwm â'r gwaith addysg bellach—mae hwnnw’n parhau. Mae pobl yn y rolau yna dros dro tan fis Medi, a byddwn i’n disgwyl gweld arweinwyr cenedlaethol a'r Gymraeg yn eu lle ar ôl hynny. Felly, dyna’r syniadaeth y tu cefn iddo fe.

The change is a shift in response to what we are hearing in the system, if you like—that there’s a need to move towards a national footprint so that the provision is consistent in every part of Wales. So, we have been doing this work for a period, and the regional work has been vital to move the capacity of the system forward. But you reach a point in any development in terms of introducing reforms where you have to look at the national picture, and that’s the mindset behind the change. So, the three implementation leads are focusing on the national picture, the FE picture, and the picture in terms of Welsh-medium provision. They are replacing the individuals who are working on a regional level, if you like. So, the work of the regional implementation leads has come to an end, except for the one involved in further education work. That one is continuing. People are in these roles on a temporary basis until September, and I would expect to see the national and Welsh leads in place following that. So, that is the rationale behind it.

Diolch yn fawr iawn. Un o’r heriau rydyn ni’n gwybod sy’n bodoli ar y funud ydy’r prinder adnoddau Cymraeg ar gyfer anghenion dysgu ychwanegol ac athrawon sydd ag arbenigedd i fod yn gallu cefnogi drwy gyfrwng y Gymraeg. Pa gynnydd sydd wedi bod hyd yma ers i’r Bil gael ei drafod dros y pum mlynedd diwethaf yma? Beth ydych chi’n gweld ydy’r heriau sydd yn parhau o ran sicrhau mynediad cydradd yn yr iaith o ddewis y plentyn neu berson ifanc?

Thank you very much. One of the challenges we know exists currently is the shortage of Welsh language resources for ALN and ALN teachers with the specialism to be able to work and support through the medium of Welsh. What progress has been made on this since it was identified during the passage of the Bill over the last five years? What do you see as the challenges that continue in terms of ensuring parity of esteem in continuing in the language of choice of the pupil or young person?

Mae gwaith wedi bod yn digwydd gan y consortia i ddarganfod ble mae'r adnoddau eisoes yn bodoli, a sicrhau bod mynediad iddyn nhw yn ehangach. Mae arloesi wedi bod yn digwydd, yn sicr, ar lefel awdurdodau lleol, sydd wedi bod yn ffeindio approaches arloesol i allu mynd i’r afael â’r diffyg rydych chi’n sôn amdano fe, yn cynnwys sicrhau bod pobl ar gael rhwng ysgolion sy'n medru'r Gymraeg. Felly, mae arloesi wedi bod yn digwydd ar lawr gwlad, os hoffech chi. Ond fel ŷch chi’n gwybod o drafodaethau eraill rŷn ni wedi bod yn eu cael, un o’r pethau ynghlwm â’r cynlluniau strategol mewn addysg Gymraeg yw sicrhau bod pob awdurdod yn asesu a datgan eu hanghenion o ran anghenion dysgu ychwanegol, fel ein bod ni'n gweld beth yw’r angen sydd angen ei ddiwallu. Bydd gan yr implementation lead ar gyfer y Gymraeg ffocws penodol, wrth gwrs, ar sicrhau bod gennym ni weithlu ac adnoddau trwy gyfrwng y Gymraeg. Ar hyn o bryd, mae gwaith ar waith, er enghraifft, i sicrhau ein bod ni'n cael mynediad at drwyddedu adnoddau ar-lein i ddarganfod a oes gan bobl dyslecsia ac wedyn inni allu darparu adnoddau i'w cefnogi nhw. Felly, mae'r math yna o beth yn digwydd eisoes. Yn y tymor hir—. Mae hwn, wrth gwrs, wedi bod yn her ers sbel, onid yw e? Felly, un o'r elfennau o'r cynllun gweithlu addysg Gymraeg 10 mlynedd lle rwyf eisiau gweld cynnydd cynnar yw'r maes hwn, oherwydd bod y galw mor sylweddol. Felly, bydd gan yr implementation lead rôl bwysig yn hynny o beth hefyd. 

Work has been under way in the consortia to discover where the resources exist already to ensure that access to those resources is more widely available. Pioneering work has certainly been happening on a local authority level; they've been finding pioneering approaches to address the shortage that you were talking about, including ensuring that people who can speak Welsh are available between schools. So, pioneering work has been happening at a grass-roots level, if you like, but as you know from other discussions that we've been having, one of the issues associated with the WESPs is ensuring that every local authority assesses and states their needs in terms of ALN, so that we can see what is the need to be met. The implementation leads for the Welsh language will have a specific focus, of course, on ensuring that we have a workforce and resources available through the medium of Welsh. At the moment, work is ongoing, for example, to ensure that we have access to licensing of online resources to discover whether people have dyslexia and then we can provide resources to support them. So, that sort of thing is already happening. In the long term—. This of course has been a challenge for a long time, hasn't it? So, one of the elements of the Welsh education workforce plan where I want to see early progress is this area, because the demand is so significant. So, the implementation lead will have an important role in that as well. 

11:40

A oes yna unrhyw fwriad gan y Llywodraeth i fod yn hybu'r hawliau hyn o ran anghenion dysgu ychwanegol yn y dewis iaith? Oherwydd un o'r pethau rydyn ni'n ei glywed yn yr ardaloedd sydd efallai â dim darpariaeth ar y funud ond sy'n datblygu ydy bod y galw ddim yna. Ond, mae'n beth anodd, onid ydy, oherwydd os nad ydy'r gwasanaeth yna, yna mae'n anodd iawn gwybod beth ydy'r galw, lle mae athrawon yn mynnu bod, ond efallai rhai awdurdodau lleol yn dweud bod y galw ddim yna. Ydy o'n rhywbeth—? Mae'n anodd onid ydy? A oes yna fwriad i fod yn hybu mwy o ran bod pobl yn gwybod bod yna gefnogaeth yn yr ardaloedd efallai lle dydy'r Gymraeg ddim mor naturiol, felly? A oes yna unrhyw fwriad?

Is there any intention by the Government to promote these rights in terms of ALN in their language of choice? Because one of the things that we're hearing in areas that haven't perhaps got provision at the moment or are developing it is that the demand is there. But it's difficult, because if the service isn't there then it's very difficult to know what the demand is, where teachers say the demand is there but some local authorities say that the demand isn't there. Is it something—? It is difficult. Is there an intention to be promoting more in terms of people knowing that there is support in those areas where perhaps the Welsh language isn't as natural?

Mae'n gwestiwn teg. Gwnaf i ofyn i Hannah ddod i mewn ar ôl i fi ddweud un peth, os caf i. Mae'r ddarpariaeth, wrth gwrs, ar gael yn ddwyieithog ac mae codi ymwybyddiaeth pobl o'u hawliau yn digwydd o fewn darpariaeth Cymraeg ynghyd â darpariaeth Saesneg. Mae'ch cwestiwn chi yn gwestiwn teg: a ydy'r ffaith bod pobl efallai â llai o ffydd bod y ddarpariaeth ar gael yn Gymraeg yn cuddio, os hoffwch chi, lefel y galw a fyddai fel arall yn bodoli? Efallai bod hynny'n wir, ond ar un llaw, byddwn i'n dweud bod yr her efallai yn fwy sylweddol na hynny. Hynny yw, lle mae galw, mae'n eithaf anodd ei ddiwallu fe. Felly, efallai bod beth rydych chi'n ei ddweud yn iawn ond rwy'n credu bod yr her, a dweud y gwir, yn fwy sylweddol na hynny, hyd yn oed. Ond gwnaf i ofyn i Hannah i roi ychydig mwy o wybodaeth am hynny, os caf i.  

That is a fair question. I'll ask Hannah to come in after I've said one thing. The provision, of course, is available bilingually, and raising awareness of people's rights within the Welsh-medium provision as well as the English provision is there. Your question is a fair one: does the fact that people perhaps have less faith that the provision is available in the Welsh language hide, if you like, the level of demand that would otherwise be there? Perhaps that is true. But, on one hand, I would say that the challenge is more significant than that. Where there is demand, it could be difficult to meet that. So, what you're saying could be correct, but I think the challenge is even more substantial for us. I'll ask Hannah to provide more details, if I may. 

It's an important question there, that we need to get the information out to children and young people and their families as well so that they've got a greater understanding of what their rights are in terms of the new ALN code. We have parents' and children and young people's rights guidance being finalised, and it will be published soon. We're also working closely with SNAP Cymru on a series of workshops and going out more to speak to parents. We're at a point now where we've got through all of that legislation and commencement to have a clear picture ahead, and it's very much our intention to then be spreading that message through our communications with parents, children and young people, and that includes the right to Welsh language provision and having that expertise from that Welsh language national lead to help send those messages out as well. Thanks.

Great. Thank you very much. That's very reassuring. 

Rydyn ni wedi clywed gan ysgolion bod disgyblion yn dal i aros yn hir iawn i gael eu cyfeirio at wasanaethau iechyd megis iaith a lleferydd, niwroddatblygiadol a therapi galwedigaethol. Faint o welliant fyddech chi'n disgwyl ei weld o ran hyn gyda gweithredu'r system ADY newydd? Ydy hyn yn bryderus ichi, bod yna gymaint o amser cyn i rywun gael y diagnosis, felly, cyn iddyn nhw hyd yn oed cael y gefnogaeth?

We have heard from schools that pupils are still waiting a very long time to be referred to health services such as speech and language, neurodevelopmental and occupational therapy services. How much improvement would you expect to see in this regard now the implementation of the new ALN system is under way? Is this a concern to you, that there is so much time before somebody has a diagnosis before they even have the support?

Holl bwynt y diwygiadau ar un lefel yw sicrhau eich bod chi'n cael y gefnogaeth heb eich bod chi'n cael y diagnosis. Felly, dylai'r system fod yn gweithredu wrth iddo gael ei rowlio allan mewn ffordd sy'n datgysylltu'r pwysau i gael diagnosis oddi wrth ddiwallu'r angen, os hoffwch chi. Mae'r Dirprwy Weinidog iechyd a gwasanaethau cymdeithasol wedi datgan cynllun yn ddiweddar, gyda rhyw £12 miliwn o gefnogaeth ariannol i hwnnw, sydd yn gobeithio gwella'r llwybrau ar gyfer cyflyrau niwrodatblygiadol cyn 2025. Felly, rŷn ni'n disgwyl i hynny gael effaith positif, ynghyd â'r buddsoddiad o ryw £11 miliwn yn benodol o ran awtistiaeth. Felly, wrth gwrs rydyn ni'n gobeithio y bydd hwnna'n gwneud gwahaniaeth i'r amseroedd aros o ran yr elfen iechyd, ond o ran yr elfen addysg, y peth pwysig yw ein bod ni'n datgysylltu diagnosis o ddiwallu'r angen. Bydd grŵp cynghori gweinidogol ar gyflyrau niwroddatblygiadol sy'n cael ei sefydlu ar hyn o bryd hefyd, rwy'n gobeithio, yn gallu'n helpu ni sicrhau bod y cysylltiad hynny yn digwydd mewn ffordd sy'n esmwythach. 

The whole point of the reforms, on one level, is to ensure that you have the support without a diagnosis. So, the system should be operating as it's rolling out in a way that disconnects the pressure for a diagnosis from providing the support, if you like. The Deputy Minister has stated a plan recently with about £12 million of financial support that hopefully will improve the pathways for neurodevelopmental conditions before 2025. So, it's expected that that will have a positive impact, as well as the investment of over £11 million in terms of autism. So, of course, we're hoping that that will make a difference to the waiting times in terms of the health element, but in terms of the education element, what's important is that we disconnect diagnosis from meeting the need. A ministerial advisory group on neurodevelopmental conditions that's being established at the moment will also, hopefully, be able to ensure that that connection happens more smoothly. 

11:45

Diolch, Weinidog, a diolch, Gadeirydd. 

Thank you, Minister, and thank you, Chair. 

Thank you, Heledd. Thank you, Minister. Just moving on to a different topic while you're here, I think one of the issues that we're all aware of is around the audit of qualifications later this summer. To what extent are you personally aware of any suggested errors and omissions regarding examination papers in this summer's examination series, and what discussions are you and your officials having with Qualifications Wales as the regulator and the WJEC as the awarding body regarding those reported issues?  

I continue to meet regularly with the WJEC, Qualifications Wales, the children's commissioner, for example, to make sure, in particular during this period, that learners are, obviously, fully supported, but also have confidence in the system. I'm obviously aware of the error that happened in relation to the A-level English language and literature paper, where there were pages missing from the question booklet. I'm also aware in relation to the GCSE computer science paper, where instructions were asked for, I think, a file to be given the same name as an existing file. That's my way of describing the issue, anyway. 

The WJEC have confirmed to us that all their examiners have been instructed on how to escalate any issues they get if they encounter quite big issues with that particular question. The WJEC will then review that outcome and they will decide whether any additional mitigation is needed to make sure that candidates aren't disadvantaged. Obviously, they've apologised for the error. They're doing the review, I know they're taking it seriously, and they'll obviously be monitoring that to make sure that that doesn't happen again. 

There have been a separate set of questions that have been around learners being anxious that some exams were more difficult than they would have reasonably expected; I'm putting words in their mouths, but that's essentially the question. That's been in relation to maths. Again, you'll have seen what WJEC have said about the inclusion of material within exams and within the examined content. But again, senior examiners will be looking at students' responses to those, and grade boundaries for those papers can then be set accordingly, potentially making them lower. Therefore, the difficulty of that paper will be compensated for in that way. 

So, that's where we are. As I say, I've had regular discussions both with QW and the WJEC about this, but I want to make sure that learners, when it comes to results day, feel that the concerns that they've raised have been obviously taken into account, but also in a way that is fair and that they understand.  

Thank you, Minister. So, you're happy with the planned action that could be taken from what you've said in terms of the WJEC. Would there be any chance, if there was anything in addition, that you'd consider issuing a direction to either organisation? 

I've got a set of expectations around what should happen. WJEC and Qualifications Wales have told me what they're going to do. If they—as I'm absolutely sure they will—do what they said they will do, then there wouldn't be cause for that. 

Okay. Thank you. Thank you very much, Minister, and thank you for taking the opportunity to put that on the record as well. I very much appreciated that. Great. That's the end of our evidence session today. Just to say I think we will be writing to you perhaps as a committee following on from some of the questions that Ken Skates raised with you earlier, just around tracking those figures on the balance of pupils on IDPs, how many are maintained by schools and how many are maintained by the local authority list, and also the number of pupils who are on the old SEN register and who are now being supported under the new ALN system. So, we will monitor that and write to you. But thank you again for attending. You will receive a transcript to check in due course.

11:50
3. Papurau i'w nodi
3. Papers to note

Okay, so we'll move on to item 3, which is papers to note. We've got 11 papers to note for today. All of the details are set out on the agenda and in the paper pack. Are Members content to note those papers? Yes, I can see that all Members are content.

4. Cynnig o dan Reol Sefydlog 17.42(ix) i benderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o weddill y cyfarfod hwn a’r cyfarfod cyfan ar 21 Medi
4. Motion under Standing Order 17.42(ix) to resolve to exclude the public from the remainder of this meeting and for the meeting on 21 September

Cynnig:

bod y pwyllgor yn penderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o weddill y cyfarfod hwn a’r cyfarfod cyfan ar 21 Medi yn unol â Rheol Sefydlog 17.42(ix).

Motion:

that the committee resolves to exclude the public from the remainder of this meeting and for the meeting on 21 September in accordance with Standing Order 17.42(ix).

Cynigiwyd y cynnig.

Motion moved.

We'll now move on to item 4, which is the motion under Standing Order 17.42 to resolve to exclude the public from the remainder of the meeting and for the meeting on 21 September. So, I propose in accordance with Standing Order 17.42 that the committee resolves to meet in private for the remainder of the meeting and the meeting on 21 September. Are Members content? Yes, all Members are content, so we will now proceed to meet in private.

Derbyniwyd y cynnig.

Daeth rhan gyhoeddus y cyfarfod i ben am 11:51.

Motion agreed.

The public part of the meeting ended at 11:51.