The Wales 2017-2021 Action Plan sets out how the school system in Wales will move forward over this period to secure implementation of the new curriculum “with a focus on leadership, professional learning, and excellence and equity within a self-improving system”. One of the Plan’s commitments until 2021 is to provide the teaching profession with “opportunities for learning in a research-driven culture, in the knowledge that excellent teachers are effective learners”. The need to align reforms – which includes new accreditation of initial teacher education providers, a new Curriculum for Life and Professional Standards for Teaching and Leadership – is also linked to the role of evidence and research.
Established following Graham Donaldson’s Successful Teachers report in 2015, 20 innovative schools were selected as pioneer schools to help lead and shape the detailed design of the new curriculum and students assessments in Wales. These schools meet regularly through national conferences, in schools and online, to learn from one another in developing the new curriculum and supporting professional learning. Today, pioneer schools are a network of more than 100 innovative schools in Wales working in partnership with the regional education consortia, Welsh Government, Inspection and teacher education institutions to develop practice-based research and foster joint ownership of the ITE programmes.
In 2017, a new accreditation process for providers of initial teacher education (ITE) programmes was established in Wales to improve the quality and consistency of ITE provision. This will apply to all ITE programmes from September 2019. According to the new accreditation criteria, teacher educators must be qualified at a higher level than the accreditation level of the course in which they are teaching; teacher education institutions will be required to set out their plans to ensure that all such staff achieve a relevant qualification within five years; all teacher educators should have been successful school teachers and need to maintain an up-to-date knowledge and experience of schooling; and all teacher educators should be research active and take lead roles in assimilating, conducting, publishing and supervising research. Partnerships will be required to evidence how teacher educators are supported in being research active and to show how their research will inform the development of their ITE programmes.
The new criteria for accreditation of initial teacher education programmes require school-university partnerships to provide teacher candidates with opportunities to: