This research will seek to add value to the Welsh Government’s existing evaluation of the progress of the Pioneer Schools in developing the new 3-15 curriculum in Wales. The Successful Futures programme offers an exciting and radical departure for education in Wales, and it is important that its benefits and opportunities are made available to all. We know, for example, that schools serving disadvantaged communities face additional challenges in implementing radical reforms, and these are particularly acute around the Successful Futures’ core themes of engagement, leadership, CPD, pedagogy and wellbeing:

The Welsh Government’s independent evaluation of the Foundation Phase highlighted that sometimes curricula reforms do not benefit all pupils in the same way. Indeed, it was a recommendation from the evaluation that “The Welsh Government should consider facilitating further research on the impact of the Foundation Phase on particular low achieving groups of pupils.” There are strong parallels between the Foundation Phase and the Successful Futures curriculum reforms. Therefore, it is imperative that the impact of Successful Futures on disadvantaged learners is explored and understood from its early implementation, and ideally whilst it is still being developed.

There are two aims to the study:

To undertake exploratory research into the new curriculum as it is being developed; this will include the development of new insights and research questions that could provide the basis for further more detailed research. It will also provide the Welsh Government with insights into its development, including the challenges and opportunities that it will inevitably bring.
To build capacity in Welsh HEIs to conduct research into the new curriculum; this will include the mentoring of less experienced researchers alongside more experienced researchers to develop their research skills (e.g. methods and leadership). It will also help to develop knowledge and expertise of the new curriculum within Initial Teacher Education departments – critical for the development of new and existing teachers in Wales.

The project is for 18 months long, starting in December 2017 and ending May 2019. This allows the study to follow the development of the new curriculum in the Beta phase and into the beginning of the voluntary roll-out of the Beta version of the new curriculum to other schools. However, the main period of fieldwork will be undertaken in the first 12 months. The primary purpose of the final 6 months will be to develop findings and to begin to disseminate them (including support in writing for publication). The study is organised around a hub project and five partner projects led by researchers from the following universities in Wales: Cardiff University, Cardiff Metropolitan University, University of Wales Trinity Saint David, Aberystwyth University, Bangor University and University of South Wales.