NACE welcomes the Welsh Government’s announcement last week that it is to invest in additional support for more able learners, acknowledging the importance of more able provision within the equity and excellence agenda and its central role in school improvement.
A new national approach for identifying and supporting more able learners will reduce the potential for inconsistency and provide support for young people at key points in their progression, including primary to secondary transition. Supplementing this with qualitative criteria will be important to help ensure that able underachievers are not missed. In turn, such an approach will support the monitoring of more able learners’ progress, take account of their achievements at all stages of schooling and enable timely adjustments and interventions to meet their needs.
As an organisation with more than 1,600 member schools NACE has access to a growing repository of effective practice in more able provision. Moving “from excellence to evidence” is a central strand of our current work, through the NACE Research and Development Hubs, practitioner-led research supported by the University of Winchester, and our 410 NACE Challenge Award schools. In addition, we are exploring a new research project with Cardiff Metropolitan University that will bring together schools gaining positive results in this field.
For these reasons, we welcome the Welsh Government’s focus on pedagogy and robust evidence of what works. This should not limit innovation and development within the field, but rather allow it to continue to develop, acknowledging amongst other things its origins – through, for example, the government’s Quality Standards, Estyn’s thematic MAT reviews, the work of NACE with schools through the Challenge Award, and work already underway in the regional consortia.
The current curriculum reforms in Wales provide a timely opportunity to ensure that more able provision is embedded fully within the models under consideration, with a clear focus on a curriculum that will provide stretch and progression for the most academically able, and that will ensure appropriate pathways for smooth progression and reference to real-life skills. Clearly, the role of Seren will be key to this.
Placing consortia and schools at the heart of this process, and equipping them with the necessary skills and resources to do so, will ensure a sustainable school-to-school support model. NACE is currently working closely with regional consortia on a range of more able projects, including an evidence-informed research project with ERW which has school-to-school collaboration and self-improvement at its heart. The interim evaluation report will be available shortly, highlighting measures that are able to show both quantitative and qualitative positive shifts in outcomes for more able learners.
Commenting on the announcement, NACE CEO Sue Riley said: “NACE welcomes the Welsh Government’s renewed focus on more able, and its emphasis on the central role of more able provision in school improvement. We will offer our expertise to the Welsh Government to progress this agenda. As a charity, NACE focuses on the more able in the context of challenge for all through a practical approach to supporting teachers and senior leaders to develop all aspects of more able policy and provision. Acknowledging the central role that more able provision has to play in the wider debate around standards, equity and opportunity will benefit young people, and in turn support economic growth.”

NACE’s work in Wales

The National Association for Able Children in Education (NACE) has enjoyed a long and productive association with schools in Wales, Welsh Government and Estyn. It is the only organisation which has been formally commissioned to support more able policy developments in Wales, through contributions to: NACE has also been the organisation of choice to support individual schools and regional consortia in developing excellent provision for more able learners. It works with schools who wish to formally validate their more able policy and provision through NACE Challenge Award accreditation. The Welsh Government’s Review to identify more able and talented provision across Wales (Dec 2015) cited NACE for its “very beneficial work… both in the effective support and guidance and professional development it offers for schools” and “the very valuable role the NACE Challenge Award plays in developing schools’ provision and practice.” The recent Estyn thematic reviews of more and talented provision also cited NACE’s work as a contributory factor in schools evidencing excellent provision for MAT learners. 

To find out more, get in touch, and join us at the NACE Cymru Conference in Cardiff on 28 June.