Curriculum for Wales: Setting the scene for learning

Curriculum for Wales recognises that all children are unique and therefore it supports holistic development by keeping the developmental needs of children at the forefront of practice.

The key principles essential for holistic and meaningful learning for all children start with skilful, observant and interested adults, who provide authentic and engaging experiences in effective, exciting environments. You may hear these referred to as the ‘three enablers’.

These are aspects of practice everyone should recognise and strive to achieve. They are:

  • Enabling adults – your role is integral to the progress of all children and is particularly significant in this period of early learning
  • Engaging experiences – the experiences you offer in the early years should be hands‑on, purposeful and meaningful to the child
  • Effective environments – the environment you create in your setting, indoors and outdoors, should be central to children’s authentic experiences.

The interactions we have with children (as enabling adults), the learning experiences we provide for them and the environments in which this learning takes place all contribute towards the development within and across the five developmental pathways.

This effective practice of enabling adults, engaging experiences and effective environments should be familiar to you, as the new curriculum builds on previous effective practice. However, it may take some time to get used to the new terminology and be able to make the links between the new curriculum and existing practice.

You may have previously discussed the ‘role of the adult’ or ‘supporting adults’ within your settings. This practice would now fall under ‘enabling adults’. When planning ‘engaging experiences’, you may notice the shift within this curriculum away from ‘focused tasks’ and outcome-driven planned activities towards planning experiences through play that are authentic, purposeful and offer children the chance to revisit and consolidate their learning. Designing an effective environment may have been previously described as your ‘continuous provision’, your ‘areas’ or ‘spaces’.

Enabling adults

You can demonstrate the role of an enabling adult by:

  • Creating emotionally safe environments that support children to begin to express their feelings and behaviours in positive ways
  • Modelling a joyful approach to learning
  • Encouraging and supporting children’s natural curiosity
  • Making best use of the teachable moments that occur naturally through play and everyday activities
  • Making strong connections with the children’s home and community
  • Strengthening the children’s sense of belonging by embracing both past and present experiences
  • Being consistent in providing care and modelling compassion and kindness
  • Demonstrating respect for children, by supporting the decisions and choices they make
  • Supporting children sensitively to cope with uncertainty and change
  • Preparing children to manage transitions and changes in their daily routines
  • Making effective cross-curricular connections to deliver a broad and balanced curriculum that uses children’s previous knowledge and experiences as well as what fascinates them now
  • Refining planning and the quality of provision, making regular changes to adapt to the needs of all children.

Engaging experiences

Engaging experiences should:

  • Hands-on, purposeful and meaningful to the child
  • Encourage independence
  • Offer risk, challenge and opportunities to experience success
  • Be linked to real-life contexts
  • Engage children in deep levels of involvement
  • Allow for long periods of uninterrupted active learning
  • Include both the indoor and outdoor environments
  • Help children make connections between different learning experiences, revisit experiences and consolidate their learning
  • Support children to experiment with a range of mark-making instruments and materials
  • Encourage the use of simple mathematical vocabulary
  • Provide opportunities for children to explore and experiment with digital technology
  • Promote physical activity
  • Develop social and communication skills
  • Value bilingualism and the diversity of culture and languages in Wales
  • Be multi-sensory, allowing children to respond to and be inspired by the creativity of others.

Download our factsheets here:

Effective environments

Effective environments should:

  • Be central to children’s authentic experiences in both the indoors and outdoors
  • Allow for exploration which will help children to develop a sense of belonging and an appreciation of the world around them
  • Incorporate both the emotional climate of the setting as well as the physical spaces
  • Be welcoming and promote a strong Welsh ethos
  • Be communication rich
  • Facilitate concept development
  • Allow for the development of both fine and gross motor skills
  • Provide frequent opportunities for practice and rehearsal so that taught skills can be embedded in a range of different contexts

Enabling learning webinar series

NDNA Cymru teamed up with early years teachers Emma Matthews and Marie Ellis-Jones of Little Stars Nursery, part of the Welsh Government Co-construction Group for Curriculum Reform in Early Years, for this webinar on enabling learning.

Supporting resources:

Sustained Shared Thinking webinar:

NDNA Cymru teamed up with the University of Wales Trinity Saint David to develop and deliver a webinar on Sustained Shared Thinking and its use within the early years with links to the three ‘enablers’.