An introduction to the Digital Standards Framework for Welsh Post-16 Education.

2019 saw the publication of Digital 2030: A strategic framework for post-16 digital learning in Wales. This was the culmination of a co-construction process between Welsh Government, Jisc and the post-16 education sector (further education, work-based and adult learning).

The framework is intended to:

  • articulate a clear, shared vision for our approach to digital learning in the post-16 education and training sector in Wales, encouraging collaboration and sharing good practice;
  • identify current and future development priorities, expectations, and areas for development that can be addressed at provider, regional and national levels;
  • help to prioritise future investment of time and resources, nationally by the Welsh Government, strategically by key stakeholders and for individual learning providers; and
  • highlight a need to increase the continuity of learning experiences and transition from compulsory to post-compulsory learning provision.

Aim one of the framework is that:

clear, nationally agreed standards for digital skills are in place to enable learners and staff to meet industry, private and public sector requirements, building on the digital competences developed during compulsory schooling.

While Digital 2030 was being developed, learning providers highlighted a gap in this area, and asked for a shared set of professional digital standards. Like the Digital 2030 framework, these digital standards have been created in partnership between the Welsh Government, the post-16 sector and Jisc.

Why is a digital standards framework important?

A standards framework will give the sector a shared understanding of what good digital practice looks like and the outcomes it can help achieve.

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Practitioners can use it to understand their current level of practice and clearly see a pathway to develop that practice further. Managers and leaders can use it as a structure to develop staff skills. It can also help with making decisions that help to move their organisation towards implementing the Digital 2030 strategy.

Linked to the Professional Standards

We have used the existing Professional Standards for Teaching and Learning in FE and WBL in Wales as the framework for this set of digital standards. We did this for several reasons.

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There were a number of alternative frameworks that could have provided the basis for the structure of this set of digital standards but using the Professional Standards means that it is in tune with the priority areas of teaching and learning that have been identified by the post-16 education sector in Wales itself.

Usability has been a key focus for the Digital Standards framework. We wanted to create a tool with a familiar structure that is easy to understand. Using the themes from the professional standards helped to achieve this.

At this stage, there are no sector-wide professional standards for support staff, functional staff, or leaders in the post-16 sector, so we have started with practitioners. In future there is scope to develop digital standards for other roles in line with any overarching professional standards, if feedback from the post-16 sector shows that this would be of value.

Understanding the standards

The structure of the Standards

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  1. Standard theme - based on Professional Standards for FE and WBL Practitioners Framework.
  2. Activities – these selections are just meant as examples and not an exhaustive or compulsory list. Over time new technologies and practices emerge that will still be valid activities. Also, depending on the practitioner’s context, there may be specific activities that are relevant but do not warrant inclusion in a general document. We would expect practitioners and their managers to identify their own set of activities in addition to the suggestions we offer here.
  3. Standards sub-themes – these focus on the outcomes that indicate a practitioner is achieving a standard.
  4. Standards statements – descriptions of outcomes that identify achievement of a standard practice level.
  5. Practice levels – to create a clear pathway for professional development we have broken the standards down into 3 separate levels (see below for a description)
  6. Alignment to Digital 2030 strategy – we have mapped digital standards against the objectives of the Digital 2030 Strategy that they most closely match.

How have the Standard Statements been written?

Standards should be outcome focused. In other words, it is not enough to say that there is a digital activity that should be happening; each standard needs to be clear about the purpose of the activity. This way, that standards will be relevant. We have written them so that each answer “so what?”. For example:

I use digital platforms and tools (activity) to empower learners to shape their own approach to learning using digital tools (outcome).
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The standards are also related to actions. It is possible for a practitioner to provide evidence to show that they have achieved a standard. Phrases such as “I have an awareness about…” or “I understand that…” are not helpful in that regard. The standard needs to describe something that someone has done or said. What evidence is needed to demonstrate achievement of a standard is down to the practitioner and their manager.

The standards should be used by practitioners to encourage reflection, so that they can identify both their strengths and areas for development, as well as how they have met a standard or plan to do so. There will inevitably be cases where certain levels of standards are easier to achieve within certain roles, organisations, or contexts.


Over time, roles change, and new technologies and practices emerge. By being specific about the jobs that people do and the types of technology they might use, we risk creating a set of standards that becomes obsolete quickly. As much as possible we have made each standard statement role and technology agnostic or referred to generic technology types such as “online spaces and communities”.

What do the levels mean?

The use of technology to support teaching and learning is complex. Trying to encapsulate the different levels of performance will always involve compromises but to keep this standards framework usable we have selected a 3-level approach; Exploring, Embedding and Transforming.

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Level Attributes
Exploring Practitioners are developing the fundamental aspects of digital practice. They take on board information and skills that are provided to them. They use digital technologies to replace traditional practices in a “like for like” fashion.
Embedding Practitioners are using technology in a way that makes them more effective or efficient. They seek out new ways to develop their innovative practice, working alone or collaboratively depending on their circumstances.
Transforming Practitioners are using technology to develop entirely new practices that largely wouldn’t have been possible without the use of digital technologies. They act as a role model for others, perhaps offering coaching and mentoring.

The use of technology to support teaching and learning is complex. Trying to encapsulate the different levels of performance will always involve compromises but to keep this standards framework usable we have selected a 3-level approach; Exploring, Embedding and Transforming.

The basic principle is one of progression. In other words, anyone working at the higher levels (Embedding or Transforming) will also be demonstrating the attributes of the levels prior to that one.

The standards are there to support innovation in teaching and learning in the post-16 sector in Wales. In this case, “innovation” refers to innovation in teaching and learning practice rather than innovation in the technology itself. In other words, a practitioner might be making use of readily available or even “mundane” digital technologies to enable innovative teaching and learning practices. Just using the latest technology is not enough to demonstrate good practice.

A note for organisational leaders and line managers

The digital standards framework will be most effective when it’s an integral part of organisational efforts to implement the Digital 2030 strategy for Wales, and not used in isolation. They do not need to be used in a prescriptive way, but can be applied selectively to suit particular roles, teams or individuals, as a way of characterising what practices are expected and how they could be improved.

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The standards have been designed to be achievable by practitioners while remaining aspirational. There may be instances where achievement of a standard level relies on certain policies, processes or systems being in place that are outside the control of the individual.

As such, achievement of the digital standards is a partnership between practitioner and organisation. It is not expected that every practitioner will meet every standard; rather, the standards are a resource which can be tailored and adapted to reflect individual roles and aspirations, as well as the organisation’s priorities and plans.

Alignment with Digital 2030 aims and objectives

Each digital standard includes a section pointing to the most relevant aims and objectives of Digital 2030. This is to help with organisational planning and development, enabling leaders to trace back performance against the digital standards to the intended outcomes of Digital 2030.

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The choices made here are open to some interpretation and as such are a guide rather than an authoritative list. Organisations may wish to come up with their own alignment based on their specific context, including their own digital plans and strategies.

Where possible the connection between Digital 2030 and the Digital Standards is at the level of the overall theme or the sub themes, rather than the content of any individual Standard level statement.