Learning Points: the New Curriculum for Wales

In November 2017 Scrutiny Councillors met with Headteachers from Olchfa Comprehensive and Parklands Primary Schools, the Chair of Governors from Olchfa and the Challenge Advisors for the two schools to discuss thier collaboration work in relation to Pioneer Schools and the New Curriculum for Wales.

Councillors were extremely impressed with both schools and their commitment and drive in improving the outcomes of their pupils.  They recognise that they both have taken this great opportunity to shape new practice and have embraced it fully.

Councillors took away a number of learning points from this session which they would like to share:

  • Strong leadership within schools will be key to moving forward, but must recognise that School readiness for the new curriculum will be varied.
  • Both the School Governing Body and Leadership Team within a school must be committed to it and be ready to move it forward.
  • Collaboration is happening not only because of the new curriculum pilot, some schools were thinking this way and starting to move down that road but this has been an impetus to moving forward. There are some schools that are not pioneer schools but are starting to do this because they recognise that it is the right thing to do.
  • There are a minority of individuals within schools that are not convinced and therefore not as supportive of Donaldson and the ethos of the new curriculum. There is still a need to be winning of hearts and minds with some.
  • Must recognise schools are at different stages of learning and development, therefore their ability to move forward with the new curriculum will vary and will need different levels of support.
  • Ensure everything is grounded in the 4 core purposes, ‘they are the fundamental touchstone’. Teachers must understand and be committed to this in order to move forward.
  • The pedagogy and type of knowledge is different so teachers need to embrace this as part of their continuous improvement journey. It will be important moving forward for the criterion to fit with the pedagogy that goes with the new curriculum.
  • It is vital to use evidence to inform the development of the practice needed. Moving forward must be underpinned by research and evidence based decisions.
  • The learning for pupils is much broader within the new curriculum than with the old one, subjects are looked at in more depth and breadth, enabling pupils to question and think, it also frees up time to explore issues more. This enables children to think/question and not just acquire knowledge.
  • The new curriculum needs to be about teaching and learning, about what the child needs and not only about results and data.
  • Working across clusters will be important moving forward, the primaries and secondary schools working together to ensure smooth transitions and shared practices will be of benefit to all.
  • There is an important role for all the pioneer schools in being reflective and looking at the effective pedagogy learned and that is needed, also encouraging and giving confidence to other schools to start down this process.
  • The main challenges to moving forward with the new curriculum include:
    • Schools being able to release resources to bring in the new curriculum will be necessary, so any reduction in resources will negatively impact on their ability to move forward.
    • nature of changes in communities, for example the increases in second language and free school meals pupils
  • If local authority could do anything to help it would be to create a climate for professional learning that is valued and at the forefront education.

The Panel have written to the Cabinet member for Children, Education and Lifelong Learning to follow up on a couple of issues and her response is expected later in December:

  1. How do you believe the budget situation across schools both now and in the near future will reflect in their ability to take forward the new curriculum?
  2. What are we doing as an authority to help create a climate for professional learning that is valued and at the forefront education in Wales?

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