The first of a regular series of blog posts from practitioners from around Wales comes from Kelly Forrest-Mackay St Illtyds Primary Abertillery
As a Pioneer, involved in the curriculum reform process since its inception, I am writing this blog to share some of my experiences and provide practical examples to help others engage with the reform.
“It is clearer today than ever that educators need to learn, and that is why professional learning has replaced professional development. Developing is not enough. Educators must be knowledgeable and wise. They must know enough in order to change. They must change in order to get different results. They must become learners…” (Easton 2008).
Curriculum Reform. Where do we start?
Time has a wonderful way of showing us what matters…
Time is understandably precious with the abundant demands daily school life brings. Engaging with key documents, research, training and attending workshops has enabled me to confidently engage as a proactive member in developing the ‘What Matters statements’ for the Health and WellBeing Area of Learning Experience group. It is appreciated, this level of engagement is unrealistic and impossible to replicate with the demands upon our time as teachers, without having the privilege of such release time.
The thirst for knowledge in the profession is evident. I am regularly contacted to Toshare curriculum developments and am committed to making full use of my designated pioneer time; sharing through our existing and new networks. I see this as a vital part of my role and my responsibilities. However, understandably, it is noted there is a need to differentiate information sharing due to the variability between schools of engagement with reform. Time to absorb critical reading and research is admittedly something I have been fortunate enough to undertake with the full support of my head teacher and leadership team. To develop agency within the profession and prepare for change, I would urge all school leaders to factor in time for teachers to engage with curriculum reform, at an appropriate level. Leaders need to reinforce the responsibility that lies with us all to know about, deepen understanding of and strive towards the changes ahead.
The following list, primarily aimed at schools with limited engagement in the reform, hopefully illustrating this is not onerous:
- To use a small proportion of designated staff meeting time to explore and discuss the professional learning standards or curriculum developments on a weekly basis. Information sharing in small, manageable, bite sized chunks to conclude weekly staff meetings is a regularly feature at our school and has helped to promote professional dialogue regarding curriculum development.
- Deepening understanding of Successful Futures and deciding how this impacts on your school. Reflecting upon your existing curriculum offer alongside the principles and four purposes has proved a useful way for all staff to develop their understanding of the vision behind the new curriculum and allowed us to begin to consider how will we build our curriculum around the needs of our learners.
- Aligning teams with the AoLE areas enabling members to begin making plans to manage the change and devise plans for a more autonomous curriculum.
- Refine themes and curriculum content, including pupil voice, self, local, regional, national and global approach progressively through the learning continuum.
- Develop curriculum plans, remaining child centred, being proactive and reactive to locally and regionally identified needs. Making the best use of data available to help shape this. I.e. PASS information, needs analysis information.
- We are always looking to further enhance our provision using existing materials in line with successful futures, such as UNCRC and the Family and Community engagement toolkit.
- Engage with teacher agency principles and the Professional Learning standards.
- Attend pioneer information sharing events and signpost staff to the information available
Using the strength of existing networks:
As a member of the EAS, colleagues and I from pioneer schools are already assigned to clusters to work in sharing developments. However, in addition to this work, a useful system I led at my previous school was to host fortnightly ‘open afternoons’ to share pioneer updates and well-being practice as part of my release time. This proved an effective way of ensuring requests for information were met from within the consortia and wider to support those with interest. To further optimise communication opportunities, I included sections on agendas of existing SIGs to share current curriculum developments. Further using such opportunities to reinforce signposting to communications and sharing engagement resources.
I am sure other pioneer schools would be able to cite similar approaches. Such systematic networking opportunities could be used by all schools to optimise communication and prepare for curriculum reform. One of the most powerful aspects of the design process as a pioneer has been the opportunity to engage with professional dialogue, to make sense of policy, share ideas, develop practice and work with other schools to further understand the challenges we will no doubt face as we work towards our shared vision for learning across Wales and learning in our classroooms.