James Marriott: Welcome to the Primary Knowledge Podcast brought to you by Cornerstones Education. I’m James Marriott. Today we are looking at the Welsh curriculum. I’m joined by Nicola Marriott, no relation, who is a curriculum advisor at Cornerstones. Welcome, Nicola. Or should I say croeso?
Nicola Marriott: You could.
James: I don’t know how good that was.
Nicola: To be honest, neither do I, because the Welsh language is not my strong suit, but the Welsh curriculum probably is.
James: Ok. So, our aim today is to, we’re going to take a look at the structure of the Welsh curriculum. We’re going to see what’s important, we’re going to see what directives and updates we’ve got from the government and from Estyn. So, Nicola, first of all, just give us an insight into how the new Welsh curriculum is structured, if you would do.
Nicola: Well over the last, sort of, five years, the structure has changed. So basically, what’s happened with the Welsh curriculum is they have built the Welsh curriculum around the four purposes. And those four purposes are, the main idea of them is to bring the learning into the 21st century to give Welsh children and learners that opportunity of developing a well-rounded curriculum. And that’s where it is there, it’s just to give them that opportunity. With those four purposes is then backed up with things like the six areas of learning, and experience. We’ve then got the five principles of progression which are also built down, and then each of the areas of the curriculum is then led as you go forward. Within those six areas of learning, there are 27 statements of what matters. And those are spread over those different areas of learning and then intertwined within all of this we then have the three cross curricula skills of numeracy, literacy, and digital competence. And schools at the moment are trying to put and bring all of those together to develop their new curriculum and put in place what they want for their children as they move forward.
James: So how does this differ from previous versions of the curriculum?
Nicola: Well, the major change for the curriculum is that movement away from a subject based learning into now the six areas of learning and experience. That was the big, sort of, main change and steering those children for that, sort of, holistic education within the curriculum. And it’s just about, sort of, having that opportunity now. All of these changes were brought about by the Donaldson report, which was published in 2015. And he made, or the team made, 68 different recommendations, all of which the Welsh Senate agreed to accommodate when devising the new curriculum. And then since then, what’s happened is a lot of things have been put together to give schools a little bit more structure and a way of approaching their curriculum as they move forward. So, the schools are working with those and now working with those six AoLE’s. They have that opportunity of then working together with the stakeholders within their community to ensure that they are providing a bespoke curriculum for everybody. And all what we have is that opportunity of having, sort of, that interpretation for the individual school and working with those children as well, because pupil voice is a really big area about encouraging the children to get involved in their curriculum as well.
James: Ok, let’s look ahead slightly then to September 2022. What are the key things that schools need to have in place by then?
Nicola: Well, currently during this current year, schools should be putting together, or should have had together, a curriculum in place so that they can trial what they’re doing. The idea for this year is to trial, so September 22, they have a working curriculum in place which then can be adapted, developed depending on what happens as they go through the curriculum. But they should have that opportunity of having together what they need for their staff pulling together resources, but then also having that coherent curriculum developed all the way through pulling together all of the information that the government has given them, pulling together all of the information from the pilot schools, and having that opportunity of just having that trial and error. I mean, currently, Estyn is going into schools to discuss curriculum with them to find out what’s going on and to collect that information about the best practice that’s going on. And working with schools is the information we are getting, is that they’re working with schools to develop that idea of the curriculum and making sure that you are able to articulate what you’re doing. Because that’s what the idea is, that your curriculum will be individual to your school. And it’s then about you being able to articulate to the visitors who are coming in, exactly what you’re doing and what you intend and what you want for your curriculum. And what we do here at Cornerstones is try and help you with that, giving you an opportunity to be able to articulate and understand where you’re coming from with that. We’ve also put in place our six steps to curriculum design to help and support schools, designing that curriculum and putting it in place. So, you’ve got those options as well as that support here.
James: Ok, that sounds really useful. You mentioned there about what schools should be, kind of, working on through this year in the lead up to September 2022. Is there anything else that schools should be doing now to, kind of, be prepared for that?
Nicola: It’s about, sort of, making sure that you have a good idea of what you want as part of your curriculum. I mean, one of our key starting points is that you develop that principle and purpose. That purpose behind your curriculum and have that vision about where you want to go. And that’s what schools should have in place. They should know what they want to do with their children, what their end point is with them. Because children go through that journey and have that journey from nursery all the way through to year six. And it’s about ensuring that you as a school are clear about what that journey wants to be. So, it’s going to be a continuum. And even when you get your curriculum in place for Curriculum 22, it’s about, sort of, always keeping an eye and evaluating what you’re doing to ensure that what you’re doing is best practice for your children. And they should be there at the, sort of, forefront of what you’re doing and what you’re putting in place.
James: There’s a lot of new stuff here, isn’t there. You know, we’ve talked about some of the changes and some of the, I guess challenges really, that we’ve got coming up here for schools. What do you see as being those main, sort of, challenges for schools as they adapt to this new curriculum?
Nicola: Well, one of the major challenges is a lot of schools are not used to designing and don’t necessarily have those experts in school and understand the needs of curriculum design. And that is what is one, sort of, place. A lot of teachers and a lot of staff within schools understand their year group. They have their specialisms. They might understand this area of learning, but then it’s a case of putting that coherence together, giving it that structure, but also being able to put that content in there as well. So, there’s, sort of, three main challenges. One is that curriculum design. Then there’s that pulling together the content and the structure, but then also having that clear understanding of the implementation and the timelines that are in place. So, what do you want to get done by when and how is that going to help you? Those are the sort of, real, sort of, main challenges that go with that. One of the big challenges that was recently brought up and questioned with the Education Minister was ensuring consistency across schools. And one thing that they mentioned within that, sort of, podcast was that no school should be developing its curriculum in isolation. And what we want to do is to be able to help you with that and give you that opportunity of having someone to support you through that curriculum development, but also working with that community of schools that we’re working with. We’re working currently with over 160 schools to be able to put into place that curriculum development, and they’re working within communities, working together, and providing networks as well. So, it’s about removing that isolation and bringing everybody together as well.
James: Any other advice that you give to schools?
Nicola: We work closely with schools and a lot of our schools, our advice that we’re giving to schools, is completely bespoke to their unit. We sit and listen to what they’re doing, what they want and ensure that we give them that. But it’s about, sort of, with that starting point that we’ve already, sort of, mentioned is get to know your school. Get to know the community and what you can bring together and also have that end point in mind so that you’ve got all of those elements together of what you want those children to achieve while they’re with you. But also, what do you want them to experience? Because the more experiences those children have, the more well-rounded education they will have as they’re going through as well.
James: You’ve kind of touched on some elements of this, but just give us an insight, if you can do, into the work that you’re currently doing with Welsh schools.
Nicola: Well, at the moment, what we tend to do is, we are there to be able to support. We provide online support as well as conversations. We have developed our network of online meetings for schools so we can have that face-to-face conversation about what you’re doing in school, but also giving you that advice. We also spend the majority of our time, sort of, collecting evidence, listening to what the government is saying, having that time to discuss and have that, sort of, team. I work very closely with Sandra, who is our other Welsh education adviser, and we spend a lot of time together pooling what we find out, but then also developing that personal knowledge that we have as we’re going forward. We’re also in the process of always, sort of, reviewing what is available on Curriculum Maestro. And in light of what schools are doing and what they put in place we’re also then doing things like skills reviews and things like that as we go forward, so that we can make sure that everything we have is up to date, is there and valuable for you. But it’s about, sort of, that face-to-face, sort of, contact talking to schools, providing them with the support that they need, but also developing that communication with them as well as we’re going forward.
James: Okay. So, if there’s anyone listening to this who is maybe a little bit daunted about this whole, kind of, process, what’s the one thing that you think is the right starting point? What’s the one thing for them to do first?
Nicola: Have a vision. Have a very, very clear vision about what you want. As for your school and your children. And my always, my opinion is, think about what you would want for your child when you’re going to school and making sure that you’ve got that in place. And once you’ve got that idea of what you want, then start looking at either help and advice that can support you with that and contact us or anybody else that you feel would provide you with that support for that vision. But also having a very clear idea of what you want to do as you’re going forward.
James: Makes sense. Brilliant, Nicola. Thank you very much. Some really useful things there. Thank you.
Nicola: Okay, thank you.
James: I hope you’ve enjoyed today’s episode. We have handpicked some extra resources and content which we think you’ll find really useful. Just head to the show notes for this episode to find those links. There’s loads more information, and you can find all our other episodes at cornerstoneseducation.co.uk Thank you for listening, and we’ll see you next time.
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