A modern and creative curriculum
In 2014 the staff and Headteacher at Ysgol Y Bynea were looking to modernise and add more creativity to their curriculum. After hearing colleagues at other schools talk about the Cornerstones Curriculum, they approached us to find out more. They adopted the Cornerstones Curriculum Wales in April 2015 and in January 2017 was judged to be excellent by Estyn.
If you have attended a Cornerstones conference in the past year, the name Tania Morgan will be familiar to you. The bubbly, down-to-earth Headteacher from Llanelli, Carmarthenshire, has been a fan of Cornerstones ever since she got in touch with us to enquire about the new Cornerstones Curriculum for Wales almost three years ago.
Ysgol Y Bynea
So you can imagine our delight when we received an invitation to visit Tania's school, especially as they were recently awarded an ‘Excellent’ rating by Estyn. The staff and children at Ysgol Y Bynea gave us a warm welcome and proudly showed us their school. The classrooms zing with colourful displays, and a passion for home learning is clearly evident. Outdoor learning is an important part of Ysgol Y Bynea, and their new, outdoor learning village and orchard provides plenty of flexible learning space for the children to use.
A broad and balanced curriculum
Creative, hands-on experiences and modern, relevant contexts are important to all the staff at Ysgol Y Bynea.
‘All children are entitled to a broad and balanced curriculum, and that is very, very important. You can’t have a very narrow curriculum for children as they are all different types of learners. They’ve all got different needs. So unless you have a broad and balanced curriculum and catch everybody, children do not have the best education we can give them.’ Tania Morgan – Headteacher
The breadth of activities and learning experiences for all children at Ysgol Y Bynea is impressive. Younger children are learning to write using carrots and seed trays, crafting animals from modelling dough and loose parts, improving their fine motor skills by ‘milking’ rubber glove cows and engaging in imaginative small world play.
Older children are constructing volcanoes out of building blocks, mixing mind-boggling potions, creating Roman shields and thoughtfully exploring the theme of life and death in the Easter story.
The atmosphere throughout the school is eager and purposeful. As Lynette Dunleavy, Deputy Headteacher explained
‘Since we introduced the Cornerstones ILPs, we’ve seen that children are very eager to learn. Children have different interests, so with the varied topics that we are incorporating, we see that children are really keen to learn.’
So how do the staff of Ysgol Y Bynea teach the key skills that children need to learn? Tania explained
‘If you’re engaged and you’re enthusiastic, and you’re enjoying it, then the skills are something that just come as a by-product. It’s not something we have to teach in a specific way; they are just coming because of the excitement, the eagerness and the motivation the children are having.’
Many staff talked enthusiastically about the choice of curriculum projects and resources available on The Hub. Lynne Dunleavey explained
‘I have certainly found the resources on The Hub invaluable. It’s a fantastic starting point, and the resources are so creative, so eye catching and attractive, they are a fantastic tool to begin any topic.’
Lynne also felt that the children's understanding of Welsh heritage and culture was enhanced by the Cornerstones Curriculum.
‘The Welsh history and culture projects have certainly supported our teaching of history and the Curriculum Cymreig.’
In January, Estyn completed an inspection at Ysgol Y Bynea. The performance of the school was judged to be excellent. As Tania explained
‘This year we had an Estyn inspection, and they felt that the curriculum the children had was excellent. They looked at different lessons and, of the lessons they saw, they said all of them were at least good with many of them being excellent. So we were very proud, and we do feel that Cornerstones played quite a big part in that.’
We also asked Tania how she felt about the support she had received from Cornerstones over the last three years.
‘From the first day that we had decided that we were going to go with Cornerstones, we have had outstanding support. It’s made our staff seem much bigger because, with our staff and the staff at Cornerstones, we’ve got a support network which you don’t always get when you buy something from somebody. It has made a big difference to us, and I think that is the difference between Cornerstones and some other companies.’
Find out more about the Cornerstones Curriculum Wales
To find out more about the Cornerstones Curriculum Wales and how Cornerstones can support you with upcoming changes to the Welsh National Curriculum, visit our curriculum wales product page or call 03333 20 8000.