The new curriculum in Wales will give teachers more freedom to teach in ways that will provide better outcomes for their learners. To support innovative pedagogy it will sometimes mean working with organisations or individuals outside of the classroom or school.
This was a key theme in the Curriculum Reform Strand 1 Working Group on Enrichment and Experiences where teachers agreed that bringing in others from outside school – or visiting other people and places – brings the learning to life for their pupils and makes it more effective and meaningful. This has been carried through to the six Areas of Learning and Experiences in Strand 2 and will be developed more fully in Strand 3.
To get ahead of the game and encourage partnership working and collaboration, the Welsh Government and EAS organised a conference in Newport at the end of the summer term where teachers shared their success stories on enrichment and experiential learning, whilst having an opportunity to meet other organisations and work creatively with them. Teachers, staff and governors from five local authorities met with 41 different organisations in a large exhibition space that included public sector, charities, private businesses and enterprises, voluntary sector and community groups.
The Deputy Head at Heolddu Comprehensive School, Patrick Brunnock, attended the day and gave us his view on how it went:
‘Our teaching ‘persona’ is supposed to be creative and innovative. So my boss has trusted me to spark a change in the way we approach our learning and teaching at Heolddu, a mixed comprehensive school nestled deep in the Rhymney Valley. With current changes impacting on small secondary schools, he is also testing my resolve with responsibility for strengthening the community focus. In my recent NPQH sessions, I was impressed and excited by workshops being delivered by colleagues from across Gwent, and felt the experiences of what had worked and not worked were very insightful. That gave me a start.
When thinking about the community focus, I had to appreciate that although aspects of community played a huge role in my school, no one was taking responsibility for the overall picture, or monitoring activity. Some areas of learning were running projects in isolation; some not running projects at all.
So I asked myself – how hard could it be to collaborate with other agencies and encourage collaborative working with teachers and colleagues to enhance the learning and wellbeing of all pupils?
Like all senior leaders I am constantly juggling my days, and I needed to find a way to not only speak to outside agencies but also find out what they had to offer us as a school in return.
The 2017 EAS Enrichment & Experiences Event sounded ideal. At this time of year all staff are busy planning and working to improve their areas. Who could I take to share this event? At this point, the Chair of Governors entered my office. Every Monday she makes a point of popping in to meet with the Head teacher – Lynne is warm, caring and as with most Chairs outspoken and slightly ’out there’. On asking me what I was up to, I explained what I was looking to do. “I will come!” Had my Chair of Governors just invited herself? “And there had better be good people and a good buffet!” she exclaimed!
On thinking about this, it wasn’t a bad idea. I am looking for ‘free/cost effective support’ from outside sources and Lynne does not hold back when trying to get what’s best for our pupils. What could go wrong?
The conference itself was quite daunting. There were exhibition stands as far as the eye could see from various outside support networks. This was an opportunity to participate in a unique conference with a focused group of academic and agency leaders sharing experiences together in one room.
Every exhibition stand we approached welcomed us with a smile and key information. It was nice to see people actively involved in wanting to support our pupils. The presentations allowed us to see how well other schools had been collaborating and what impact this could have on the learning environment.
Part of the presentation process was linked to ‘experiential learning’ – during which we had to hold hands. I have never held hands with my Chair of Governors, and will probably never have the opportunity to hold her hand again…
We left at the end of a good day with a bag full of resources and a notebook full of contacts from agencies, businesses and charities.
I now have the information needed to share with our subject leads. Through ‘developing and working with others’ and ‘strengthening the community focus’ we will look to work collaboratively with our new contacts as we push to take our school to another level. The challenge for me is to create strategic direction and utilise these resources for the benefit of all pupils at Heolddu Comprehensive School.
Deputy Headteacher, Heolddu Comprehensive School