Jubilee Park is a new school and our staff relish a challenge. We are not a Pioneer school, but we see this as a new exciting chapter in education and an opportunity to tailor our curriculum to the needs of our learners in Wales. So we have been creating a curriculum based on recommendations from Successful Futures, which has been a great challenge, but a rewarding one.
Our curriculum is more than a series of lessons or a scheme of work, to us it is everything in our school – it is what we are about. Our Thrive Curriculum was borne out of research and ideas shared from pioneer schools. It is informed by the ‘Schools as a Learning Organisation’ OECD report and curriculum reform documentation. We have also had many discussions and debates with colleagues!
Our emerging thinking in developing our Thrive Curriculum started with our mission statement, to ‘Inspire, Nurture and Celebrate Success’. This underpins everything that we do and has shaped our thinking over the last year. We developed three vision principles that are the foundation for our strategic purpose and curriculum development.
We are committed to:
Igniting a passion for learning
Creating the conditions to thrive
Growing together with the community
Our vision principles, curriculum design and professional learning and development triangulate to support our preparation for the new curriculum. Each element is interdependent upon each other and flexible in responding to the needs of our growing community and to information from the reform process.
To articulate our curriculum design we created an infographic which highlights the principles of Successful Futures and how we have translated these to meet the needs of our school; it acts as a basis for what we want our children to explore and experience.
The infographic provided staff with a focus for discussion and helped to develop their understanding of the principles of curriculum design, as noted in Successful Futures. We discuss this regularly with all staff and governors to ensure understanding and how it can be used effectively to guide our curriculum development.
The purpose of our curriculum, our ‘Why?’, is to support our children to thrive in an ever changing world ensuring that the four purposes are at the heart. We regularly revisit the four purposes and engage in discussion about how we plan and use them.
To be able to support our children to thrive we considered what our children need to support them in their learning. We wanted our pupils to be taught skills and dispositions that will act as important capacities to them as learners across the curriculum, in school and beyond. We developed our language of learning and these Learner Capacities are fundamental to our curriculum as they enable and empower learners to lead their own learning. Our aim is to teach children ‘what to do, when they don’t know what to do.’
Our thrive curriculum is a balance of knowledge (range), skills and enriching experiences. Children plan their learning through immersion Days with their teacher. Our curriculum approach ensures that ‘what’ we teach will always have an element of opportunity to Explore and Experience, to Create and Express and to Respond and Reflect.
Questions we regularly ask staff to consider:
- What knowledge and skills do you want your children to develop?
- What will be the end of the learning journey? How will you get there?
- What rich learning experiences will you provide?
- How can we use real world problems to progress pupils’ knowledge, skills and experiences?
- How well are you using the four purposes in planning experiences?
What did we do?
We held regular discussions about the purpose of our Thrive Curriculum throughout the year. We identified what was good about our curriculum design model and agreed on areas to develop. We regularly shared how our curriculum design model was used at a classroom level. The introduction and consistent use of the language within Successful Futures further supported the preparation for the new curriculum. And using information from Welsh Government blogs and curriculum reform documentation has supported changes we have made.
We have also discussed the Enrichment and Experience and Assessment and Progression reports from Strand 1 of the Curriculum Pioneer work and reflected upon areas of strength and development.
- Teachers plan real life authentic contexts for learning, based on pupil voice and linked to the four purposes. Language, Literacy and Communication and Mathematics and Numeracy are linked to the context of themes. Staff are encouraged to respond to pupil voice throughout the theme and change their plans, if and when required. There is a balance of cross curricular responsibilities and the application of wider skills. Planning is meaningful and documents learning, pupil voice, implications for future learning and celebrates success.
- These are held to start a new theme. They are a ‘wow’ day where children are immersed in experiences so they can start thinking about the new theme. Immersion Days are a great leveller for all children and rich in experiences. During an Immersion Day, teachers share the knowledge and skills that may be covered during the theme and children collaborate and share their ideas about the experiences they would like to have.
- Enrichment Days are held weekly and allow time for children to apply their skills to a new context – often real life problems. The focus for Enrichment Days is the application of Literacy, Numeracy and Digital Competence skills. These days are not dictated by session times or by content. Staff are encouraged to think creatively, considering the flexible use of learning spaces and involve the local community.
- We talk a lot about how we can document children’s learning to show their learning journey. Displays in the classroom are fluid and document children’s thinking. Each child has a learning journal to record their work. Children use a variety of papers, images and materials to present their work and are allowed full autonomy. As a result no two journals are the same.
What we have found out after our first year…
- Our curriculum design model, linked to our vision, has supported staff in understanding our curriculum
- We are developing a curriculum that is meeting the needs of our children and fit for our local context
- We have purposeful curriculum design which promotes consistency and alignment across learning opportunities
- Our curriculum design gives staff the freedom to innovate, to follow children’s interests & develop their knowledge, skills and experiences across AoLEs
- Professional learning and development sessions focused on curriculum development and collaboration are crucial to curriculum development
- Our understanding of the four purposes is developing and this has been supported through regular discussion and sharing of planning and children’s work
- Staff comment they know ‘why’ they are doing things
Staff have found the development of our curriculum a challenge but they have been supported to take risks. There is a positive climate within school, focused on learning. Staff comment that everything they do is meaningful and related which has led to an improved work/life balance. The Leadership Team have a clear vision for curriculum design and the knowledge to direct and support teachers. Staff feel there is more flexibility and more trust in them professionally.
All children are involved in planning their learning experiences and are confident in discussing their learning journey. They recognise the wealth of rich and authentic opportunities on offer and they are able to talk about these in detail. Our language of learning enables children to confidently discuss how they learn and how our learner capacities support them in their learning.
Curriculum development takes time. We are still at an early stage of our curriculum development and heading into a new academic year we have revised our curriculum design model to further reflect the needs of our learning community.
Vision, curriculum design and professional learning and development are crucial for establishing a culture focused on learning within our school. We are excited as to the changes that are ahead and ready to embrace the next stage of curriculum reform.
Catherine Kucia, Headteacher, Jubilee Park Primary School, Newport.