We are a naturally bilingual 11-18 school situated in the rural Conwy Valley. We have a strong partnership with local primary schools and have worked towards Successful Futures collaboratively with them over the last two years. We are a pioneer school but work extensively with those who are not.
Our journey started with making our school community and 3-16 cluster of 14 primary schools ready for the new Curriculum. We’ve worked as a staff and in cluster to better understand the different components of the emerging Curriculum, sharing the information through staff meetings, leadership groups and INSET at school and Area of Learning and Experience (AoLE) level. We’ve also engaged with other AoLE schools and with colleagues in GWE.
We have also been developing staff making use of the curriculum development process, professional learning and emerging content of the new Curriculum. This builds on an already strong partnership as a cluster working on literacy and numeracy.
During our cluster INSET last Spring, all teaching and support staff from our cluster schools, and our secondary teaching and support staff joined together in our school hall. Over the course of the day we focused on activities around the new curriculum: how the 4 Purposes will be addressed through the AoLEs; the scope of the 6 AoLEs; and the emerging ‘What Matters’ Statements for each of the AoLEs. Through this we have begun to use and understand the language linked to the new curriculum, to reflect on how we can develop experiences for learners in our existing Curriculum, and begin to make purposeful connections between subjects within the AoLE and across AoLEs. For us the rich possibilities of learning together in our wide geographical area and making the most of partnerships in the community is key to enacting Successful Futures as a learning community.
As a cluster we are strategically developing aspects of pedagogy based on our research and trialling as a Languages, Literacy and Communication (LLC) pioneer school. As part of this work we have spent the last year working with King’s College, London to develop pedagogy linked to critical thinking, developing oracy and engaging with high quality literature in English. This project has been trialled with all teaching groups at KS3 with very positive feedback from pupils and staff. It has had a significant impact on developing learners’ reading skills, particularly with our year 8 cohort where 20% bridged KS2-3 with low literacy skills in both languages, and a more able group whose higher order reading skills in English needed to be challenged. Pupil feedback has shown that learners of all abilities have enjoyed the ‘Let’s Think’ sessions, have engaged with rich and challenging texts and have gained confidence in their oracy skills in English.
A group of year 9 learners presented their experiences of ‘Let’s Think’ to our primary headteacher group and as a result the project is now being trialled across all our primary schools with a particular focus on years 5 and 6. Early indications from staff, pupils and external observers have reinforced the impact on learners’ skills and experiences in English, and on classroom pedagogy relating to critical thinking and questioning, direct teaching of oracy skills and the power of high quality literature.
Another aspect of language learning we have explored with our primary schools has been the links between languages as a way into modern foreign languages in the primary. We have used our primary Global Futures project to explore how languages including Welsh, English and French are similar and different, holding training for all our primary KS2 practitioners around three learning experiences which were then trialled with years 5 and 6 before their transition days in July in their primary schools. The project is now continuing to build skills, capacity and resources for teaching knowledge about languages and introducing languages other than Welsh and English within our bilingual primary schools. The curiosity and enthusiasm of all involved has been extremely strong. As a result our new year 7 have begun with a stronger engagement in learning about different languages. Their recent sessions supported by the MFL department and 6th form Languages Champion (that’s Patrick Lynch with me in the picture) on the European Day of Languages has also led to pupils exploring new languages such as Polish and German.
As a secondary school we have also invested in developing the role of AoLE Champions to reflect the professional learning model being developed to support AoLEs. During 2017/18, three champions were appointed to lead professional learning and enquiry into the Health and Wellbeing, Humanities and Science and Technology AoLEs. We built on the experience of our LLC pioneer work where professional reading and research has been key. So during the last year each of our school pioneers has researched, reflected on and reviewed the progressing work of the curriculum pioneers through visiting curriculum pioneer schools, considering the emerging work of the AoLEs and their own professional reading in the area. At the end of the Summer term they shared the main points from their professional learning with colleagues, leading discussion on the links and approaches that could be developed within the AoLE and beginning to make valuable links between our current subjects. They also fed back on key considerations for their AoLEs and whole school as we move towards the Curriculum for Wales.
We have now appointed our first permanent AoLE lead, leading the Expressive Arts AoLE team within the school. From this we hope to trial different ways of working, planning, collaborating and learning at an AoLE level, alongside continuing with both formal and informal collaboration around pedagogy in the other AoLEs.
Another way we have been developing professional readiness for the new curriculum model is through learning from our Lead Creative School experiences. During 2017/18 we focused on developing creative and digital skills within the Humanities. This provided an ideal opportunity to focus on creative and innovative ways to explore digital learning in Humanities. Working with creative agents and making use of our local area, history and beliefs around the Dolgarrog resevoir tragedy brought aspects of local history, geography and religion alive to learners. They learnt creatively through the guidance of creative practitioners and their humanities teachers. The humanities teachers involved in the project were challenged to consider new ways of learning both in terms of pedagogy and experience. They moved from their traditional classroom setting into our locality and used the school hall and other areas around the school to present learners’ research, knowledge, skills and understanding of the tragedy through a ‘promenade’. This led to exploring new ways to learn in preparedness for the new curriculum.
Having developed an understanding of the building blocks and language of the emerging curriculum and our capacity within the school to consider the 6 AoLEs, we are now considering:
- How we can better use our locality and community partners to develop experiences within and across the AoLEs;
- Identifying natural links and opportunites between subjects within each of the AoLEs and ways we can develop these links;
- Ensuring that there are professional learning opportunities for all staff that continue to help us explore and develop the pedagogy needed in readiness for the new curriculum and in response to the new professional standards;
- How we can continue to build relationships and future planning with our primary cluster colleagues as we work towards 2022, building on the projects within the LLC AoLE.
Elan Davies, Pennaeth/Head, Ysgol Dyffryn Conwy.