In September we wrote our first blog post, ‘Developing our Thrive Curriculum at Jubilee Park Primary School’ to share the start of our curriculum journey. This post describes how we have moved on to planning and trialling our approach to the new curriculum.
We began by considering feedback from pupils, parents, governors and colleagues and using documentation from the Curriculum for Wales reform process, which we used to continue to research, develop and design our Thrive Curriculum. We were not part of the Pioneer process but have spent the last eighteen months trialling new ways of designing and planning and are very excited by the opportunities that lie ahead.
As a new and growing school, we constantly reflect upon our mission statement and vision principles to maintain their place as foundations for our strategic purpose and curriculum development. Together, our vision principles, curriculum design and professional learning and development triangulate to help us prepare for the new curriculum. Each element is interdependent and flexible in responding to the needs of our growing community and to information from the reform process.
‘The Leadership Team have a clear vision for curriculum design, and the knowledge to direct and support teachers. Staff have commented that there is more flexibility and more professional trust, without which a team is unable to truly challenge thinking and norms.’
The role of Professional Learning is integral to our development. Weekly Professional Learning and Development (PLD) sessions and INSET days have focused on recommendations in Successful Futures and the draft Curriculum documentation. We have spent time talking, discussing, collaborating and working through the AoLEs and what the national framework proposes.
Our Thrive Curriculum design model is used by teachers as a guide for planning and is evolving to meet the needs of our school. Our planning process focuses on the learning through the Four Purposes, What Matters and relates to the necessary Achievement Outcomes before teachers even begin to consider classroom level activities that will facilitate the learning. We have already noticed an increase in the confidence of staff to spend time ensuring children have a greater sense of depth and understanding in their learning, rather than moving on too quickly. There is a ‘slowliness’ to learning across our school and we find that children demonstrate a deeper understanding of key concepts, are able to apply their skills to a range of experiences, are creative and enjoy their learning!
Since the Spring Term we have been trialling the new curriculum, using all the Areas of Learning and Experience (AoLE). We immediately found that time for discussion and collaboration was needed to develop a coherent plan for learning.
Using the new AoLEs has enabled greater agency for our staff, but they are also continuing to use what they know works. One of the outcomes is a deeper understanding of AoLEs and how teachers and children can build links between learning. We have begun to recognise that the process of evaluation and refinement is fast becoming the crux of the relationship between the national and school level curriculum.
Teacher Reflection on Theme ‘Small Country: Big Impact?’ planned using new Curriculum documentation
Planning in this way has changed my mindset about curriculum. For example, I always thought ‘healthy living’ was something covered in Year 3 or Year 4. But focusing on it in Year 6 brought a deeper level of discussion and learning as children developed healthy living vlogs to discuss the impact of social media on health. I wouldn’t have previously thought of this as it would have been ‘covered’ by someone else.
The new approach to medium term planning has enabled fluid thinking about learning rather than activities. I don’t think about filling in boxes and think in terms of weeks now. It is more holistic and focused on learning conversations and dialogue rather than activity. The use of ‘Explore & Experience’, ‘Create & Express’, ‘Respond & Reflect’ is a great way to structure planning.
Thrive Curriculum Reflection by Erin, Year 6 Pupil
Since being in Jubilee Park Primary I have noticed the effects of the new Curriculum for Wales. At our school we talk lots about the Four Purposes and what impact these will have on us now and in the future. I was even able to talk to my mum about the Four Purposes and what they mean to me at my Learning Review (Parent Consultations)! Here at JPPS we have lots of exciting opportunities that I had not experienced before. For example, our Enrichment Days and Immersion Days allow me to express my ideas and creativity and I love our unique themes that form part of an inquiry e.g., ‘What is Art?’. I also love our learning journals because I get the chance to express my interpretation of our theme in a creative way!
Throughout this journey we regularly re-visit the Four Purposes. We have had PLD sessions discussing what the key characteristics of each of the Four Purposes look like at different stages, how we can demonstrate progress and how we can support understanding amongst our school community.
What are we doing to develop our understanding of the Four Purposes?
- Professional Learning and Development to discuss progress and to support collective understanding of all staff (Teachers & TAs)
- Pupil Progress Meetings focused on individual children and how they are demonstrating progress (Teacher, Deputy Headteacher & Headteacher)
- Pupil Learning Reviews to support conversations between children and teachers about children’s views of how they are progressing towards the Four Purposes, their attitudes to learning and how they feel they can be further supported (Teacher & Child, Child & Child)
- Parent Curriculum Workshops to develop parents’ understanding of the Four Purposes and to facilitate dialogue about the skills and experiences children have to support their progress both inside and outside of school (Teacher & Parent)
- Parent Learning Reviews to discuss progress, attitudes to learning, achievements and to agree ways to collectively support children (Teacher, Parent & Child)
How are we developing our Thrive Curriculum?
- Regular discussions about the purpose of our curriculum
- Developing an understanding of the Four Purposes, What Matters, Knowledge, Skills and Experiences and Achievement Outcomes
- PLD sessions discussing the impact upon practice using the following as a focus:
- Professional Learning
- Structured time for collaboration in small groups and time to share and reflect as a whole school staff
- Systematic analysis of a Curriculum for Wales as it develops, ensuring our model and approach has integrity against the national curriculum and also serves as a means of evaluating and refining our model in line with emerging developments
Questions we regularly ask ourselves to consider:
- How can we demonstrate progression towards the Four Purposes? How do we avoid this turning into simplistic tracking or measurement?
- How can we use the What Matters statements to demonstrate the learning taking place?
- How can we demonstrate an understanding of Knowledge, Skills and Experiences?
- Reflect upon areas/elements that may be causing for concern/challenging your thinking?
What we have found out, 18 months on…
- It’s not what you do it’s the ‘Why’ that you do it
- Our curriculum design model, linked to our vision, has supported staff understanding
- We are developing a curriculum that is meeting the needs of our children and relevant to our local context
- Our curriculum design gives staff the freedom to innovate, to follow children’s interests & develop the necessary knowledge, skills and experiences in order to move learning on
- Time for discussion, developing understanding, collaboration and planning is vital
- A deeper understanding of the Four Purposes is impacting upon planning for learning
- What Matters for our children and staff
- Children are making excellent progress, enjoying and engaging in learning
- Developing our understanding of Curriculum for Wales is:
- Knowing about Curriculum
- Knowing how ‘to do’ Curriculum
Staff have found the curriculum development a challenge but 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 improved work/life balance. The Leadership Team have a clear vision for curriculum design and the knowledge to direct and support teachers. Staff have commented that there is more flexibility and more professional trust, without which a team is unable to truly challenge thinking and norms. For us, this is not about more work or working harder but about the team working differently and prioritising what we feel is important.
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.
Vision, curriculum design and professional learning are crucial for embedding a culture of learning in our school. The Curriculum for Wales consists of a national level framework and enables school-level design and planning. For me, given that ‘Curriculum’ includes all the learning experiences and assessment activities planned in pursuit of agreed purposes of education, it is our moral purpose as school leaders to rise to this challenge, develop a culture of learning within our schools and collaborate to develop our school-level curriculum.
It is a privilege to be supporting the development of the Curriculum for Wales at Jubilee Park and to see the passion for learning in both staff and children. Together, we are looking forward to the next phase of our Thrive Curriculum development – full realisation.