Health and Well-being – for pupils and staff at St Illtyd’s Primary School

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Health and well-being is always important, but never more so than during the current challenges we face as professionals. We have pupil groups and staff members away from school with symptoms of Covid or self-isolating, and an expectation to adjust to ever-changing climates. So well-being has to be our paramount priority for staff, learners and our communities.

In our case, like many of the experiences of schools across Wales. We have had to navigate our way through three pupil group class closures, engaging with distance learning and a high proportion of our core members of staff away from school due to the variety of challenges that accompany responses to Covid. It’s a recognised challenge for the whole profession at this time.

The ‘good news’ part of this story is that we have been able to continue our focus and draw upon our engagement in developing Health and Well-being as one of the Areas of Learning and Experience. This has been a sustained, collectively recognised priority for our school and we have continued to embed new practices through exploring the new curriculum during this time. Well-being has been the driver in this provision with the accompanying AoLE supporting our aim with a firm focus on the cross-curricular skills.

For us, the momentum to embed a rich well-being provision grew in 2018. We established a professional learning community (I’ll call it the PLC from here on) including volunteers from members of the school community at various levels.

Why is Well-being so important at St Illtyd’s Primary?

From our robust needs analysis, our learners were deemed to be lacking in resilience, motivation and effort – linked to interruptions in their well-being.  How do we know? Our robust evaluation and knowledge of our learners and their context, told us we needed to work particularly hard to develop a good sense of well-being in all our children. Drawing on this local knowledge and relational information, the aims and vision for the PLC were captured in a collaboratively-shaped vision statement (see later), for enhancing the well-being for the community at St Illtyd’s Primary. We used this information to form a learner based profile known as the ‘Well-being Web’, explained later in this post.

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Curriculum and Assessment Bill passed by Senedd

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The Curriculum and Assessment (Wales) Bill has completed its final stage in the Senedd before being passed into law. Following Royal Assent, anticipated in April, the Bill will become the Curriculum and Assessment (Wales) Act 2021.

The Curriculum for Wales is due to be introduced from September 2022. 

Last year, the Minister published an updated action plan setting out the next steps in Wales’ reform journey, ahead of the introduction of the new Curriculum for Wales.

Alongside the updated Our National Mission action plan, the Welsh Government also published a document setting out shared expectations of what curriculum realisation means for practitioners and schools from 2022. Curriculum for Wales: the journey to 2022 has been created to help schools prepare for designing and implementing their curriculum.  In January, the Welsh Government published the Curriculum Implementation Plan which will steer our work with partners to deliver the Curriculum for Wales. 

The passage of the bill means that schools and teachers can now grasp the opportunity to design their own curricula to support their learners’ own development and learning journeys, working with parents and communities, within a nationally consistent framework. 

Parallel reforms to support introduction have also continued, notwithstanding the COVID-19 pandemic. New ‘Accountability, Evaluation and Improvement’ guidance is under consultation, and professional learning to support development of school-level curriculum continues apace with Consortia-led learning and useful interactive on-line sessions and resources:

Schools as learning organisations – Hwb (gov.wales)

National professional enquiry project – Hwb (gov.wales)

National pedagogy project – Hwb (gov.wales)

Georgina Haarhoff,

Deputy Director, Curriculum, Welsh Government.

Practitioners look beyond Covid and test a ‘national conversation’ model

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This Spring, the first ‘national conversation’ of its kind will see practitioners discuss lessons learned during the pandemic; how to support learning in the next phase; and how to ensure their learners progress. Experiences will be shared, and findings will help to inform national policy.

Short films to spark the conversations will feature leading academics Robin Bannerjee, Graham Donaldson, and Louise Hayward, along with Mike Griffiths, a former practitioner deeply involved in the development of the Curriculum for Wales.

The potential and opportunities offered by the new curriculum to inform approaches to teaching and learning in the next phase will be a sub-theme throughout.

A representative from every school and setting will be able to attend. That person does not need to be a senior leader, but will be capable of instigating similar conversations back at their school, and feeding back from the event. Booking is via Regional Consortia, which will fund each participant for 2.5 hours for attendance, and importantly to share the learning with colleagues in school.

Inevitably held online, practitioners will join virtual discussion groups – bringing together ideas and perspectives in sessions led by fellow practitioners.

These ‘national conversations’ will also be a useful test-bed for work to develop a national network of practitioners and stakeholders to take curriculum realisation forward. The sessions will give useful insight into the reach and accessibility that virtual events can offer, and how a “hybrid” model of face-to-face and virtual events could provide a template for a national network.

An extract below from the facilitator briefing on the ‘conversations’ provides more insight into what these events hope to achieve:

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British Sign Language as part of the Curriculum for Wales – Consultation

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New guidance has been developed to help schools use British Sign Language (BSL) in their curriculum design. It is available to view now in draft, and the consultation on its contents runs until 29th March.

BSL could be taught as a third or subsequent language, like French or German,  as part of a school’s curriculum for all children, as well as BSL provision for deaf and hard of hearing children.

As featured on this blog in December, the guidance will:

‘ …show how BSL can contribute to learners’ development towards all four purposes of the curriculum. It can, for example, encourage learners to step beyond familiar cultural boundaries and develop new ways of expressing and negotiating meaning in an inclusive deaf and hearing global society, addressing issues such as disability rights, minority languages, recognition of BSL and communication through technology. The additional guidance offers an opportunity to develop provision in the context of wider education reforms in Wales, such as equity, well-being, teaching and leadership.’

Your views are welcomed.

A BSL version of the consultation is available on YouTube.

Also see: Instructions for submitting BSL consultation response.

Consultation on changes to ‘evaluation, improvement and accountability’ which will support the new curriculum.

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A revised accountability system and framework for school improvement is seen as crucial if the new curriculum is to be successfully realised in schools.

Now, after extensive discussion with heads, education consortia and others, new school improvement guidance has been released for consultation.

The new draft guidance aims to:

  • strengthen the effectiveness of school self-evaluation and improvement planning
  • replace the national categorisation system with a support process that doesn’t involve publishing school categories
  • clarify how evaluation and improvement activities will be separate from the accountability system
  • clearly assign roles and responsibilities for each contributor to the self-improving system

This is an important milestone on Wales’ education reform journey, with significance for those beginning to work with the new curriculum in schools.

Views are welcome; the consultation runs until 15th March 2021.

Curriculum for Wales Implementation Plan

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Today I published the Curriculum for Wales Implementation Plan – a milestone in our reform programme and an important step on the journey towards achieving our transformational Curriculum for Wales. I want to give you a sense of what’s in the Implementation Plan, and why we’re publishing it now.

But before I set that out I want to let all practitioners know that I absolutely understand the context in which it is being revealed. I know that everyone in the education workforce remains under real and continuing pressure, working in extraordinary circumstances to continue to do the best for learners. I want to thank each and every one of you for your continued adaptability and resilience.

As you’ll know, in October we published Curriculum for Wales: the journey to 2022. It is a guide to help plan curriculum development activities in the run-up to the rollout of the Curriculum for Wales for Primary and Year 7 learners in September 2022.

The Implementation Plan builds on that. It sets out what Welsh Government, Education Consortia, Local Authorities and Estyn will do to support schools and settings as we move towards our new curriculum together. It includes clearly defined roles, responsibilities, and actions for each of those partners so you know what you can expect to see from each part of the wider system in the coming months and years.

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Farewell and thanks for everything

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When you see your own job advertised, as I recently have, you know the times they are a-changing. Indeed they have for all of us this year – it’s been a very strange one. As I wish you a peaceful Christmas, I’d like to pay tribute to you all.

This year I have witnessed remarkable strength and fortitude. Your resolve and creativity in taking lessons to our learners throughout the Covid days has been remarkable. You have been strong when often that hasn’t been easy. You’ve been even more crucial to sustaining our communities, and this year I think the wider population has come to understand that far more clearly. You are more valued than ever. Thank you for the wonderful work you do.

During the year I know that many – certainly those in primary and year 7 – have been thinking about ways in which the new curriculum will be brought to life in your schools. For me it feels as if the new curriculum was almost designed to give us the flexibility and positive framework to respond to the current circumstances. The new emphasis on Health and Well-being, the digital competence framework, the opportunity to bring perspective by looking at stories with real relevance to learners, they all feel like symbols of our time.

So as we move towards a better year in 2021 and I prepare to hand over to my successor in May, I’m thinking very positively about the curriculum, the wider education reforms that will support it (yes including accountability), the future for our profession, and the future for our learners. You are at the heart of all this.

Thank you all, take care and have a happy Christmas.

Steve Davies, Director for Education, Welsh Government.

British Sign Language: new opportunities through the Curriculum for Wales

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The Curriculum for Wales is designed to offer teachers flexibility and agency within a national framework; it sets out that all children should have a broad and balanced education, and make continued progress from age 3 to 16.

As part of the new curriculum, British Sign Language (BSL) can be taught as a third or subsequent language, like French or German. This means that BSL could form part of a school’s curriculum for all children, as well as BSL provision for deaf and hard of hearing children.

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Learner well-being and assessment: mutual support systems

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The Four Purposes of Curriculum for Wales (See page 23 of the Curriculum for Wales Guidance) embody a vision of education which incorporates the importance of learner well-being. Promoting learner well-being has been given added urgency by the impact on learners of the Covid-19 pandemic. Every practitioner can contribute significantly to the mental, emotional and social well-being of learners through their use of assessment in the classroom.

George MacBride pictured at
Myth or Reality ? EIS Conference. Picture Drew Farrell.

Well-being is more fundamental than immediate feelings of satisfaction: it encompasses developing as a person, flourishing, being fulfilled and contributing to the community. As the word suggests, it is concerned with ‘being’ at the present moment as well as ‘becoming’.

Three terms – affiliation, autonomy and agency* – usefully summarise interrelated characteristics of classroom cultures and practice that are fundamental to promoting well-being. As practitioners use assessment to support individual learners on an ongoing, day-to-day basis, and identify, capture and reflect on their progress over time [Guidance p224] they can promote affiliation, autonomy and agency through carrying out the mutually complementary responsibilities which the Guidance [p227] envisages for practitioners and learners.

Affiliation refers to the learner’s engagement as a member of a school community which supports progression in learning and a shared culture and ethos of respect for all. Respect includes recognising the right of children to have their voice listened to as they take part in school and classroom activities, including using assessment to review and plan their learning. This is particularly applicable in a curriculum which recognises that progression along the learning journey can follow different pathways within a common route map.

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