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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Routes for Learning – Feedback event and a call for new videos

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Routes for Learning (RfL) materials are designed to support practitioners in assessing learners with profound and multiple learning difficulties (PMLD).

Alongside the development of the new curriculum, practitioners and academic experts have updated the RfL materials, which were published in July, 2020.   They consist of:

That work continues as professional learning and exemplar materials are developed to help practitioners use the new materials successfully. However at this stage feedback is needed to help complete the work, so a virtual event has been arranged:

On 2 December, practitioners are invited to preview the Professional Learning Materials and provide feedback.

Practitioners who would like to attend can request a place by emailing assessment@gov.wales   (with school/ setting and role details) before 25 November. The event is likely to start at 2.00 p.m. and last for two hours.

These are busy times, so practitioners unable to attend can provide feedback or suggestions to assessment@gov.wales

In a previous item on this blog, practitioner Aron Bradley described a feedback event earlier in the development process when practitioners were able to meet in person.

A call for Exemplification videos

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Professional learning for the new curriculum: tools and approaches – an Advisor ‘Head’ speaks!

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So Mark, how did the switch of roles come about – from Headteacher to ‘Professional Advisor’?

I was previously a ‘pioneer’ for digital and Maths and Numeracy, and have done a lot of work on collaboration. That might explain why I had a phone call out of the blue last January inviting me to help develop professional learning resources for teachers – to help schools prepare for the new curriculum.

I discussed it with my chair of governors. They felt it was an opportunity for my own professional learning as well, and agreed to support the secondment.

Q: You’re a fan of the new curriculum then?

Absolutely. The new curriculum brings schools the opportunity to be creative, to develop learners’ understanding in more flexible ways and to modernise the way teachers work in the digital age. I think it’s brave and teachers will appreciate the difference.

Q: So if you have a mantra, what is it?

We need to work together in schools! Collaboration is key. We re-invent the wheel too much in Wales.

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Swansea Pupil Referral Unit (PRU): new curriculum opportunities – in spite of Covid.

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At Swansea PRU we teach a range of learners from Foundation Phase through to KS4, all of whom have social, emotional, mental health or behavioural difficulties. The impact of Covid-19 has led to some of the greatest and fastest changes in what and how we teach our pupils that I have ever experienced, and probably the most challenging 6 months of my career.

As we start the 20/21 school year, we need to assess how the events of recent months have impacted on the well-being of our pupils, and to plan for how we can support their well-being, resilience and mental health as we move forward into the unpredictable year ahead.

We’ve tried our best to engage all learners, and whilst we may not have succeeded with every pupil every time, we’ve learned so much along the way. The creative strategies that teachers and associate staff developed during lock down have been inspirational. Necessity has driven a focus on engagement, well-being and shaping learning to meet our pupils’ individual needs and circumstances.

The new academic year will see us work together to implement the ‘new new’ learning environment in response to Covid. But alongside that we’re also planning to move into our new purpose-designed building at the start of 2021. Concerns and feelings of anxiety are counterbalanced by a sense of excitement and opportunity.

Before I tell you more about that, let’s look at how the new curriculum will help pupils at Swansea PRU.

Can Further Education learn from what’s happening with the new curriculum?

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The curriculum for Wales guidance has now been published. During the last year I had the opportunity to work as part of the Science and Technology Area of Learning and Experience group on the refinement of the curriculum after the draft was published in April.

Karl FE for the blog (2)My involvement with the group was from a computing perspective. I worked as part of the AoLE, but importantly I was also able to provide a perspective from the post-16 further education sector.

The Curriculum for Wales seeks a shift in classroom practice, as well as a new ideal as to the final goal of educating young people in Wales. Currently, teaching and assessment focus heavily on the ability to retain and regurgitate facts parrot-fashion, if learners are to be deemed successful. Continue reading

Technocamps Summer of STEM: Delivering Science and Technology through Distance Learning

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Technocamps item 2 top pic

School holidays are different this year, with pupils from all parts of Wales entering their Summer break after months of enforced lockdown in which learning has been all but limited to being online. Despite – or because of – this, there has been an overwhelming response to our Summer of STEM programme which runs throughout the first three weeks of August. Over 600 pupils aged 9 to 16 have signed up to join 15 days of inspiring, fun activities.

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Technocamps: Igniting Computation in the New Curriculum

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Technocamps logoIt is an extremely exciting if challenging time for schools in Wales with the dawn of the new curriculum, to be used in all schools from September 2022. It is exciting because it offers the opportunity for teachers and schools to develop and implement a curriculum tailored to their pupils, but could be challenging as cross-disciplinary Areas of Learning and Experience (AoLEs) are introduced, as well as new topics such as computation.

Technocamps’ mission has always been to inspire, motivate and engage people with computational thinking. We will be continuing this mission by helping teachers and their schools to develop effective and engaging teaching practices around the computation statement of What Matters in the Science and Technology AoLE.

The computation statement of What Matters states:

Computation is the foundation for our digital world:

Computation involves algorithms processing data to solve a wide range of real-world problems. Computational processes have changed the way we live, work, study and interact with each other and our environment. They provide the foundation for all software and hardware systems, but learners should also be aware of the limitations of what computers can achieve. To create and use digital technologies to their full potential, learners need to know how they work. They also need to understand that there are broad legal, social and ethical consequences to the use of technology. This can help learners to make informed decisions about the future development and application of technology.’  Continue reading

Updated Routes for Learning materials: practitioners meet to provide feedback

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Routes for Learning materials support practitioners in assessing learners with profound and multiple learning difficulties (PMLD). They focus on learners’ communication and social interaction skills, early cognitive development and their interaction with the environment. Practitioners and academic experts have come together to update these materials to support the wider Curriculum for Wales guidance and to reflect the latest research in the field.

As part of the updating process, draft materials were made available in January. In February, practitioners joined events in north and south Wales to discuss the developments and offer feedback in person. Aron Bradley, Headteacher from Ysgol Hen Felin, attended the Cardiff event:

Aron for Assessment blog post

‘I attended the Routes for Learning event to find out more about the updated materials and contribute to the feedback process.

It was insightful to hear first-hand from experts who have developed the updated materials. It was particularly interesting to listen to academics and current school practitioners about the journey in reviewing the previous guidance and its use with appropriate pupils across Wales. Academic research made available since that guidance was produced was shared, and showed why it needed to be updated. All of which supports the teaching, learning and assessment of this particular cohort of learners.

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