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27 November 2017

How do we realise the new curriculum in Wales?

One of the main questions I hear from practitioners in schools is “how will we realise the new curriculum?” or more accurately they ask, “What will it look like?” so they can begin the process of sense-making to start on the path to realisation.

In the next few weeks we will get another update from the Strand 2 AoLE groups, who are now writing the “What Matters” statements for each Area of Learning and Experience (AoLE). So we’ll again get to see the direction and content of their work as it develops. As the curriculum begins to take shape it’s becoming clear with every step of the process that the curriculum philosophy will not be realised without all professionals engaging with a will to develop themselves through Professional Learning and Development.

My co-blogger James put it very succinctly a few weeks ago when he said “A self-improving system needs self-improving people” and that means at every level of the system.

So what practical tools will help us on this journey to curriculum realisation?

In September 2018 all practitioners, in every role, will have a new set of Professional Standards which are very different in philosophy to their predecessors. Our NQT’s and their mentors are already engaged in the process of developing themselves using these standards as they become compulsory for use with Induction from September 2017. So how will the standards help in a realisation of the curriculum?

Their stated aim is to “play a key role in helping teachers and leaders prepare for their role in the new curriculum, improved arrangements for ITE, strengthen leadership capacity at all levels and develop a national approach to professional learning”
Text Box:There is a shift in philosophy which asks us to manage our own performance and development in a far deeper way than previously as well as making explicit their role in preparing us for the new curriculum. They come with a set of “Values and dispositions” which affirm and promote a teacher’s professionalism. Included in those values is the need to be a professional learner –

The teacher is a professional learner and commits
to continuous engagement in career long development, collaboration and innovation”

Text Box:

The professional standards act as a gatekeeper for entry to the profession and describe the characteristics of a high status profession.

High quality pedagogy is at the heart of the standards – collaboration, innovation, professional learning and leadership work together to secure effective pedagogy.

All truly admirable aspirations put at a practical level, how will discussions in schools about Professional Development and Professional Learning help to realise the new curriculum? Let’s take a quick look at some of the descriptors that might help us to do this.

For Induction this year NQT’s and their mentors are looking at creating experiences which take account of the following aspects;

Managing the learning environment
Organisation of learners and colleagues, routines and resources is focussed on building learning habits and behaviours that meet the four purposes and are understood by learners in that context
Cross-curricular themes
Cross-curricular themes are used to build links between areas of learning and the learning within each component can be articulated.
The above descriptors are just two examples which talk the language of the new curriculum so, by using the standards as the skeleton with which we develop ourselves as professionals, we begin to open up the professional dialogue required in school to begin the journey to realisation. It is this professional dialogue which will be the enabler to allow practitioners to realise the curriculum in every setting in Wales. So it’s really important that in preparation for September 2018 practitioners get the chance to collaboratively make sense of the new standards before they apply them to their own professional development. Collaborative working with our peers will become ever more important as the curriculum develops as we look for innovative ways to find the time necessary for realisation.

The professional dialogue described above needs to happen between peers in the same and other settings as well as through the systems of self-reflection and evaluation which already exist. These will change and develop as we move closer to the new curriculum also. One big aspect of self-reflection at whole school level which is being developed in conjunction with the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and Wales is the Schools as a Learning Organisation concept. Just take a look at two of the seven strands which make up the elements of the concept;
Creating and supporting continuous learning opportunities for all staff
  • All staff engage in continuous professional learning to ensure their practice is critically informed and up to date
  • New staff receive induction support
  • All staff have access to coaching and mentoring support
  • Professional learning is focused on pupil learning and school goals
  • Staff are fully engaged in identifying the aims and priorities for their own professional learning
  • Professional learning challenges thinking as part of changing practice
  • Professional learning connects work-based learning and external expertise
  • Professional learning is based on assessment and feedback, including by pupils
  • Time and other resources are provided to support professional learning
  • The school’s culture promotes and supports professional learning
Promoting team learning and collaboration among all staff
  • Collaborative working and collective learning – face-to-face and through ICTs – are focused and enhance learning experiences and outcomes of pupils and/or staff practice
  • Staff reflect together on how to make their own learning more powerful
  • Staff learn how to work together as a team
  • Staff feel comfortable turning to each other for consultation and advice
  • Trust and mutual respect are core values
  • The school allocates time and other resources for collaborative working and collective learning
If as schools and professionals we can develop systems and processes that use both the standards and the Schools as Learning Organisation concepts to reflect and develop then we will definitely be moving in the right direction to realise the potential of the new curriculum for our learners.

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