My post simply focuses on our ability to form a ‘Bright Future’ in our schools and having the confidence to make a contribution is key to this. Everyone understands that you need self-confidence to succeed, and at my school I often tried to build pupils self-confidence particularly in the context of work of which they were not completely sure. I strongly believe that we need to teach the value of ‘self-confidence’ to pupils along with several other values, however, in this post I would like to focus more on teachers and a period of special opportunities facing us as the new curriculum is formed.
At the CSC Conference at the beginning of February, it became clear that the new curriculum, ‘Successful Futures’, is going to give us the opportunity to go for it and create a bright future. Staff in our schools will be shaping the content of the new curriculum. This, of course, can cause concern, particularly with regard to assessment and progress tracking but my point is simply that we need confidence to move forward and contribute to processes to form the curriculum.
Everyone is now aware of the 4 purposes, 6 areas etcetera, but what creates difficulties and uncertainly is the unknown. Often, lack of knowledge can lead to concerns considering that most staff in our schools have worked within the narrow rules of Curriculum 2008 without having had the opportunity to create exciting topics that evolve during the term by following the pupil voice. When I began working as a young teacher at Ysgol Santes Tudful (a long time ago) I was very fortunate to have a mentor that was willing to think creatively about learning topics. There was no mention of an ‘off the shelf' option but there were a few aims that guided us:
- The topic needs to engage pupils, particularly the boys
- Consider a school trip when planning a topic
- Use a reading book as a prompt
- Consider the curriculum when planning a mind map
As a starting point, I believe that the 4 aims above are still relevant today. I remember the topics that I taught as a young teacher more than the more recent ones. 'The Iron Man' was one of my favourite topics. This topic had a clear focus on the local environment, therefore the school trip meant going on a tour of Merthyr, including Cyfarthfa Castle and Joseph Parry’s cottage. I am sure that you can guess the book in question.
When studying the Celts, we went to Castell Henllys and, one year, we built a roundhouse - a full size roundhouse – on school grounds with help from staff, parents and pupils. It was a great experience. Each child, without exception, contributed to the planning, construction and evaluation. This work led to us being awarded the Heritage Award. These topics were successful because of the focus on the 4 aims listed above and due to the fact that the senior leadership team had the vision to support our work and to allow a young teacher to fly and enjoy every moment of the adventure.
We have a golden opportunity to shape a curriculum that will be relevant to Wales, appropriate for us and that will engage pupils. With faith in our ability and confidence in our hearts, we must take advantage of the situation in order to form a curriculum that is going to inspire pupils to enhance their knowledge, improve their skills and enjoy learning. In my opinion, the pupil voice must be a key part of this.
Socrates was right, we are all aware of the shortcomings of Curriculum 2008 but now is the time to work together to build a new future. Estyn has already said that they will accept schools’ efforts to adapt to the purposes of Successful Futures. Therefore, we have to believe that we have capacity to bring about change.
The statement came from the internet anonymously but the message is great.
With confidence, we all have our own voice to make a change and contribute to the future of education in Wales. Ultimately, you will be teaching the Curriculum and now is the time to take ownership of your future!