Back in January 2016 we became a pioneer cluster school in partnership with Romilly Primary School in Barry. A very exciting time with lots of blue sky thinking after hearing Professor Graham Donaldson speak at Cardiff City Stadium. It’s hard not to become enthused at the prospect of developing this forward thinking / future proof curriculum for the learners of Wales.
Subsequently in the following months lots of time was spent reading and reflecting on the Successful Futures document and the impact that we could potentially have.
Strand 1 working groups were soon established and we were assigned to the ‘Enrichment and Experiences’ group. This group was made up of fellow pioneer schools exploring ‘an approach to teaching and learning that actively engages children and young people and encourages independent and individual thinking and responses’, while forming ‘Principles of Enrichment and Experience’ which have since been published.
It was during this process of working with pioneer schools we quickly realised we needed to do more and engage with a greater number and wider range of schools than just those signed up to be ‘Pioneer Schools’. There was a worry that other schools in Barry (Vale of Glamorgan) would be left out and all this work would be done behind closed doors. When actually we should be engaging and working with the schools in our cluster to share developments and gather their feedback, after our pioneer meetings. They could then begin to disseminate information within their schools to teachers, LSAs, governors and other stakeholders.
We used the already well established Barry Heads Network to create a ‘Donaldson Champion Network’ across Barry. Each head teacher assigned a ‘Champion’ from their school and we held our first meeting with 9 schools in June 2016.
The aim of this network was to work towards a greater understanding of Successful Futures and prepare for the implementation of ‘A Curriculum for Wales – a curriculum for life’ within our cluster.
Niki Williams (Assistant Head teacher) and I started off the initial meeting with a discussion about ‘What the champions already knew about the potential new curriculum? We then looked at the recommendations and main points from Successful Futures.
This was followed by an audit of enrichment and experiences their schools offer and how they are already meeting the four purposes. This was a great exercise which allowed for lots of sharing and professional discussion. An air of calm resonated around the room as ‘Champions’ soon realised they were already going some way to meeting the four purposes within their current provision at their schools.
We finished the meeting by sharing resources that they could take away and be used in INSET sessions with staff / governors back at their schools.
Since the June meeting we have held monthly half-day meetings and gained a few new ‘Donaldson Champions’ along the way. We currently have 12 primary schools and 1 secondary actively involved in our ‘Donaldson Champion Network’.
What have we done so far:
- Gather feedback on Strand 1 + Strand 2 developments to feedback to ‘Enrichment and Experiences group’ and ‘Health and wellbeing AoLE group’
- Support and resources for INSETs and Governor’s meetings
- Creating action plans Short >Medium >Long term
- Mapped each of the four purposes statements with suggested progression from Nursery/Reception > Year 1/2 > Year 3/4 > Year 5/6/7
- Deliver feedback from Strand 1 working groups > Input into strand 2
- Professional conversations
- Impact- ’Back at the ranch!’ – Feedback from Champions with what has worked well with things they have trialed or established back at their school.
- Investigating ‘Health and Wellbeing’ across the school
- Champions are now leading sessions– tailor-made
The feedback we have had from the schools involved has been extremely positive as evidenced by our growing numbers!
The main successes are:
- Staff in non-pioneer schools are feeling more confident in implementing the new curriculum when it does become statutory
- Greater understanding of the pedagogy behind the new curriculum
- How the four purposes could be achieved within their year group
Finally, a recent development of our network has been that we’ve engaged with our SIG group and we will be creating a ‘SIG 24 Donaldson Champion Network’ expanding on the model that has now been established in Barry across CSC.