Working with pupils to plan a better curriculum

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Classroom

Ysgol Gynradd Gymraeg Lôn Las considers the pupil voice when providing opportunities to plan activities and decide on new themes. Teachers focus firmly on providing meaningful opportunities to develop pupils’ understanding of the four purposes. This case study represents the school’s curriculum development in relation to their progress in self-evaluation and planning and preparation.


Context

Ysgol Gynradd Gymraeg Lôn Las is in the village of Llansamlet near Swansea.  There are 520 pupils on roll.  A very few pupils are eligible for free school meals.  The school has identified that a few pupils have additional learning needs and a very few have a statement of additional learning needs.  A few come from homes where they speak Welsh.  Very few pupils come from ethnic minority or mixed backgrounds. 

Stage 1:  Evaluating the current curriculum within wider self-evaluation arrangements

Following the publication of Successful Futures, (Donaldson, 2015), leaders focused on developing the four purposes as staff needed to familiarise themselves with these aspects as the main considerations when developing an innovative curriculum.  In order to commence the work, members of the senior leadership team conducted a whole-school audit of the requirements of the four purposes.  Staff worked in year group teams to evaluate what they were already doing well and considered aspects that needed to develop further.  They scrutinised first hand evidence thoroughly to support the evaluation and decided to develop aspects that were not already being targeted in the school’s current improvement plan.

In order to gather evidence and to monitor which elements of the four purposes were already embedded in the school’s current curriculum, leaders focused initially on pupils’ books.  Pupils present their work in thematic experience books, which provide worthwhile opportunities for them to acquire skills across the curriculum.  These books provided staff with valuable evidence that enabled them to evaluate their current provision.  Leaders also considered the views of pupils and staff.  Pupils evaluated the themes they had studied every half term and consider the extent to which they had engaged with the work and whether or not the themes offered them opportunities to develop skills that related to the four purposes.  Staff were also asked to consider the success of the themes.  They discussed which ones allowed them the opportunities to plan and develop skills relevant to the four purposes.  Pupils identified the skills they developed in class and associated them with the different strands of the four purposes.  They also identified the aspects that they felt they had not already had opportunities to develop. 

At the end of each half term, pupils take their thematic books home to discuss their work with their parents.  This ensures that parents are fully aware of the learning opportunities that the school provides for their children.  They have an open discussion with their children about their achievements, next steps and targets in their learning.  Parents complete a form in response to pupils’ work, which the school uses to gather parental opinion on the school’s provision.  Leaders also considered the school’s self-evaluation document and performance data in order to establish important areas for development.  These areas included the following:

  • The school recognised that their current approach to curriculum planning in key stage 2 was well embedded, and supported Successful Futures. 
  • Leaders recognised the need to introduce the four purposes into their planning and decided to restructure their planning to ensure that the four purposes became the key focus for all activities planned.
  • Leaders mapped skills from the nursery class to Year 6 to ensure a clear continuum for the skills taught.
  • Classroom teachers trialled new themes to engage pupils fully and to target the four purposes.
  • Parents fully appreciated the opportunity to engage with their child’s workbooks and the responses received were very positive and supportive.

Stage 2:  Planning for change

The Headteacher held meetings to share self-evaluation findings with the whole staff and governors so that the school could plan its next steps.  Members of staff attended meetings with a cluster of local schools to gather ideas and reconsider planning for half-termly themes.  Staff were keen to create new themes that would spark pupils’ imagination, ones that would enable pupils to plan for investigative, enterprising, creative and ambitious activities.  Staff ensured that the themes placed more emphasis on developing the Cwricwlwm Cymreig.  Although leaders believe that this is a fundamental element of a new Curriculum for Wales, they also wanted to ensure that pupils developed a sound understanding of the world.  As a result, each class studies a different country as one of their themes in order to develop their understanding of internationalism, cultural diversity and global citizenship.

Leaders decided to restructure their planning in order to incorporate the four purposes and to give staff an opportunity to trial various strategies, such as ‘thematic enriched tasks’; ‘entrepreneur activities’; digital activities such as using green screen technology and Lego coding; and daily numeracy and oracy sessions.  When planning activities, teachers focused firmly on providing meaningful opportunities to develop pupils’ understanding of the four purposes.

As a result of the initial audit, leaders realised that pedagogy in key stage 2 broadly corresponded with the principles and ideology of Successful Futures, (Donaldson, 2015).  The school has adapted on integrated approach to teaching and learning based on The Leonardo Effect.  This has become embedded and has been developed over a period of 10 years.  The school’s approach to planning and pedagogy encourages pupils to research, observe, record, experiment, develop ideas, imagine and be creative.  The approach goes beyond the conventional concept of cross-curricular teaching.  Pupils plan for their own learning as leaders believe that primary pupils do not put learning into boxes, or ‘subjects’.  The school’s approach to planning and pedagogy offers a creative method of teaching that engages all pupils and teachers.

As a result of their current practice, leaders felt that there was no need for the school to change for the sake of change.  They decided to continue to develop this pedagogical approach in key stage 2 and incorporate a few aspects at the end of the foundation phase in order support transition. 

School leaders organised a presentation for the governors in order to inform them of the ongoing changes.  This included a question and answer evening, and there was a positive response to the exciting changes.  Following this, governors carried out learning walks so that they could observe lessons and activities.  This was something new that the school introduced following the success of the school’s ‘Bring a parent to school week’.  The learning walks focused on:

  • pupils’ engagement with their learning
  • the interaction between pupils and teachers
  • school and class ethos
  • the variety of activities introduced within each year group
  • pupil voice
  • pedagogy

The learning walks provided the governing body with an insight into the school’s ongoing changes and how the whole school is embracing Donaldson’s vision for the future.

In order to manage and prepare fully for change, leaders decided to restructure the staff’s responsibilities and, rather than having subject co-ordinators, the school organised area working groups with representatives from all departments.  This is an effective way of monitoring across the school, by scrutinising planning and pupils’ work, as well as observing lessons.  This ensures that school leaders collaborate with all teachers to plan activities.  They also monitor teaching and moderate pupil Assessment, and track their attainment carefully to ensure a high standard of provision across the curriculum.

Leaders continue to consider the pupil voice when providing opportunities to plan activities and lines of enquiry for themes.  This leads to pupils offering ideas for educational visits that support and stimulate their learning.

Before the start of each half term, teachers consider pupils’ plans.  Within the departments, they plan jointly for possible activities.  Teachers adapt them each week, by considering new emerging lines of enquiry as well as current developments and news items from around the world around them.

A key factor in implementing change and responding to self-evaluation outcomes is that leaders allow sufficient time to trial any new plans and teaching methodology.  Nothing is changed until all stakeholders understand why it needs to be change.

Links

http://www.ygglonlas.co.uk/