IMPLEMENTATION OF THE DONALDSON REPORT 'SUCCESSFUL FUTURES' - CURRICULUM FOR WALES
Decision Maker: Performance Scrutiny Committee
Decision status: Recommendations Approved
The Chair welcomed to the meeting Councillor Huw Hilditch-Roberts (Lead Member for Education, Children’s Services and Public Engagement) and the Interim Head of Education together with GwE Representatives Mair Herbert and Jacqueline Chan. GwE as the Regional School Improvement Service was leading on the development and supporting schools in the implementation of the new curriculum for Wales following the publication of the Donaldson Report ‘Successful Futures’.
Councillor Hilditch-Roberts introduced the report (previously circulated) on how the regional consortium, in partnership with the local authority, were supporting schools in the implementation of the new curriculum, detailing the significant work undertaken in order to provide assurance to the Committee in that regard. He referred to the new curriculum as a positive way forward for teaching and the four main aims to help children and young people to be: ambitious and capable learners, enterprising and creative, ethical and informed citizens and healthy and confident. The impact of Covid 19 on schools and their preparation for implementing the new curriculum was highlighted together with work ongoing at various levels from individual schools, school clusters, across county, the region and nationally in order to share best practice. The Interim Head of Education added that the focus of the new curriculum was for each child to learn in the way that was right for them. The improvement and support offer for schools was aimed at supporting all practitioners with a focus on key themes around leadership, planning, vision, pedagogy and professional learning. Consultative workshops had been held to ensure the best offer was provided to schools with an excellent response and positive feedback from head teachers in both primary and secondary sectors keen to work together and ensure consistency. The work carried out by GwE was key to ensuring schools were ready for implementation of the new curriculum in September 2022.
The efforts to support schools had been detailed in the report and included –
· working with other regional consortia to develop a national professional learning offer that integrated all aspects of the wider reform
· a planned sequence of professional learning and training across the region with cluster-based sessions available for schools
· facilitating sessions for schools within a cluster to work collaboratively to strategically plan for implementation of the curriculum with activities to support those preparations having been identified within School Development Plans
· provided examples of planned activities to further prepare for the new curriculum including developing a shared vision; collaborating on common approaches to teaching and learning and within a specific Area of Learning and Experience
· additional support from GwE would be available for schools to access at both cluster and individual level including tailored bespoke support where needed
· further support included a series of ‘Think-Pieces’ written by GwE as part of the weekly reform sessions with Professor Donaldson covering key aspects of the curriculum reform journey being made available to schools
· in readiness for September 2022 work was ongoing with partners to develop a wide range of qualitative indicators to allow schools to reflect on how they were implementing the four aims of the new curriculum
· prior to lockdown over 90% of schools indicated they were either partly on track or better in their knowledge and understanding of the new framework; nearly all schools indicated they were partly on track or better with their engagement and participation in cluster work for preparing for the new curriculum. Work had continued since then to ensure progress to implementation remained on track.
During the ensuing debate the Lead Member, Interim Head of Service and GwE Representatives responded to members’ comments and questions as follows –
· the important work and responsibilities of school governors was acknowledged. In terms of pressures assurances were given that support was provided as appropriate with regular meetings to discuss any issues or concerns and there was an excellent relationship between the schools, local authority and GwE. The approach taken ensured that issues were identified and dealt with at an early stage thereby preventing an escalation of the problem
· there were six school clusters in Denbighshire (Prestatyn, Rhyl, Denbigh, Ruthin, Llangollen and Glan Clwyd) who worked together and it was reiterated that additional help was available to schools who worked within a cluster
· two schools had come out of special measures during the pandemic and the additional pressure on those schools to progress against Estyn recommendations was recognised. In addition to the general support offer agreed with schools in the implementation of the new curriculum, further bespoke support was provided to individual schools who required it
· despite the absence of legislative controls for elected home education there was a rigorous process in place to support pupils who were home schooled; however the implementation of the new curriculum could not be enforced with parents/carers choosing their own curriculum when educating at home
· religious education (RE) sat within the Humanities Area of Learning and Experience in the new curriculum which included religion, value and ethics, and assurances were provided that RE must be included and was very much safeguarded
· as part of the preparation schools should work together to ensure that there was an alignment in the transitions across the 3 – 16 year age group continuum and a continuation of learning with clarity on particular areas of learning within the age groups to ensure no repetition and progression of learners
· the planned sequence and timeline of professional learning and training available had been detailed within the report
· schools would trial their own curriculum and support would be provided in the evaluation of that and any adjustments required prior to formal implementation of the new curriculum in September 2022
· confirmed Qualification Wales was undertaking a consultation on reforming GCSEs to bring some of the elements and spirit of the new curriculum into those assessments; there had been no communicated changes to A/AS Level suites
· there were 27 ‘What Matters’ statements across the curriculum which were statutory and would be an integral part of the framework and inform its delivery
· Modern Foreign Languages sat within the Literacy and Communication Area of Learning and Experience and there was confidence that modern languages would be better regarded and allowed for in terms of curriculum time
· agreed it was a worthwhile suggestion from Councillor Graham Timms to provide a bank of local information on climate change for schools to access, and reported on the digital platforms already used both internally by the local authority via the hwb and externally on GwE’s website as a means of working collaboratively and sharing resources for the benefit of all authorities
· in response to concerns raised regarding the inappropriate use of mobile phones reported in some schools in England officers provided assurances that no significant concerns had been raised locally however, the use of social media platforms was an area of concern within the sector which would continue to be closely monitored.
At the end of debate the Chair conveyed his thanks for the comprehensive report and to those who had responded to the issues raised. The Committee –
RESOLVED: subject to the above observations to –
(a) receive the information provided in the report and its associated appendices, along with that delivered during the course of the discussion, on the work undertaken to date by GwE in partnership with the Local Authority to support schools with the implementation of the New Curriculum for Wales following the publication of the Donaldson Report ‘Successful Futures’, and
(b) request that a further progress report be presented to the Committee during the Spring of 2022 detailing the readiness of all educational establishments and staff to deliver the new curriculum from September 2022 onwards.
Publication date: 10/06/2021
Date of decision: 10/06/2021
Decided at meeting: 10/06/2021 - Performance Scrutiny Committee