Preparing for Curriculum for Wales
A case study on Pontarddulais Primary School
Using the 12 Pedagogical Principles to Prepare for Curriculum for Wales
The school is in Pontarddulais, a town 8 miles to the northwest of Swansea. The school has a two-form entry and feeds the secondary Pontarddulais Comprehensive. As part of the education reform process currently underway in Wales, staff at the school are involved in the pioneer development process for professional learning and have been involved in several all Wales conferences, workshops and creation activities ready for the delivery of the new curriculum documents in January 2020.
What were we asked to support?
Gareth Davies headteacher at Pontarddulais and his deputy Cath Jones had completed a staff survey on how confident staff felt to address the 12 pedagogical principles outlined in Successful Futures by Prof Graham Donaldson. Creative and critical thinking had been highlighted during the survey process as the principle from the 12 that staff felt the least comfortable and confident with. Our support had two key aims to; support senior leaders to set a strategic vision for the development of problem solving, creative and critical thinking and to work together with senior & middle leaders to develop a teacher’s toolkit for this pedagogical principle in line with Successful Futures
What did we do?
The head and deputy were keen to set a strategic vision for the development of creative and critical thinking that staff could take ownership of, and that would have a lasting impact on pupils’ competence. The driver for the school was to ensure all pupils had the skills required to become a capable independent learner, ready to deal with adult life. As part of our initial discussion with the school we suggested that for staff to really have ownership any training or collaborative planning should be led and delivered by school staff. Our role would be to facilitate senior and middle leaders to identify, evaluate and fully understand the most relevant research, effective teaching strategies and the expectations of the pedagogical principle outlined in Successful Futures.
As a result of detailed discussions about current staff expertise we designed and delivered a half day of training to the head and deputy and then a full day of training to a wider middle and senior leadership group. The training included:
An analysis of the expectations of Successful Futures regarding pedagogy
Evaluation and discussion of problem solving research from the OECD and other key cognitive science and educational research
Collaborative creation of a strategic approach for the development of problem solving, creative & critical thinking across the school
Identification of key strategies, research and teaching approaches to explore with whole staff
Pontarddulais Primary as a Pioneer school is already working hard to prepare for the new Curriculum for Wales, due to be published in January 2020. Staff have focussed on explicit discussion of the 4 purposes with pupils and a concerted effort to embed them across the curriculum. Senior leaders have a similar focus on the 12 pedagogical principles from Successful Futures and have recognised that to create the truly better education Professor Graham Donaldson talks about in his review of the current curriculum, they need to develop and support the professional learning of their staff. Through engaging directly with the expectations of Successful Futures and the most relevant research their staff now have a clear understanding of what excellent problem solving using creative and critical thinking looks like in a range of contexts. Staff also understand how well the current curriculum provision is for developing pupils’ thinking skills and what more they need to do to improve their provision. The long-term impact of this training will be a self-improving school staff able to effectively evaluate and create problem solving provision that will support pupils to excel.
Next steps for the school
The school now need to use planning time towards the end of the academic year to redesign problem solving opportunities, so they more closely align with the 4-element model presented by OECD research. Staff also need to develop further opportunities across all areas of the curriculum using their deeper understanding of how creative and critical thinking are used to solve problems across a wide range of contexts.
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