Leading educator and curriculum advisor, Professor Graham Donaldson has spoken at Cardiff Metropolitan University about his new radical curriculum for Wales.
In a lecture held at the University's Cyncoed campus, former schools inspector, Professor Donaldson spoke to PGCE Primary, PGCE Secondary and BA Secondary Student Teachers about his curriculum review 'Successful Futures' and gave students an insight into the potential changes. Professor Donaldson also held a small focus group with the student teachers.
'Successful Futures' is an independent review of the current curriculum in Wales. Commissioned by former Education Minister Huw Lewis, the review found the current arrangements no longer meet the needs of children and young people in Wales and therefore proposed fundamental changes.
Suggested changes to the curriculum include introducing six areas of learning which combine core and non-core subjects, and scrapping key stages in favour of five, three-year progression steps. The report highlights that current 'transitions' between key stages aren't sufficiently seamless, while five three-year stages would feel more like a journey. The new steps would mean progression must be recorded at every step to allow unified learning, and to ensure a smooth transition from primary to secondary education.
Professor Donaldson proposes giving teachers more control over what to teach, how to teach and how to assess pupils. His aim is to empower those within the profession to be creative and therefore raise the quality of learning and teaching in schools.
During his presentation, Prof. Donaldson states: "Teaching is a very important job. What teachers do will determine what children will do: it will determine what their futures are, so we need to create conditions that will equip them for this."
Prof. Donaldson continued by stating that there is a reductionist view of the current curriculum – children learn literacy and numeracy in primary education, then they must gain qualifications in secondary. He added: "There is a culture that implies every child must be well-qualified and this equates to being well-educated. But the two are not synonymous. Children are taught that learning is just a means to an end and are not taught that learning can be enjoyable and we need to change this."
One of the key themes in his proposal is for a balance between development of basic skills; subject knowledge application; creativity and broader preparation for future life, such as lifelong learning. Prof. Donaldson said: "We need to create a leadership culture as opposed to a followship culture, where people feel disempowered and wait for answers. Pupils should feel the enjoyment of the learning process and become lifelong learners."
"Taken as a whole, the recommendations in my report are designed to promote successful futures for all of the children and young people of Wales. They set an ambitious, rigorous and challenging agenda. From all I have seen and all whom I have had the privilege to meet, I have no doubt that you are well placed to realise these high aspirations."
Speaking about the lecture, Shelley Hopkins, PGCE Primary Student, said: "I have just applied for a position in a school where the Donaldson report is being used at the centre of a professional development programme. Having the chance to hear him speak this evening has really helped me to understand his vision for the new curriculum and, hopefully, prepare me well for my interview and future teaching career. Having also had the chance to speak with him in the focus group, I really appreciate what a unique and wonderful opportunity this has been for me."
This is the first time Cardiff Met has had the pleasure of a visit from Prof. Graham Donaldson, and discussions are in place to continue the relationship by repeating the lecture to inspire the next cohort.
Dan Davies, Dean of Cardiff School of Education, said: "Cardiff School of Education is proud to host Professor Donaldson at what is a very exciting time for our student teachers as they rise to the challenge of the Successful Futures curriculum. Graham's inspiring vision of a curriculum developed by schools around four key purposes and six areas of learning and development chimes perfectly with our philosophy. Our staff and students are keen to work with him and teacher colleagues to research and develop the new curriculum for the benefit of children and young people across Wales."
To read 'Successful Futures', please visit: http://gov.wales/docs/dcells/publications/150225-successful-futures-en.pdf