Thinking About The Curriculum

24 Nov

One of the criticisms of teaching unions is that they are focussed only on protecting teachers. That may sound a little odd.  Of course all teaching unions should be very concerned with standing up for the terms and conditions of their members.  After all, ensuring practitioners are not exploited; that the remuneration packages they receive reflect fairly the professionalism of the post; that workload does not reach unsustainable levels and that conditions of service are respected are central reasons why individuals join a union.  They also all indirectly impact on education standards.  An overworked and undervalued teacher will not result in a system of high achieving pupils.

However, while the casework of protecting members conditions of service and supporting them when needed is something the union I work for can be proud of, NUT Cymru are also very much an education union.  We are an organisation that are clear about the inter-related roles of improving education and improving the lives of educators.  Doing what is best to benefit pupils is absolutely not mutually exclusive to doing what is best to benefit teachers.

The truth is that the vast majority of teachers join a union as some sort of ‘insurance policy.’  They know their union will be there for them should something go wrong.  It is a slightly depressing view but for many it is the reality.  What NUT Cymru has sought to do is to create an environment where teachers get value for their membership.  We want teachers who would otherwise never come into contact with their union on a direct basis to enhance their professional capabilities through our relationship with them.  This is why we put on regular conferences for young teachers; conferences on behaviour management and courses for developing and aspiring Welsh speakers.

Over the last week I helped stage a curriculum conference in Wales.  It was brought about due to the fantastic work colleagues in England have done as part of their ‘Year of the Curriculum’ campaign, as well as the challenges the soon to be reported Donaldson Review will create.

Ros Graphic

This fantastic graphic visual was produced by Fran O’Hara during a session on lessons from the Year of the Curriculum campaign in England

I was delighted with the result of the day.  The programme went from the global challenges, outlined powerfully by Professor Susan Robertson of Bristol University, right the way through to the hyper-local with a session from Jane Jenkins, Headteacher of Moorland Primary School.  There was a wide variety of different approaches from round table discussions; table debates; presentations; world cafe scenarios and the above visual graphics.

Keynote sessions were delivered by Professor Susan Robertson; Professor Mel Ainscow and the Welsh Government’s curriculum review lead himself Professor Graham Donaldson.  The sessions were so well received and thought-provoking that instead of a brief summary here I thought I would look at them in more depth over the next week or two.

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