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Selling your School to Mystic Megs:

Updated: Jun 26, 2020

Private consultants and their roles in the new curriculum for Wales?

In a recent blog entitled,“Do not buy the snake oil” by Sean Harford, National Director for Ofsted, he points out the danger of schools buying in consultants who promise to have all the answers to ensure schools will remain safe in their next inspection. Essentially, the point he is making is that fear sells; he makes a very valid point in that there is a lucrative industry selling ‘what Ofsted wants’ or ‘save five hours of staff time a day’ or even ‘see dramatic impact in just six weeks!’

Sean Harford, National Director for Ofsted

This is certainly reflected in Wales, where in the development of the new curriculum consultants are very much been kept at arms length in the process. This is, I would assert, for good reason. I assume Welsh Government are very conscious not to allow private companies to write schemes of work that they can then sell to schools as 'The New Curriculum for Wales’. Or have consultants peddling programmes so that schools can “Be Donaldson ready.”

Sean Harford’s warning, “Please do not hand over your silver to these Mystic Megs,“ seems very apt here in Wales, even though his comment was in relation to the new Ofsted framework that is used across the bridge.

However, as a newly established Mystic Meg (private consultant), who is now outside the system I feel the need to write back in defense of the potential that consultants have in ensuring schools are ready to meet the needs of the new curriculum for Wales, and we can continue to have a positive impact on pupil outcomes for the future.

1. Schools as Learning Organisations

As a former head of a Cohort 1 teaching school, I am an ardent advocate of a self-improving system. Welsh Government have predominantly charged schools with this task. However this is problematic in that school’s primary function is to teach pupils, not develop new ‘stuff’. Schools are highly rigid organisations that require time to change in a meaningful manner. Whilst teachers may have a teaching and learning responsibility for curriculum development in Pioneer Schools, and the expertise to develop exciting ideas for the future, the fact remains they still have a statutory responsibility to deliver the old curriculum along with a full time job in the classroom. As a consultant my main focus is to support schools; I have time to research and develop meaningful ideas, write blogs such as this at no cost to schools. In a sense, a consultant is a pay as you go teaching and learning responsibility post holder, which is in fact more cost effective.

2. Evolution Not Revolution

Many schools are worrying over what this exciting new curriculum will mean for them, and as a Mystic Meg (private consultant) I am wondering just the same as everyone else… which is very little aside from the usual Chinese whispers. The simple fact remains, some aspects of learning will have to remain the same. For example, you cannot have a curriculum without ‘phonics’ or ‘number bonds’ regardless of what period of history you focus on. This brave new world will be a slow evolution rather than an on overnight revolution. My role is to offer a more objective perspective. The greatest perks of my role is that I work in many schools, rather than remaining in the goldfish bowl of my own school. Buying in a consultant can be cheaper than sending three members of staff to look at practice in a school held up as best practice.

3. Pedagogy is more important than the Curriculum Content

As Dylan Williams points out: “A bad curriculum well taught is invariably a better experience for students than a good curriculum badly taught: pedagogy trumps curriculum. Or more precisely, pedagogy is curriculum, because what matters is how things are taught, rather than what is taught.” 

Whilst many of the AOLE’s are still wrangling over their area of learning and the draft curriculum (that is not due until this April, and will take a further two years in development), we do know one thing - good teaching is good teaching! It was back in 1988 when I was a child, before the old National Curriculum was introduced, and continues to still be just as important now. Professor Donaldson himself made this point with his 12 pedagogical principles. So regardless of what the actual content is, we as consultants can still support your school to prepare for the future. However unknown, the future has to be based on staff who understand the craft of teaching.

In conclusion Mystic Meg I may be, but as a school leader I would be using quality educational consultants in order to develop the pedagogy of my staff, rather than guessing at the content of the curriculum.

The Right Learning Company is dedicated to supporting school leaders to improve pedagogy. If you would like to book a consultant in your school please get in touch.

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