One of the leading figures in Welsh education was invited to the University of Wales Trinity Saint David to inspire the next generation of teachers. 

Education expert and author of the Welsh Government’s ‘Successful Futures’ report, Professor Graham Donaldson, addressed more than 600 future and practising teachers at Yr Athrofa, UWTSD’s Institute of Education. Professor Donaldson was the keynote speaker at Yr Athrofa’s ‘Aiming for Excellence’ conference, an annual celebration of the teaching profession and excellent practice going on in Welsh classrooms.

The event took place at the Selwyn Samuel Centre, in Llanelli, and featured presentations by lecturers, school staff and a host of talented student teachers. During his headline address, Professor Donaldson explained in detail how the curriculum would be implemented and what the implications were moving forward. He said “it is a great time to be entering the profession in Wales” and “there’s something about what’s happening in Wales that’s really, really exciting”.

In March 2014, Professor Donaldson was commissioned by the Welsh Government to consider and review Curriculum and Assessment Arrangements in Wales. The subsequent ‘Successful Futures‘ report looks at the current curriculum in Wales and offers numerous radical proposals for change.  Draft curriculum documents were published late last month after nearly three years’ co-construction with Pioneer Schools. A consultation on the papers will run until July.

Following the conference, Professor Donaldson said: “Holding conferences like this one arranged by the University of Wales Trinity Saint David is vital as we try and engage with those individuals who’ll be at the heart of what we’re trying to do and achieve in the next few years and beyond.

“What was clear at the ‘Aiming for Excellence’ conference was the level of enthusiasm and determination amongst our trainee teachers to take our proposals forward and make them work for the children and young people of Wales. Events like today, from my point of view, are hugely affirming. This is the new curriculum taking shape before our eyes and all that we’ve seen today in terms of the stalls and the presentations from the teachers and the young people – this is what the whole reform in Wales is all about.”

The event, displaying a number of Athrofa Professional Learning Partnership (APLP) schools was opened with a special video message to student teachers from Education Minister Kirsty Williams, who spoke of the crucial role they have in shaping young people’s lives.

The ‘Aiming for Excellence’ conference is arranged annually by Yr Athrofa and is aimed at bringing all BA Education, PGCE Primary and PGCE Secondary student-teachers together in order to share good practice as they prepare for a career in teaching. Yr Athrofa – the Institute of Education – is a coalition of international leaders of education working to transform education and transform lives in Wales.  Established by UWTSD, Yr Athrofa has three component parts – A Professional Learning Partnership, Centres of Research and Innovation and the Wales Education Commission – that build on the proud history of teacher education in South West Wales.

Siobhan Eleri is currently in her second year, is studying on the BA (Hons) Education Studies programme and was one of the speakers at the conference. Following her presentation, she commented:

“Holding an event like this is vital and it’s an opportunity to celebrate everything that is wonderful about the sector. It is important for us to have the opportunity to come together and share ideas and to hear why teaching is such a wonderful and rewarding career, and many of the presentations here today were truly inspiring. I was delighted to have the opportunity to speak from the stage – it really was a fantastic experience. I’d like to thank the organisers for arranging such a brilliant event.”

Event organiser Mathew Jones, from Yr Athrofa, added: “We were delighted that Professor Donaldson took time out of his busy schedule to join us at our Aiming for Excellence conference for the third year in succession. His contribution was truly inspirational and the conference provided a unique opportunity for our students to share a stage with one of the leading names in Welsh education. They took the opportunity with both hands, highlighting their wonderful achievements and sharing the excellent practice they have been developing with colleagues in schools.

“Listening to Professor Donaldson speak about our future curriculum was very exciting for our students and I know that this experience will be hugely beneficial to them as they look forward to starting their own careers in the teaching profession.

“Once again, it was an extremely successful conference with over 600 students and colleagues attending the event, and nearly 2000 viewing on our live stream. The conference is now in its seventh year and is getting bigger and better every year. I’m very much looking forward to next year’s event as we hope to build further on this year’s success.”