Weeknotes #9

When my week involves meeting lots of different and interesting people, learning lots, and taking forward positive action to improve public services… that’s pretty much perfection! And this week has been exactly that!

As I mentioned in last week’s weeknote, we have a number of collaborations with Swansea University as part of the  KESS 2 programme. One of our first was working with Hannah Spacey and her academic supervisor Gareth Stratton. Hannah’s research centres around two projects – Swan-Linx, which aims to collect data on the health and fitness of 9-11 year old children in South Wales, and ASCENT, a project which focuses on a school-based health, physical activity and wellbeing intervention with 12-15 year old girls.

Hannah is coming to the end of her PhD and is the process of writing-up her thesis. In it, she is exploring feminist theory and research methodologies, self-objectification and physical competence, and the promotion of participant voice and power. It was lovely to catch-up with Hannah this week. It’s been a joy to be part of her PhD journey and I am so proud of everything she has achieved.

The theme of education and research continued when I was lucky enough to attend a very interesting Professional Learning Session at Cardiff Metropolitan University organised by Dave Aldous and Fiona Diffey. The session was primarily aimed at the teaching profession; Dave knew, with my interest in education policy and my roles as a Non-Executive Director of the EAS and a parent governor at Ysgol Gymraeg y Ffin, that I would get a lot out of it too! Thank you Dave for inviting me!

The guest lecturer was Professor Dawn Penney from Edith Cowan University, Perth and she talked about the development and enactment of the Australian Curriculum and the transferable learning to Wales. Dawn’s lecture was very stimulating. Some of the key ‘take-ways’ for me were:

That there are complex dynamics that play out. There needs to be a crucial alignment of curriculum, assessment and pedagogy. Curriculum reform cannot be seen in isolation. It needs to be mutually-supportive with assessment and pedagogical reform;

The Curriculum for Wales, like the Australian curriculum, could be read progressively or conservatively, and therein lies its flexibility and fragility;

There are different levels of curriculum, including implicit curriculum policy. This means that there is a blurring of what is required and what is recommended. Teachers draw on practical wisdom and knowledge in adapting formal and implicit curriculum policy to suit local and institutional contexts;

Physical education has to narrate the education, sport and health space. This works best when its co-produced and asset-based; and

The notion of teachers as policy actors – narrators, entrepreneurs, translators, receivers, critics, enthusiasts.

Lots to reflect on here… What’s your role in curriculum reform?

Complexity. Relationships. Co-production. All of these, threaded through conversations I had with Lauren Carter-Davies, Phil Stevens, and Noreen Blanluet this week. At Sport Wales, we’re trying to embed a complexity-friendly approach to how we work. So it was great to discuss with Lauren how we practically do this, and particularly focusing on building capacity and capability in this area. One specific aspect of this is co-production and it was great to meet with Noreen from the Co-production Network Wales to discuss this further. If you haven’t seen the resources that they have to support co-production in Wales, they are definitely worth checking out. And then it all came together with a fab chat with Phil. It’s great when you come across someone who has the same energy, commitment, and reference points… someone who you can bounce ideas around with, where the conversation sparks other ideas and interests, and where it’s supportive and stimulating all in one!

My week ended with one of my favourite events – Gov Camp Cymru. A day full of optimism, stretched thinking and conversations. I love the unconference format – the flexibility, the fact that the content is designed in the moment, by the people who are there. I also love the mix of people… it’s quite unlike other conferences… the thing that unites is a desire to work differently to improve public services. All of this provides the conditions for a stimulating and exciting day of discovery.

The day coincided with the Global Youth Climate Strikes. Joe Baker pitched to take 11 minutes out at 11:00 to join the rest of the world in the strikes. So as a group of GovCampers we did exactly that! It set the tone of the unconference!

Continuing the networks, systems relationships theme… in Noreen Blanluet’s session about co-production, we talked about the need to explore what’s strong in our communities, not what’s wrong, and as part of this, how we move public service design and delivery to being a network rather than a hub and spoke.

In Dave McKenna’s session we came together to describe what the features of constructive conversations are and how do we enable them. Some of the things we highlighted were: curiosity; creating an environment that enables conversations to thrive; being present; improvisation; and compassion. An interesting follow-on discussion was around the applicability of this to online conversations and whether, in a digital world, we’ve lost the art of conversations. What do you think?

It was in the session exploring how we encourage innovation in our organisations that I decided to take some direct action! As a group, we had spent time talking about having a growth mindset, ensuring there is capacity as well as capability, having the right system conditions, and referring to Daniel Pink’s Drive: the surprising truth about what motivates us – in which he argues that human motivation is largely intrinsic and can be divided into autonomy, mastery and purpose. My direct action was linked to autonomy and purpose!


We were sitting in the Futures Gallery at the Pierhead Building in Cardiff Bay discussing all of this at the same time that lots of young people were protesting outside the Senedd about our Climate Emergency and Ecological Crisis. It just didn’t seem right for us to be inside talking about innovation in, of all places, the Futures Gallery, when innovation, action and the future was all happening outside. So, inspired by Greta Thunberg’s words – no-one is too small to make a difference – I led the group outside. Supporting our young people in their action seemed the right thing to do… and blimey, it was emotional and hugely inspirational!

Then Matthew Gatehouse made a good call to host his session on zero carbon councils on the steps of the Senedd. The environment is everything!

“Dear Teachers, we’ve become the leaders you wanted us to be…”


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Podcasts that I have listened to:

Reasons to be Cheerful with Ed Miliband and Geoff Lloyd. Missing Millions: time for automatic voter registration

RSA Events. How to be an Impact Entrepreneur

More or Less: Behind the Statistics. Maternal deaths, taxi driver earnings and statistical pop music

Profile. John Bercow

Profile. Gareth Thomas

Fortunately… with Fi and Jane. The Weezy Bum Bum Show, with Ian Wright

Fortunately… with Fi and Jane. 100 days to Christmas with Rev Kate Bottley

About Race with Reni Eddo-Lodge. White Women Crying is Racist!

Woman’s Hour Podcast. Shirley Ballas, Flexible Working, Lesley Manville

Four Thought. The P Word

PEP Talk. Council Tax and Vulnerable Debtors

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