Interview with Rhys Roberts

“Telling important stories and helping people learn can only begin when children feel supported in a safe environment.”

Inclusive, generous and friendly, Rhys Roberts makes up the new breed of educators taking Wales forward and rolling out the all new curriculum. He speaks to Elin Moe. 

One of my particular favourite schools on my journey with the HF team around Wales, making film for the all new Welsh PGCE Course, was Ysgol Corn Hir on Anglesey, a partner school with The Open University. I spoke with Rhys Roberts, the dynamic, award winning headteacher about the changes all new Welsh curriculum will bring.

Rhys believes there will be five big changes. He sees the first two in the areas of flexibility and creativity within the curriculum and he believes that will lead to more rounded individuals, due to this. The fourth change he sees as being more communication between schools and the sharing of expertise. This will make the transition between primary and secondary much smoother.

The fifth important area for change Rhys sees is wellbeing.  “This is an important part of the curriculum now, so we need to ensure that.”

“We’re all in a rat race, but children sometimes need to be taught how to relax, sometimes how to play. Some children come to school from very very difficult backgrounds. How do they switch off? What are the tools they need to be able to get on with their lives? These things have been on the back burner because the academic side has been so important with the old curriculum.”

To be honest if you have a difficult family life, for example with parents on drugs and all sorts of things. And you have had maybe a raid and the police have bashed your door last night. How do we help those children and ensure they do move to that good place, ready for learning?”

In Rhys’s school a member of staff has been identified to follow the role and taken an Emotional Literacy Support Assistant (ELSA) course. The outcome is they can use different strategies, depending on the individual and the needs at the time.  “She checks in with some children in the morning. If there have been any issues at home and the police have called, then we get those reports by 9am. I’m able to inform her and she will meet them at the door and get to spend time with that person. We are a trauma informed school.”  This could be a death in the family or any number of issues.

Rhys underlines how important a safe environment is for the children. “Once you get to this point, then the learning starts. You need the children to be comfortable and they need to feel they’re supported and then they’ll be ready to learn.”