Defining the Substance of Education – Creating the right culture for deep learning

The substance of education, says Amanda Spielman, will be at the centre of the draft new education inspection framework which will be published for consultation in the new year.  The substance, is essentially, the curriculum and how it is taught. This is re-inforced in the speech Ms Spielman has given following the announcement of her second Annual Report as Chief Inspector.  The message is clear, whilst the data is important as a measure of outcomes, it is the breadth of curriculum content that is under the spotlight especially poignant at key stage 2 and 3.  She says,

Here as in every country, the home language and maths are the spine of children’s learning.  But they can’t be the limit. They are the gateway subjects to a broad curriculum that includes humanities, science, languages and the creative subjects too.  Children should learn about the events that shaped our nation’s history, the forces that create our natural environment, the key scientific principles that underpin the world and universe around us, the ability to appreciate and participate in art and music, and develop some practical skills in crafts and technology.

The actual Annual Report focuses on four key themes:-

  • Getting the basics right
  • The impact of a lack of capacity and its effects on standards
  • The danger that schools are expected to become a panacea for all of society’s ills
  • The importance of focus on the substance of education

The over-arching message is that the profession is doing ok but there is still room for significant improvement. The report explains what has gone before. We as education professionals must look to the future and take control of what we believe is the right ‘substance of education’.  There is an implied criticism that across the whole sector, “there is a mentality of ‘what is measured is what gets done’ and this trumps the true purpose of education and curriculum thinking – the consideration of what needs to be taught and learned for a full education – has been eroded.”  A Spielman December 2018

If what is being said is to be believed and I can see no reason to doubt it we do have an opportunity to be a part of this evolution in the role OFSTED want to play in shaping the future ‘substance of education’.

Further research about how the curriculum is designed, delivered and assessed is due to be published this week. It will explain some more about how OFSTED  intend to inspect the curriculum and the draft new education framework will be published for consultation by the profession in January.  What has been said so far and what is due to be published give us the opportunity to shape an innovative curriculum offer. It should be pupil focused, rich in content and create opportunities for pupils to develop the skills for learning that will help them access a wide range of knowledge. It will also, incidentally, give pupils the ability to know how to answer SATS questions and respond with depth to the challenges of GCSE and beyond.

In conclusion I will quote from the most recent speech from Amanda Spielman,

What we will be interested in is the coherence, the sequencing and construction, the implementation of the curriculum, how it is being taught and how well children and young people are progressing in it. So, please, don’t leap for quick fixes or superficial solutions just to please OFSTED. That would be the wrong response.  From September, we’ll be interested in where you are going and how you intend to get there, not just whether you’ve arrived there yet.

We echo with such passion the sentiment here. The next two terms need to be a time for conversations, incisive discussions about subject knowledge and how pupils can deepen their understanding; questions about how we create opportunities for pupils to make connections across their learning; time to reflect on how the content relates to pupils’ own experience, interests and prior knowledge and time to share and cascade good practice linked to pedagogy, assessment and planning.

We have the CPD strategies and resources to support you and your teams.  There is no prescription here just a profound opportunity to make a difference.

Use coaching to foster the professional dialogue and challenge needed to create a cohesive, consistent and content rich curriculum that builds on prior learning and prepares pupils for the next stage or phase of their education.

Re-define your Curriculum Emphasis – Focus on learning and deepening understanding

The current emphasis on how the curriculum is planned and delivered should be a welcome opportunity for all senior leaders in schools to focus on ensuring their curriculum is all about learning and deepening understanding across a range of different topics, themes or subjects.  Amanda Spielman OFSTED’s Chief Inspector  started the debate, her concern, that the curriculum is narrowed to accommodate the need to teach to the test in Years 2 and 6 and in year 11 if not 10 as well is, in some cases, well founded.

Alongside this criticism is an acknowledgement that OFSTED may, in the past, have focused too much on the data and not enough on how that data is arrived at.  I have a long-held belief that focusing on passing tests and examinations at the expense of deepening learning over time is counter-productive.  Creating opportunities for pupils to access deep and rich text, apply numeracy skills to help to consolidate understanding of a problem or how to write to explain bias, cause and effect or express an opinion help to deepen their competence, strengthen their understanding and give them the resilience they need to see questions in a test or examination from different perspectives and give them a much better chance of coming up with the right level of response.

John West-Burnham in a research paper suggests that shallow learning is all about memorisation and leads to compliance and dependence and contributes very little in the pursuit of deep learning.  Read the whole paper here.Planning the curriculum should focus on what outcomes we want for pupils in terms of their knowledge and the skills that they need in order to access and apply that knowledge in a range of cross-curricular, thematic and subject contexts. Each school is different and that is why there is an imperative to focus on intent in relation to curriculum design that defines the right approach for individual school contexts.  Implementing that stated curriculum must focus on high quality pedagogy, teaching  that delivers inspirational learning and uses assessment strategies that lead to high levels of progression.  A positive impact is where all pupils have deepened their knowledge, are developing the core skills that will help them continue to make connections across all their learning and are mastering the wider cognitive skills that will ensure successful outcomes when they are tested or examined.

A good starting point is to have a detailed pro-forma scheme of work that everyone uses as part of planning in all departments, across all year groups and where appropriate for topic or sequential learning.  The headings should be built to ensure a consistency of purpose that mirrors the vision for deep knowledge and the development of the skills that will allow that vision to be realised.  These could include:-

  • What is the sequence of learning?
  • What do pupils know already to build on their knowledge and understanding?
  • What are the literacy skills that are intrinsic to the learning that are to be developed/further developed?
  • What are the numeracy skills that are intrinsic to the learning that can be developed/further developed?
  • What other learning skills will support the learning linked to deepening knowledge, fostering progression and demonstrating mastery?
  • What are the expected outcomes from this topic/series of lessons/theme?

The skills must be those that are naturally occurring as a part of learning. They do not need to be shoe-horned into the learning.  Also, pupils need to be a part of the process, continually re-enforcing their role in how they deepen their own learning, articulating what they need to do to make progress and improve their own work.

Whatever you do, don’t start from scratch.  In our last news-post we provided a tool called L.E.A.R.N. It starts with what will you leave in.  Always focus on what you do well before thinking about what needs to be changed.

Join us at one of our highly successful training days looking at how to re-define your curriculum, not for OFSTED but to reflect on how to make sure your curriculum is all about learning, highly effective pedagogy and the best outcomes for all pupils.

Read our news post that focuses on the skills/knowledge agenda

Focus on formative assessment to ensure the curriculum and how it is assessed is seen as a seamless process.

Formative Assessment – essential to assessing curriculum impact on learning and progression

Assessment should be an integral part of planning how to deliver a curriculum.  “They are inseparable” according to Amanda Spielman of OFSTED.  Research suggests that it is formative assessment that has the most impact on learning as long as teachers and support staff have the relevant skills to encourage pupils to focus on what they need to do to improve.

The EEF research into marking, A Marked Improvement? mainly focuses on summative written marking and its efficacy in aiding learning and progression. There is a tacit acknowledgement that written marking is time consuming and is a major contributor to teacher workload.  It is also clear from each of the sections of the research that formative assessment has a deep impact on learning and, therefore, should be an integral part of any kind of written marking policy.

If the curriculum is a focus for change or review then it is essential that this includes an opportunity to reflect on the efficacy of summative as well as formative assessment in enhancing pupils’ motivation, how they focus on how to improve their work following assessment and how they deepen their knowledge and understanding before moving onto the next topic.  The research suggests that for every aspect of assessment it is the involvement of the pupil in a dialogue about their work that has the most impact.

Here are some of the messages:

  • Focus feedback on the student and how they can improve and not the work they have produced
  • Make sure that pupils have the opportunity to re-visit previous learning where it dovetails into the next stage
  • Create the culture where learning is an expectation not an aspiration
  • Use highly skilled probing questions that ensure pupils are stretched and challenged to focus on how they can improve on their own work and find their own solutions
  • Create opportunities for pupils to work independently alone, in one-to-one situations and in groups to focus on how they can assess their own work
  • Deepen knowledge before introducing new topics or concepts
  • Present new information in small steps that are easily absorbed and that will not overwhelm
  • Distinguish between a mistake and an error
  • Be aware of misconception and try to find out why these occur for some pupils or for groups of pupils
  • Forget the grade, focus on how to allow pupils to focus on the skills they need to learn and improve

The conclusion here is that dialogue is essential to creating the right conditions for assessment that leads to learning.  Marking has its place but without a verbal interaction the impact of summative assessment is negligible. Developing the right skills to ensure formative assessment achieves successful outcomes requires a deepening of understanding of the power of deep and rich questioning techniques, the ability to listen and allow time for the pupil to draw their own conclusion and reflect on their own learning and giving pupils ownership of their own learning power.

Below we offer solutions focused CPD that looks at how the ensure that teachers and support staff have the skills and strategies to ensure formative assessment achieves positive learning outcomes and creates confident and independent learners.

 

 

What is a full and rounded education? Do schools have the answer for OFSTED?

In her speech to the NCAS (National Children and Adults Services) last week, Amanda Spielman asked the question,

“How are schools making sure that children get a full and rounded education?”

She said that OFSTED exists to shine a light where children and young people are not getting a good deal in their education or care.  With the proposed changes to the emphasis on inspection from next September it is essential for all those with responsibility for children and young people to shine their own spotlight on how the curriculum is designed and how effective the pedagogy is in ensuring all pupils deepen their knowledge and build their skills for learning.  We need to ask our own questions and focus on the answers that will ensure what we teach and how we teach has an impact on learning for all pupils.

Use our L.E.A.R.N. proforma to start the conversation in teams, from your SLT to teachers and their support staff.

  • Leave in – What is currently working well and does not need changing?
  • Explore possibilities- How can we build on our current strengths?
  • Amend and adapt – What works well but may need adapting or amending?
  • Replace- What do we need to change and how?
  • New innovations- What will be completely new and different?

Focus on the questions below as a starting point.  The coaching message firmly stated in the LEARN strategy outlined above is; start with what currently works well and build from there.

  • What are the mechanisms for collaborative planning of curriculum content across subjects, phases, year groups and key stages?
  • How do teachers ensure they are building on prior learning from year to year and key stage to key stage?
  • Where is the emphasis placed between the acquisition of knowledge and the development of the skills that pupils need in order to learn?
  • What is in place to ensure that assessment is consistent, accurate and provides opportunities for pupils to continuously improve the quality of their learning?
  • What strategies are in place to ensure that literacy and numeracy skills are applied in context across all learning thus ensuring pupils become unconsciously competent in their use of these skills?
  • To what extent are pupils involved in their own learning journey and are given opportunities to reflect on how they can improve their work and deepen their knowledge?

Everyone across the school or a partnership of schools needs to be working together to build a cohesive and collaborative curriculum that is pupil centred and delivers deep and rich learning content.  Where this happens the data that describes successful final outcomes will emerge without the need for pernicious intervention in year 6 or in year 11.  Highly focused CPD is key to creating this outcome.  We have designed a suite of training linked to the main and most pressing issues that will support schools to re-define their curriculum and how it is delivered.

There are many more relevant programmes and courses. Go to our website to find out more.

 

 

Triad planning for curriculum cohesion – Professional conversations that lead to transformational change

Build curriculum cohesion using this triad approach to planning and ensure curriculum cohesion delivers transformational change.

For leaders it is essential to have a clear vision for what the curriculum will achieve in ensuring all pupils achieve their full potential and have access to deep and rich content. Middle leaders including phase leaders, heads of departments, heads of teaching and learning and heads of inclusion all need to focus on; how the curriculum is taught;  how connections are made for the learner; what pedagogical approaches will ensure a knowledge rich and skills focused outcome for all pupils, and how assessment informs the next steps for learning.

Integral to the planning process is the need to continually quality assure the impact the teaching of the curriculum content is having on how pupils are building on their learning, deepening their knowledge and strengthening their competence in the use of a range of inter-related skills for learning. This requires all teachers, support staff and pupils to be a part of a whole school consistent and cohesive formative assessment strategy that accurately assesses progress, informs the need for intervention and ensures pupils are challenged towards higher achievement.

All staff involved in planning or implementing the curriculum need to have a clear view of the part they play in ensuring the curriculum delivers positive, deep and rich learning experiences for their pupils. Where this happens there is real evidence that pupils are receiving a curriculum for learning based on their needs and their potential. The key to success is to create opportunities for on-going professional conversations about learning and the curriculum, sharing good practice and reflecting on what works well and what could be improved.

Have a look at the Coaching in Education section of Learning Cultures’ website and ensure you and your staff have the coaching skills that will influence positive change.

Join us at one our Re-defining the curriculum courses.  They have been highly praised and continue to be in high demand,

This is not about OFSTED or inspection in general it is about what is best for pupils, teachers and the whole school.  Creating the right dialogue for change is transformational!

Coaching and Curriculum Cohesion – Create a culture where excellence is cascaded across the whole school

To create a culture where excellence and high-quality learning is cascaded across the whole school is best achieved through coaching.  Using coaching to ensure there is curriculum cohesion across all phases and stages will ensure all staff exceed and surpass expectations. Coaching encourages the use of positive and deep questioning that will enhance professional learning and challenge pupils. Coaching inspires innovation, helps individuals to embrace change and creates opportunities for the sharing and cascading of good and outstanding practice.

Amanda Spielman’s latest communication, her letter to the public accounts committee’s request for information confirms her intention to pursue a new category for the forthcoming changes to the OFSTED Inspection Framework ‘Quality of Education’ which will include curriculum intent, depth and breadth alongside the quality of teaching, the quality of pupils’ work and the resulting outcomes. The diagram below is my interpretation of the main components that need to be in place in order that schools know how their vision is translated into powerful learning over time.

Creating a culture that ensures all of the components above are carefully planned and implemented requires highly effective communication. Leading a Coaching School. Talented teams need to work together to manage change, create new approaches and build on what they currently do well.  Coaching from the Middle – How to influence change, build outstanding teams and lead innovation.

All teachers need to have a range of pedagogies and strategies for learning and assessment that will support pupils to build on their prior learning, deepen that learning and be ready to embrace challenge through the acquisition of knowledge and the use of associated skills. Coaching Towards Outstanding Teaching and Learning.  Pupils need to be an integral part of this and learner voice can be highly effective as part of an overall strategy. Coaching in the Classroom with Pupils.  Using coaching as the CPD vehicle to achieving the above is highly effective.

CPD is an essential component in creating a culture where staff accept positive change and work together to achieve the stated vision for excellence and improvement. What emerges from this particular cycle of change is exciting and should create a curriculum that is fit for purpose for the school, its pupils and the local and wider community within which it draws its cohort. However, the CPD and associated training must be relevant, sustainable and have an impact on learning and achievement for all.  Coaching is non-judgemental and non-directive, provides individuals with the opportunity to find their own solutions and learn how professional dialogue leads to successful outcomes for the school, teams and individual staff and pupils. It is the sharing and cascading of the learning both as part of an actual coaching training programme and how that is then cascaded to others to enhance its efficacy that makes the coaching training we offer so powerful.

Have a look at our Coaching in Education section on our website that has something for all staff.  Join us at one of our curriculum courses to look in great depth at how to ensure readiness for the changes:

or ask us about our INSET packages where we can help you to plan your CPD and curriculum strategies for intent, implementation and impact.

Curriculum Innovation – Seize the initiative and inspire outstanding learning and teaching

Outstanding pedagogy, inspiring curriculum content and a commitment to ensuring every learner achieves their full potential is what every leader in education wants to see happen on their watch.  So, let’s seize the initiative through carefully looking at what Amanda Spielman is saying and change the emphasis away from planning for results to planning for curriculum breadth and balance and creating a continuum of learning that deepens knowledge, builds skills and fosters creativity. The data, the positive results and the highly energised school staff and pupils will follow.

The political charge surrounding OFSTED’s foray into how the curriculum should be delivered is already in full swing.  Many commentators are having their say, some negative, some positive, most sceptical.  It is, in my opinion, the most welcome and pragmatic reflection on what needs to change in order for schools to win back the autonomy to use the talent they have to develop a curriculum that meets the needs of all their pupils.

Amanda Spielman talks about bringing back the ‘substance of education’.  I am sure all leaders of education including myself would agree that it never went away except in the fact that in order to keep our jobs and our sanity we have had to shape strategy towards data driven outcomes linked to SATs and GCSE results.  Free us from accountability regimes linked simply to one quality control measure at the end of primary and secondary schooling and the substance or whatever we would prefer to call it would blossom and grow like the pupils who receive that education.

This is an opportunity for all school leaders and their teams to review their curriculum and ask the questions:-

  • What are our intentions in relation to learning outcomes for all pupils?
  • How do we plan to ensure that all learners can build skills and access knowledge across all their learning?
  • How well do we build on prior learning to deepen knowledge and understanding?
  • How collaboratively do we build a cohesive and seamless curriculum that weaves the skills through the development of core and foundation or subject learning?
  • How can we measure impact and have the evidence of successful outcomes that are qualitative as well as quantitative?
  • How will we ensure all staff have the skills, knowledge and resources to build on what they already do well, embrace change and have the confidence to innovate?

The above is linked to what is deemed outstanding practice from national and international research.  It also echoes the current messages from OFSTED. What is being said so far makes sense.  Start the conversation and reflect on current and future curriculum intent, implementation and impact linked to the questions above and positive change will ensue regardless of what OFSTED or policy makers say.

Our training programmes focus on how you can achieve a cohesive, collaborative, skills focused and knowledge rich curriculum offer that will lead to successful outcomes for all learners. The two courses below are a starting point for all senior and middle leaders with responsibility for curriculum design.

Then put coaching at the heart of your CPD strategy and develop a culture of collaboration and structured learning conversations and watch positive change create outstanding futures. Have a look at our Coaching in Education courses.

Curriculum Conversations and Professional Dialogue to Shape a Learning Culture

Curriculum conversations and the power of coaching

We need to start to have curriculum conversations especially about the three questions that emerge from the latest announcement on changes to the OFSTED handbook for next September relating to the curriculum.  Amanda Spielman’s speech to Schools North East summit

  • What is it that schools want for their pupils? (Intent)
  • How well does teaching and assessment fulfil this intent? (Implementation)
  • What is the impact on results and the wider outcomes that children achieve? (Impact)

These questions are explored in our Re-defining the Curriculum courses.

The fundamental changes link closely to how well leaders, managers and teachers can articulate their intent in relation to the content of the curriculum and how it is sequenced. There is a clear emphasis on ensuring leaders and their managers are able to show through collaboration and professional dialogue that there is consistency of curriculum delivery across all year groups, subjects and key stages.  The flow of learning is seen as important and all those involved in delivering the curriculum need to understand fully the debate about skills and knowledge and how this impacts on the way the curriculum is taught and assessed to ensure breadth and deeper learning over time.

The shift in emphasis is clearly drawn.  The focus for those involved in planning for curriculum change is in ensuring there is an unambiguous vision. The vision must be translated into a consistent and cohesive plan for delivery that focuses on excellent teaching, learning and assessment. Success can then be measured through a well-crafted quality assurance process.   Cohesion, consistency, the use of structured professional learning conversations and opportunities for cross-curricular and cross-phase interaction are important components.   The essential ingredient that will create the right conditions to make this happen is coaching.  Essentially, coaching encourages high quality professional dialogue, the sharing and cascading of good and outstanding practice and encourages collaboration, positive conversations and a willingness to embrace change.  Have a look at our comprehensive suite of coaching courses and plan your coaching journey linked to curriculum intent, implementation and impact.

Amanda Spielman: OFSTED speech to Schools North East summit.

“I’ve used the word ‘conversation’ a number of times in this speech.  The nature and impact of the conversations in an inspection are fundamental. As we shape the new framework, with your help, we really are thinking about how each inspection can be the most productive exchange between a school and its inspection team: how we can make it about substance, more than about numbers.”

“I am firmly of the view that a focus on substance……will move inspection more towards being a conversation about what actually happens in schools.  Those who are bold and ambitious and run their schools with integrity will be rewarded….”

There is to be no prescribed curriculum model, no preferred approaches. The emphasis is on how individual leaders and their teams can justify their strategy and how it is delivered and can demonstrate clearly the impact their approach is having on their particular and unique pupil cohort.

Our Rethinking the Curriculum courses are essential for leaders and managers. We offer well – researched resources, in-depth information and expert advice linked to a coaching model.

Planning your curriculum for 2019 and beyond. Intent, implementation and impact

OFSTED want schools to communicate their curriculum intent, plan a strategy for successful implementation and create a culture where collaboration and positive professional dialogue delivers a curriculum that builds on prior learning, deepens knowledge and enhances skills that foster learning and achievement. This is the third news post linked to the latest news from OFSTED and other influential researchers. Read the first post here and the second post here.

We have put the main priorities into the mnemonic below.

C.U.R.R.I.C.U.L.U.M.

  • Curriculum intent communicated through distributed leadership
  • Unified approaches to assessment across the whole school
  • Realising potential through breadth, depth, stretch and challenge
  • Reflecting on what currently works and building from there
  • Implementing a curriculum that builds on prior learning
  • Creating opportunities for cross phase, stage and subject collaboration
  • Understanding the focus on knowledge and/or skills and how pupils learn
  • Learning from colleagues, partners and research to inform planning and strategy
  • Using a common conceptual language and coaching to share cross curricular success
  • Measuring impact using qualitative and quantitative data

The Curriculum and Assessment team at Learning Cultures are using the growing body of research and comment to ensure our curriculum training courses provide the resources, information and practical strategies to ensure that all schools can:-

  • build on their current good practice
  • focus on how to create a continuum of learning
  • define how the curriculum will be taught and assessed
  • ensure all staff are involved through effective CPD
  • create the tools that will measure positive impact

Join us for one of our interactive and solutions focused training courses for those with responsibility for strategic and curriculum planning.

 

Skills versus knowledge – Let’s explore the conundrum using a haiku poem

What is the poetry form of Haiku?

There is a clear form

To write haiku poetry

That I need to know

——-

Two fives and a seven

Syllables are key to this

Carefully structured

——-

To use the form well

I must pull the words apart

For this I need skills

——–

 I need to know words

To make my prose explain

About haiku poems

———-

Reading and writing

Are the skills I need to have

To finish the poem

———–

I love the genre

No need for anything to rhyme

Just rhythm and style

Glynis Frater

Just a bit of fun but hopefully it demonstrates what I am saying,

Carry on reading more about my thoughts below

I wrote last week about the latest information from OFSTED about their intended changes to the Inspection Handbook for September 2019.

Their research into how the curriculum is planned and implemented focused on three different approaches to curriculum planning,

  • Knowledge led
  • Knowledge engaged
  • Skills led

The College of Teaching’s new magazine IMPACT focused in its 4th edition on the curriculum.  It is well worth a read.  The conclusion I draw from both the OFSTED report and the collection of essays within the IMPACT magazine is that skills have their place as an integral part of learning in the first as well as the second and third of the suggested approaches.  In one article, Designing a primary knowledge-rich curriculum which focuses on the knowledge-led approach, there is clearly an emphasis on rich and deep subject specific learning. However, the need for pupils to have access to materials and resources that are ‘text-rich’ is cited as essential.  In order to access rich text linked to knowledge acquisition requires the skill of comprehension, the ability to read and draw inference and the competence to sift and select the relevant information in order to demonstrate understanding.  The term skill was deftly left out of the observation of the need for rich text.  Reading is an essential skill and one that is fundamental to all learning.  Subject specific learning requires the same level of comprehension skills as scaffolded learning in English or literacy and those teachers who are not specialists in English may not have the relevant skills or understanding to ensure that pupils can access the complex language in say a piece of History source material or an unfamiliar piece of science explanation.

I don’t disagree with the three approaches to curriculum design. My thoughts are that we need to ensure that we always identify the skills that are fundamental to deepening learning and to building a seamless continuum that ensures pupils become unconsciously competent in their ability to apply their knowledge across a wide range of contexts within the national and the wider curriculum.

We have two courses full of ideas, resources and well researched practical suggestions, the testimonials and praise we have received for these two events are outstanding.  Book now and have a powerful plan ready for implementation in time for September 2019.