Curriculum matters-the story so far

I am Glynis Frater, the founder of Learning Cultures, a leading provider of coaching and other professional development services for the education profession.  I have followed the developments that have unfolded as Amanda Spielman has slammed the lack of attention many schools have given to ensuring pupils have access to a broad and balanced, deep and rich curriculum.  She is right, of course, but she isn’t a head of a school battling with the only accountability measures that currently count at the end of key stage 1, 2 and key stage 4.

Let’s take what she says at face value, change needs to take time (this is an evolution not a revolution). There is a need to focus on communication, collaboration and professional learning conversations, (OFSTED want to listen and communicate with school leaders, middle leaders and teachers), the subject specialist, subject leader, subject expert is at the heart of ensuring changes to how we deliver the curriculum can make a difference, (content, concept, knowledge and the skills that help pupils access them are the key to building this deep and rich curriculum offer) so subject teams must work together effectively to create sequential learning that ensures all pupils, whatever their ability, achieve their full potential.

The team at Learning Cultures has been working hard, deepening our own knowledge of the research, creating innovative resources and creating solutions focused training materials. The work we do here and the messages within our training echo many of the indicators that OFSTED have based their new handbook on.  We have not changed any of our programmes, courses or support packages to accommodate the new handbook and the messages from OFSTED because many of our messages and the skills and knowledge we bring already mirror the philosophies and indicators that are simply good practice and embody the characteristics of a good or outstanding school

Read the news-posts that I have written, week by week I have followed the unfolding change in emphasis for how schools should be judged. They are all on our webisite, Since Christmas, these have included,

Have a look at our curriculum courses that challenge you to re-think your curriculum strategy, delivery models and clearly stated impact. Then focus on our coaching programmes and decide to make the decision to use coaching to create the culture that will ensure high quality professional dialogue drives positive change where all staff know how the curriculum intent delivers a learning strategy for all the pupils they teach, provides them with the time and resources to create that innovative, creative and deep content that will build on learning over time and design the blueprint for all pupils to have the skills they need for the next stages of their education. Add in our teaching and learning courses that are designed to foster outstanding pedagogy, raise the bar on assessment and focus on how to ensure knowledge and skills weave a positive curriculum offer.

Creating a culture that fosters professional dialogue and delivers a seamless curriculum

How do leaders in schools create the right culture that fosters constructive professional dialogue? Amanda Spielman from OFSTED puts the importance of professional dialogue at the heart of her last two major speeches, one to ASCL and the other to the Muslim Teachers’ Association.

“The Quality of Education judgement is central to putting the curriculum, the substance of education, back at the heart of professional dialogue in schools and colleges. It’s been great to hear that these conversations are emerging, even before the first inspections under this new framework.”

In order to create that school culture where all staff have the opportunity to engage in professional dialogue there needs to be a profound understanding of the difference between professional dialogue and a conversation.

Professional dialogue is one of the phrases that is completely embedded in all of our coaching programmes.  The essence of learning how to coach for those in education is in the development of a range of coaching attributes including highly effective listening skills, the ability to ask incisive, deep and rich questions and to have the confidence and the capacity to influence others to change.  Creating a CPD strategy that embraces coaching fosters professional dialogue and moves individuals away from simply using unstructured conversations.  It can have a profound impact on ensuring all staff are empowered to deliver a consistent, whole school approach to how the curriculum intent, ambition and rationale is translated into innovative planning, highly effective pedagogy and a shared understanding of the sequencing of content over time.

“OFSTED have the concept of dialogue at its core to establish, what  pupils are being taught? How well are they being taught? and, How is what they are being taught setting them up for the next stage in their education?”

The curriculum rationale and ambition that reveals its intent and how this is consistently implemented in every classroom and in many cross curricular contexts is at the heart of what OFSTED want to focus on as part of assessing ‘the substance of education’. Creating opportunities to deepen the skills of leaders, managers, teachers and support staff in how they use professional dialogue as opposed to simply having conversations will help to create the essential, consistent and seamless curriculum offer that builds on prior learning, deepens knowledge, enhances pupils’ skills over time and ensures assessment finds the gaps in understanding and informs future learning.

“The point of observation by inspectors is to see whether the school’s aims and intentions are being translated effectively into practice, ‘does it all come together as it should’.”

If, as Amanda Spielman talks about in her speeches, leaders, managers and teachers are to be an integral part of professional dialogue about the curriculum and how the intent is translated into highly effective delivery that has a demonstrable impact on learning over time; then all staff need to have the right skill set to be an equal participant in that constructive dialogue.  They will need to listen to what is being asked of them, be able to respond with incisive questions that are designed to draw out deeper meaning and have the vocabulary and deep pedagogical and subject expertise that will demonstrate their professional understanding of how the school is successfully delivering powerful learning for all pupils.

Have a look at Learning Cultures’ coaching courses, we have a training opportunity for all staff, for leaders, middle managers, subject specialists, teachers, support staff and SENCOs.

Join us at one of our highly praised curriculum courses, they have been so successful and we continue to update them as more information emerges from DfE and OFSTED.

Subject expertise and subject leadership are pivotal to the proposed changes and we have a new course researched and designed by our expert curriculum team.

Enhancing the Role of the Subject Leader – managing curriculum change that delivers sequential, seamless and deep knowledge and skills

 

Literacy and Numeracy: the essential threads that weave through a deep and rich curriculum

If you are reading this you are using one of the most important skills there is for learning.

It is essential as part of any review of the curriculum to identify the core and generic skills for learning that will open the door for all learners to access the information they need to build a sequential bank of knowledge.

Context provides the vehicle for mastery of the literacy and numeracy concepts that will help pupils to deepen their understanding and become unconsciously competent in their use of the skills they need to access knowledge within subjects and across the curriculum. Each subject expert needs to think carefully about the skills that allow pupils to deepen their understanding of the content of their subject.

Think about the skill of comprehension which is undoubtedly the most important skill for pupils to master in order that they can read and understand. This is carefully taught within English where the texts are used to help pupils to deepen their reading skills. Complex and rich texts are often an integral part of learning in other subjects. However, these texts are often written for the subject and take no account of the reading age of the pupil. Subject specialists, need to have the skills to help pupils decode the language, the vocabulary and the inference within those texts.

What about the skill of measuring in Maths? There are countless examples of where measurement is used as part of learning across the curriculum. Design and build, interpreting a map, making a cake, working out velocity and speed, conducting an experiment, defining cause and effect, comparing or contrasting, to name but a few.

The above two examples are specific skills linked to the teaching in English and in Maths.  There are also the concepts and generic skills that need consideration.  Consider the concept of space or shape, scale or time. All have their place as part of deciphering knowledge in many contexts across the curriculum. Curriculum planning must ensure there are opportunities for pupils to use different vocabulary, understand the method or the process and be able to see how their learning in one subject relates to learning in another one.

The curriculum is not a set of isolated, individual subjects but a tapestry of learning where the concepts, skills and knowledge are interwoven to create the right set of circumstances for pupils to learn and deepen their understanding. It must ensure that knowledge is retained within pupils’ long-term memory and set the context for future challenge.

The key to creating this woven fabric of knowledge and skills is to create opportunities for departments to work together to identify the age-related skills and knowledge within their subject and sequence the content so that there is seamless learning from one year to the next.  There should also be opportunities for cross curricular planning where teachers and their subject leaders can identify where the concepts, skills and knowledge overlap or are re-inforced.  Where teachers have a profound understanding of the wider curriculum they can share with their pupils where similar or the same knowledge is part of learning in other subjects.

Start by reflecting on how much time is given to curriculum planning, who is involved and to what extent there are opportunities for cross-phase, cross-curricular and cross-year collaboration to ensure depth, breadth and balance. Then encourage teams to to collectively piece together a curriculum map that will create the evidence that pupils build on prior learning, deepen their understanding and can develop the skills that will help them to access and master ever increasingly complex and challenging subject content.

We have developed a suite of training to support schools in their quest for curriculum cohesion.

For senior leaders and curriculum managers we look at the strategic vision and consider how to make sure we keep what works well and what needs to change:

For subject leaders we have a new course built on recent research and using our own expertise to look in detail at how to sequence a learning curriculum that builds on prior learning and deepens knowledge over time.

Research suggests that transition creates a dip in learning of anything up to 40%.  We have two highly regarded training courses that look at how to ensure positive academic as well as pastoral transition focuses on curriculum cohesion and building on prior learning.

Specific to those with responsibility for embedding literacy and numeracy across the curriculum we have developed the following outstanding training programmes. They have been part of our repertoire for several years. Our messages haven’t changed, the change of emphasis on curriculum intent, implementation and impact mirror what we already know works and delivers deep and challenging learning.

Weave your own tapestry curriculum using the resources and strategies that we know work.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Concepts in Curriculum Design – Creating the culture that delivers seamless learning

The architects of positive curriculum design must start with defining the concepts that will build a coherent and deep offer that delivers seamless learning and progression.  This is essential if the curriculum is to deliver the highest quality education for all pupils across the ability spectrum.

OFSTED’s new handbook and associated research reinforce the need for a clear and coherent rationale for curriculum design.  Creating a cohesive, inclusive and rich curriculum offer remains the key challenge for all headteachers and their senior leadership teams across all schools from early years, in primary and secondary schools and in post 16 education.

There are two parts to this and both require a focus on certain clearly defined concepts.  The curriculum intent, ambition and rationale is defined by an overarching set of concepts that include breadth and depth, relevance, continuity, progression and attitudes to learning.  Subject leaders have a pivotal role in ensuring the curriculum is implemented so that what is delivered reflects the vision, the intent and the ambition. The concepts that subject leaders need to focus on in relation to strategic planning for their departments, faculties or teams might include coherence, differentiation, continuity, knowledge, skills and understanding.

There is a third set of concepts that then need consideration as the planned curriculum is delivered to ensure high levels of learning and progression. These are linked to both subject content and to generic learning outcomes that are essential to learning in the classroom, across the curriculum and beyond.  Subject concepts might include, sources, predictions, measurement, beliefs, methods, settlements, environment, to name but a few.  Have a look at a list we have compiled, it is a work in progress. If subject teachers simply focus on the knowledge within their subject and do not see the connections both in relation to skills and generic learning concepts, opportunities for depth and breadth, continuity and coherence may be lost.

The key to leading this process and to orchestrating strategic practices that are consistent across all teams, subject specialisms and cross curricular partnerships is to ensure high levels of collaboration and professional learning conversations that bring together expertise from the senior leadership team, within subject specialisms and across the subject divides.

It is essential to turn the concepts into contexts that create clearly defined and workable solutions that all staff can contribute to achieving.  This will happen if continuing professional development (CPD) is carefully planned and linked to quality curriculum implementation which is seen as the essential and overarching vision.

We have designed our coaching and curriculum training to support schools move seamlessly to a solutions focused strategy, start with our Curriculum Re-defining series,

Build a coaching culture that will support highly effective collaboration for leaders, middle leaders and subject specialists,

Develop the coaching skills and pedagogy that will deliver a cohesive and positive curriculum and ensure teachers can share and cascade their practice widely,

Have a look at other coaching courses, courses linked to teaching and learning and those that support curriculum planning and implementation. Start your journey towards a seamless curriculum with Learning Cultures.

 

 

 

OFSTED Inspection Handbook – a draft for consultation

The draft OFSTED Inspection framework is now available for review and consultation.  It is accompanied by a consultation document which asks for an approval rating and comments on several of the proposed changes to what and how future inspections will be carried out. For mainstream schools they are:-

  • the proposal to introduce a ‘quality of education’ judgement and looking at outcomes in context and whether they are the result of a coherently planned curriculum, delivered well
  • the proposal to separate inspection judgements about learners’ personal development and learners’ behaviour and attitudes
  • the proposal to ensure that the quality of educational judgements in early years will work well for all those working in different settings
  • the proposal to increase the length of section 8 inspections for some schools from the current one day to two days
  • the proposal for on-site preparation for all section 5 inspections and for section 8 inspections of good schools on the afternoon prior to the inspection
  • the proposal that inspectors will not look at non-statutory internal progress and attainment data

The curriculum is at the heart of the changes. We have seen throughout the build up to the announcement today how schools across the spectrum need to have a very clear rationale for their curriculum plan, know that this will be translated into a cohesive and substantive curriculum for learning and will have an impact on progression and achievement.

The Curriculum is the substance of what is taught

There is clarification that knowledge and skills are closely interconnected and inspectors will be asked to consider what providers are doing to develop both learners’ knowledge and their skills. It is also recognised that education providers may take different approaches to the curriculum and should have some freedom to choose their own approaches to content and delivery.

The school’s curriculum is coherently planned and sequenced towards cumulatively sufficient knowledge and skills for future learning…

The emphasis is on coherence and sequence in relation to curriculum planning so that pupils build on what has been taught before and focuses on building a learning platform that leads towards clearly defined end points. There should be logical progress, which is systematically and explicitly defined for all pupils in order that they acquire the intended knowledge and skills.

The school’s curriculum is strong. Across the school, it is evident from what teachers do that they have a firm and common understanding of the school’s curriculum intent and what it means for their practice.

Inspectors will look for a holistic approach that does not separate leadership of the curriculum from the implementation, the teaching and the assessment.  Assessing the impact of effective curriculum design will be through dialogue with curriculum and subject leaders and observations and reviews of pupils in lessons and the work they produce.

Teachers and leaders use assessment well, for example to help pupils embed and use knowledge fluently, or to check understanding and inform teaching.

School, curriculum and subject leaders must have the expertise to drive and deliver this change and be able to articulate how their rationale delivers a well-constructed curriculum that is expertly taught and leads to good results at the end of the relevant stage of education.  Leaders must be able to share how they know that the curriculum is having an impact for all pupils.

Teachers have a good knowledge of the subject(s) and courses they teach. Leaders provide effective support for those teaching outside their main areas of expertise.

Within the text published today there is reinforcement that OFSTED want to see this as an evolution and not a revolution and are looking for school, curriculum and subject leaders to begin to work towards the changes they need to make over time.  There is a recognition that a lot of what currently is delivered is good, however, some change is inevitable to strengthen and enrich the curriculum in terms of the rationale, the delivery and the impact it has on knowledge, skills and ultimate progression for all learners.

Inspectors will look at how carefully leaders and subject leaders have thought about what end points the curriculum is building towards, what pupils will be able to know and to do at the end of these points and how they have planned the curriculum accordingly?

We will incorporate any new messages from today’s announcements into our coaching and training programmes.  However, we have followed this so carefully over time that we feel that what is included echoes our own expertise and understanding.  We can support schools and colleges from early years to post 16 with a wealth of knowledge and are hugely excited at the opportunity to support these changes. Join us at one of our curriculum events.

Follow our news-posts on our website and have a look at some of our other courses that will ensure staff across the school have the right expertise to manage change.

Transition is an important aspect of creating the coherence and sequencing of learning over time, we have two courses that will support transition managers working between KS1 and 2 and KS 2 and 3.

Leading these changes will be challenging and we would recommend our Leading a Coaching School course which will deepen those leadership skills that empower others to manage change. The role of the middle leader especially for curriculum and subject leaders and Heads of Teaching and Learning is pivotal in driving this forward. Join us for our Coaching for Middle Leaders course and learn and focus on how to create the professional dialogue and positive outcomes that will deliver a seamless curriculum.

How do leaders define the concepts that will create an ambitious curriculum for learning?

Forget Brexit, this is a defining week for education. We should, by the middle of the week, have an opportunity to consult on the content of the new inspection framework due to be used for inspections from September 2019.  We have several clues already as to what it might contain from the publication of the third piece of research into curriculum intent, implementation and impact just before Christmas. We have been working closely with schools who have already started to review their approach to curriculum design and implementation. One of the questions that emerges from our experiences so far is ‘How do leaders define the concepts that will create an ambitious curriculum for learning?’ 

The elements linked to creating a curriculum rationale are set out in the diagram below.  

The definition of a concept is, something abstract or generic linked to a theme, it is an idea or a theory or a way of grouping or categorising things.  Within these definitions we can safely say that curriculum is the concept. The role of the leader is to create the vision for how the curriculum is planned and implemented. It is within subjects, both core and foundation, that conceptual learning underpins knowledge acquisition.  The vision needs to focus on how the curriculum will be implemented to ensure pupils learn through the acquisition of skills and the deepening of knowledge over time.

One of the 25 indicators OFSTED  suggests as examples of important concepts or aspects of curriculum design are knowledge progression and the sequencing of concepts.  This to some extent reinforces the need to ensure that it is within the subjects that we focus on the concepts. The concept of conflict, authority, development, source, beliefs, creativity or democracy occur across the subject divides as well as being overarching concepts linked to topics and subjects.  Within subjects there are many concepts to focus on such as religion in RE, country, continent and city in Geography or monarchy, evidence or civilisation in History.

It is how these are taught and how subject leaders and their teams work together to focus on sequencing for progression, deepening knowledge and the acquisition and transfer of skills for learning.  It is the leaders that need to make sure that their vision clearly outlines the need to focus on subject specific concepts and how these are taught within subjects and the wider curriculum.  Leaders must also focus their vision on how pupils acquire the reading and mathematical skills they need to access knowledge and become unconsciously competent in their use of these skills over time.  The need to focus on outcomes that demonstrate pupils build on prior learning, deepen their knowledge, have a sound understanding and are ready for the next stage in learning is also important in assessing the quality of the planned and implemented curriculum.

If there is a focus on concepts in the intent stage of curriculum design it is in raising awareness of the issues for subject leaders and their teams.  It is in a focus on what knowledge is in different contexts, the sequencing of that knowledge and how to deepen the skills pupils need to learn to acquire that knowledge. It is in how we define progression. One of the concepts that needs further exploration is ‘quality‘ and how leaders quality assure their curriculum plan as it is rolled out.

We will review the consultation document due out on Wednesday 16th January and this will be the subject of a newspost for all our readers.

Focus on leadership, middle leadership and teaching and learning with our highly praised coaching courses

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Leading an Evolution that Delivers High Quality Education for all

The third phase of OFSTED’s research into curriculum intent, implementation and impact is detailed, evidence based and provides a lot of information for leaders in primary and secondary schools. We discussed in our last news-post that the research highlights 25 indicators they have used to test whether it is possible to assess curriculum quality across a range of different school types.  In this post I wanted to focus on how these indicators provide a positive starting point for headteachers and their teams to assess their readiness for leading an evolution that will ensure their current and future strategies continue to deliver high quality education for all.

Putting the spotlight on the curriculum gives all leaders across the education spectrum an opportunity to reflect on their own understanding of their curriculum rationale and how that translates into a set of centrally prescribed curriculum aims that are ambitious, deliver depth and breadth of learning and ensure the acquisition of knowledge, the development of relevant skills and allow for sequential progression.

The research highlights the critical importance of how this is communicated in order to ensure high levels of accountability of subject leaders and teachers in ensuring they have evidence of informed planning, equitable delivery, progression and depth of content.

The indicators underpin a series of fundamentals that are essential to effective leadership and how the communication of a vision, a rationale and centrally prescribed aims are implemented coherently and consistently and deliver high quality education for all. Putting the curriculum at the heart of a whole school quality assurance strategy makes perfect sense and will embrace many other indicators that create an outstanding school such as strong principles of assessment, the embedding of literacy and numeracy, highly effective classroom pedagogy and differentiated learning that together create an inclusive learning platform.

Leaders must focus on their vision and rationale for the curriculum and audit the skills and gaps of their teams in order to build a coherent professional development programme that will highlight current successes, determine what needs to change and plan for new innovations.  Using coaching CPD as the catalyst for reviewing and improving quality is proven to be the most effective, sustainable and cost-effective way to manage change. Coaching encourages reflection, opportunities for learning conversations and will ensure the focus is on curriculum content, pedagogy and the desired outcomes for learners.

Join us to review and reflect on curriculum issues and how to respond to the current narrative.

Focus on leadership, middle leadership and teaching and learning with our highly praised coaching courses

What is being proposed by OFSTED is not new, it is, however, good practice linked to an approach that focuses on the learning and is not simply about data and end of stage testing.  The principles and ethos have been at the heart of our own well-researched and highly successful training programmes for several years.

 

 

Raising the Curriculum Profile – A whole school strategy that delivers inclusive and deep learning

The publication of the phase 3 findings of curriculum research from OFSTED leaves us in no doubt that all schools will need to reflect on their current curriculum design and raise their curriculum profile to ensure that all those involved in teaching and learning are working together to deliver an inclusive curriculum that ensures parity for all groups of learners and provides evidence that pupils successfully learn the curriculum and deepen their knowledge over time.

Amanda Spielman has described the change of emphasis as ‘an evolution and not a revolution’. Most schools have created a curriculum offer linked to the changes necessary as part of implementing the new National Curriculum in 2014 and much of that should be the starting point for any changes or innovations necessary to meet a new framework for September 2019.

A list of 25 indicators of curriculum quality emerge from the research.  They give us useful benchmarks to use to assess what is currently working well in school and what will need to be strengthened, changed or re-designed altogether.  There are four major areas for consideration,

  1. The role of the SLT including curriculum leaders is to ensure that the rationale for the curriculum design is shared across the school. In developing this there needs to be careful consideration given to knowledge progression and the sequencing of concepts in and across subjects.  The delivery of the curriculum has to be equitable for all groups and enhance pupils’ capacity to access the full curriculum. Leaders, including governors should, as part of the planning process, build in opportunities for review and quality assurance. There needs to be a commitment from SLT to ensure ongoing professional development so that curriculum expertise develops across the school.
  2. The role of the middle leader, phase leaders, heads of department, the SENDCO and heads of key stages is pivotal.  All middle leaders need to be involved in the dissemination and delivery of the vision for ensuring the curriculum offers parity for all groups of learners and meets and exceeds the standards set out in the National Curriculum. Reading is prioritised in every subject and Maths and numeracy are preconditions of success across the curriculum. Middle leaders collaborate to focus on knowledge progression and the sequencing of concepts in their own subject and in the context of learning in other subjects, projects or themes.  Effective CPD ensures middle leaders have the knowledge, expertise and practical skill to design and implement a curriculum.
  3. Teaching and learning teams including Teaching Assistants and support staff plan how the curriculum vision is put into practice in the classroom.  Working closely with their line managers, phase leaders or heads of department there is an imperative to ensure curriculum coverage allows pupils to access the content and make progress through the curriculum. Teachers need to prioritise reading as part of all subject learning and highlight how pupils access knowledge through the development of their literacy skills and their ability to use Maths and numeracy to deepen understanding where number applies in subjects other than Mathematics. The subject or curriculum team need to demonstrate that they are working together to create a model of curriculum progression and contribute to the development of curriculum maps that ensure sufficient coverage across a subject over time. Assessment of the learning is designed thoughtfully to shape future learning, is reliable and consistent and ensures pupils progress well.
  4. Ensuring the right expertise for all staff in school is essential.  Ongoing professional development needs to be an integral part of the planning and implementation process.  How to do this with tight budgets and possible capacity issues is most definitely a constraint.  Much of what is highlighted in the 25 indicators and summarised above is closely aligned to the approach we have developed over several years.  Essentially, what is being asked for is highly effective communication, collaboration and cohesion where all staff know the part they play in designing, implementing and assessing the curriculum. Using a coaching approach to planning a CPD strategy will provide a cost effective and sustainable model that will allow the professional conversations, shared learning and opportunities to deepen the knowledge required to enable curriculum expertise to develop across the curriculum.

Our Curriculum courses are highly rated and continually updated to provide you with all the resources you need to prepare for change,

We have a range of coaching courses that will provide all your staff with the expertise and professional dialogue to foster the sharing and cascading of good and outstanding practice that will ensure you can use the learning from our training to develop your own in-house cost effective and sustainable CPD programmes.

Or have a look at all our coaching courses here

Assessing the quality of education – a focus on purpose and impact of curriculum content

OFSTED have now published the third and final stage of their research into how the curriculum is planned and implemented and the impact this has on outcomes for pupils and schools. There is a lot on methodology and how the findings of the research have been recorded, who took part and how the sample cohort was chosen. There is within the text a desire to extend to all schools a message that the research is thorough and fair. They want to provide evidence that will lead to a much more accurate way to judge to what extent schools are reflecting on and assessing how their curriculum delivers education to a high quality that is carefully defined using a set of clearly crafted criteria.

Where schools displayed strong curricular thinking and who aimed to raise standards through the curriculum the report suggests some common factors:-

  • the importance of subjects as individual disciplines
  • using the curriculum to address disadvantage and provide equality of opportunity
  • regular curriculum review
  • using the curriculum as the progression model
  • intelligent use of assessment to inform curriculum design
  • retrieval of core knowledge woven through the curriculum
  • distributed curriculum leadership

The focus on this third piece of research is to look at how these aspects of curriculum quality apply across a broader range of schools and might form the basis for assessing how schools implement their curriculum plan effectively.  It is clearly stated here that OFSTED do not have an approved curriculum model and will recognise a range of different approaches. The research confirms for OFSTED that it can make valid assessments of the quality of the curriculum and that they were able to see difference in curriculum quality between schools and also between subject departments within schools.  One interesting conclusion from the research suggests that schools can produce equally strong curricula regardless of the level of deprivation in their communities and there is a suggestion that this new framework may be fairer to schools in disadvantaged areas.

The research findings result in 25  key indicators for quality of curriculum. Too many to translate into the new inspection handbook but useful to use as a starting point for planning some of the strategic and operational decisions that will need to be made if schools want to reflect on and re-define their curriculum to ensure it meets the proposed new criteria ‘quality of education’ that will deliver exceptional learning, is consistent and cohesive and is rich as well as broad and balanced.

The draft Education Inspection Framework will be available for consultation in January.  Teachers, subject and phase leaders, managers, leaders and support teams should all take time to make representations and ensure that the changes are those that are driven by educators.  The research is welcome, it shows that OFSTED are carefully considering a less pernicious and less data driven approach to inspection.  There are, however, many questions that will need further clarification.  We need as a profession to start the review of our curriculum intent, ensure consistent and cohesive quality implementation and decide on what we want to see in terms of impact for pupils, staff and the whole school in the context of a national perspective. This should inform the kinds of questions and comments we can make to ensure that the final framework supports all those stakeholders that want the best for pupils across all sectors, all schools and all regions.

We are conducting our own on-going research and our two curriculum events below continue to be highly regarded for their practical content, the resources that curriculum leaders can use with their teams and the deep expertise of the team who deliver these events.

 

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.