OFSTED’s Amanda Spielman’s latest speech to Governors at the NGA conference reinforces here conviction and commitment that the curriculum will be and to some extent is already at the centre of inspection. She starts her speech talking about substance and integrity.
“Getting to the heart of it, this new framework is about two things: substance and integrity. It puts the real substance of education, the curriculum, back at the centre of inspection and supports leaders and teachers who act with integrity.”
We are assuming here that by integrity she means we put the pupils first before results and data! Substance has been a word widely used as the developments about the new approach to curriculum intent, implementation and impact have unfolded. In terms of substance we need to look closely at the concepts that are upheld as important facets of curriculum design. Breadth and depth, differentiation, relevance, coherence and continuity all figure as essential components. Essentially, we must focus on a deep and rich curriculum that weaves concepts, skills and knowledge and sequences learning over time.
Amanda Spielman tells Governors that what OFSTED are clear about is that the curriculum is a core part of the ‘Quality of Education’ judgement. The outcomes will focus on what the school chooses to teach, but more essentially it is about how the content is taught and how well the curriculum is ordered and structured. Having a clear focus on the what and the how as part of a strategy for intent and implementation are clearly important.
We all want to know the answer to the question she poses ‘What is a good curriculum?’ Her answer cites the second phase of research published by OFSTED that suggests that there are several approaches to curriculum design and all can work. She prompts Governors to ask the questions,
- ‘What do you want your children to know?’
- ‘What is going to help children in later life?’
- ‘What will help children develop cultural capital?’
Cultural capital in the National Curriculum is described as,
“The essential knowledge that pupils need to be educated citizens, introducing them to the best that has been thought and said and helping to engender an appreciation of human creativity and achievement.”
OFSTED judgements will be based on how much schools are giving pupils the knowledge and cultural capital to succeed. She suggests that for some that should be recognising what is lacking in the home life of some pupils. She also suggests that we identify gaps in knowledge, skills and understanding and that content should be ambitious linked to aspirational learning. What she says OFSTED want to see is a deep and rich curriculum offer that does more than ensure pupil engagement but that creates opportunities for deeper and richer content that will stretch, challenge and provide a range of different contexts within which pupils work outside what is their normal experience.
She makes the statement already said many times before which is undoubtedly true but is sometimes difficult to reconcile,
“If a broad and balanced curriculum is well taught the exam results should almost take care of themselves.”
There is also a within this speech on the role of assessment in determining quality outcomes for pupils learning the curriculum. The message to Governors is clear. Assessment should be linked to learning, deepening that learning ensuring that pupils can make sense of their learning. This in relation to what has already been taught and understood and how the learning leads to the development of a range of skills linked to reading and writing but also to the wider skills that support pupils to continually develop and grow in their learning.
“Progress should be measured by how much a child has learned the curriculum, rather than when or whether they are hitting a particular target”
Everything said here reinforces the messages from many of the speeches, research papers and the new handbook. It reinforces for us the importance of a totally collaborative approach to ensuring the curriculum is about substance, depth and breadth. How do staff across subjects, year groups and transition points work together to sequence the learning? How do they define the concepts that underpin the learning and draw out the numeracy and literacy skills that allow pupils to access the knowledge? What assessment strategies ensure pupils know how to use increasingly higher levels of response to demonstrate their understanding?
We have now trained over 500 educators to look closely at their approach to curriculum design and delivery. We have developed some outstanding and well – researched materials and tools to support change where change is needed. We know that our approach is having a significant impact and are proud of our record so far.
Join us at one of our innovative and hugely well-received training courses. We haven’t changed our ethos and understanding of powerful drivers for learning. OFSTED have though and we can support you to make the right changes where they are needed. Here is a snapshot of our valuable training.