Schools need to look carefully at their curriculum plan for Key Stage 3. The report from OFSTED Key Stage 3: the wasted years? was written some time ago now but it has been mentioned recently by OFSTED and the message is clear, since its publication there is not enough evidence of significant change or improvement in how this important key stage is planned and delivered.
The questions below address some of the criticisms that are evident in recent reports and speeches about how schools are planning their Key Stage 3 offer.
- What is the evidence that there is sufficient breadth and balance across three years?
- How effectively does the teaching prepare pupils for Key Stage 4 study?
- How much emphasis is placed on the teaching of literacy and numeracy in subjects other than Maths and English?
- How well do pupils build on their prior learning from Key Stage 2?
- How is Year 9 planned to continue to offer a wide range of subjects but prepare pupils well for Year 10 and beyond?
OFSTED’s annual report published in December comments that some of the above are not in evidence and the criticism echoes the theme that Amanda Spielman has talked about in several of her recent speeches.
“I cannot reiterate it enough: exam performance and league tables should be a reflection of what children have learned. Tests exist in service of the curriculum. Curriculum should be designed to give children the best pathway to the future, not to make the school look good.”
Choosing to have a two-year Key Stage 3 is not in itself considered unacceptable. However, if this is the status quo in your school it is important to ensure that the reasons for this decision are clearly defined and are not simply to give pupils an extra year to study for GCSEs.
Below are some examples of what is considered to be good practice:
- Cross phase work on transition where English and Maths teachers work closely with their partner primary schools to develop a seamless curriculum
- Planning an early CEIAG programme for pupils in Key Stage 3 to give pupils a deeper understanding of the pathways available to them. This has raised awareness of what pupils need to do to succeed and aspire to and has proved highly motivating
- A shared assessment system in Key Stage 2 and across Key Stage 3 which has helped to develop a much more cohesive learning platform and created a positive continuum of learning
- Focusing on the demands of study at Key Stage 4 to plan a Key Stage 3 pathway from Year 7 to Year 10 where teachers from across the key stages work together in partnership. This has been successful in preparing pupils for the rigour of study at Key Stage 4.
- A whole school focus on literacy across the curriculum at Key Stage 3 and 4 as well as a focus on the wider learning skills that support pupils to become lifelong learners
- Developing an enterprise curriculum at Key stage 3 that helps pupils build a language of learning and develop a range of transferable skills that are routed in the power of deep learning
- Creating opportunities to work more closely with primary partners especially in the core subjects of English, Maths and Science to ensure seamless learning allows pupils to build on prior learning and make connections across all their learning
Here at Learning Cultures we have a great deal of expertise and experience of working with schools to develop highly effective strategies for both transition and Key Stage 3 planning. Join us at one of our highly praised training courses to reflect and learn with an expert.
- The Importance of Key Stage 3 – creating a springboard for Key Stage 4 and beyond
- Crossing the Transition Bridge – Seamless learning from Year 6 to Year 7
We have a new course for the summer term focusing on Careers Education and Information, Advice and Guidance which reflects changes to the statutory requirements schools now must work with,