Curriculum Cohesion and the Role of the Middle and Subject Leader

Curriculum Cohesion and the Role of the Middle and Subject Leader

OFSTED are receiving funding to increase the number of visits to schools and colleges from September 2022 to ensure that all schools can be inspected by the end of 2024. Therefore, there is an imperative to focus on the latest Education Inspection Framework (EIF) and look in detail at what is required in terms of curriculum cohesion within subjects and across the curriculum. It is the pivotal role of middle and subject leaders to shape the strategies that will ensure all staff plan and deliver a  curriculum offer that meets the needs of all pupils.

Middle and subject leaders have to work closely with their senior leaders to shape, share and translate the curriculum intent. They must create the inspiration to influence members of their teams to implement well planned and highly innovative knowledge rich and skills focused content that delivers breadth, depth and sequential progression over time.

Emphasising the Importance of Dialogue

A focus on dialogue cannot be underestimated. Professional conversations are an integral part of how middle and subject leaders create the right culture of cohesion in their own subject areas. This must then translate into time to share where cross-curricular concepts, skills and knowledge connect across different areas of learning.  Amanda Spielman in her recent speech to the  Schools and Academies Show emphasises exactly the points made above.

“……… in its fundamentals, the EIF is still the same. Our focus is still squarely on substance and integrity. Bringing the inspection conversation back to the curriculum – what’s taught and how, not just about exam results. Treating you as experts in your field, not data managers…And our emphasis in the EIF is on dialogue. I know you appreciate these professional conversations…”

AmandaSpielman speech to the Schools and Academies Show last week (18/11/2021).

Recent OFSTED reports from across the education spectrum re-enforce this absolute need for a consistent approach to planning, to quality assurance, to pedagogy and learning, to equality, diversity and inclusion and to assessment.

Lesson Observation and the Power of Learning Conversations

A triangulation – delivering quality through the curriculum

OFSTED’s research from 2019  looks in some detail at a series of criteria for what inspectors are looking for when they observe teaching and learning in the classroom. Lesson observation is a key factor in determining the quality of pedagogy and how well the curriculum intent is being interpreted and translated into high quality implementation that fosters depth, breadth and parity in all subjects.

These indicators are a useful barometer for senior and subject leaders to use as part of their strategy for ensuring lesson observation provides an opportunity for the sharing of good practice, a focus on consistency and interpretation of the curriculum intent and a dialogue about continuous improvement.

However, a top-down approach to lesson observation that is led by the senior team is unlikely to have the desired results. It is the quality of self-evaluation and positive feedback from lesson observation that should be related to clearly defined criteria consistently linked to the Teachers Standards, a deep understanding of what constitutes quality and highly motivated teachers that ignite their pupils passion for learning. The dialogue of challenge, positivity, reflection and self-reliance build trust and a willingness to innovate and set the highest standards.

Continuity in the assessment of pupil outcomes

Assessing pupil outcomes provides all those involved with curriculum implementation with an opportunity to determine how their planning and teaching have impacted on their pupils’ ability to develop competence in skills for learning, deepen their knowledge over time and apply a range of curriculum concepts within subjects and across the curriculum.

Creating the evidence of learning from what pupils achieve in all aspects of learning across the curriculum.

Below is a list included as part of OFSTED’s research into what is an essential part of assessing how what pupils produce provides profound evidence linked to the quality of education judgement in the EIF.

  • Building on prior learning
  • Depth and breadth of coverage
  • Pupils’ progress
  • Opportunities to re-enforce learning through practice
  • Acknowledging the skills that support knowledge acquisition
  • Linking skills and concepts across other curriculum areas

Once again it is the dialogue that will create the opportunity to share a deep understanding of how well the curriculum is being implemented through the assessment process. It must transcend all subjects both core and foundation and build a deeply held conviction that there is a collective vision that translates into evidence that all learners achieve their full potential whatever their starting point.

Creating a Culture of Positivity and a Shared Vision

Quality Assurance principles set the scene of positive and shared dialogue.

Creating a consistent whole school approach to designing and maintaining high quality assurance systems requires middle leadership to play a pivotal role. The secret is in the power of challenge through the ability to ask incisive and probing questions that lead to individuals taking responsibility for achieving the best possible outcomes for all, both staff and pupils. The three statements below are taken from the Quality of Education judgement in Section 2 of the EIF and relate directly to evidence of positive implementation. Current OFSTED reports show just how important these discussions are to the inspection process and inconsistency in the way different subject leaders, specialists and teachers answer the related questions collectively bears weight on the final judgement.

  • discussions with curriculum and subject leaders and teachers about the programme of study that classes are following for particular subjects or topics, the intended end points towards which those pupils are working, and their view of how those pupils are progressing through the curriculum
  • discussions with subject specialists and leaders about the content and pedagogical content knowledge of teachers and what is done to support teachers, including with remote teaching
  • discussions with classroom teachers about how often they are expected to record, upload and review data

Quality of Education OFSTED Education Inspection Framework

It is essential that there is a sharp focus on how to create the right culture where professional conversations lead to the sharing of good and outstanding practice, a consistent message as to how pupils are progressing and a profound understanding of how pupils learn and retain knowledge over time. This won’t happen without a clear strategy that creates opportunities for teams to talk to each other, time for cross-curricular discussion and the use of lesson observation and the assessment of pupils’ work as an essential part of professional development.

Fostering Challenging Dialogue Through Coaching

Achieving a consistent whole school approach to quality assurance in every subject and facet of school life is made far less daunting if there is a constructive and well-defined strategy that embraces every professional across the school. Creating an opportunity for senior, middle and subject leaders to learn how to coach will provide the models and the tools that shape a solutions focused future. The outcome will focus on the positive, create the mechanisms to share good and outstanding practice and build teams that know how they can work together to achieve the vision and realise the ambition they have for all their pupils and their colleagues.

Coaching creates a culture of self-belief, trust and a shared dialogue that leads to excellence and improvement.

Coaching is a powerful approach to CPD that will define consistency, self-belief, trust and a commitment to excellence and high-quality outcomes. The opportunity to learn how to listen, how to ask probing, challenging and incisive questions, how to influence others to solve their own problems, be innovative in their practice and steadfast when things go wrong.

Here at Learning Cultures, we have a suite of coaching courses and programmes that will build a coaching culture. Where coaching is at the heart of a vision of excellence and improvement it creates outstanding futures for all. Have a look at our highly praised coaching courses or join our Certification Programme.