Inspecting the Substance of Education – OFSTED publish their framework for future inspections

Inspecting the substance of education is at the heart of OFSTED’s new handbook, published on 14th May.  There are few changes to part one and these are essentially linked to slight differences to how schools and inspectors need to prepare for inspection.  There is however, one significant additional section that ripples through the whole document.  ‘Overarching approach to inspection’. There is a clear message.  All school leaders must create the culture that delivers a high-quality and connected curriculum where all staff work together to achieve the highest possible standards for their pupils.

As set out in the ‘preparation’ section (paragraphs 54–55), inspections under the EIF always begin with in-depth discussions with school leaders and curriculum leaders about the school’s curriculum.

Leaders will need to ensure they have the answers to questions such as,

  • ‘What are pupils expected to learn?’
  • ‘What are the end points that leaders want pupils to reach?’
  • ‘What are the key concepts that pupils need to understand and in what order will they learn them’?’
  • ‘What is the sequence of learning that will ensure pupils build and deepen their learning over time?’
  • ‘How is the behaviour and attitudes of pupils creating the right conditions for learning?’
  • How is the curriculum supporting pupils’ personal development in many diverse aspects of life?

During inspection, inspectors will look to gather first hand evidence of whether what is being delivered and the work pupils are producing matches the curriculum intent. Inspectors will work together with curriculum leaders, talk to individual teachers and pupils and look at pupils’ work (in its widest sense).  Inspectors will draw together the various strands of evidence from different pupils, classes, departments and year groups.  What they want to see is the connections between different pieces of evidence gathered by the inspection team.

OFSTED’s rationale for this approach is to gather evidence that will allow inspectors to focus on the overall quality of education that is on offer across subjects, year groups and classes.  Essentially, it requires all staff to work collaboratively to plan how to implement an inter-connected curriculum offer so that pupils build on prior learning, deepen their knowledge over time, retain that knowledge and have the skills that enable them to continue to access rich learning experiences within the core and the foundation subjects and in a wider learning context as well.

Now is the time to focus on how to ensure there are opportunities for collaborative and shared planning.  Staff need to work together within their teams or departments. They need to communicate and plan across subjects and topics so that teachers and pupils can see the connections and concepts that transcend the subject divides.  There are many component parts of a sequential curriculum that need to be woven together to create a tapestry of learning. Where this happens learning grows over time and ensures all pupils are able to make connections across their learning, deepen their subject and conceptual knowledge and become unconsciously competent in their use of the skills that help them access curriculum content and obtain the cultural capital they need to for life.

The Learning Cultures curriculum team have designed some highly effective tools and resources. They are already being used successfully in schools to create a cohesive and collaborative approach to ensuring all staff who have a responsibility for planning and delivering the curriculum are working together to interpret the stated intent and vision and translating it into a positive and exciting interconnected curriculum offer.

All our training is informed by research and a deep understanding of curriculum and how it should be developed to create high quality learning.  Join us to learn from our expert team.

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