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.

Coaching and Curriculum Cohesion – Create a culture where excellence is cascaded across the whole school

To create a culture where excellence and high-quality learning is cascaded across the whole school is best achieved through coaching.  Using coaching to ensure there is curriculum cohesion across all phases and stages will ensure all staff exceed and surpass expectations. Coaching encourages the use of positive and deep questioning that will enhance professional learning and challenge pupils. Coaching inspires innovation, helps individuals to embrace change and creates opportunities for the sharing and cascading of good and outstanding practice.

Amanda Spielman’s latest communication, her letter to the public accounts committee’s request for information confirms her intention to pursue a new category for the forthcoming changes to the OFSTED Inspection Framework ‘Quality of Education’ which will include curriculum intent, depth and breadth alongside the quality of teaching, the quality of pupils’ work and the resulting outcomes. The diagram below is my interpretation of the main components that need to be in place in order that schools know how their vision is translated into powerful learning over time.

Creating a culture that ensures all of the components above are carefully planned and implemented requires highly effective communication. Leading a Coaching School. Talented teams need to work together to manage change, create new approaches and build on what they currently do well.  Coaching from the Middle – How to influence change, build outstanding teams and lead innovation.

All teachers need to have a range of pedagogies and strategies for learning and assessment that will support pupils to build on their prior learning, deepen that learning and be ready to embrace challenge through the acquisition of knowledge and the use of associated skills. Coaching Towards Outstanding Teaching and Learning.  Pupils need to be an integral part of this and learner voice can be highly effective as part of an overall strategy. Coaching in the Classroom with Pupils.  Using coaching as the CPD vehicle to achieving the above is highly effective.

CPD is an essential component in creating a culture where staff accept positive change and work together to achieve the stated vision for excellence and improvement. What emerges from this particular cycle of change is exciting and should create a curriculum that is fit for purpose for the school, its pupils and the local and wider community within which it draws its cohort. However, the CPD and associated training must be relevant, sustainable and have an impact on learning and achievement for all.  Coaching is non-judgemental and non-directive, provides individuals with the opportunity to find their own solutions and learn how professional dialogue leads to successful outcomes for the school, teams and individual staff and pupils. It is the sharing and cascading of the learning both as part of an actual coaching training programme and how that is then cascaded to others to enhance its efficacy that makes the coaching training we offer so powerful.

Have a look at our Coaching in Education section on our website that has something for all staff.  Join us at one of our curriculum courses to look in great depth at how to ensure readiness for the changes:

or ask us about our INSET packages where we can help you to plan your CPD and curriculum strategies for intent, implementation and impact.

OFSTED, the Curriculum and moving towards a change of emphasis

OFSTED have this week released a commentary on the second phase of their research into curriculum design, implementation and impact. Amanda Spielman is clear in her assertion that the real substance of education is the curriculum and how it is structured so that all pupils can access it, learn through it and make progress linked to how it is delivered and assessed.
There will be, the report states, a new approach to inspection that moves away from simply focusing on outcomes linked to end of key stage data and more towards looking at what complements that data.

This, it suggests, includes evidence of:

  • a clearly defined and fit for purpose curriculum design that is linked to the school vision and purpose
  • positive leadership that includes devolved leadership to subject specialists and teachers
  • collaborative and whole school involvement
  • pedagogy that deepens subject knowledge and challenges the pupil’s ability to make connections across different subject disciplines
  • how pupils demonstrate competence in their use of skills that help them to access curriculum knowledge
  • a carefully sequenced content that builds depth and breadth of understanding over time

The research found that the sample schools used one of three approaches to planning their curriculum.

  • Knowledge – led approach -skills come from knowledge, “skills are the bi-product of knowledge”. Through the deepening of knowledge comes the ability to use associated skills. The characteristics of this approach are fewer topics that are taught in greater depth
  • Knowledge – engaged approach – “knowledge underpins the application of skills” This approach focuses on how the skills and the knowledge are integral, the pupil learns skills alongside knowledge acquisition. This involves planning which skills the pupil will use to access knowledge. Within this approach there is a greater emphasis on cross-curricular teaching, ensuring an understanding of how knowledge applies in a context
  • Skills – led approach – Skills have the higher priority in the planning process, knowledge is seen as a series of disconnected facts unless the pupil has the skills to place them in their context

There is no suggestion that one approach is better than another and schools remain free to make their own decisions as to the best model in their specific local setting. However, it is the reasons behind the choices made that will need to be clear and focused on holistic, deeper and sequential learning and not simply on how to achieve the best outcomes for the schools at times of testing or examination outcome.

Curriculum design, the report concludes, is a reflective process involving leaders, subject specialists and teachers. It suggests that there needs to be much more evidence of progression models that show how pupils will build their subject knowledge and their ability to use associated skills adeptly and competently. It is also clearly stated that curriculum and assessment are inseparable and welcome evidence that leaders in the sample schools believe that skilful formative and summative assessment strategies are integral to deep learning and are useful in identifying gaps in learning.

In conclusion:

  • No one design fits all, the National Curriculum is the benchmark, but the choice of design is up to the school and linked to the school’s context and the expertise of those involved
  •  The curriculum should be linked to the school vision and purpose. It should be the yardstick for what leaders want their pupils to know and be able to do by the end of their school life
  • The curriculum design should be clearly defined, the content should be carefully sequenced, have thoughtfully designed assessment practice and include an appropriate model of progression
  • The curriculum should have substance, depth and breadth and be more than preparation for tests and examinations
  • There should be a rich web of knowledge where skills weave opportunities for a continuum of learning that deepens understanding and allows for progression

The Learning Cultures Expert Curriculum team have developed two outstanding training opportunities that will give school and curriculum leaders an opportunity to reflect on what currently works well and how to ensure that new strategies and innovations create a curriculum design for now and the future that enriches learning and deepens knowledge and understanding. We weave our deep knowledge of curriculum design with our expertise in coaching to explore how to create a whole school, collaborative curriculum and assessment model that inspires and nurtures learning and achievement.

Re-defining the Primary Curriculum – Content, cohesion and purpose
Re-defining the Secondary Curriculum – Defining purpose, designing content and delivering impact

A primary focus – How well does your curriculum stand up to what inspectors are looking for?

Create an outstanding primary curriculum and have the evidence for OFSTED.

OFSTED are questioning the quality of curriculum content in their latest announcements and speeches, especially those of Amanda Spielman, the Chief Inspector.  This is whilst the Government still insist on inflicting upon us yet more testing.  The EYFS baseline test may be in place by next year unless heed is taken of those who are fiercely contesting it.  Times-table tests for year 4 and SATs at KS1 and KS2 remain. The balance between accountability on the one hand and ensuring the curriculum has breadth and is challenging is sometimes difficult to achieve as many primary headteachers are quick to point out.

Curriculum is high on the OFSTED agenda. They are planning a new framework and handbook for September 2019, not very far away in school calendar terms and this, they say, will include a review of the curriculum and how it is delivered. OFSTED are saying that the way in which we can “unlock the potential for all” is not wholly dependent on testing.  They are focusing on how the nature of assessment and actual achievement are linked through a supportive curriculum.  Whilst there is no official guidance from OFSTED they are carefully saying,

know your curriculum – what are the reasons behind its design

know how the curriculum is being delivered across all year groups

know what impact your curriculum is having on pupils’ knowledge and understanding

have evidence that pupils build on prior learning as they progress at points of transition and across year groups

Amanda Spielman (2017) wants leaders to take a “whole school strategic approach to the spiritual, cultural and moral development of pupils to make the world a better place”. School leaders, she says, should be thinking less about preparing pupils for exams and more about the “body of knowledge” young people will gain during their time at school.

Here at Learning Cultures we are following these developments, attending forums that will keep us completely up to date and reviewing the research that is cited as relevant to current policy and quality assertions.

The nature of our training supports leaders, managers, teachers and support staff to take ownership of how the curriculum is planned and delivered.  We focus on what is meant by outstanding pedagogy and how to cascade good practice. We believe that the curriculum should be a tapestry of knowledge and skills that weaves engaging learning opportunities from early years to year 6 and beyond.  This is the time to think deeply about designing a powerful knowledge rich curriculum that is truly relevant to the needs of your particular context specifically in relation to how pupils learn and what engages them in becoming truly competent in mastering the concepts and using them in innumerable contexts.

Join us at our updated primary curriculum event,

Designing the Primary Curriculum – Ensuring depth and breadth and a continuum of learning

You may also be interested in our event that looks specifically how to embed literacy and numeracy as part of learning across all subjects and the wider curriculum,

Mastery and Deeper Learning in Literacy and Numeracy across the Primary Curriculum

What do we do with a problem called Year 9? – A focus on the role of Key Stage 3

OFSTED and curriculum breadth and balance in Key Stage 3 that includes Year 9.

OFSTED see Key Stage 3 as a vital and stand-alone stage that should allow pupils access to a wide and varied curriculum that deepens their knowledge and sharpens their skills so that they are fully prepared for the rigour of GCSE.  The message is clear GCSEs are designed as two-year programmes of study and Key Stage 3 should not be truncated without very good reason.

Amanda Spielman in her recent speech to the Church of England Foundation for Educational Leadership was unequivocal in her condemnation of what she sees as poor practice, she said,

Particular poor practice includes,

“the widespread shortening of key stage 3 to 2 years, when this means that many pupils lose a whole year of study of the humanities, of languages and of the arts.”

She goes on to clarify her point by saying,

“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.”

So, the questions are,

  • how should Key Stage 3 be planned in order that pupils build on prior learning, access learning in a variety of subjects and become unconsciously competent in their use of the skills they need for future learning, life and work?
  • how can the Key Stage 3 curriculum embrace some of the content of GCSE subjects so that pupils have a foundation that they can take with them into Key Stage 4 and beyond and that motivates them to want to continue to learn?

OFSTED’s message, clearly articulated by Amanda Spielman in several of her recent speeches and publications is that they are not telling schools how to plan their curriculum of the size of their key stages they are saying that there must be good reasons for the decisions made that can be justified in the interest of the pupil and not just in terms of achieving better Progress 8 scores that reflect how successful the school is in relation to other schools across the country.

The conclusion one can draw is that year 9 does need to be planned as part of Key Stage 3. If this is done well pupils will build on their prior learning from Key Stage 2 in year 7 and 8, have access to a wide curriculum offer and develop the knowledge and skills that will be a springboard for high achievement at Key Stage 4 and beyond.

Year 9 could be seen as a bridging year, the transition year from Key Stage 3 to 4.  A year when pupils begin to develop an understanding of how their learning will be assessed at GCSE and what skills they need to develop in order to achieve their full potential.  It could also be the year when there are planned cross curricular themes that are linked to GCSE content but allow pupils to develop skills in enquiry, creativity, problem solving and analysis as well as debating, presentation and report writing.

This approach could tick all the boxes; GCSE content is seen as difficult to cover in the time so a carefully crafted year 9 scheme of work could take some of the strain.  OFSTED want to see year 9 as part of Key Stage 3 and not an extension of GCSE study. This approach allows pupils to access GCSE themes but learn about them in a different way and develop a range of cross curricular skills that will stand them in good stead across all of their GCSEs both core and options.

Join us for our extremely popular and well received training course

How Important is Key Stage 3 in Your School?

We explore how to plan an effective Key Stage 3 curriculum offer that is rich in knowledge, builds the vital skills pupils need for Key Stage 4 and beyond and ensures that some of the content within GCSE subjects has been taught and absorbed by the end of Key Stage 3 ensure a positive springboard for future study.

Be Outstanding this New Year – Six resolutions for your school and staff

In December I wrote five news items linked to policy, the latest research and what is in the spotlight for OFSTED and a sixth that focuses on coaching and what we know helps to create and sustain outstanding learning and teaching.

Curriculum is in the spotlight and the focus on mastery or deep and rich learning continues to occupy the minds of policy makers and OFSTED.  Closing the achievement gap especially for ‘disadvantaged’ learners is the subject of a new Government paper. Formative assessment is fundamental to positive outcomes for pupils across all sectors and creating a consistent whole school strategy that delivers positive learning is paramount. Transition is a key issue and remains a concern for many as pupils continue to dip in performance especially as they move from primary to secondary school.  Key Stage 3 is still seen by OFSTED as ‘wasted’ and needs to be a focus for review.

Make your New Year’s resolution to use coaching to create a culture that celebrates, shares and cascades good and outstanding practice and where learning is at the heart of everything.  The philosophy and practices involved in the development of coaching skills for all staff is proven to be the best way to manage change successfully.  Read the blog posts that are linked directly to the issues that have been aired over December and then focus on how creating a coaching culture in your school or group of schools will be a positive catalyst for continuous excellence and improvement.

Read the news posts on our website or dip into them altogether here,

Wishing you a very happy New Year from all of us at Learning Cultures.

Primary to Secondary Transition – Create a seamless curriculum, positive partnerships and powerful progression

Research suggests that pupil performance as a result of primary to secondary transition can dip by as much as 39%.  There are many reasons why this might be so, some are unavoidable as pupils move from the relatively calm and comfortable primary classroom to the less pupil centred secondary school.  There are, however, many things a secondary school can do to turn this dip around.

OFSTED remain critical of the lack of communication they detect at times of primary to secondary transition.  The new primary curriculum is now well embedded and the content is considerably more in-depth than previously. For instance, in Maths pupils are now learning in year 4 what they used to learn in year 6.  The perception from the inspectorate and other stakeholder bodies is that secondary teachers are not aware of the standards and quality of work that is being produced particularly by pupils in years 5 and 6.  Secondary schools need a strategy through cross phase primary to secondary transition partnerships that ensure higher levels of interaction through such interventions as the sharing of schemes of work, an opportunity to dovetail programmes of study and time to observe and reflect on learning.

Secondary teachers should look closely at the SATs tests to see what the pupils they will be teaching are expected to be able to achieve in the last term of year 6.  The scores from these tests will determine the accountability measures by which secondary schools will be judged over the five years until the next testing regime of GCSE.  The data is new and the method by which the data is gathered and collated is new.  Many secondary headteachers say that there is a lack of granularity in the new data which makes it difficult to make judgements on prior achievement. Many see the new data used as part of primary to secondary transition as a barrier to successful academic transition.

Relying on the quantitative data at times of primary to secondary transition is a mistake if it is not backed up by qualitative data and information.  This can only come from clearly defined communication strategies that allow for schools across the bridge to collaborate and share what pupils have learnt, how the learning has been assessed and what the gaps are in individual pupil’s learning by the end of year 6.  This requires an investment by both phases such as, creating teacher time to share, moderate and observe, cross – phase CPD and an opportunity to build co-written schemes of work that deliver seamless learning from KS2 to 3.

Secondary schools need answers to questions such as “what does good progress look like from year 6 to year 9?” “What do the scaled scores at KS2 mean in relation to progress at KS3?” “How do we build on prior learning in a positive way so that pupils see that they are involved in deepening and extending their learning?”

We have designed as a result of in-depth sector led research a powerful training course Crossing the Bridge – Seamless Transition from KS2 to 3 that focuses on these issues and will provide solutions and resources to support highly successful evidence based strategies at times of primary to secondary transition that deliver answers, motivated pupils and a high chance of successful outcomes for pupils at the end of KS4. You may also like to have a look at a recent blog post, The Spotlight is on KS3 which highlights the issues that OFSTED see as still lacking in secondary school planning for KS3.

The Spotlight Continues to Fall on Key Stage 3

This post has some serious messages for all those involved in planning the KS3 curriculum. A senior representative from OFSTED spoke at a Westminster Forum last week. His message, more than two years after the publication of the report, Key Stage 3: the wasted years?, little has changed. His key concerns were:

  • Key Stage 3 is not seen as a priority so there is still evidence of split classes and non-specialist teachers teaching core subjects
  • Insufficient breadth and balance especially where KS3 is being reduced to two years rather than 3
  • Although there are improvements in literacy provision there is still poor provision to ensure pupils can use numeracy unconsciously as part of learning across the curriculum
  • Careers education is poorly served within KS3
  • There is still insufficient focus on the building of prior learning from primary to secondary school so that secondary teachers understand what has been taught and to what depth

It was emphasised that OFSTED have no preference on the size of KS3 ie. two years or three years.  However, if the decision is a two-year KS3 they are looking for schools to justify with some clarity the impact this will have on learning, knowledge, skills, progression and continuity.  Essentially, he stated, the KS3 curriculum is designed as a 3-year programme and GCSEs are designed to cover a two-year span. I think you can draw your own conclusions on their preference.

There are some questions that curriculum planners and those involved in school improvement need to answer in their quest for a KS3 that will deliver high levels of pupil progress and prepare pupils well for KS4 and beyond.

  • How committed are senior leaders in the school to ensuring KS3 has the priority OFSTED have given it?
  • How do we create evidence that the curriculum builds on prior learning from the primary phase?
  • If we choose a two-year KS3, how do we justify the decision in relation to impact on breadth and balance that ensures pupils have sufficient time to deepen their knowledge and understanding and develop a range of skills ready for KS4 and beyond?
  • What can be done to reduce the number of split classes and the use of non-specialist teachers used to teach in KS3?
  • How do we make sure that there is not a narrowing of the curriculum for lower attaining learners and that higher achieving learners are achieving their full potential?
  • How do we shape the curriculum at KS3 so that pupils develop a range of essential skills, especially literacy and numeracy and have a rich tapestry of learning linked to the content of the KS3 programmes of study so that KS3 is not seen as an extension of simply preparing for GCSE?

Since the publication of the wasted years report we have deeply researched this area of curriculum development and have delivered with stunning feedback our training course, How important is Key Stage 3 to your School?  We have resources, tools, research papers and ideas to support you in answering the questions above.

If your main consideration in planning for this curriculum stage is transition from KS2 to 3 join us for our extremely popular and well received training course,

Crossing the Transition Bridge – seamless learning from KS2 to 3.

Character Education – Part of the tapestry of learning

Character Education is the subject of one of the reports to come out of the DfE this summer. It is a review of some research into Character Education in Schools. The research poses several questions linked to provision, the role of schools in teaching character, the approaches schools use and the challenges schools face.

Rising Stars provide a very good overview of the findings of the report in their document, DFE Publishes Character Education Report. 

Is it necessary to have a separate curriculum pathway called Character Education?

What is education if it is not a part of shaping the individual to be honest, have integrity and a respect for others?  All learning should stimulate curiosity and allow for problem solving that creates resilient and motivated learners. There are so many opportunities within the curriculum for learners to debate, focus on moral dilemma, learn self-respect and deepen their sense of fairness in order that they can contribute to society.

Subject specific learning is stuffed full of opportunities for pupils to develop their individual and unique characters.  English Literature or History allows us to analyse different characters and their influence on people, time and place. Maths and Science give us an awesome look at how the world is shaped and the part we can play in enjoying it, inventing it or using it.  Design, art music or drama provide us with a wealth of opportunities for creativity, expression and individuality. PE and sport develop the bodies and minds of learners and teach them how to win and lose, how to embrace competitiveness and how to be a team player.  Both the primary and secondary curriculum have the breadth and depth to encompass character education.

Most of the curriculum is currently taught in chunks, where the learning is not an interwoven tapestry that develops the whole person.  There are so many opportunities for pupils to develop a whole range of skills that will ensure they become independent and resilient, open to ideas and full of the possibilities that learning can bring.  School, especially upper primary and secondary stages often provides pupils with the facts and information they need to pass tests and examinations.  There is no other stage in their lives where they will learn in such small bite size segments that appear to be unconnected.

We don’t need an addition to the curriculum; we need to look at how we can shape the curriculum so that it builds character that will last a lifetime.

 

 

 

Effective transition from Year 6 to Year 7

Effective transition from Year 6 to Year 7 – It’s all about continuity, sharing and challenging.

Creating a continuum of learning that builds on prior knowledge and skills, creates independent and enthusiastic learners and ensures every child can progress and achieve their full potential is what anyone who is in the education profession would agree with. So why is it that we still have a well-researched and continuing dip in performance of anything up to 39% for pupils at the end of year 7. Read more