Building pupils knowledge sequentially in both the core and wider subjects – do you have the evidence?

Taking a look at the most recent OFSTED reports where inspectors have been into schools this term makes interesting reading.  There are several entries where schools have been judged inadequate or requiring improvement who were previously outstanding or good.  The change of emphasis to a much deeper dive into the way the curriculum is planned, sequenced and assessed is clear in the improvement strategies these schools are invited to address.  I have listed here several quotes that are typical of what is deemed to be missing,

“The school’s curriculum is not sufficiently sequenced and coherent. The breadth of the National Curriculum is not covered in all subjects.”

“Leaders need to make sure that the curriculum is planned so that teachers can build pupils’ knowledge sequentially, over time, allowing them the learn more and remember more.”

“The curriculum is poorly planned and taught. Pupils do not gain enough skills and knowledge of subjects outside reading, writing and mathematics.”

“Improve the effectiveness of leadership by ensuring that learning in the wider curriculum is carefully sequenced so that pupils make good progress within topics and year on year.”

“Improvements should be made by developing the curriculum, in both the core and the wider curriculum subjects, so that it is well planned, builds on prior knowledge and understanding, meets the needs and interests of all pupils and enables them to achieve well.”

The messages could not be clearer. There is a sharp focus on curriculum sequencing, building on prior learning and planning to ensure pupils develop deep knowledge and skills across all their learning.  I could have included several other quotes about issues relating to assessment and the concern about subject knowledge and subject expertise as well as issues about how the curriculum is taught but this is a news post and not an essay.

Over the past few months we have followed the development of curriculum research, commentary on curriculum design and finally the publication of the latest OFSTED handbook for schools in a series of news posts and comments.  You can read the story so far here. We have developed some outstanding resources and tools to support leadership teams, curriculum managers and subject leaders to plan and deliver a deeply knowledge rich and skills focused curriculum.  We have focused on how to make this happen using practical approaches and well-researched strategies that are receiving high praise.  Our training is practical and solutions focused and is based on the principles of coaching. There is no better way to cascade outstanding practice and build a culture of professional dialogue that is shared across the whole school.

Have a look at our website for the many other training courses that are both relevant and will enhance the CPD potential in your school. We run superb INSET training or off-site courses.  There is something for all the staff in your school or college.

Creating a culture that fosters professional dialogue and delivers a seamless curriculum

How do leaders in schools create the right culture that fosters constructive professional dialogue? Amanda Spielman from OFSTED puts the importance of professional dialogue at the heart of her last two major speeches, one to ASCL and the other to the Muslim Teachers’ Association.

“The Quality of Education judgement is central to putting the curriculum, the substance of education, back at the heart of professional dialogue in schools and colleges. It’s been great to hear that these conversations are emerging, even before the first inspections under this new framework.”

In order to create that school culture where all staff have the opportunity to engage in professional dialogue there needs to be a profound understanding of the difference between professional dialogue and a conversation.

Professional dialogue is one of the phrases that is completely embedded in all of our coaching programmes.  The essence of learning how to coach for those in education is in the development of a range of coaching attributes including highly effective listening skills, the ability to ask incisive, deep and rich questions and to have the confidence and the capacity to influence others to change.  Creating a CPD strategy that embraces coaching fosters professional dialogue and moves individuals away from simply using unstructured conversations.  It can have a profound impact on ensuring all staff are empowered to deliver a consistent, whole school approach to how the curriculum intent, ambition and rationale is translated into innovative planning, highly effective pedagogy and a shared understanding of the sequencing of content over time.

“OFSTED have the concept of dialogue at its core to establish, what  pupils are being taught? How well are they being taught? and, How is what they are being taught setting them up for the next stage in their education?”

The curriculum rationale and ambition that reveals its intent and how this is consistently implemented in every classroom and in many cross curricular contexts is at the heart of what OFSTED want to focus on as part of assessing ‘the substance of education’. Creating opportunities to deepen the skills of leaders, managers, teachers and support staff in how they use professional dialogue as opposed to simply having conversations will help to create the essential, consistent and seamless curriculum offer that builds on prior learning, deepens knowledge, enhances pupils’ skills over time and ensures assessment finds the gaps in understanding and informs future learning.

“The point of observation by inspectors is to see whether the school’s aims and intentions are being translated effectively into practice, ‘does it all come together as it should’.”

If, as Amanda Spielman talks about in her speeches, leaders, managers and teachers are to be an integral part of professional dialogue about the curriculum and how the intent is translated into highly effective delivery that has a demonstrable impact on learning over time; then all staff need to have the right skill set to be an equal participant in that constructive dialogue.  They will need to listen to what is being asked of them, be able to respond with incisive questions that are designed to draw out deeper meaning and have the vocabulary and deep pedagogical and subject expertise that will demonstrate their professional understanding of how the school is successfully delivering powerful learning for all pupils.

Have a look at Learning Cultures’ coaching courses, we have a training opportunity for all staff, for leaders, middle managers, subject specialists, teachers, support staff and SENCOs.

Join us at one of our highly praised curriculum courses, they have been so successful and we continue to update them as more information emerges from DfE and OFSTED.

Subject expertise and subject leadership are pivotal to the proposed changes and we have a new course researched and designed by our expert curriculum team.

Enhancing the Role of the Subject Leader – managing curriculum change that delivers sequential, seamless and deep knowledge and skills

 

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

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.

Changes to the OFSTED Handbook October 2017

OFSTED have slightly revised their handbook for schools. There are not many changes but they are significant.  We have worked through the October 2017 version and compared it with the last published version in August 2016. A complete list of the changes and a web version of the headlines below can be found on our website.

The headline changes are:-

Part 1 – How schools will be inspected

  • Good schools may trigger a full inspection if provision is deemed to have  deteriorated slightly
  • Ofsted have published a short paper dispelling common myths and misconceptions about their work in schools some of which are included in the handbook and captured here
  • Clarification that judgements will not be made where groups are small and therefore not representative
  • Clarification of arrangements for who should be included in meetings including the governance structure and inclusion of chief executive officers or equivalents of academies and milti academy trusts
  • Emphasis that inspectors must gather evidence from a wide range of sources including pupils’ experiences of learning, behaviour and the prevention of bullyingNew wording for how a school is judged as requires improvement and when a school is causing concern
  • Section 8 of the handbook has also been revised

Part 2 – The evaluation schedule – how schools will be judged

  • An additional entry emphasising that inspectors should look at how leaders and governors use high quality professional development to encourage challenge and support teacher improvement
  • An additional entry that emphasises that inspectors must see that the curriculum provides adequately for the needs of all pupils
  • Further emphasis that using data for small groups of children must be treated with caution
  • New emphasis on the adequacy of core provision, inclusion and additional provision for those deemed disadvantaged
  • Emphasis on stretch and challenge for the most able
  • New emphasis on scrutinising the progress of pupils in English and maths against national figures
  • For early years there is an additional emphasis on the ‘culture of safeguarding’
  • There is a new publication for boarding provision Social Care Common Inspection Framework: Boarding schools and Residential Special schools

You can see a transcript of the changes on our website.