Headteacher, Sarah Shaw came to Hartshead in 2017 and was keen to develop reading, writing, maths and science at the school. She also wanted to strengthen and define subject leadership. Sarah had heard of Cornerstones from her previous school, Bolton Brow Primary, and after looking at other curriculum providers, decided to purchase.
Curriculum impact in school
Sarah says that the school have been ‘incredibly happy’ with how the new curriculum has engaged their children. They are now passionate about their learning and have improved their knowledge and memory of what they learn. ‘Our children are able to explain that they are learning about a specific subject, rather than just a ‘topic’. However, they still make links across the curriculum and can remember more because of those links’, says Sarah.
Parents have also become much more involved in their children’s learning; there has been an increase in independent home learning as children have become more inspired by the projects. The staff have taken on the new platform, Curriculum Maestro, to help them plan, teach and assess their curriculum projects and ensure coverage. Sarah also felt that Maestro was easy to explain to new teachers to the school.
Leading up to inspection
With the new inspection framework already underway back in 2019 and their Ofsted due, the school knew ‘they were on the right lines’ with their curriculum. However, they had a lot of work to do around subject leadership. When the online platform, Curriculum Maestro, was launched, Sarah maximised it to support subject leadership further: ‘It has allowed us to have an overview of the whole curriculum, both core and foundation subjects, leading from the top level down’.
The school staff have their curriculum mapped out on Maestro, and by using its gap analysis tool, they have added in content to suit their children and ensure complete coverage. Sarah says that the Intended Curriculum Progression and Intended Curriculum Progression tools on Maestro have really helped with this normally onerous task.
Ofsted inspection experience
Hartshead had their Ofsted inspection on 19th November 2019. Three inspectors came to the school, with one inspector in a Quality Assurance capacity. They undertook a deep dive into reading, maths and science. Sarah reports that the inspectors were ‘really pleased’ that all leaders could talk about progression in their subjects across the whole school and explain the difference between skills and knowledge. Inspectors also liked how the leaders could delve down into a subject and give clear explanations. To help this, the school leaders were able to use Maestro on their laptops to articulate their curriculum coverage in the meetings.
‘Maestro is of massive support under the new framework. It can help schools of all sizes at a subject leader level, as well as with the day to day needs of a classroom teacher.’ Sarah Shaw, Headteacher, Hartshead Junior & Infants School
The Ofsted inspectors liked how the school had clear consistency in their approach and provision. They appreciated being shown Maestro and talking to leaders in the meeting about progression. They triangulated their evidence gathering, going into classrooms and looking at children’s work, talking to the children about their learning and seeing the breadth of their curriculum. In the draft report, inspectors acknowledged that the school had a ‘broad curriculum’ and mentioned the memorable experiences (part of the Cornerstones pedagogy) and that children were not only able to talk about these experiences, but inspectors could see evidence of their learning in their work. In the final report, the inspectors commented: ‘The curriculum has been created to inspire pupils and has been brought to life with first-hand experiences’ and that it ‘prepares children well for life in modern Britain’.
Sarah said that the inspectors were particularly interested in assumed prior knowledge, and that staff understood the difference between a skill and implied knowledge (both are clearly identified in the Cornerstones Curriculum and Maestro). The school was asked and able to show, where children have come from and where they are going. This actual, rather than just intended progression in knowledge is supported by a clearly sequenced curriculum – a sharp focus of the new framework. As Sarah remarks, ‘It’s not good enough for schools to say, ‘this is what we are doing’. Ofsted needs evidence to support it.’
‘The curriculum has been created to inspire pupils and has been brought to life with first-hand experiences… It prepares children well for life in modern Britain’. Ofsted report for Hartshead Junior & Infants School, November 2019
Using the support from Cornerstones
Sarah strongly believes that the school would not have done as well as they did, without Maestro and the support from the curriculum advisers. She says, ‘I’m incredibly appreciative of the support we’ve received from Cornerstones. The team have provided us with bespoke support for us as a small school. I’m a member of the Primary Leaders Facebook group and people are always asking what they can do in a small school, particularly for subject leadership. Maestro can support schools of all sizes, at a subject leader level, as well as with the day to day needs of a classroom teacher.’