How to achieve Ofsted’s three Is of curriculum

Melanie Moore

Melanie Moore

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In this podcast, Caroline talks to Cornerstones Curriculum Director and author, Melanie Moore. They unpick the new guidance from Ofsted, centring on curriculum intent, implementation and impact: the essential ‘three Is’ that all schools need to be able to plan for and articulate. Caroline and Mel explain what to consider in order to get ready for the new Ofsted inspection framework in 2019. They also describe how schools can achieve the ‘three Is’ using the Cornerstones Curriculum.

Caroline: Welcome to the curriculum, a podcast by Cornerstones Education. Here we discuss all things curriculum plus leadership issues, teaching tips and much, much more.

Hello and welcome to another edition of The Curriculum, a podcast by Cornerstones Education. I’m Caroline Pudner and today I’m joined by Melanie Moore, who’s our curriculum director. Now, as regular listeners will know, Mel is the brains and the heart behind the Cornerstones Curriculum, and she is passionate about broadening children’s experiences, skills and knowledge using the curriculum. So today we are going to discuss what Ofsted have recently coined the three Is of curriculum and how these can be achieved either using the Cornerstones Curriculum or even if you’re not currently using cornerstones, you can still think about these three Is. And hopefully this podcast will give you lots to focus on when you’re designing, reviewing, and indeed teaching your school’s curriculum.

Okay, so first, Mel, shall we just explore what is meant by these three Is? What are they?

Melanie: Okay, so the three Is are the intent of your curriculum, the implementation of curriculum and the impact of the curriculum and Ofsted have been doing a lot of work around defining these three key aspects. I think mostly to give schools a common language when talking about curriculum, because as part of the research and the papers, if people have read them, one of the major findings was there was confusion about the terms that schools were using. So I think having those three Is quite clearly and very simply gives everyone a common language that we can all understand and use when we’re talking about curriculum.

And there is actually quite a useful framework that I think comes from one of the Ofsted presentations called the Nine Box Framework. And it’s a really nice, infographic about how the three Is are fit into the framework of national school and classroom. So maybe we could put a link to that at the end of the podcast for people to look at in a little bit more detail.

Caroline: Yeah, it’snice and simple actually and you can see how it’s come from a national study into how the national curriculum has been implemented. They’ve seen a few issues with that, and it’s translated into this.

Melanie: I think what’s nice about that nine box framework is it shows that Ofsted have a part to play in this as well, and making sure that everything’s joined up. So, for example, you have the strand of intent and then it will say nationally what’s happening school wise, what people should be doing. And then in the classroom as well. So it looks like it’s aiming to join up those three strands of national, school, classroom.

Caroline: Yeah. And because it’s simple, it does like you say, it gives teachers and senior leaders a really clear guide, and actually, it is about teachers as well as senior leaders, because another strong message from Ofsted seems to be that this is a whole school thing. It’s looking at the intent and we’ll go into that in more detail in a minute. But  it’s definitely all the stakeholders in your school from classroom, like you say, filtered right down from the national level.

Melanie: Yeah, and I think the intent, I mean, it’s a whole school thing, but that should be driven by school leaders and all stakeholders will contribute to that. But particularly, if you look at implementation, for me, that’s about how your curriculum is implemented in the classroom across each key stage. And that’s about the teachers who are delivering the curriculum, you know, day on day. So, I think it very nicely demonstrates how everything fits together.

Caroline: So, I wonder if now actually we can just zoom in a little bit to the three Is and look at each one in turn. The intent bit is obviously where you begin. What does that mean?

Melanie: So if I can take a step back from that and explain that in tandem with the work and the research that Ofsted are doing, we’ve been working here on a module, if you like, called the Six Steps of Curriculum Design, and that is intended to be a framework to help any school really, whether they’re using Cornerstones or whether they’re designing their own to help guide them through not only the process of intent, implementation and impact, but also within that the process of curriculum design. So, our first step out of the six steps that comes under the intent banner is principles and purpose. And we believe there’s, you know, any school would start with the curriculum design by setting out the intent of the curriculum, what they believe in, what they want children to learn, the purpose of their curriculum, and making sure they’re very clear about that and that all stakeholders have contributed to that and are part of that. But also, it’s really important to say that the intent of a school’s curriculum should very much be tailored to the needs of the children and the context of the school, whilst recognising any national priorities or strategies that a school needs to implement. But I do think what’s important about that is if you are very clear on your own principles and purpose and you know what you want as part of your curriculum and why you’re doing it, a school is less likely to be pulled off balance by following trends or initiatives that are not useful to their school or to the children that they’re teaching.

Caroline: Yeah, I’ve seen that as well, just from talking to schools recently. And the successful ones seem to be where they’ve really thought deep down, what is our community, what’s our school, what’s brilliant about our school, what’s our ethos. So, all that would come under intent. And also, I noticed you also included pupil entitlement and the pupil offer. What is that for anyone listening who’s not sure.

Melanie: Well, it’s actually also a part of what Ofsted say is the intent of the curriculum as well. We have it under the enrichment and entitlement, and I think Ofsted define it as those sort of additional activities that children might take part in as part of their curriculum program or other specialists or experts coming into school. Um, and we say it is, but all of those things, and we like people to think what their pupil offer will be. So rather than maybe not planning those, doing those things on an ad hoc basis is thinking as a whole staff, what are our children entitled to in each year group and what is the offer, um, for pupils at our school? So what kind of experiences do our children need? How often do we offer those? Have we got a good range of within our pupil offer and making sure that’s fair and equitable and purposeful across the whole school.

Caroline: That’s really nice. It’s like a charter almost of, you know, these children because it’s very easy, I know as a teacher, if you haven’t planned in your memorable trips or really rich experiences for children, a whole term can go by and they’ve not done it. You know.

Melanie: I thinkthe other thing as well is it helps in terms of budget and planning. Because if you if you agree that in each year group has one off site visit and two on site visits, then you’ve got parameters and you know where you are before you start to plan your projects or your teaching, and you know the parameters with which you’ve got to work in. it’s a little bit like years ago. I don’t know whether they still have, but Artsmark had a sort of a charter for all the artistic experiences. Um, and I think, is it British heritage or something, they’ve got sort of a list of things that children should do before they reach a certain age.

Carolne: Oh, National Trust

Melanie: Yeah. And it’s that kind of thing, really. It’s just setting that out. And I think what you would clearly see by doing that at the start of the process is the children’s journey across school. Um, I can’t remember. Somebody was telling me that having done this process, they’ve really restructured how they think about things like, you know, educational visits, but performances, you know, rather than feeling the pressure to do something every year, they said, actually, let’s do one by the end of each key stage. And they feel that’s less pressured. There’s more curriculum time.

Caroline: That’s the beauty of planning ahead, which is what this stage is all about, isn’t it? And I also think that pupil offer, um, you were saying it could be trips if you’ve got your if one of your principles is to be more environmental, then of course your entitlement can support that. And you could make sure that every year group does an outdoor, um, I can’t think of the word. Field Trip. So, it all starts to marry up together, doesn’t it?

Melanie: Another example might be if you say in your curriculum principles that you want to engage more with the community or local businesses. You know, then that part of your pupil offer is that every year children do a community based or business-based project, and you seek for those businesses to be part of the curriculum. And because it’s planned ahead and it’s consistent, it’s much more likely to be sustainable. So, it’s a really helpful tool.

Caroline: It is it is very helpful. So, I think we’ve done intent!

Melanie: We have!

Caroline: So, the next part is obviously the delivery, the implementation they call it. And that can cover quite a few things. So, what does it cover, from your point of view, Mel.

Melanie: Well, implementation is really about how effectively the objectives or the principles of the school are translated into processes, policies, curriculum and practice. I suppose I’m coming from a slightly different point of view, because if you are using a published scheme like Cornerstones, some of the things you may want to do in intent, like planning out what particular knowledge or skills you want children to learn at each key stage or each year group, you don’t have to do that because with a published scheme that’s already done for you. So, our implementation stage is about making choices about which projects you want to teach, which topics you want to do, when you want to do them, how long you want to do them for and into what level of depth, how you want to link things together. And also, you know which key concepts you will do and just making sure that they are connected and progressive. So then, once you know what concepts, knowledge and skills you want to teach, and of course you’ve got to link all of that to national curriculum and age related expectations. Teachers need to plan the schemes of work that will actually deliver those. So that includes deciding how to break down the knowledge and skills, how to plan that into a sequence or series of lessons, and how you’re going to flash that out into something which is a coherent weekly or termly plan. Doing that will then help teachers to build up children’s competence and understanding of those key concepts, skills and knowledge over time and again. If you have a published scheme like Cornerstones, that level of planning is already done for you. But for schools who don’t use a published scheme, that’s when they’re going to be looking at the very finite detail of their day to day delivery and progression of their curriculum. That is the most difficult stage. That’s really looking at the finite details of the design of your curriculum and then how that’s implemented into the classroom. That’s a long sort of task.

Caroline: It’s a mammoth task! Because you’ve talked recently about connecting, because not only it’s not just good enough to go and write loads of schemes of work, you’ve also got to think how subject build upon each other over the years. So, it’s a huge multi-dimensional thing. And if you are interested in this aspect, do listen to our other podcasts we did recently on connections in the curriculum, and there’s an article in our magazine. Okay, so you’ve got so you’ve done all that body of work or you’ve got a published scheme. What else is involved in implementation?

Melanie: Well, we also say that teaching narrative is part of implementation, which we touched on which is again, how effectively you can put in place in the classroom the whole school principle and what does that look like in your daily, weekly, termly teaching? And like you said, if environmental education is important for a school, can I see that? Can I see that every day in the classroom? Or can I see that every week or every term? What examples of environmental learning are the children doing? But actually, I think if you are clear and you’re agreed on your whole school principles, that actually makes your designing your teaching and developing your teaching narrative a lot easier, because you know what you have to do and you want to do. And you know what you don’t have to do and you don’t want to do! So, you’re not trying to do everything. But not only that, you can articulate why it’s like that.

Caroline: Because you’ve got the bigger picture of your intent.

Melanie: If somebody asks you, well, why aren’t these children doing X? You can say, well, because our school, one of our key or core principles is this. And we’re prioritizing this and we allocate more curriculum time to this particular aspect of learning. And whilst we do that, we do it in this way. This is the main focus.

Caroline: And I think as well as the content, it’s also the style of teaching. Even the if questioning or encouraging curiosity is one of your curriculum principles, then you’d expect if you went in a in a classroom for those teachers to be engaging with children in that way. So it can mean that, you know, lots of different things, can’t it?

Melanie: Yeah. And also, you know, you think about the the conversations at the moment. So is your curriculum engaged knowledge or knowledge rich or you know, if you’ve said in your curriculum principles that your curriculum is knowledge rich, then you would expect to see that in the classroom. And what does that look like in terms of pedagogy and teaching and learning? But if you’ve if your school is a creative school or an engaged knowledge curriculum, then you’d expect to see a balance of both skills and knowledge. So that’s also quite an interesting development at the moment as well.

Caroline: Yes. And so part maybe of the school’s listening is for you to decide really what is the best balance for your school.

Melanie: Well, we have workbooks for each stage of this curriculum design process and as part of that, in the Principles and Purpose, we say that schools should set out their principles around their values, their context, their pedagogy, which is what we’ve just been talking about and the needs of the school. So very specifically, we say think about these areas and articulate what’s important to you. But pedagogy is definitely one of them. Yeah.

Caroline: Okay, so that’s the implementation stage. Now they’ve also identified the impact stage which you know, is incredibly important. And interestingly I noticed on the Ofsted presentation they’ve done on the three Is, it does say this is about this is not about schools demonstrating impact. It’s about them knowing impact. So, can we unpick what that is?

Melanie: We can try, I mean, I was lucky enough to speak to Sean Harford and we did speak a little bit about that. And, you know, he just had a very common sense approach to assessment. And, you know, that it’s not just about ticking lots of boxes for the sake of it. What you need to be able to do is to be able to identify gaps in the children’s learning, to be able to articulate those and to say what you’re going to do about it. And a school needs to find a way of observing that and using that information purposefully. It’s not just filling in tick boxes.

Caroline: No, he said it was meaningful assessment. And I think maybe with the impact stage as well, what that knowing means is that it’s something that is done for the good of the children, for the teaching and for the future teaching. So, if you know that your curriculum, intent and purposes are working well and it’s having an impact on your children, then that’s great. Carry on doing that. But it’s also about identifying weaknesses and being honest about that, isn’t it?

Melanie: I mean, I wrote the Cornerstones curriculum about 4 or 5 years ago now. And, you know, you get to know its strengths and you get to know its weaknesses from the evidence of schools doing that. And schools tell us and then, you know, part of our work is we then take a look at that again and we reshape it and re improve it. And we’ve also got a workbook around reviewing and evaluating the curriculum as well. So as part of the six steps module we have a stage and a workbook which invites the whole school to review and evaluate curriculum progress so far to say what’s gone well, what needs work on, and to sort of set priorities for the next year or to revisit, to start the cycle again and go back to step one and think, right, we might need to refine our principles now, because actually, either this has become a bigger part, a bigger priority, you know, things change. But I think if you have that cycle in place, it’s much easier to keep your curriculum fresh. And if you keep that cycle in mind, your curriculum is always going to be on point and relevant.

Caroline: And the only way you know that is by really knowing whether it’s having an impact on not just the children, but speaking to teachers, I see the impact on teachers as well and on the school, the wellbeing of the school and the kind of feel of a school when it’s got a really coherent curriculum. And these three I’s obviously are stages, but if you if you can nail that even for one cycle and then think, well, we’ll adapt it and we’ll change again, it’s that that keeps like you say, it keeps things fresh. But it, it means you’re doing the very best for your children and your staff. So something that this brings to mind, I know it’s a little bit contentious thinking about business and schools and so on for some people, but I did listen to a podcast recently about branding, and something really struck me, which is this lady was a CEO of a company and she said the best learning she’d had from it is to know what you are and what you’re not.

And I think in a way, schools, by setting their principles and their ethos, their values really crystallize what we are. And like you said earlier, you know, if you decide this is what we’re doing, this is what we’re prioritizing, it actually can have a positive impact on the feel in a school and obviously with the children, but also on workload I think, because you don’t have to feel you got to do everything and fit everything in, you know, and I’ve seen positive examples of that.

So anyway, that’s all we’ve got time for today. Thanks to Mel for joining me, and I hope you, the listener, have found it a useful guide to support your own curriculum thinking. Do take a look on our website where you can find more support and also information about our new curriculum design tool Curriculum Maestro that can help you deliver your own three Is. And of course, Ofsted have got lots of advice about the three Is and about curriculum design in general on their website too. So until next time, it’s goodbye from us here.

Ofsted inspection framework

Melanie Moore, Caroline Pudner 23rd November 2018