28th September 2018
As Ofsted’s Chief Inspector, Amanda Spielman, releases a new blog reflecting on their recent countrywide curriculum research, we highlight the next steps for schools and take a look at what inspectors will be looking for in terms of curriculum.
You can read Spielman’s full blog here, but here’s my summary of the main points.
Spielman admits that, over the past few years, Ofsted have ‘not placed enough emphasis on the curriculum’. As a result, some schools have viewed the curriculum as a ‘timetable’ to prepare children for tests.
Ofsted identifies a ‘lack of curriculum knowledge and expertise in the sector’ that results in curriculum narrowing and ‘teaching to test’. There are concerns as to whether all children have equal access to the whole curriculum.
Schools build the curriculum around three main approaches, which Ofsted categorise as follows:
Knowledge-led approach. These schools define their curriculum as a body of subject-specific knowledge to be mastered. Skills are an outcome of the curriculum, not its purpose. The focus is on an in-depth understanding of fewer topic areas.
Knowledge-engaged approach. These schools see their curriculum as a balance between knowledge and skills. They often use cross-curricular teaching to make the curriculum relevant and meaningful to children and for putting knowledge into context.
Skills-led approach. These schools design the curriculum to develop the skills children need for future learning, such as resilience and a growth mindset. Skills are not seen as ‘by-products’ of the curriculum but of greater importance than simply acquiring knowledge.
‘Knowledge and the capacity it provides to apply skills and deepen understanding are essential ingredients of successful curriculum design.’
Schools design their curriculums on their chosen approach. Again, there are variations, strengths and weaknesses seen in all models.
Criticised by some in the past for favouring a knowledge-heavy curriculum, Spielman stresses that she does not advocate a ‘pub-quiz approach to education’ and that Ofsted researchers observed strengths and weaknesses in each curriculum approach.
‘There need be no conflict between teaching a broad, rich curriculum and achieving success in exams. A well-constructed, well-taught curriculum will lead to good results because those results will be a reflection of what pupils have learned.’
Throughout her blog, Spielman offers strong hints about how inspectors will judge a school’s curriculum under the new framework, due out next year. Here are the main foci:
Spielman suggests that school leaders now focus on establishing a strong, clear, well-designed and coherent curriculum to give their school real purpose. It should be relevant to their school’s context and utilise the skills and knowledge of curriculum leaders.
In designing a curriculum, Spielman advises schools to consider what they want their children to know and be able to do by the time they leave school. She also stresses the importance of ensuring the curriculum is implemented and taught well, in appropriate sequences of content that encourage progression.
Schools should consider the role of knowledge (the ‘known’) and skills (the ‘know-how’) in their curriculum design. Spielman emphasises that ‘a rich web of knowledge is what provides the capacity for pupils to learn even more and develop their understanding.’
Finally, she advises that schools are clear about how their curriculum implementation reflects any well-meaning curriculum intent.
The Cornerstones Curriculum is a knowledge and skills-based, whole school curriculum. It includes over 80 imaginative cross-curricular projects that engage young minds and provide coherent subject progression.
Our projects and resources have provided over 2000 schools with the tools, content and expertise they needed to design their curriculum. If you want help developing your curriculum, then contact us to book a free online demonstration or meeting with one of our experienced curriculum consultants.
Click on the image below to listen to our podcast with Ofsted Director of Education, Sean Harford.