Curriculum – Who needs it?

The chief inspector of schools, Amanda Spielman, stated in a speech to school leaders in September that a renewed focus on curriculum from Ofsted should reverse the current incentives that come from “Inspection being too focused on outcomes”. Spielman argued that, “Ultimately, the curriculum is the yardstick for what school leaders want their pupils to know and to be able to do by the time they leave school.” Because of this, Spielman believed that, “The new inspection framework has curriculum as a central focus.”

This speech came hot on the heels of the inspectorate’s published findings of a study into curriculum where inspectors visited 23 schools rated good or outstanding between January and March 2018. The study found that although weaknesses in some leaders’ descriptions of their curriculum intent, all leaders recognised the importance of progression through regular curriculum reviews.

The published findings were the part of a three phase review of the curriculum with phase one finding schools were ‘narrowing the primary curriculum by placing too great a focus on preparing for SATs.’ Spielman stated that,” There need be no conflict between teaching a broad, rich curriculum and achieving success in exams”. She argued that, “A well-constructed, well-taught curriculum will lead to good results because those results will be a reflection of what pupils have learned.”

More recently, the change of focus towards curriculum has become more apparent with Ofsted consulting on the introduction of a new judgement for ‘quality of education’ which would replace the current ‘outcomes for pupils’ and ‘teaching, learning and assessment’ judgements.

Although widely accepted that a focus by Ofsted on a school’s broader curriculum is a positive one, many are also concerned of its risks. Becky Allen, professor of education at University College London’s Institute of Education, recently wrote in Schools Week, that “Ofsted’s focus on curriculum, risks being a tick-box exercise that does nothing to assess whether children are actually learning.

So, with the impending changes to the Ofsted framework towards a focus on a school’s wider curriculum offer, how can school leaders start to prepare themselves?

Nicholas Garrick director of Lighting up Learning, suggests that schools should be focusing their curriculum design on the 3 ‘Is’ – Intent, Implementation and Impact. He suggests that a school should focus on how a curriculum is experienced and not just the content it maps. Nicholas argues that, ‘Evidence shows that schools, who approach assessment, performance management and intervention as an extension of the curriculum, are very successful.’

It could be argued that schools shouldn’t need reminding of the importance of curriculum in high quality education however sometimes, with a constant barrage of ever-changing initiatives, we all need someone to remind us of what is important, and why we’re here in the first place.

Blog by; Lee Edmonds – Operational Lead For Professional Development, WHF

Nicholas is currently running a Curriculum Development Programme through the Swindon Teaching School. For more information on the programme and how to book on, please click the following link. Curriculum Development Programme.