This May, Ofsted published the outcome of the consultation on its new education inspection framework. B11’s Principal Consultant, Christine Schofield, offers her thoughts on its implications for schools across the UK.

B11’s education consultants welcome Ofsted’s new inspection framework, which is set to take effect from this September and puts a bigger, and I believe much-needed, emphasis on the curriculum, behaviour and personal development.

Having worked extensively with schools in challenging circumstances for many years, I have no doubt that many schools have felt constrained by the emphasis on data and performance tables in Ofsted’s current inspection framework, leading them to narrow the curriculum and to focus on tests.

However, this new focus on the curriculum, will see Ofsted inspectors spend less time looking at exam results and test data, and more time considering whether a school’s results are the outcome of a curriculum that is broad, balanced and rich.

In light of this new change, I believe schools now need to change the way they think quite dramatically. Specifically, schools must fully articulate their curriculum practice and the way their school works, and their success in doing this will have a significant impact on the outcome of an inspection.

So where do leaders begin with this process? As a result of the new framework’s far greater emphasis on schools’ ability to articulate their curriculum intent at whole school level, an ideal place to start is by ensuring that this is grounded in a secure knowledge of what is unique and special about their school, pupils and community. This vital insight can then be used as the foundation for developing a curriculum that will respond precisely to their pupils’ needs and maximise their future opportunities, and can also be balanced against government drives, such as increased English Baccalaureate (EBacc) entry.

In evaluating a school’s educational intent, inspectors will consider the quality of curriculum leadership provided by school at both senior and subject leader level. Let us start with subject leaders. Subject leaders must be able to articulate why they organise their curriculum as they do. Questions worth considering include:

  • How do subject leaders ensure that key stage 3 provides breadth and coherence and prepares pupils for what they need to do to be successful at GCSE without being driven by it?
  • Why is their subject a vital part of the curriculum and what can it offer that no other subject can?
  • What are the essentials of their subjects that pupils must know and understand in order to be able to make sense of the world in the future, and how do they ensure that it is well delivered to ensure that pupils understand and retain what is being taught? This is a particularly important consideration for subjects that pupils can drop at the end of key stage 3.

Assessment processes should also be delved into when considering the new framework. While Ofsted may not want in-school data in the future, they will undoubtedly want to know that schools have effective systems for checking progress. As such, I recommend asking the following questions:

  • How do assessment processes ensure that the curriculum is working well in each subject and that pupils are making progress?
  • Do assessments check the right things at the right time, and have they been quality assured?
    In terms of curriculum leaders, schools should be asking:
  • How will curriculum leaders check that their schemes of learning are being delivered as they should be?

The importance of work scrutiny and the need for many schools to change the way they conduct these cannot be underestimated. Many schools currently focus on compliance and whether teachers are marking according to the school’s policy and students responding appropriately. There will need to be a notable shift here to align with Ofsted’s new focus on building depth of understanding. Work in books, for example, must show that the curriculum has coherence, depth, and provides opportunities for pupils to recall, make links and consolidate; it must enable pupils to answer deep and challenging questions.

Similarly, in schools where lesson observations are a regular part of monitoring practices, there will need to be a focus on curriculum and development, as well as teaching. If work is not challenging enough (a comment that is common in lesson observation proformas), is that because of teacher expectations or limitations in the curriculum?

Senior leaders will play an equally important role during this framework change too. Firstly, senior leaders must support their middle leaders to develop high quality curriculum programmes – including where appropriate, cross-curricular themes. They must also ensure that they themselves have the skills to quality assure them effectively.

With such a huge amount to consider during this shift to a new education inspection framework, implementing changes in practice and developing a new curriculum can be overwhelming and time consuming.

Whether part of a one-off school review or as ongoing professional dialogue and support, we can work alongside you to help you through the change and ultimately develop a curriculum that is both broad and rich.

Read more about our curriculum development offering here or book a consultation today to discuss your school’s needs in detail.

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