Earlier this month, B11’s Principal Consultant, Christine Schofield, offered her thoughts on how Ofsted’s refocus on the curriculum will call for a dramatic change in schools across the UK. Noting that this refocus will require some considerable alterations for subject leaders in particular, we were eager to delve deeper into how Ofsted’s new inspection framework will affect leaders across a variety of different subjects.

Starting with a STEM subject, we asked Rory Johnson, Subject Lead for Science at Falinge Park High School in Rochdale, for his thoughts.

Commenting on the importance of his subject on the curriculum and what this subject can provide that other subjects cannot, Rory said: “Science is a very important subject to have on the curriculum within schools for many reasons. At Falinge Park High School, our science curriculum is designed and taught in a way that encourages our pupils to look at the world around them, problem solve and think critically about why things happen. In this sense, our science curriculum is designed to develop many thinking skills that are essential in future STEM careers but also absolutely necessary if we want our pupils to question and develop a love for learning as they grow up. When considering our curriculum intent, we really had to know exactly what success at GCSE looks like for all our pupils and then ensure years, terms and individual lessons are planned with that end point in mind. At this school we want pupils to feel like they are going on a learning journey from year 7 to year 11 and beyond, and that they can see the big picture putting each lesson into a particular context of that journey. When we shifted to this way of thinking we discovered that we needed to refine our key stage 3 curriculum so that it was robust enough in preparing our pupils for key stage 4 but also kept them engaged for five years. We also did not want to lose that special feeling science can give to pupils that is not always measurable with exams or assessment. It was important to the whole team that particular units and practical investigations were still being taught to our key stage 3 pupils despite being removed from the GCSE syllabus. For example, the topic of space has been removed from GCSE, but we did not want to take the opportunity to learn about the universe away from our year 7 pupils. Even though units such as space are not assessed at GCSE level, they still play their part in exciting and enthusing our pupils so that they develop a passion for science and enjoy coming to our lessons.”

Continuing, Rory discussed things to consider when devising a subject curriculum intent and what a quality curriculum in their subject should look like: “A significant part of the science curriculum is the vast body of knowledge pupils need to acquire and develop so that they can begin to understand the world around them and put reason to the things they see happen. Learning science in this school means getting to grips with the theory and also completing practical investigations with a purpose. We have designed our practical programme so that pupils will focus on a different science skill in each practical so that by the time they reach key stage 4 they should be able to access the GCSE curriculum. This has required us to become really familiar with the skills required at GCSE and then work backwards unpicking our key stage 3 curriculum to ensure pupils learn these skills and have the opportunity to demonstrate them more than once. This is still a work in progress since the new GCSEs have been out for just two years but since the change to the whole school culture, we can now develop our curriculum as a whole department rather than rely on a publishing company.

“A quality science curriculum should enable its pupils to develop their scientific investigative skills and knowledge of fundamentals in chemistry, biology and physics but also provide lots of opportunity for application of this in new situations. Therefore, when designing our assessment, we ensured it tested recall and application of skills and knowledge. If pupils can confidently apply their skills and knowledge over and over again in unknown situations, then they have been successful in science.”

We at B11 Education are privileged to work with a wide range of schools and regularly come across subject specialists who excel at classroom practice and demonstrate excellent subject knowledge.

As such, over the following weeks, we will be talking to other subject leaders and gathering their thoughts on the upcoming changes. Keep an eye on the B11 blog for insight from those heading up English, history, maths and more.

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