Assessing curriculum; Ofsted’s new inspection framework

Ofsted have issued their new curriculum inspection framework. Its main features are outlined in this section.

“The [framework …] is intended to restore curriculum – largely ‘missing in action’ from inspection for more than a decade – to its proper place, as an important component of the quality of education.” Amanda Spielman

Ofsted have confirmed that their working definition of curriculum is:

  • the framework for setting out the aims of a programme of education, including the knowledge and skills to be gained at each stage (intent); and
  • the translation of that framework over time into a structure and narrative, within an institutional context (implementation); and
  • the evaluation of what knowledge and skills learners have gained against expectations (impact/achievement).

This clearly goes beyond a plan of what learners will be taught in a particular subject over the course of a week, term or a year, and should be recursive.

Intent

In its new Inspection Handbook to be adopted in September 2019, Ofsted indicates that in assessing the ‘intent’ of the curriculum it will consider the leadership provided by school, subject and curriculum leaders.  It will consider whether or not there is a solid consensus between those leaders as to the knowledge and skills pupils need to take advantage of opportunities, responsibilities and experiences of later life.  This in turn, should respond to local context.

Ofsted will also assess the extent to which a school’s curriculum remains broad for as long as possible.  As such, at KS4, it will support the government’s ambition to see 75% of pupils studying the EBacc subject combination at GCSE by 2022 and 90% by 2025.  And, it specifically indicates that disadvantaged pupils or those with SEND should not be offered a reduced curriculum and that there is to be high academic/vocational/technical ambition for all pupils.

A particular focus in relation to ‘impact’ will be ‘cultural capital’, that is: “the essential knowledge that pupils need to be educated citizens, introducing them to the best that has been thought and said and helping to engender an appreciation of human creativity and achievement.”

Implementation

Evaluation of implementation will unsurprisingly focus on how the curriculum is actually taught at the subject and classroom level.  There is a focus on ‘long term memory’ and developing understanding rather than simply memorising facts. The framework also states that assessment should be used to ‘support the teaching of the curriculum’ and any data collection undertaken by the school should be proportionate, efficient and sustainable for staff.

Impact

Of particular mention in relation to Ofsted’s recognition of impact as defined above, is its mention that “National assessments and examinations are useful indicators of pupils’ outcomes, but they only represent a sample of what pupils have learned.” And an inspection will also consider the progress made by all pupils, and whether disadvantaged pupils and pupils with SEND acquire the knowledge and cultural capital they need to succeed in life.  Age-appropriate levels and fluency of reading are highlighted as being extremely important, particularly in primary schools.

For the purposes of the Ofsted judgement, curriculum will be judged as a whole, that is, assessing intent, implementation and impact holistically.  Ofsted have published a separate methodology handbook, which sets out in much more detail how it will be undertaking its inspections on the curriculum and what schools can expect during the course of their two-day inspections.

The law and practice referred to in this article or webinar has been paraphrased or summarised. It might not be up-to-date with changes in the law and we do not guarantee the accuracy of any information provided at the time of reading. It should not be construed or relied upon as legal advice in relation to a specific set of circumstances.

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