We know that there will be a renewed focus on the curriculum in the inspection handbook from September 2019.
There are three elements when reviewing the curriculum:
One: what is the vision that leaders have for the curriculum in
their schools? What is it intended to do? Leaders need to be able
to talk about the vision and the purpose of the curriculum in their
setting. In other words, what are the school’s aims for the
curriculum, what is the overall knowledge and understanding to
be gained at each key stage?
Two: there is an expectation that leaders know how the
curriculum in their school is being implemented. How does the big
picture of the curriculum translate into plans and what does this
look like in the classroom? This is a more detailed narrative than
simply naming the subjects on the timetable.
Three: leaders willneed to know the impact that the curriculum is
having on pupils’ knowledge and understanding. This has
implications for how that information is gathered. The key question
is that leaders need ‘to know’ but this does not necessarily mean
they need to gather that data and information solely through
numbers on a spreadsheet.
Why this focus on the curriculum? The research has found that
across the sector there has not been a coherent narrative of the
purpose of the curriculum.
The research has also found that there has been a narrowing of
the curriculum in many primary and secondary schools. This is
because priorities have been distorted. This is not necessarily
anyone’s fault. It is rather that in the pursuit of great grades, the
importance of a broad and balanced curriculum has sometimes
And then there has been an over focus on exam preparation. In
primary there have been many schools whose main priority has
been SATS preparation in upper key stage two and year 6 in
particular. This has happened for understandable reasons:
schools want their pupils to do well. But the problem is that by
narrowing the curriculum to focus on SATS practice, not only are
pupils missing out on a wider curriculum, but over practice is not
effective. So, in order to prepare pupils better for their reading
tests for example, it is better to expose them to plenty of texts and
stories in the wider curriculum rather than masses of
comprehension and inference practice.
In secondary, on the other hand, a narrowing of the curriculum in
order to prepare for GCSEs has meant that some pupils are not
studying art or one of the humanities after year 8.
And it is for these reasons that the inspectorate will be asking
questions about how the sector provides the richest curriculum for
the greatest number of pupils.
In the next session we will look at these elements in more detail.