‘Is anyone ready for Ofsted tackling curriculum?’

There is a revolution in school inspection just around the corner and yet few appear ready for it – quite possibly including Ofsted itself. Tes reports

It is no secret that Amanda Spielman intends to use her tenure as Ofsted chief inspector to push greater depth of thinking about curriculum within schools, something that she believes has been missing for a number of years. 

This has the potential, if handled correctly, to be a paradigm shift for schools. There is a growing body of evidence, explored by the likes of Dylan Wiliam and Tim Oates, that suggests that curriculum is a hugely important factor in influencing outcomes.

But those in the know are worried. As ever with education, while the idea might be good, insiders are asking whether the sector is being given the time to prepare itself to truly take advantage.

The huge question is whether many heads and leaders are currently in a position to answer compellingly such questions and whether many inspectors are currently in a position to ask them – or, indeed, to correctly analyse the responses they get.

However, this is not just about schools’ state of readiness. Can Spielman really be confident that her thousands of inspectors will be ready to inspect something so complex and multi-faceted as curriculum design? Inspector quality is not what it should be and the inspectorate continues to haemorrhage talent. It seems unlikely that there would be any consistency of judgement.

This brings us on to the next area of major concern. Who decides what a good curriculum looks like? This is an area of enormous subjectivity, which could prove tricky for an organisation that is supposed to be objective.

How can its inspectors’ judgements be expected to resist the political winds? Spielman is very clearly on the side of those who espouse a “powerful knowledge” curriculum. How would Ofsted avoid this position informing inspectors’ perspectives? Should it even try?

Assuming it does want to be neutral on such issues, will Ofsted be able to guarantee that a school with a well-thought-out but explicitly progressive curriculum – say School 21 in East London – get a fair hearing? Would it be treated as an equal of, say, the overtly traditionalist Michaela Community School in Wembley? Who, pray, will define good curriculum design? Does Ofsted really have a handle on how it might compare and contrast such curricula?

Read the full article ‘Is anyone ready for Ofsted tackling curriculum?’

How confident is your school? How confident are you that Ofsted knows what it’s doing? Please tell us your thoughts in comments or via Twitter ~ Tamsin

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