‘Why are Ofsted and the DfE split on curriculum?’

If reports over the summer are to be believed, there is a simmering tension between Ofsted and the Department for Education over the direction of the inspectorate’s new framework. I worry that, if this is the case, it is schools and pupils who will lose out. Stephen Rollett, inspections and accountability specialist at the ASCL writes in Tes.

Her Majesty’s chief inspector, Amanda Spielman, has been consistent over the past year in arguing that inspection must look more at the curriculum. This is partly driven by the view that a counterbalance is needed to the overbearing weight that performance measures bring to bear in the accountability system -– exam results should be part of the picture, but not the whole picture.

Spielman draws on the notion of curriculum entitlement; that young people are entitled to a challenging, “broad and balanced” curriculum. In doing so, she sometimes leans on 19th-century social commentator Matthew Arnold’s famous assertion that schools must teach the “best that has been thought and said”. 

How remarkable, then, that the DfE seems so troubled by this. After all, it wasn’t so long ago that Michael Gove was calling for much the same in the school curriculum, even summoning the same Matthew Arnold quote to boot.

We can now see, however, that, whatever the rhetoric, many of Michael Gove’s reforms have had entirely the opposite effect. For example, on results day the only conversations I heard around the creative arts were about the extent of a downward trend in entries to these subjects – quite the opposite of the “chance to appreciate art and culture” he pitched in 2014.

It now appears that Ofsted has picked up the curriculum mantle. The emerging signs are that schools will be encouraged to think more deeply about the entirety of their curriculum, not just GCSE options and entry patterns – though I’m sure this would be part of the picture. It seems likely there will be a greater focus on understanding the values and thinking which underpin curriculum decisions.

It is, however, only rhetoric at this stage, and that makes me nervous. As someone who regularly picks up the phone to distraught and disillusioned headteachers on the wrong side of an Ofsted inspection, I am naturally concerned about Ofsted’s capacity to deliver this grand vision.

Read the full article  ‘Why are Ofsted and the DfE split on curriculum?’

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