Ofsted’s curriculum research: HMCI commentary

Last year, Ofsted published the first phase of a study which found evidence of “a general lack of curriculum knowledge in school” and “weak practises such a narrowing curriculum and teaching to the test”.

This week, Amanda Spielman, Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Ofsted, has published a new commentary which outlines that a new inspection framework will have the curriculum as a central focus and acknowledges that Ofsted has placed “too much weight on test and exam results”.

The commentary outlines the findings of a second study into curriculum where inspectors visited 23 schools rated good or outstanding between January and March 2018. They used three categories to describe the approaches to curriculum design in schools – “knowledge-led, used in about a third of schools, knowledge-engaged, used in around half of schools, and skills-led, used in a ‘small group’ of schools in the study”.

Spielman underlines that “we make no value judgements about these categories” as each school curriculum is unique and often related to the local context and to the needs of pupils. The commentary assesses the strengths and weakness of each approach taken by curriculum leaders and highlights that “knowledge and the capacity it provides to apply skills and deepen understanding are essential ingredients of successful curriculum design”.

The study finds that strong leadership on curriculum design is important but that it is also necessary to consider “how well the curriculum is implemented through well-taught and appropriately sequenced content, thoughtfully designed assessment practice and consideration of an appropriate model of progression”. You can read the commentary in full here.