How to make your curriculum Ofsted ready
As schools continue to battle through each new phase of the COVID crisis, the news that Ofsted plans to inspect all schools by summer 2025 could cause a few sleepless nights.
The rationale behind accelerating inspections is to get a quicker assessment of how education is recovering from the pandemic and understand how schools perform with the statutory assessments in mind. But with so many challenges still to overcome, how will schools prepare for when the inspector calls?
In a Juniper Education webinar with Ed Quarter, an expert panel discussed how school leaders and curriculum or subject leaders from Primary and Secondary schools can be Ofsted ready when it comes to their curriculum.
Why are Ofsted inspections good for schools?
Diane Raftery, headteacher of Five Spires Primary School suggests schools see an Ofsted inspection as an opportunity.
“Schools are used to accountability measures and they welcome them as long as the inspections are done in a spirit of empathy and understanding of what schools are facing. It’s a chance to showcase how hard staff have worked despite all the pressures of COVID.”
Andrew Riches, the former CEO of LEAP Multi-Academy Trust who is now an educational advisor at Engaging Education says,
“Ofsted inspections are stressful but let’s turn this on its head, be clear on our strengths and bring it back to the curriculum. Ofsted wants to see how a school is mapping out its curriculum. They might not see the finished article but they want schools to understand the journey they are on.”
How to plan your curriculum to meet pupil needs?
Ofsted’s quality of education judgement looks at intent, implementation and impact in a curriculum. So how do schools demonstrate the three Is?
Anna Gregory, former Director of Curriculum at Juniper Education says, “The curriculum is the beating heart of any school and should absolutely be the central focus. We as educators know it’s about great quality teaching and learning that makes sense, is logical and is brought to life within a classroom.”
“If you get the curriculum right, everything else comes together,” explains Diane. “We ask ourselves if our curriculum is preparing pupils to be geographers, historians and mathematicians. Our staff all need to buy into it and share the vision.”
“A curriculum must reflect ambition,” says Andrew. “Of course, it needs to be right for the local context of a school and the demographics of the community, but it should have high expectations for the youngsters.”
How to make your curriculum cohesive?
The challenge for schools and MATs is to design and deliver a curriculum with a clear direction of travel. “There needs to be an overarching view of the curriculum so it fits together well,” says Anna.
“A topic and theme-based approach at primary level can be difficult because children become distracted by the activities. Sometimes children say, ‘we’re doing a topic’ without knowing whether it’s a history or geography lesson.”
It is important to ensure that, if you are following a topic or theme-based approach, pupils still learn to see themselves as historians, geographers or scientists; this builds on how Juniper see learning as more than just academic study.
“Mapping out a curriculum from start to finish across a subject range is a huge task, but an important one,” says Diane. “Many schools turn to support. We’ve worked alongside Sonar Curriculum to prepare a sequential journey for our curriculum.”
A joined-up and logical approach is needed in the secondary curriculum too, as Andrew explains.
“It’s important youngsters understand where they are going in history, and that there’s a logical progression from Year 7 learning to Year 9,” says Andrew.
“Developing a fully sequenced curriculum plan is time-consuming, but it’s time well spent.”
How to align teaching staff with your school’s vision?
The deep dive methodology that Ofsted inspectors use to gain a better understanding of a school’s curriculum may appear daunting, but it can be a great opportunity to take an objective look at a school’s teaching and learning.
Andrew says “Inspectors have a top-level discussion with school leaders. Then they talk to teachers, look at students’ work and talk to students to test out whether that top level is actually happening in the school. It’s important that the whole staff team understands what the journey is.”
“For primary schools, it’s about testing out the content and sequence of the curriculum and making sure staff live and breathe its aims,” says Diane. “You need to ask whether staff have good subject knowledge and if the teaching supports children’s progress.”
“The deep dive enables inspectors to see the curriculum in action, and it can be a positive thing,” explains Anna. “It’s an opportunity to drop into lessons and talk to people at the chalkface – the teachers and children. We need to demystify the deep dive and take the fear out of the situation.”
How to deliver a curriculum with flexibility?
Pupils’ needs change over time, so schools need to create a culture of an evolving curriculum.
“A curriculum needs to be organic,” says Diane. “Children respond differently to learning, so schools should be prepared to shift and redirect their curriculum if needed, as long as it’s working towards the same destination. That’s what makes a curriculum so exciting.”
“Assessment data provides valuable input,” says Anna. “But schools need to look beyond the percentages, numbers and metrics and see the stories they are telling about history in the school or Jessica as a writer.”
Although these are turbulent times, schools will have much to be proud of when the inspection team walks through the door. As Andrew says, “Schools can give confidence to inspectors by saying what their curriculum plans are and why.”
“It’s a chance to show the incredible work schools are doing to support students now and in the future.”
To hear more about preparing for an inspection, download our webinar:
Preparing for Ofsted – is your curriculum ready?