Publication of Ofsted Phase 3 Curriculum Research

Ofsted will publish the results of their intent to refresh (but not change) the inspection framework in September 2019.

To best inform this process, Ofsted commissioned a two-year research study into the curriculum. The research was in three phases, and 127 schools were visited during this process.

Two rounds of research have already been completed, from which Ofsted identified three key elements they wanted to inspect within the context of the quality of the curriculum: intention, implementation and impact.

Phase 1 of the research, published in October 2017, focussed upon understanding more about the current state of curricular thinking in schools.

Phase 2, published in September 2018, sought to focus on schools who had invested in curriculum design and aimed to raise standards through the curriculum.

Read NSEAD's summary of round one and two here

Phase 3, published in December 2018, has focussed on finding out how Ofsted might inspect aspects of curriculum quality, including whether the factors above can apply across a much broader range of schools. Read the Phase 3 report here and Amanda Spielman’s commentary on Phase 3 here.

In this round of research Ofsted reported: ‘It is disappointing to see so few higher scores in technology subjects, humanities and arts.’

For this research Ofsted used 25 indicators linked to intention, implementation and impact. These three areas were tested across a range of different school types, asking inspectors to judge schools on a scale of 1 to 5. The report notes at secondary ‘there was much less difference between the quality of implementation of the foundation subjects and the core subjects.’ Arts subjects (art, music and drama) appeared particularly strong, with 10 out of 13 arts departments scoring a 4 or a 5 for curriculum quality.'

The report notes its own limitations: 'A limitation of the study is that indicator development focused on generic aspects of curriculum quality and not subject-specific aspects.' However, NSEAD welcomes the news that Ofsted would like to develop subject-specific indicators for inspection. The report states:'We would like to be able to use subject-specific curriculum indicators, because we think that this will be even more powerful in assessing the quality of education.'

The report also emphasised the importance of subject-specific professional development and that in schools with high curriculum quality senior leaders provided ‘high-quality professional development to develop teacher subject knowledge beyond the core subjects; in the primary schools, leaders were often facilitating development through the subject associations and internal information-sharing if there was an expert in the school’.

The Society is taking an active interest in the implications of the research, especially subject specific elements to include the evidence base for both primary and secondary school showing that strong teacher subject knowledge is essential to high quality curriculum planning.

In January 2019 Ofsted will be consulting on the new education inspection framework, and on behalf of its members, the Society will be engaging in this process.

21 Dec 2018