Tips for Teachers: 26. The Curriculum – Using Ofsted Research Reviews 

Mar 12, 2024 | Blogs

Tips for Teachers: 26. The Curriculum – Using Ofsted Research Reviews 

Mar 12, 2024 | Blogs

The curriculum lies at the heart of education. It determines what learners will know and be able to go on to do by the time they have finished that stage of their education. Education Inspection Framework (OFSTED, 2019) 

Discussions around curriculum have been back on the agenda for a few years after a hiatus of over 25 years. Priestly and Philippou state, ‘curriculum should be at the heart of educational discourse’.  

It is important we engage with the big ideas underpinning practice when designing our curriculum. Consideration of the big ideas in curriculum policy should take place against the backdrop of broader professional discussions about the purposes of education. 

Biesta provides a framing around the purpose of education: 

  • Qualification – education needs to provide the necessary knowledge, skills and dispositions. 
  • Socialisation – education needs to assist students to become part of and identify with existing social, cultural and political practices and norms. 
  • Subjectification – education needs to help students to become the unique individuals they can be. 

The context, vision and values of a school also influence the curriculum’s principles and purpose. The content of the curriculum is only one part of an effective curriculum development. As there must also be a coherence between the content and the way that it is taught – we need to consider subject-specific pedagogy. 

Careful thought should be given to the foundational knowledge and sequencing of content so that pupils knowledge and understanding in a subject becomes deeper. Planning for and revisiting concepts multiple times helps to embed knowledge in the long-term memory. Teachers should anticipate, identify and address misconceptions.  

Ofsted have published a series of reviews looking at the research evidence currently available about a range of different curriculum subjects with the aim of helping subject leaders in their curriculum planning. (https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/curriculum-research-reviews#subject-reports) 

They have also published subject reports for: 

  • Science 
  • Maths 
  • History 
  • Geography 
  • PE 
  • Music 

These report on:

  • ‘schools’ understanding of progress in each subject and how that informs their approaches to the curriculum,

  • the extent to which teaching supports the goals of the subject curriculum, 

  • the effectiveness of assessment used, 
  • the extent to which there is a climate of high expectations in subjects, where a pupil’s interest in the subject can flourish, 
  • the quality of systems around subject teaching and support for subject-specific staff development, 
  • the extent to which whole-school policies affect the capacity for effective subject education, 
  • access to the curriculum in the case of teaching pupils with special educational needs and/or disabilities (SEND).’  

Reading the research reviews should assist you in knowing what you might need to focus on to ensure you have designed a high-quality curriculum in the subject you lead. You may want to consider reviewing your curriculum content, look at curriculum time allocation, or checking staff have appropriate subject professional knowledge to deliver an ambitious curriculum.  

This blog was written by Bretta Townend-Jowitt, Education Consultant and Trainer. 

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