Quality of Education
In the Ofsted framework draft, quality of education goes into the top spot. It is split into three key areas: intent, implementation, and impact. These three encompass a large amount of what was once covered in the old framework under quality of teaching, and pupil outcomes. However there is now much more focus on coherence. I have drawn out some key points below:
Issue 1: References to teachers and teaching are grounded in the knowledge of teachers and their ability to ensure content is remembered. The phrase “cultural capital” is central. This could be interesting in shifting the focus onto what is learnt by pupils rather than how.
All of this has great implications for the way schools organise and run CPD. Teachers will clearly need supporting in their subject knowledge and pedagogy development, as well as updating their knowledge of the processes of learning and how students remember. This also implies trusting departments much more to be able to identify and meet their developmental needs. An interesting starting point would be to ensure curriculum leads have read current research finding such as those from the How People Learn project HERE and HERE, and Willingham HERE. It would also be worth exploring what local university education departments are offering (for example at Leeds Trinity HERE). For subject leads, engagement with their subject associations will also be key (The Historical Association, or Schools History Project for historians for example).
Issue 2: Ambition and curricular breadth get heavy emphasis. The implication here is that students should not be prevented from sitting challenging qualifications, nor have their curriculum reduced to promote higher outcomes on a narrower range of subjects (especially relevant in exam years e.g. Y6 and Y9).
This has big implications for schools who have narrowed their KS2 or KS3 curricula to allow more time for exam preparation. There are also implications for the ways in which pathways are used at KS4. Some schools for example still prevent students from sitting “academic” subjects if they are considered to have little chance of achieving a grade 4 pass. There is some reference to national exams where appropriate as a measure, but the parameters of what will constitute “achieving well” are not defined (yet!).
Issue 3: There are interesting references to assessment systems being used systematically to check pupil understanding and facilitate feedback without creating workload burdens for staff.
This may be a challenge for schools with very regular data drops, or schools using GCSE type questions regularly as a proxy for assessment through KS3. This form of assessment does not have much basis in identification of barriers or misconceptions, and often fails to enable effective feedback for students. I have written on this subject before HERE.
Issue 4: The teaching focus is shifted to clarity of presentation and sequencing. Much less emphasis is put on the style of teaching, promoting an emphasis on what is being learned by pupil and the impact of teaching on this.
Whilst this suggests a shift in focus onto what students are actually learning there are some risks here of performative response. There seems to be a danger that schools may insist on regimes of knowledge checking or regular, detailed feedback to meet the demands of the new framework without considering the efficacy of such an approach or the workload implications. It does however suggest that some subject specialists observers will be needed in all schools to identify and comment on the impact of curricular intentions. This could be very powerful if devolved to a departmental level, and might in turn encourage the kinds of curricular development desired in point
Issue 5: Finally, there is a large focus on ensuring that learners are prepared for the next stage in their education or employment, rather than just exam results. Helpfully the problematic phrase that students should meet or exceed age expectations is gone as this became a proxy for counting numbers at Level 4 or Grade C in the past. There is also an interesting shift away from pupils being prepared for future qualifications or jobs which meet a national or local need to jobs and qualifications which match their aspirations and intentions. In my view, this is much more positive framing.
I have written at length about the fact that too many schools focus on the performative aspects of passing exams, whilst ignoring the longitudinal aspects of student development. This is often seen in the learning of “exam technique”: tricks which create an illusion of understanding without laying the necessary groundwork for future progress. Here schools will need to engage again with their subject specialists and draw on the expertise in subject associations in order to really consider what it means to prepare for the next stage. Schools will most likely need to revisit their thinking around progression and consider whether their models of progression and assessment are actually fit for this purpose. A helpful starting point from a whole-school point of view would be to read the Report of the NAHT Commission on Assessment which was published shortly after the abolition of National Curriculum Levels in 2014.