Ofsted’s subject curriculum groups

by admin

Sean Harford

It’s really good that people are interested in our subject curriculum groups. We’re using these groups to learn about and be better placed to engage in the ongoing debate about subject-specific curriculums in schools across England. We also want to see how the debate might relate to inspection as we head towards the education inspection framework. First off, I want to say thank you to those who we have asked so far to get this initiative off the ground in as short a time as possible. Thank you also for helping us explore how we can do this across the broad range of subjects in future. None of these people are being paid anything more than travel expenses, although there may be a biscuit and a cup of tea at some of the groups!

So far, we have created 5 working groups. We have invited group members who we feel have the subject-specific curriculum expertise to help us think through the issues at hand. Some people have expressed concern that we didn’t carry out a ‘formal recruitment’ process in setting up these groups. Given the range of subject areas we wish to ultimately consider, we felt it impractical, financially unfeasible and overly-bureaucratic to have such a formal recruitment process for each group. They are not decision-making groups. It’s up to Ofsted, as the independent inspectorate, to decide on potential next steps and how we might use the groups’ advice.

So far, groups have met for history, modern foreign languages (MFL), English, mathematics and science. We have more groups planned for the near future. The first groups (history and MFL) were small and very exploratory. The membership and work of all the groups continue to evolve. We have been adding group members as we identify the expertise we need. For example, when groups move from discussing secondary-specific issues to primary, we will add group members as necessary. We have found the practical, on-the-ground experience of teachers to be useful and so we have reflected this in the make-up of the later groups formed. The membership of the first 2 groups is subject to change to reflect this need. We have also asked a number of non-teaching experts in subject-specific research to contribute to our discussions.

Preparing for inspection in the future

Working with groups in this exploratory way forms just one way in which Ofsted is preparing for inspection in future. We are of course also considering implications of the new framework for children with special educational needs and/or disabilities (SEND). This subject-specific work is currently focused on key stages 1 to 4. We are bearing in mind how the groups’ work might provide insights that could inform inspection of early years and key stage 5 in schools.

Ofsted’s work with the subject groups is specifically to enhance our knowledge and to inform both training for inspectors and inspection practice. We have selected the groups with this in mind. This project is not being carried out with the Department for Education (DfE), but colleagues in the DfE are aware of the work and we’re keeping them informed. It is natural that we would invite some of the same experts who have been involved before in other work in their subject areas.

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