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Ofsted accused of moving towards 'telling schools what to do'

PiXL chairman raises question over how inspectorate will assess school curriculum

Ofsted has been accused of moving towards telling schools what to do

PiXL chairman raises question over how inspectorate will assess school curriculum

Ofsted is moving towards “telling schools what to do” with its plans for a new inspection framework focused on curriculum, the head of a schools' organisation has claimed.

The inspectorate is planning to launch a new inspection regime from next year which will place more emphasis on the curriculum and gives less weight to a school’s exam results.

Sir John Rowling, the chairman of PiXL club, has suggested the plans could put the inspectorate in the position of telling schools how to educate children.

He also voiced concern that the current debate on school curriculum is placing too much emphasis on “knowledge, knowledge, knowledge.”

However, the watchdog has responded saying schools will have autonomy over their curriculum.

Ofsted also said its plans would tackle the “Pixlification of education” by “reducing schools’ need to spend resources on external consultants and focusing them back on the substance of education.”

This echoed criticism chief inspector Amanda Spielman made earlier this year of the PiXL group’s work to improve school results.

Sir John said: “I think there has been widespread interest in the concepts that are being proposed by Ofsted. And I think the initial response to their plans was good.

"However, people are starting to ask some serious questions.

“Are schools going to be told what the curriculum should be or are we able to think for ourselves?

“It feels increasingly like Ofsted is moving towards telling schools what to do rather than telling us whether what we are doing is any good or not.”

He told Tes he believed the school curriculum was important as a vehicle for delivering a good education.

However, he said there also needed to be a broader focus on the development pupil character.

“At PiXL we refer to what we call the three Cs being at the heart of a good education: ‘currency, character and culture’."

An Ofsted spokesman said: “Ofsted recognises the importance of schools’ autonomy to choose their own curriculum approaches. Schools taking radically different approaches to the curriculum will be judged fairly.

"If leaders are able to show that they have thought carefully about building a curriculum with appropriate coverage, content, structure and sequencing, and implemented it effectively, then inspectors will assess that curriculum favourably.

“As the chief inspector said recently, this will tackle the ‘Pixilification of education’, reducing schools’ need to spend resources on external consultants, and focusing them back on the substance of education.”

Ofsted’s plan to focus on the curriculum at the heart of its new inspection regime has been the source of strong debate in recent weeks.

Russell Hobby, the chief executive of Teach First, has said that Ofsted cannot judge how effective a school curriculum is without a predetermined idea of what a good school curriculum looks like.  

And he questioned whether this was compatible with the role of a neutral inspectorate.

There have also been suggestions that Ofsted favours a knowledge-rich approach to the curriculum after the majority of the schools it visited to examine curriculum design were said to use knowledge-based approaches.

Ofsted has denied that it has a preferred approach.

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