Ofsted: No need for curriculum 'intent' preparation

Ofsted official says schools do not need to write statements or restructure staff to show good curriculum 'intent'

John Roberts

Ofsted said schools do not need to spend time developing curriculum intent statements

Schools have been told they do not need to write curriculum intent statements or restructure their staff to prepare for Ofsted’s new inspections.

Ofsted has said it wants to bust a myth about its curriculum inspections after hearing of schools being offered half-day courses to help them write intent statements.  

Concerns over the way schools were preparing for the new inspection regime were revealed in Tes last month.

Quick read:  How will Ofsted inspect the curriculum?

Comment: The troubling rise of curriculum intent statements

Ofsted: Schools will get time to develop curriculum plans

In a new blog today, Heather Fearn, Ofsted’s curriculum and professional development lead, says the watchdog had "heard of courses for schools to write an ‘intent statement’ in half a day, so it’s time to bust the first myth that has arisen around ‘intent’".

Ofsted focus on curriculum

“There’s no need to write new statements, adapt websites or restructure staffing to cover intent," she says. "Intent is not the next big thing.

“Intent is all the curriculum planning that happens before a teacher teaches the knowledge that pupils need to learn the next thing in the curriculum.”

Ofsted’s new inspection framework will place an increased emphasis on curriculum as part of a new quality of education grade, which will also look at teaching and learning and outcomes for pupils.

The inspectorate has said that it will assess curriculum through intent, implementation and impact.

Ms Fearn said: “Intent is about what leaders intend pupils to learn. It’s as simple as that. Intent is everything up to the point at which teaching happens.”

She said that, according to Ofsted’s new framework, “good intent" has the following four features:

  • a curriculum that is ambitious for all pupils;
  • a curriculum that is coherently planned and sequenced;
  • a curriculum that is successfully adapted, designed and developed for pupils with special educational needs and/or disabilities;
  • a curriculum that is broad and balanced for all pupils.

Ms Fearn said that, in order to assess intent, inspectors will "consider the curriculum leadership provided by senior, subject and curriculum leaders".

She added: "We will look at whether pupils (if appropriate) are able to study a strong academic core of subjects, such as those offered by the EBacc. We will consider whether there is high academic/vocational/technical ambition for all pupils and find out if some pupils or groups of pupils are missing out."

She also indicated that if a school was struggling in certain subjects, Ofsted would look at the curriculum in those areas.

Headteacher Michael Tidd warned about the rise of curriculum intent statements in his Tes column last month.

He said: “Have these leaders really taken the time to consider what the intent of their curriculum is, or have they just decided to write something to tick the box? I rather fear the latter.

“Perhaps the more depressing result in the search is the half-day course on writing a curriculum intent statement to suit Ofsted. Are we really stuck in the days where school leaders do things 'for Ofsted' before thinking about the needs of their pupils? 

"At what point do we take responsibility ourselves for what we do in schools? Nothing in the new Ofsted framework requires schools to write such a statement. Nothing in the framework even suggests that it would be helpful. And everything I see of such statements suggests that they’re pretty hopeless at setting out anything of any value.”

Ofsted’s new framework comes into effect in September.

The inspectorate published research last week exploring how reliable lesson visits and scrutiny of pupils’ work is in order to assess the curriculum.

It found that these approaches were more reliable in primary school than secondary and is now giving extra subject-specific guidance for all subjects in secondary school to help improve the reliability of inspections.

Ofsted has said that schools will get at least 12 months to develop their curriculum thinking under the new framework and that this could be extended.

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John Roberts

John Roberts

John Roberts is North of England reporter for Tes

Find me on Twitter @JohnGRoberts

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