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Ofsted: reduce emphasis on English and maths in primary inspections

Ofsted is to review whether primary school inspections are focusing too narrowly on English and maths to the detriment of a broad and balanced curriculum, TES can reveal.

Standards of literacy and numeracy at primary level are now “better than they ever have been” as a result of improvements made over the last decade, according to Mike Cladingbowl, the inspectorate’s national director for inspection reform.

But in an exclusive interview with TES, he said it was time to consult the profession on whether the close focus on English and maths in inspections was “at the expense of” other subjects, and needed to be revised.

While he said that previous frameworks had “rightly” zeroed in on English and maths, Mr Cladingbowl revealed that Ofsted’s current priority was to foster a “broad and balanced” curriculum, not one that “limits children’s experiences or…fails to prepare children for secondary school and for life in modern Britain”.

“We want to look and see if we’ve got the balance right between the core subjects and the foundation subjects; between English and mathematics, and art, history, music, geography and so on,” he added.

Russell Hobby, general secretary of the NAHT headteachers’ union, welcomed Mr Cladingbowl’s intervention, but warned that government-imposed floor targets could continue to be a “powerful driver that is out of Ofsted’s control”.

From this year, at least 65 per cent of a school’s pupils will be expected to achieve level 4 in maths, reading and writing. If pupils are also deemed to be making below-average progress in these core skills, schools could be at risk of forced academy conversion.

The watchdog is expected to launch its consultation on drawing up a single framework for all education providers next month.

To read more about Ofsted's plans, read this week's TES on your tablet or phone by downloading the TES Reader app for Android or iOS. Or pick it up in all good newsagents.

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