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Spielman: I don't want a 'pub quiz' curriculum

Ofsted chief inspector says that a school's curriculum should not be formed from 'isolated chunks of knowledge'

Ofsted chief Amanda Spielman says schools' curricula should not be formed of 'isolated chunks of knowledge'

Amanda Spielman has said she is not advocating a “pub-quiz approach to education” as part of Ofsted plans for a new framework which focuses on how well schools deliver their curriculum.

Ofsted has published the findings of new research which shows that some schools take a knowledge-led approach to their curriculum while others design the curriculum around the development of skills.

In a new post published by Ofsted today, Ms Spielman says the inspectorate has found strengths and weaknesses in all of these approaches and that both knowledge and skills are important.

“There are some who have suggested that because I have spoken about knowledge in the curriculum, I am advocating a pub-quiz approach to education, perhaps at the expense of developing skills or deeper understanding," she writes. "This is just not true.

“Without doubt, schools need to have a strong relationship with knowledge, particularly around what they want their pupils to know and know how to do.

Ofsted wants 'a rich web of knowledge'

"However, school leaders should recognise and understand that this does not mean that the curriculum should be formed from isolated chunks of knowledge, identified as necessary for passing a test. A rich web of knowledge is what provides the capacity for pupils to learn even more and develop their understanding.

“This does not preclude the importance of skill. Knowledge and skill are intrinsically linked: skill is a performance built on what a person knows. That performance might be physical or cognitive, but skills matter and they cannot be separated from knowledge.”

Ofsted’s new framework is expected to put an increased focus on how well a school delivers its curriculum as part of a move towards a broader measure of how well schools are performing – giving less weight to schools' exam and test results.

Last year, as part of its work on the curriculum, the inspectorate warned that a focus on results was leading to some schools narrowing the curriculum at primary school for key stage 2 Sats and at GCSE.  

Now it has published the findings of its latest research examining how "good" and "outstanding" schools design their curriculum.

It has identified some schools that take a knowledge-led approach, others that it describes as "knowledge engaged," balancing the importance of skills and knowledge, and some schools that it describes as using a skills-led approach.

Ofsted is now carrying out research into how well schools implement their curriculum. Its findings will be used as it consults on plans for a new framework, which will be used to inspect schools from September 2019.

Ofsted's plan for a new framework has been a source of controversy this summer with education secretary Damian Hinds warning that it could increase teacher workload.

Last week Tes revealed that the NAHT had urged Ofsted to pause the launch of the new framework because of concerns about whether there is enough time to deliver a major change to the way schools are inspected.

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