Sometimes, the public debate gets stuck at the level of inspection grades, especially the overall effectiveness judgement. But the professional conversations between inspectors and school leaders are where the greatest value in our work lies. When we get this right – and we usually do – our work is acknowledged as constructive, helpful and, occasionally, even enjoyable by those on the other side of the process.
This year’s conferences mainly focused on curriculum, specifically how a deeper understanding of what we mean by curriculum can inform our inspection practice. We also held sessions on all the different ways in which children fall out of mainstream education, and on careers education. It’s the sessions on the curriculum that I want to talk about here. Our overall aim was to help inspectors evaluate how well a school’s curriculum is designed and implemented – both within the context of the current Ofsted framework and school inspection handbook and, as we develop an even sharper focus on the curriculum, for the education inspection framework 2019.
We have asked our inspectors to apply this definition to their practice and explore these three areas of intent, implementation and impact when evaluating a school’s curriculum. In other words, what is a school trying to achieve through its curriculum, how is it being delivered and what difference is it making to pupils’ learning. These ideas are not new: rather they are about making visible what has sometimes been lost sight of.