Although the long-term impact on pupils’ development and their examination successes will not be visible for a few years, the refocusing on the curriculum and its delivery is causing all schools to take stock. Many remain skeptical about the benefits for some pupils of a 3-year KS3 curriculum, but most are taking a hard look at what they teach and when. For some schools, particularly those with high levels of disadvantaged and/or SEND, a major concern is how they get key concepts and knowledge to stick.
The development and upskilling of staff to meet these curriculum challenges and to be ready to explain and show how the curriculum is being delivered at inspection lies at the heart of most schools’ action plans. Senior and subject leaders’ time is being given to research and curriculum development, with the planned outcome of producing a clear rationale (intention) and detailed curriculum map (for implementation).
Schools’ thoughts have turned to how they should monitor teaching and learning in this changed environment, with the vast majority still considering and testing how this should be done. Some schools who use our monitoring and development system, Lessons Learned, are trialing new approaches. Many are based on variations of Ofsted’s deep dive approach. One of the schools we support is Hadley Learning Community. We have worked with them to tailor Lessons Learned to their changing needs. Their curriculum lead has been kind enough to share their thinking and revised approach – her summary thoughts are set out below:
First we identified the challenges we face as a result of the refocusing on curriculum and the new Ofsted inspection framework:
We have used Lessons Learned to ensure robust monitoring of T&L for many years and were very keen that we continued to use this as a means of collating qualitative and quantitative data that informed our SEF and CPD. We therefore met with and spoke to the Lessons Learned team to discuss how their system and updates, such as the 360 Review module, could be used to support us reaching a robust judgement on the Quality of Education within our school. They shared their understanding of the latest research from Ofsted and we collated this information into a summary of the best practice being advocated, using this to inform our approach and how we would evaluate our subject areas.
We have been conducting ‘Department Reviews’ for a number of years and felt that this system could be enhanced by the methodology cited within the research from Ofsted. We therefore created a process of interviewing the Subject Leader, carrying out joint 30 minute lesson visits with the Subject Leader on all members of their department, completing a joint work scrutiny and student voice with students from the observed classes and talking to the staff in the department. Lesson visit forms were created that included a section on ‘Articulation of Learning’ to capture the comments made by staff and students. Alongside this work scrutiny and student voice, forms were also created so that the information could be collated on Lessons Learned and areas of strength and development highlighted from across the Department Review process.
Our approach has been deliberately focused on CPD and managing workload and therefore the ‘Department Review’ process is a very open book with staff aware of the lesson that we are going to visit and which students we are going to interview. Including the Subject Leader (and second in department as appropriate) in the review has also ensured that this is a collaborative process in which they are learning the new Framework and quality assuring lesson observations, whilst also carrying out a robust evaluation of their subject. As SLT we observe subjects across the school and feel that it was essential that all observations are therefore supported by a specialist who can provide the necessary insight into the core knowledge of the learning and pedagogical content knowledge of the department staff.
We are very clear with staff that the Department Review focuses on the overall Quality of Education within the department and is not about ‘developing clear systems of teacher evaluation and ensuring that these systems provide feedback that allow for teacher improvement’ (Ofsted, 2019). The Department Review is therefore separate to the appraisal process. A review of our performance management process is next on our to do list, as it needs to fit to our Departmental Reviews and needs to ensure our workload goals are met.
We report our findings using Lessons Learned’s 360° Review against the criteria in the Ofsted handbook. We have found this to be very useful because it gives a clear breakdown for the department on their strengths and areas for development across Quality of Education, Behaviour and Attitude and Leadership. This has ensured that there is robust evaluation, with a clear overview of strengths and areas for development against the new framework, informing our school and department development plans.
If you would like to talk to our Lessons Learned team about monitoring the curriculum, and teaching and learning in this new environment please contact our support team on firstname.lastname@example.org and we will arrange for somebody to call you.