Ofsted has announced it has extended its transition into the new curriculum framework for another year, to 2021.

Sean Harford HMI, the National Director for Education, explained the decision, saying that Ofsted does not expect schools to change their entire curriculum simply for inspection purposes.

In a blog post written for Gov.uk, he said: “We know that a great curriculum does not just appear perfectly formed overnight. It takes a great deal of thought, preparation and work to plan it.

Some schools are further along the curriculum journey than others.

Sean HarfordNational Director for Education

“I’m also aware, through conversation with the Association of School and College Leaders and the National Association of Head Teachers, that some heads and senior leaders are concerned about getting their curriculum to where they want it to be by this coming September. Some schools are further along the curriculum journey than others.”

The recent decision follows the announcement of the new Ofsted framework, revealed in September 2019, which would determine how schools would be graded in future Ofsted inspections.

The new framework places the curriculum and how it is taught front and centre of inspection. There is a reduced focus on test and exam results, and more on how well children are able to assimilate and retain knowledge and information.

While a over-emphasis on test scores has previously been a point of concern for teachers and leaders, this new way of assessing a school’s proficiency in education has also been met with some resistance.

Some teachers claim that the new framework is vague, failing to clearly explain what inspectors will be looking for in relation to how the curriculum is taught.

Other head teachers have argued that inspectors cannot clearly see the results of a school’s performance simply by interviewing pupils or observing lessons, but that exam results are a better indicator. This method of inspection has led to some of the top primary schools in the country being graded as ‘requires improvement’ where they were previously ‘outstanding’. Schools with a higher number of disadvantaged students or students for whom English is their second language are particularly concerned about the change.

Harford said: “When we launched the framework in September last year, we wanted to be fair to schools and give them enough time to craft their curriculum plans. That’s why we announced we’d allow a year’s transition period – so the schools that are making changes wouldn’t be penalised in the meantime.

“In my September school inspection update, I said that we’d take stock of that grace period, to make sure that schools have the time to do what they need to do.”

Ofsted curriculum transition

The transition has been extended from one to two academic years, meaning the inspection framework will come into play in 2021.

How will the transition arrangements apply?

The transition extension will only apply when its clear that a school is well on the way with its curriculum journey, but isn’t quite ‘there’ yet’.

According to Harford, this is not an ‘amnesty’ for schools where teaching is weak or pupils’ outcomes aren’t good enough.

The arrangements will only apply to the ‘Good’ descriptors in the framework and not to ‘Outstanding’ or ‘Inadequate’ judgements. This is because these are the schools that could be graded as ‘requires improvement’, simply for the fact that they aren’t as far along with their curriculum planning.

The extension arrangements will also only apply to four of the ‘Intent’ descriptors under Quality of Education. These are marked clearly with square brackets for each of the descriptors.

Inspectors will be looking at whether schools have concrete plans for being on their way to meeting these criteria, and could reasonably be expected to be good in this area by September 2021.

Harford stresses that it is not enough for schools to simply have broad visions or ambitions about their curriculum development. ‘Intent’ includes curriculum content and planning. Inspectors will want to see that solid work is already underway.

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