“Curriculum is not just a quick fix,” says Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Education Amanda Spielman

Primary school curriculum provider Cornerstones Education has interviewed Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector, Amanda Spielman about the launch of Ofsted’s draft new inspection framework and their decision to focus on the curriculum. 

Speaking with Cornerstones Curriculum Developer Caroline Pudner, Ms Spielman discusses many aspects surrounding the draft framework and answers questions on why Ofsted have chosen to shine a light on the curriculum. Highlights from the interview on ‘The Curriculum’ podcast are as follows;

  • “Less weight sits on the shoulders of classroom teachers”: In the new inspection model, there will be a shift so that less pressure sits on the shoulders of individual classroom teachers. Ofsted will be more interested in the conversations taking place at a management level, and how this is then fed through the school, rather than the specific data collection and analysis work that is currently the responsibility of classroom teachers.
  • Inspections will see “richer, deeper conversations that get more to the heart of what you would want schools to be thinking about”: The inspection will still be a professional dialogue between the inspectors, the school leadership team and others, however, there will be fewer data conversations. Instead, there will be a focus on how the curriculum is being implemented across the school, how it flows all the way through.
  • School is about doing something that “genuinely is levelling playing fields”: Schools must understand that laying the building blocks of a good curriculum can genuinely ‘level playing fields’. A rich and broad curriculum can enable less advantaged children to achieve as much as children who have been born with every possible advantage.

“Curriculum is not just a quick fix,” says Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Education Amanda SpielmanIt is a teachers’ job to open up children’s eyes and a wide-ranging curriculum can offer many different avenues of interest for them.

  • “Space to design the curriculum”: The new framework will allow schools to take a knowledge-focused approach or a skills-focused approach, but the fact that the two are distinct from one another is now a ‘red herring’. However, whatever a school’s curriculum approach, there must be an understanding of what it is that is being built and retained by the children over time.
  • “Reading is so powerful”: Early reading is absolutely fundamental to a good primary curriculum. The ability to read fluently allows children to discover things for themselves and take themselves forward. 
  • “Not just lovely experiences”: The primary curriculum has to be about substance and about things that are learned and retained over time, not just ‘wonderful experiences’.
  • “It’s about outcomes really reflecting what the children have been taught and know”: Progress should be measured on the specifics of a school’s particular curriculum and whether they are succeeding in taking children through these.“Curriculum is not just a quick fix,” says Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Education Amanda Spielman

The Cornerstones Curriculum is taught in over 2000 schools to 500,000 children. Written and developed by Melanie Moore, a former primary school teacher with 20 years teaching experience, Melanie wanted to create a primary school curriculum that would develop the skills and knowledge required by the national curriculum, as well as being creatively stimulating and allowing children to explore their own fascinations. Realising that writing a curriculum was going to be a full-time job, she left teaching and established Cornerstones Education in 2010.

Melanie Moore, Author of the Cornerstones Curriculum said: “The conversation with Amanda Spielman is hugely encouraging. I wanted to create a broad, balanced and connected curriculum with just the right mix of skills, knowledge and creativity that children would love and that would give teachers access to resources and expertise. Designing a curriculum that balances everything is a complicated process that needs to be carefully thought through and involves much strategic decision making. 

A broad curriculum opens pupils’ minds and gives them opportunities to discover what they enjoy and what they are good at, and it is one of the most powerful ways of unlocking a child’s full potential. Ofsted’s decision to shine a light on the curriculum will give it the attention from schools that it rightly deserves.”

Started in 2017, ‘The Curriculum’ podcast series has had over 19,000 listens with listeners in the UK, USA, Australia, Japan, Dubai, Germany, France and China. Previous interviewees have included Sean Harford, Ofsted’s National Director of Education, Professor Sam Twiselton, Director of Education at Sheffield Hallam University and Hywel Roberts, an inspirational educational speaker, author and teaching adviser.