Curriculum is important and not just because of Ofsted

Our first Curriculum Conference saw over 200 delegates attend the Riverside Stadium in Middlesbrough to hear from local schools and curriculum gurus sharing best practice.

Now a focus of Ofsted’s new Education Inspection Framework, curriculum is once again at the forefront for school leaders, as seen from this sold out event. However, it was clear from many of the speakers that emphasising the importance of curriculum design should not just be about Ofsted but about providing a quality education for students.

Keynote speaker Christine Counsell, Curriculum Expert and former Director of Education at Inspiration Trust, emphasised how significant the impact of curriculum is on student outcomes through looking at reading comprehension. She argued that a ‘rich vocabulary comes from rich knowledge’ and that covering relevant topics in history, geography and science for example, can help build up a child’s ‘schema’ and level of understanding around vocabulary which supports them when faced with a difficult text. Due to this, Christine emphasised the importance of sequencing to ensure children have the relevant knowledge at the right times.

Furthering this sense of curriculum encompassing something wider than simply a scheme of topics, Colin Lofthouse, CEO, SMART Multi Academy Trust, made the case that curriculum is ‘everything we do’ from the way we say hello in the morning and should be driven by the values and ethos of your school. He went on to explain that your curriculum should reflect your pupils lives, as well as the deficit in their lives, echoing Christine’s earlier point that schools are there to help children build the knowledge and ‘schema’ they wouldn’t develop from their home lives.

Building a curriculum relevant to your students was also reflected by David Leat, Professor of Curriculum Innovation at Newcastle University, in his session on localized curriculums. He described how using community resources, whether places, issues, data etc, can provide students with the chance to both learn about their local areas as well as provide a service or contribute to them.

From the conference it was clear that there are many different approaches to curriculum and curriculum design but the key takeaway from the day, was that any changes to curriculum in your school should not be about Ofsted, but your students.

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