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Schools are ‘narrowing’ the curriculum, says Ofsted

In the first of a series of short commentaries from Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector on the education system, Amanda Spielman warns that schools are focusing too much on working towards academic tests and not offering a balanced enough curriculum.  

Her comments come after Ofsted commissioned research earlier this year to broaden its understanding of the primary and secondary curriculum and how schools in England implement it. 

Ofsted’s chief explains in her announcement today that tests are important, but they should “exist in the service of the curriculum rather than the other way round.”

She goes on to explain that “without receiving knowledge, pupils have learned nothing and no progress has been made – whatever the measures might indicate.”

We agree that exam and test results are only part of the picture in judging a pupil’s success or a school’s effectiveness, but at the moment this isn’t happening.

Our school leaders want to do what is best for the children in their schools, but the accountability system restricts them because it places undue weight on SATs data and exam results. 

We strongly believe the government must value a broad range of subjects so that pupils’ opportunities are not limited either in school or later in life. And that is why it is one of our five priorities for bringing positive change to the education system. We will continue to push for schools to have the freedom to provide the curriculum that’s right for their students – one that’s broad and balanced, not restricted.

The initial findings highlighted from the research: 

  1. The primary curriculum is narrowing because some schools are focusing too much on preparing for SATs
  2. The key stage three curriculum is being ‘shortened’ to cover the new GCSE content
  3. Lower-attaining pupils are being ‘shut out’ from doing the EBacc and instead encouraged to take qualifications that score more highly in league tables

Read Spielman’s full commentary here.

Read our press release in response here.

First published 30 November 2017

First published 30 November 2017