History in the primary curriculum: OFSTED’s view October 2017

How refreshing it was to listen to Amanda Spielman’s analysis of what is wrong with the curriculum in English schools. In a nutshell: too little thinking about the curriculum and too much testing. This has been said, not just by people like me, for the last 30 years of course. but not by OFSTED’s Chief Inspector.

What Amanda is stressing is the importance of pupils acquiring knowledge so they can think through issues , weigh up evidence and confidently form well-substantiated conclusions of their own. This is what parents want for their children. Instead, their children are faced with repetitive testing, the sole purpose of which is to gain creditable SATs scores.

These findings come from OFSTED’s review of the impact  testing is having on the curriculum , particularly at KS2 and at GCSE. She has published the report’s stage one (of three) interim findings.

Generally, primary school parents said that preparing for tests was cutting into their child’s learning time. Around half of the parents who responded to our questionnaire believed that test preparation had reduced the teaching time available for the other foundation subjects or for reading for pleasure. Furthermore, a small proportion of parents suggested that, in their child’s school, the focus on past papers, booster sessions and test-related homework was too high. In a few cases, this demotivated their child.

The solution to this malaise is simple. Indeed, most of you have practising it for years. Why not use the richness of the foundation subjects to raise standards in literacy and numeracy.

Only this morning I received a lovely note from a teacher who used the lesson on why Anne Boleyn was executed as a vehicle for a creating a balanced argument, bith orally and in writing. Pupils were fired up and had so much to discuss. They really wanted to argue their case. Unsurprisingly the lesson was graded as outstanding- not as part of accountability but because the head wanted to compliment the teacher on how skilfully she had used history as a catalyst for improved speaking, listening and writing!


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