Last week the new Chief Inspector Amanda Spielman spoke at the ASCL conference. She was setting out her stall as one of the most influential leaders in the world of education, and she told the conference of school leaders “Vitally important though a school’s examination results are, we must not allow curricula to be driven just by SATs, GCSEs and A levels. It is the substance of education that ultimately creates and changes life chances, not grade stickers from exams.“
She also told her audience “I am determined to make sure that the curriculum receives the proper focus it deserves.”
It’s hard to point the finger of blame at school leaders who, anxious to avoid being labelled coasting schools, have done everything they can to boost their progress 8 scores and EBacc results. Fortunately, the governors at my school had the foresight to put the needs of the individual first when we built our curriculum so we aren’t pushing students through inappropriate exams to boost our school results.
Last week I attended some CPD with the Institute of Physics discussing how to encourage more girls to follow a STEM career. Whilst the advice they were giving wasn’t anything that you won’t have heard before it does make you appreciate the effect that teachers and the curriculum have on the long-term life chances of our students, regardless of phase or socioeconomic background. Much of the language we use in class and the way we run our lessons could potentially have long-term implications for our learners (Stonewall give similar messages about gender neutrality which can influence attitudes from a very early age)
A fortnight ago I was part of a discussion with the 11-19 committee at the ASE talking about combined science vs triple science. The options path decided at the end of KS3 (year 8 now in many schools) can determine, for better or worse, the life chances of students who may either choose or be guided towards an option that isn’t appropriate for them. This decision could be made on experience in previous lessons (bringing us back to the message from the IoP) or could this choice could be restricted based on a flawed assessment system at KS3. Those of you interested in the combined vs triple debate will be interested to read this article on education datalab.
My point is that the curriculum you offer, whether it be at departmental level or at a whole school level, will have long-lasting repercussions for your students and it is important you’ve got it right. For this reason I commend Amanda Spielman for the tone she has set as she takes up the mantle of Chief Inspector and look forward to seeing the discussion about the curriculum develop as she continues in office.