Quality Assurance, OFSTED and the Curriculum

by | Apr 8, 2022 | Curriculum, Quality

Quality Assurance and the Curriculum

In my last post I said that I wasn’t sure about the word substance as being the right way to describe the curriculum that drives a high-quality education. I didn’t offer an alternative and have been thinking about it quite a lot. So, in this post I want to define what I see as a better way to describe what a school or college needs to do to create a kaleidoscope of evidence of how quality pervades all the elements that lead to excellence and improvement.

Quality Assurance, OFSTED and the Curriculum
Quality and the fabric of education

The word I want to use is fabric, the curriculum is the fabric that allows us to build a tapestry of learning where senior leaders choose the framework or the design and rationale for an ambitious curriculum. We then need to create a plan of how each subject weaves knowledge, conceptual understanding and skills together to begin to build a sequential picture of learning and progression over time.

Each subject or phase leader has a pivotal role in helping to translate the vision into a coherent strategy that teachers can work with. Establishing a powerful system where the seven strands of quality assurance are used by all those with responsibility for curriculum design and delivery creates the evidence that staff are working together across key stages, phases and year groups and within and across subject divides.

The seven strands of quality assurance

Interweaving the strands of a learning culture

Quality Assurance standards are essential across the world of business and are equally vital in the development of high-quality education outcomes for all pupils. Using a version of the international standards set out by ISO but carefully redrawn for all of us in education provides a blueprint that all staff can use and follow.

This ensures that the journey towards excellence and continuous improvement is the same for each department, phase and individual where the same principles are overlaid onto subject specific disciplines and where cross curricular connections can be made.

These seven strands include:-

  • Positive and effective leadership
  • Identifying the needs of all learners
  • Engaging and empowering all staff
  • Identifying the processes involved in achieving successful learning outcomes
  • Defining assessment and continuous improvement strategies
  • Data and information to inform evidence-based decision making
  • Involving all stakeholders

Creating Quality Assurance Systems Within an Education Setting

Building evidence through quality assurance principles

A trawl through some of the OFSTED reports published so far this year shows a familiar and emerging picture. There is a mismatch between what OFSTED are looking at and what schools are doing.

Some subjects are not sequenced coherently or delivered well. Newer subject
leaders lack the subject-specific expertise to plan and monitor the curriculum
effectively. As a result, pupils do not learn and retain the key knowledge needed
to achieve well in those subjects. Leaders should ensure that all subjects are
sequenced and delivered effectively. They should also ensure that subject leaders
receive the support needed to lead their subjects effective

An example about a secondary school of many similar comments from OFSTED reports since January 2022
Aiming for excellence

Teachers’ subject knowledge in subjects other than reading and mathematics is
not strong. Because of this, teachers do not correct misconceptions or develop
deeper learning well enough. Leaders need to provide training for teachers so
they are confident in delivering the foundation subjects as effectively as they do
in reading and mathematics.

An example about a primary school of many similar comments from OFSTED reports since January 2022

It is noted by many commentators that around 84% of primary and 45% of secondary schools that were outstanding prior to the pandemic have been downgraded to good with some finding themselves with a ‘requires improvement’ grade. The thread in many of the corresponding reports focuses on the lack of curriculum continuity, the dearth of subject expertise or curriculum knowledge and a failure to sequence the learning effectively across year groups, key stages and within subject specific learning.

The reasons for this are a combination of many factors that are a result of the inevitable disruption to learning over the past two years and the fact that even before the pandemic a new curriculum introduced slowly from 2014 to 2018 was still a learning curve for many subject leaders and their teams.

Putting together the pieces to create cohesion

Dwelling on the past is not a solution, focusing on the seven principles of quality assurance will reap success. Defining where next in terms of the curriculum vision and intent; clearly defined and sequenced curriculum cohesion and a well-planned programme of CPD for senior leaders, middle and subject leaders and teachers and their support staff will create profound evidence that what is planned is implemented and is having an impact on learning.

Creating Quality Assurance Systems Within an Education Setting

Curriculum Quality and Outstanding Learning and Pedagogy

The opportunity to weave curriculum cohesion as part of building new high-quality systems must not be missed as the profession starts to look forward. Quality Assurance provides the framework or the fabric onto which to weave excellence. Senior leaders can use the seven indicators and create a detailed plan that involves all staff who are responsible for planning and implementing the curriculum vision or intent.

The National Curriculum Programmes of Study then provide the threads that will weave a consistent model of implementation that will be evidence that the curriculum builds on prior learning, is sequenced to allow a deepening of knowledge and understanding over time and creates opportunities for pupils to grasp concepts within and across subjects, develop a range of skills for learning as well as a sense of how they learn as well as what they learn.

Creating the right culture where planning the curriculum is a team activity that looks across phases, key stages and year groups and identifies the connections within and across subjects is fundamental. Defining what will be assessed to ensure learning is continuous, deepening and reflective is the only way to ensure there is evidence of a cohesive and well-planned curriculum.

For the primary school this means building teams that work together to dovetail the learning in early years, key stage one and into key stage two. There should be a strategy for transition that provides clear evidence that pupils are building on their prior learning and deepening their learning through the careful sequencing on knowledge and skills and recall and reflection over time.

In the secondary school subject leaders are their teams must create partnerships with their primary partners to ensure an astute understanding of what has been taught so far. Year 7 needs to be a focal year for ensuring all pupils remain positive and motivated to continue to learn. Key stage 3 is a critical time for all pupils to begin to develop depth and breadth that enhances previous teaching and prepares pupils for structured study and the ability to demonstrate higher level thinking skills in readiness for GCSE A Level and beyond.

Coaching for Subject Leaders – Implementing curriculum excellence, outstanding pedagogy and deep learning

Curriculum conversations, building a tapestry of learning

The curriculum is a Continuum of Learning

Weaving a curriculum tapestry requires many threads. The important message has to be to ensure that all those involved can see with clarity what the end points are that will create opportunities to evaluate the impact on learning, achievement and self-belief.

There should be several times along the way that will allow for reflection, review and possible re-evaluation of the planned and sequenced strategy. However, without a very clear understanding of an outstanding end product how can individuals and teams celebrate success and develop opportunities for continuous improvement. Subject leaders are pivotal in understanding the vision and providing the language and strategy that will allow their subject teams to work cogently together to weave subject and conceptual knowledge, create learners who can use the skills they need to access learning and ensure all learners can make connections within and across the subject disciplines both within the core and foundation subjects.

Be ready for new and exciting futures with our innovative range of online and face to face training. Work with experts and begin your journey towards excellence and continuous improvement and a learning culture. Be in touch on 01746 765076 / 07974 754241 or email me glynis@learningcultures.org.

New Books


The book ‘Primary Curriculum Design and Delivery by Glynis Frater‘ has now been published.

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