I teach, therefore I am.
Forget Jeremy Corbyn at Glastonbury, the real headliner of this year’s summer festivals was Ofsted’s Amanda Spielman at Wellington College. In a seismic moment, the chief inspector united the crowd in just two sentences: “One of the areas that I think we sometimes lose sight of is the real substance of education. Not the exam grades or the progress scores, important though they are, but instead the real meat of what is taught in our schools and colleges: the curriculum.”
I was ecstatic; curriculum had earned its time in the spotlight. Yet anxiety and fear soon began to creep in as I imagined something that I care so much about ending up on an Ofsted checklist. Could curriculum become the new Assessment for Learning, the lollipop stick of education? As Spielman seemed to recognise, schools have lost the way when it comes to curriculum, often as a consequence of fearing accountability measures and Ofsted.
Would an Ofsted intervention over curriculum cause more harm than good, driving heads into a frenzied panic to fit the inspectorate’s requirements?
That is up to the profession. In our hearts we all know that Spielman is right. Last week I spoke to some year 6 students about studying foreign languages. As each one chimed “Well I studied Spanish/German/Mandarin/Russian but then we stopped at year 5 because of SATs”, I was reminded of Spielman’s warning about this purely functionalist approach to education. If we do not fight for an education that is “about broadening minds, enriching communities and advancing civilisations”, then we all stand guilty.
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