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BHA calls for stronger focus on the curriculum in response to Ofsted consultation on new inspection framework

The British Humanist Association (BHA) has responded to Ofsted’s consultation on a new inspection framework for all state-funded and non-association independent schools. In its response, the BHA has called for a separate graded judgment on the curriculum, for a strong focus on breadth and balance in the curriculum, and for schools to be downgraded if they are found to be teaching pseudoscientific ideas such as creationism as if they are scientifically valid.

In its response, the BHA has:

  • Welcomed the introduction of a single inspection framework for both state-funded and non-association independent schools, but called for more to be done to ensure either that grades for different types of school are comparable, that the difference is clearly set out.
  • Called for a separate grade to be introduced for the curriculum, given the central importance that a school’s curriculum has on its ability to prepare pupils for later life. This is something that Ofsted has not looked at sufficiently in the past.
  • Called for ‘breadth and balance’ of the curriculum to be at the heart of inspection judgments, with ‘balance’ in particular seemingly having been relegated in this framework, and called for science to be given equivalent prominence to English and maths.
  • Further, ‘It should not be the case that a school can receive a “good” rating whilst teaching pseudoscience as scientifically valid, or failing to properly teach evolution. This should be the case with respect to all schools, state-funded or otherwise.’ It is currently unclear if Ofsted marks schools down for this reason, with the recent ‘good’ rating for Yesodey Hatorah Senior Girls’ School in Hackney an example of this problem.
  • Called for more explicit requirements around ‘fundamental British values’, equalities, and which subjects schools might be expected to teach.

The BHA has cited work it has done with whistleblowers at Park View School in Birmingham and with individuals who attended Accelerated Christian Education and Charedi Jewish schools, and their experiences of Ofsted.

BHA Education Campaigns Officer Richy Thompson commented, ‘It is vital that every young person receives a broad and balanced education, including English, maths, science, and the arts and humanities. This means high quality education about religions and non-religious worldviews, full, comprehensive, and age-appropriate personal, social, health, and economic education, and education about how and why evolution is the only well-evidenced explanation we have of how life came to be. Conversely, schools should not present ideas such as creationism that run against the scientific consensus as if they are scientifically valid.

‘We welcome Ofsted’s proposed new inspection framework as being a step in the right direction. But more needs to be done to ensure that Ofsted looks properly at schools’ curriculum and downgrades those schools that are not providing a sufficiently broad and balanced education or preparing young people for life in wider British society. In particular, Ofsted needs to focus more on pseudoscience, something that the Department for Education has made repeatedly clear that it expects Ofsted to do, but recent cases such as that of Yesodey Hatorah suggest that it is not.’

Notes

For further comment or information, please contact Richy Thompson at richy@humanism.org.uk or on 020 7324 3072.

Read more about Ofsted’s consultation: http://www.ofsted.gov.uk/resources/better-inspection-for-all-consultation-proposals-for-new-framework-for-inspection-of-schools-further

Read the BHA’s response: https://humanism.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/Better-inspection-for-all-response-from-the-British-Humanist-Association.pdf

Read more about the BHA’s campaigns work on countering creationism: https://humanism.org.uk/campaigns/religion-and-schools/countering-creationism

The British Humanist Association is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people who seek to live ethical and fulfilling lives on the basis of reason and humanity. It promotes a secular state and equal treatment in law and policy of everyone, regardless of religion or belief.

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