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Focus on ‘quality of education’ after new school inspection framework announced

Ofsted Chief Inspector Amanda Spielman

Humanists UK has welcomed Ofsted’s new consultation on how it plans to better inspect schools, and which focuses on ensuring schools deliver a well-rounded, well-structured curriculum over choosing subjects that are specifically geared to improving exam results.

The education inspectorate Ofsted today announced its framework for the consultation  which proposes a shift that will rebalance inspections. Ofsted said: ‘Instead of taking exam results and test data at face value, Ofsted will look at how a nursery, school, college or other provider’s results have been achieved – whether they are the result of broad and rich learning, or gaming and cramming.’

Humanists UK, which will make a submission to the consultation, hopes the new inspection framework will lead to schools teaching more subjects that matter less for league tables, such as religious education (RE), personal, social, health, and economic education (PSHE) – including relationships and sex education – and citizenship education and which are very important but often overlooked in some schools’ curricula.

Humanists UK Education Campaigns Manager Ruth Wareham said:Under these proposals, state schools will be discouraged from teaching a narrow curriculum. This means there will be an opportunity for RE – which was left out of the Government’s list of most important subjects for GCSE qualifications (sometimes called the EBacc) – PSHE, and citizenship to be better included as a substantive part of a well-rounded, well-structured curriculum in good schools and this is welcome news.’

However, the inspection handbook for private schools does add that some offer a ‘specialist faith-based curriculum’. Ofsted explicitly recognises the autonomy of private schools to do this alongside ‘a broad, rich curriculum’ but says it ‘will assess a school’s entire provision, including any specialist provision offered… When reaching a judgement under the quality of education judgement area.’

Dr Wareham added: ‘If this means that faith-based provision is rigorously assessed, we are all for it. However, it is difficult to see how very religiously biased teaching could also count  as high quality, and a great deal hangs on the way the standard is implemented.

‘Overall, Ofsted has carefully considered the importance of ensuring that all schools teach a broad and balanced curriculum, and this goes some way towards ensuring that students are taught to be good citizens and are well prepared for life in diverse, modern Britain. However, in our consultation response we will be seeking clarity about what this means in practice, particularly in schools with a faith-based curriculum.

‘There is also a need for greater emphasis on the contribution all schools must make to social cohesion and the requirement for all schools, including faith schools, to play an important role in this.’

The framework does not address how Ofsted could better inspect illegal or unregistered schools, which is an area of work that Humanists UK strongly campaigns for. This is because Ofsted currently lacks the relevant powers to carry out these inspections properly, meaning this is a matter requiring action from the Department for Education rather than the inspectorate.

The consultation is open until 5 April 2019 with changes expected to come into force in September.

NOTES:

For further comment or information, please contact Humanists UK press manager Casey-Ann Seaniger at casey@humanism.org.uk or phone 020 7324 3078 or 07 393344293.

Read more about our education campaigns work here: https://humanism.org.uk/campaigns/schools-and-education/

Read more about our campaign work on the RE curriculum: https://humanism.org.uk/campaigns/schools-and-education/school-curriculum/religious-education/

At Humanists UK, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. Our work brings non-religious people together to develop their own views, helping people be happier and more fulfilled in the one life we have. Through our ceremonies, education services, and community and campaigning work, we strive to create a fair and equal society for all.

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