Curriculum innovation in schools

Ofsted - raising standards

This is a report focusing on curriculum innovation in schools and the factors that contribute to its success. A small scale survey of 30 schools, undertaken between April 2006 and December 2007, forms the basis of the report. 


The survey included Her Majesty's Inspectorate (HMI) visiting sixteen secondary schools, twelve primary schools and two special schools, all of which were involved in developing the curriculum within their schools. The survey also drew evidence from a focus group of six primary schools, inspector discussions, school and local authority staff within three areas where groups of schools were working on curriculum change (p4).


The aims of the resource: 
The aim of the report is to provide information and recommendations relating to findings of a survey undertaken to identify the factors which contribute to successful curriculum innovation in schools.


Key findings or focus:
In most of the 30 schools visited the innovations led to clear improvement in pupils' achievements and personal development: "Inspection evidence, observations by senior managers and feedback from pupils showed that the successful innovations had had a significant impact on teaching and learning" (p14).


The survey found that "innovations fell into four broad categories: organising the curriculum through themes or inter-disciplinary links rather than discrete subjects; using curriculum time flexibly; providing alternative curriculum pathways and developing learners' skills" (p5).


The survey also found that barriers to innovations included staff concerns relating to a possible negative impact upon tests and examination results; concern over HMIs' attitudes to innovation, and financial restraints relating to the provision of resources (p5).


The report also notes the survey's findings that "successful change relied on strong leadership at all levels, a shared understanding of the reasons and need for innovation, and committed staff who had been prepared and trained carefully to implement change" (p1).


Other findings for successful innovation included: detailed planning linked to rigorous self evaluation, clear systems and timetables and clear criteria for evaluating impact by drawing on detailed data and information from a wide range of stakeholders (p5).


The most successful schools based their reforms on research into theories of learning and different ways of approaching the curriculum. 


Recommendations resulting from the survey, and noted within the report, include:


  • Research widely to ensure changes are suitable, necessary and appropriate to meet learners' needs.
  • Provide high quality professional development and support, matched closely to the requirements of the innovation and the needs of staff.
  • Undertake a rigorous and regular evaluation, based on clear criteria, focusing on the impact on pupils' achievement, standards and personal development and use the outcomes to adjust the new approaches.


The quality, authority and credibility of the resource from your subject perspective in relation to ITE:
The report, based on a small scale survey carried out by HMIs, is a high quality and credible resource as it provides case study evidence from a range of primary, secondary and special schools relating to innovative approaches to the curriculum.  Moreover, the innovations have been evaluated.  Evaluating the success of the innovations was most successful where there were "well established systems to judge its impact on pupils' progress and attainment" (p18).  Schools "scrutinized data from internal and external tests and examinations and used the information to adjust what they did" (p18).


The implications for ITE tutors/mentors:
This report is very useful for reading and discussion material within ITE sessions.  It enhances current thinking in relation to curriculum development, planning and delivery by providing case study approaches to curriculum innovation. Suggestions and recommendations within the report could be considered and used for developmental feedback following trainees' observations. The report is relevant to a broad range of curriculum areas.


The relevance to ITE students:
The report, compiled by Ofsted, provides useful reading and discussion material, and information could be used within literature reviews and assignments. Essentially, critical appraisal of the issues raised within the report could lead to useful debate and possible innovative development in trainees' own curriculum areas.


The report includes findings from the survey relating to primary, secondary and special schools, and it is therefore suitable for trainees working within a range of school environments.


Reviewed by

Lynn Machin