What the resource is
This is an Ofsted report which evaluates the progress of the implementation of the new Key Stage 3 curriculum. The report draws on visits to 37 schools between May 2008 and March 2009. The new National Curriculum for Key Stage 3 came into effect for Year 7 pupils from September 2008, and carried with it a clear expectation that schools develop a more integrated approach to curriculum planning and delivery. The report suggests that the schools in the survey had made progress in introducing more varied approaches to teaching and learning, but that there is further work needed in some schools to ensure the effective development of cross-curricular links and skills.
The aims of the resource
The report aims to provide an initial snapshot of the implementation of teaching the new National Curriculum for Key Stage 3. The report identifies aspects of what Ofsted perceives to be outstanding and good practice, whilst raising some of the difficulties faced, and issues found, within schools.
Key findings or focus
The key findings of this report provide evidence of the progress of schools in implementing the new Key Stage 3 curriculum, and can be found in condensed form in the executive summary of the document. The report considers a range of elements of the curricular arrangements in the schools reported upon, including subject developments, cross-curricular skills and whole-school dimensions. The report content is supplemented by useful case studies throughout, which act to exemplify the points raised. These supplement the findings with useful contextual detail, and are useful to those in ITT. In summary form, the key findings are:
- In the most successful schools, there was a vision set out by senior leaders for curriculum cohesion and integration which informed the work of teachers;
- In less successful schools, the vision of the school leadership was set out, but left for teachers to interpret;
- Subject departments across the schools were at different stages of readiness for implementing the new curriculum;
- Teachers and students were generally enthusiastic about the opportunity which the new curriculum afforded in terms of teaching and learning;
- Personal learning and thinking skills were typically left to subject departments to plan for;
- Functional skills in English, mathematics and ICT were rarely developed systematically in other subjects;
- Whilst whole-school dimensions offered a strong context for learning, most schools simply referred to these in schemes of work rather than using them to promote achievement;
- Schools made clear links between the curriculum at Key Stage 3 and the rest of the curriculum. However, only a small number of schools knew sufficient details about the Primary curriculum to make meaningful links;
- In most schools, there was evidence that the new curriculum was having a positive impact on students' progress and their enjoyment of lessons.
In addition to these findings, the report makes a number of recommendations:
- The provision of additional support and guidance for schools by the DCSF and the QCDA, in order that they can further develop planning for whole-curriculum dimensions and skills;
- For schools themselves, auditing the ways in which their curriculum makes provision for developing personal, learning and thinking skills and knowledge development regarding the primary curriculum in order to promote effective transition for pupils and pupil learning.
The quality, authority and credibility of the resource
The place of Ofsted as the main government agency responsible for monitoring and evaluating the implementation of the National Curriculum means that the report has a certain authority. Whilst there may be some concerns with drawing generalisations too widely, given the small sample of schools visited, the report clearly details provision at those schools and raises some important areas for consideration for all schools, teachers and student teachers. It must be remembered, however, that Ofsted reports are constructed for particular purposes and in specific ways. There are limited methodological considerations given, and it is unlikely that any peer-review processes are in place to ensure the validity of the information provided.
The implications for ITE tutors/mentors
The report adds to the corpus of current work in this area, and its usefulness stems largely from the lack of current research (largely dictated by its recent introduction) as to how schools are implementing the new National Curriculum for Key Stage 3. The findings provide a useful basis for ITE tutors and mentors to consider how some schools have implemented the curriculum, the strengths of this, and the issues which schools face, most notably obtaining effective training and development in meeting the aims and requirements of the Key Stage 3 curriculum and supporting pupils in developing cross-curricular personal learning and functional skills. This also acts as an interesting framework to compare/contrast practice across schools. The report also provides an interesting perspective as to what Ofsted understands as the key requirements of effective curricular construction and practice in this area, including training and development for schools, subject developments, cross-curricular links, the development of cross-curricular skills and whole-school dimensions.
The relevance to ITE students
This report is likely to be helpful in building ITE students' knowledge and understanding of the current National Curriculum at Key Stage 3 and its implementation. For ITE students following secondary-based programmes (7-14, 11-16, 11-18), the report raises a number of issues, most notably obtaining effective training and development in meeting the aims and requirements of the Key Stage 3 curriculum, maintaining subject integrity whilst developing cross-subject links, and supporting pupils in developing cross-curricular personal learning and functional skills. These may also interest ITE students working in the primary context. ITE students should be able to make clear links to, and draw contrasts with, the content of the report and the practices observed at their placement schools and colleges.