Broad, balanced curriculum while reducing workload - can schools really have it all?

by Louise Young
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Ofsted have been making changes to their inspection framework which is due to affect schools from September this year, with some schools already trialling the new inspections.

Amongst the changes is a renewed focus on the curriculum - and talk of looking at curriculum in the broad and balanced sense rather than simply results for the core subjects. Whilst this is, undoubtedly, good news in the grand scheme of things I am concerned it may have a knock-on effect which flies directly in the face of the work Damian Hinds has been looking at around teacher workload.

Call me cynical, but I have been working in assessment for a number of years now and, despite the removal of levels in 2014 and nearly 5 years of schools working to change their approach to assessment alongside the new curriculum, I have seen firsthand that a majority of schools are still using the kind of tracking systems which were used alongside the old levels. Points progress and summative labels applied to formative assessment. Lovely line graphs which point ever-more upwards every data drop. Termly progress meetings which leave teachers trying to explain every child’s progress, or lack of, or acceleration of.

So I do believe that one of the key changes that will impact on teachers when the new Ofsted inspections start will be that schools start to use their already cumbersome tracking systems to not just input maths and English data, as is the current trend, but to track every single subject. This will lead to weekends of lost teacher rest as they try to keep on top of all those boxes which need ticking to give the graph those lovely green hues of progress. I don’t think this will be Ofsted’s intention at all - in fact they have gone to great lengths to say they won’t expect to see such tracking at all within key stages - even in English and maths - but many schools will stick to what they know simply because in the short term it seems easier than trying to reinvent their own wheels.

Tracking systems will emphasise the possibility to schools that their system can simply be expanded to cover more curriculum areas, and schools will go along for the ride. Except that ride isn’t a downhill meander along country lanes, it’s a traffic jam in the centre of the city. It’s time consuming, frustrating, and uninspiring. It also makes very little impact on the destination.

Ofsted will be looking in books, and talking to pupils and teachers, to see that the curriculum is rich and progression is in evidence. But assessment and evidence is not just for the Ofsted inspection. It’s for teachers to see the progress over time and parents and pupils to take an interest in, and ownership of, their own role in the learning journey. Evidence isn’t just about finding gaps (although that is really handy!) but about celebrating achievements and knowing where to go next.

So of course we have the answer to give teachers great evidence - for themselves, their students, parents, school leaders AND Ofsted - and to ensure workload does not increase alongside.

Kinteract is the perfect platform for life after levels. Kinteract allows teachers and schools, alongside parents and students, to be in the driving seat of how much, and how often, assessment information is added. Kinteract does not require you to tick a load of boxes in a set order. You don’t need to assess (formally) everything you teach, so Kinteract allows YOU to choose which observations, tests, formative and summative assessments are relevant. You can tag each one to any number of curricula and objectives from any year group or phase, meaning Kinteract does not discriminate and label any SEND children as “working below” unless you need it to. You control your input and the students can use this information and evidence to control their output and next steps.

Kinteract works at every key stage and in any school type because it is an easy-to-use platform which enables everyone to collaborate on the learning journey, and builds a portfolio as broad, balanced, and well-rounded as every single one of your students. Each of your students is an individual, what is relevant information for one is not necessarily relevant to another. So do away with the one-size-fits-all tracking sheet and build a picture of each individual. A portfolio for life. A learning journey that doesn’t just point a line graph to the sky but shows a tapestry of intertwined disciplines and skills.

Contact us now to see how Kinteract could revolutionise the way you see assessment in your school.