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Ofsted and 'knowledge based curriculum'

Discussion in 'Education news' started by captain_picard, Jun 13, 2019.

  1. captain_picard

    captain_picard New commenter


    Does anyone know how quickly schools need to implement the new 'knowledge based curriculum'? Do we need to change our curriculum from Years 7-9 in one go, or can we phase it in?

  2. ScienceGuy

    ScienceGuy Established commenter

    There is a year's grace in the new framework so in 2019-2020 you will not need to have completed changes (but it would be sensible to make sure you can show what changes are planned)
    agathamorse likes this.
  3. abacus1982

    abacus1982 Established commenter

    I don't think there is a need to implement a new curriculum necessarily is there? OFSTED are now inspecting the curriculum but if a school has a decent one already why would they change it?
  4. moscowbore

    moscowbore Lead commenter

    Academies can teach what they like.
    snowyhead likes this.
  5. Lalex123

    Lalex123 Occasional commenter

    Isn’t everything knowledge? You can just flip the LO to fit with this new fad.

    To have a good knowledge of the basic tactics used in football

    To have a good knowledge of music theory to help you read treble clef

    To have a good knowledge of the cardiovascular system and demonstrate this to others...

    Also, if we were moving to this new knowledge based curriculum and took it literally, there would be no room for practical skills and application so they would have to teach theory in PE, music, art, DT, etc. And I don’t think that’s what’s happening here.
    lardylegs likes this.
  6. dalersmith

    dalersmith Occasional commenter

    Well isn't that the question? Cognitive science tells use that just because we teach something doesn't mean it is knowledge, we also know that knowledge rich has nothing to do with facts. Commentators such as E.D. Hirsch, Dylan Wiliam and Micheal Young, all talk about the structure, sequence and intent of the curriculum. If we say that this is a fad, (E.D Hirsch has written about this for 30 odd years) are we not just ignoring straight forward facts? Knowledge leads to skills, skills in writing are not created in isolation but require the knowledge of vocabulary, grammar and so on, so adding Knowledge to an LO would not cover it.
    Lalex123 and agathamorse like this.
  7. Scintillant

    Scintillant Star commenter

    It is a huge fad.


    It will be spectacularly funny to watch it unravel.

    If there is a correct structure, sequence and content of a curriculum, then let's see an example or two
    lardylegs likes this.
  8. dalersmith

    dalersmith Occasional commenter

    So are we saying that the change of focus from OFSTED is all for nought, that the curriculum doesn't matter, just the results? A 'Knowledge-rich curriculum' isn't just about facts, it is about which knowledge is being taught. For example, I recently had an interview lesson 1 whole hour on the topic of cloud computing. I asked myself why at the time, well it is in the spec on the qualification. But why spend an hour on a single idea, that usually( I checked all past papers) gets a question worth 1 mark. It is not that the knowledge is irrelevant, just that it it is not, to coin Michael Young's phrase, powerful. Knowledge-rich curricula look at what is most important, it is about looking at what is offered and being critical about why is it there. If the answer is, because we always have, should we not look closer at what we do?
    The weird thing is OFSTED want to look at curriculum, they want to look at what is being taught, not how it is being taught. So in effect it wouldn't matter if you do not agree with the knowledge-rich 'fad' any way as long as your curriculum is sound. There again if you haven't read Young, Hirsch and even Martin Robinson, your curriculum may actually be classified as knowledge-rich anyway. I like the ideas of knowledge-rich, I am enjoying tearing down the old and looking at my curriculum with fresh eyes and questioning 'what do my students actually need to know to do well?'
  9. Scintillant

    Scintillant Star commenter


    What have children been learning? Has it been unacceptable? Surely the curriculum of accredited qualifications, such as GCSEs, from established boards has been fine?

    If a knowledge-rich curriculum looks at "what is most important", why is "what is most important" not communicated to us so that we don't teach "what is not most important"? So, which knowledge should be taught, and why is each school deciding for itself, because we know where that will end...

    What do you teach now, that you didn't five years ago? Are you aware of where I can see the content of one of these new curricula?
    snowyhead likes this.
  10. dalersmith

    dalersmith Occasional commenter

    As I have said, if your children are learning and progressing, why are you bothering with the argument against a knowledge-rich curriculum. If your curriculum is sound then there is no need to change, but how many schools can actually say this? many cannot, and your school and yourself are very lucky if you can say that their is no need to change. All curriculum's regardless of style impart knowledge even a skills-based curriculum as they go hand in hand, in many respects the term knowledge-rich is not fully understood by many, and please I do not for a second believe that you do not, for why else would you argue so much against. A true valuable debate comes from knowledge, that is, the knowledge of two sides of the argument.
    What do I teach that I didn't teach 5 years ago? Lots have you seen the new GCSE's? But seriously, I am at the start of sorting things out, and even though it is almost exactly the same stuff, it is more explicit in they way it is sequenced, this allows the students then to actually see all the links and connections between topic areas. Knowledge-rich isn't a change in the what, more the why.

    Content is a problem area, many schools, and teachers are precious about their creations, they spend a lot of time and effort creating them why should they put them out for all to see? I could point you to some blogs such as :

    For all I know this might be a way that curriculum design was taught before I became a teacher, I know we only skirted the idea during ITT 10 years ago. In some respects it seems quite sensible to map out what you want to teach explicitly.
  11. Scintillant

    Scintillant Star commenter

    Yes, I've been keeping tabs on this for at least two years. Very, very, little in the way of detail and all of your answers to my specific questions are vague. Please note, I have not argued against a knowledge-rich curriculum. I merely want to know how it differs from what is currently acceptable. I've been teaching over two decades and weave all sorts of interesting facts and knowledge into my delivery of the content needed to meet spec requirements.

    Teachers are paid by the taxpayer. If it isn't generated by a private enterprise, then there is no reason why anything of any quality oughtn't be available for all to share, or quality curricula should be created by "experts" and made available to all by the DfE. That way all will be teaching a good curriculum. Why on earth should we have a few schools teaching "better" curricula than others, and some schools teaching inadequate curricula? Surely all our children deserve the best? Leaving some schools floundering and wondering what a good curriculum is, is madness?

    I have always taught GCSE specs, the content of which has been perfectly acceptable.
    The new GCSEs you refer to have clear content that we already teach. Why would I need to teach something different to the existing AQA Chemistry spec? If it's not acceptable, then why still have the qualification? If it is accpetable,why do we need a "new" curriculum?

    How many schools currently have a curriculum that is "unsound"? Does anyone have the first clue? If so, then where is the data on this? Do the schools even know?

    The whole thing will end up a complete shambles.
    snowyhead and agathamorse like this.
  12. bessiesmith

    bessiesmith Occasional commenter

    It is important to question the content of the curriculum regularly. As the world changes around us different skills and knowledge become more or less useful over time. When I have the time to do it properly (rarely) I also really enjoy thinking about curriculum design and patterns of learning.

    However, wherever Ofsted is involved, the bottom line is the grading of schools which can have devastating consequences if it doesn't go well. As Scintillant is pointing out above - if Ofsted are going to base their judgements on the school's curriculum why don't we just all teach the same curriculum rather than trying to second guess whether what I personally think is a good plan will match what the Ofsted inspector is looking for?
    snowyhead likes this.
  13. dalersmith

    dalersmith Occasional commenter

    A curriculum should not be for the benefit of OFSTED it is for the benefit of the student. Much as I have little time for OFSTED, I have to say that the inspection framework doesn't mention any one type of curriculum design, just what the curriculum is designed to do. If the curriculum you have designed does what it needs to do then you do not have to second guess what OFSTED wants, you have the proof there for them.
    The key statement is on impact "learners develop detailed knowledge and skills across the curriculum and, as a result, achieve well. Where relevant, this is reflected in results from national tests and examinations that meet government expectations, or in the qualifications obtained"
    So the question is again why worry about whether you have to go 'knowledge-rich' if it is not prescribed in the framework? Myself, I am happy to buy in to my schools ideals, we believe that the curriculum is the key, we call it 'knowledge-rich' but as @Scintillant has rightly pointed out where are the guides on how to create one? We have our ideas based on the research that we have undertaken as curriculum leaders, whether it is true and fully form 'knowledge-rich curriculum, who knows? I would like to think that as we have been looking at curriculum design for over a year, we are doing this for our students, not for an OFSTED inspection.
    At the end of the day the term 'knowledge-rich' means different things for different people, there are no hard and fast rules, there are no design books that I have found, but at the end of the day all good curriculum designs have a few things in common 1. They all impart knowledge 2. They all test for the knowledge gained via formative assessment not so much summative 3. They are explicit in what they want to teach 4. They are sequenced in a way that students see the connections between all the different component parts.
  14. dalersmith

    dalersmith Occasional commenter

    I suppose my answers are vague because each and every one of us looks at the idea differently. Is there a definitive answer to any of you questions? I am not sure, truly I do not know, what I do know is that good curriculum design, and there are many books on curriculum design, all say very much the same thing. But perhaps it is just the terminology that has changed. As you correctly state, all curricula teach knowledge, I wouldn't disagree, many children do learn well, has it been unacceptable? In some schools yes, I haven't taught for as long as 2 decades, but even I have seen were some schools teaching and learning(curriculum) is deficient, good schools(not OFSTED good), do curriculum well , some schools do not, because the aim is exam results at the expense of all else. Lets not also forget that there have been schools in the past that neglect key stage 3 because of the emphasis on exams, I am myself, and have been in all of my schools, a believer that a strong key stage 3, provides the basis for strong key stage 4 results. We all design curricula, and at the end of the day some do it better than others, and if at the end of the day your curriculum design, actually does, the following, 1. define the knowledge to be imparted in detail, 2. Taught in a way that it is meant to be remembered, 3. Sequenced and mapped coherently, as many already are where students perform well, then it is a good curriculum, it is also by definition knowledge-rich. Again I do not believe this is a new phenomenon or fad just a new definition of curriculum. Finally to everyone, if it isn't broken don't fix it.
  15. Scintillant

    Scintillant Star commenter

    In what ways was the curriculum "deficient". What is a deficient curriculum? How would I recognise one?

    Surely a standard GCSE syllabus does this?

    What does this mean and how do I recognise it?

    If a correct sequence to teach AQA Chemistry can be described, then it should be described. What would make an incorrect sequence should also be elucidated or else how will a non-science inspector know this?

    Surely that depends on the knowledge defined to be imparted? I presume the AQA GCSE Chemistry is knowledge-rich?

    Unfortunately this is precisely what is happening.
    yodaami2 and snowyhead like this.
  16. Scintillant

    Scintillant Star commenter

    What are the types? What are their characteristics?

    Pretty much every GCSE science syllabus I've seen.
  17. dalersmith

    dalersmith Occasional commenter

    Note we started discussing curriculum but moved on the syllabus which is not a curriculum, the problem is they often get conflated, but they are separate entities.
    1. the subjects comprising a course of study in a school or college.
    1. the subjects in a course of study or teaching.
    As such the syllabus is a subset of the overall curriculum

    The major problem is that there are, out there, educational minds greater than mine(not a researcher) that have researched, curriculum and syllabus design, haven't yet read it all but it clearly shows the difference between the two.
  18. Scintillant

    Scintillant Star commenter

    Of course there's a difference but the two are often used interchangeably when applied to a single subject - what's on the science curriculum etc? And given that people are saying the curriculum is the knowledge that will be taught, for each subject, this is essentially the syllabus. Yet more vagueness

    Can you answer any of my questions from earlier?

    Or these:
    Are science GCSEs at present 'good' courses, with acceptable content? If not, will we be stopped teaching them? (Of course not, so they must still be ok).

    What does a 'good' curriculum look like? It must surely be possible to elucidate this?
  19. dalersmith

    dalersmith Occasional commenter

    Subject syllabus is not school curriculum, you keep talking as if the whole school curriculum is the GCSE Chemistry syllabus. OP actually asked about whether we needed to get an OFSTED 'knowledge-rich' curriculum, not a GCSE syllabus written before September. The answer to that question is no. The answer to your question about a good curriculum is one that prepares students with more than just subject knowledge to pass GCSE exams. I did not become a teacher on the back of I wanted great results, I wanted to teach my subject to other people, to give them the same passion(if I can) that I have for my subject, whether they chose to pick it up at key stage 4 or not. A whole school curriculum develops the whole child in a holistic way, not just exam prep for a government that believes that exam results are the only measure of a person. And if I am honest, if that were the case I wouldn't have had a career in the Armed service, Finance and Teaching, I left school with 2 'O' levels, but I had a great education.
    What has been unacceptable? Narrowing of the whole school curriculum to focus on exams in Primary and Secondary
    Does a syllabus impart knowledge? No it outlines the knowledge to be taught, and is part of a whole curriculum
    What does it mean taught to be remembered? How do you normally check student learning should answer that.
    We have a National Curriculum that some schools choose to ignore, take Computing for instance, a foundation subject and compulsory from KS1 to KS4, yet many schools fail to deliver any qualification or even time to Computing in KS4, less than half the schools in the UK offer the GCSE Computer Science. This has nothing to do with the syllabus and everything to do with curriculum.
    Are your syllabuses wrong not at all they are just not a curriculum.
  20. Scintillant

    Scintillant Star commenter

    I am trying to be specific about one subject to try and get some detail. In terms of that one subject, what is knowledge-poor about the content of current GCSEs? Why should every school be "designing" a "knowledge-rich" curriculum when people cannot even define or be specific about what that change and those words mean?

    So it's not about the content/knowledge now? Confused? You will be.

    What is so bad about the current syllabus in, say, Maths? Will current students be seen to have inferior GCSEs?

    So how should it "be taught to be remembered"? Another answer involving assessment is not required.

    So, if the syllabuses (sic) are ok, subject teachers can carry on teaching them, right?

    This who thing is a farce. Remember what you are hearing now about "the knowledge-rich curriculum", and see where we are in ten years time and what people are saying about it then. By then it will in Orewllian terms, have always been a bad, unworkable idea.

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