March 2014


  • The state of independence
    Autonomy isn’t a new concept for schools and colleges but its success in the long-term depends on everyone being honest about what it means and costs, as well as the provision of safeguards for schools and colleges that get into difficulty, says Brian Lightman. More
  • Be prepared
    Leora Cruddas suggests some key activities for schools and colleges to undertake ahead of changes to the curriculum, assessment and qualifications. More
  • Premium: Make it pay
    The Pupil Premium gives us a huge opportunity to change for the better the lives of poor and disadvantaged young people, says John Dunford. We need to exploit it to the full. More
  • A head for heights?
    The profession needs more outstanding heads but they won’t materialise unless we ensure that teachers can access top-quality development from the moment that they set foot on the career ladder, argues Ian Bauckham. It is up to leaders to seize the initiative. More
  • Meaningful dialogue
    Better parent-school relationships can have a profound impact on pupil attainment, particularly for those in disadvantaged and vulnerable groups, says Professor Sonia Blandford. More
  • Widening the leadership horizon
    Today’s young people are the leaders of tomorrow. We need to help them understand the world beyond theirs and how their lives and roles overlap with other communities, or tensions will continue to arise when cultures collide, says Ken Swan. More
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Leora Cruddas suggests some key activities for schools and colleges to undertake ahead of changes to the curriculum, assessment and qualifications.

Be prepared

Extensive changes to the National Curriculum (NC), assessment system and qualifications system are coming up and ASCL is preparing guidance to help schools manage them.

Students currently in Year 8 (starting Year 9 in September) will be the first cohort to take the new GCSEs in English and maths, the content of which is significantly different from the current programmes of study. In maths, there is much more of it, with the Department for Education (DfE) referring affectionately to the new qualification as the “big, fat maths curriculum”.

The English curriculum is considerably different, too, with wider and more challenging reading and the introduction of the ‘unseen’ element in literature. The combined English GCSE is also disappearing.

Students in Years 7, 8 and 9 in September 2014 will not have had the new Key Stage 2 National Curriculum and may consequently have gaps in their knowledge and conceptual understanding. ASCL will liaise with the subject associations and signpost gap analyses and other relevant information.

The Year 9 cohort, who will be the first to take the new GCSE examinations in the summer of 2017, have only one year to prepare for the new GCSE curriculum. They will need to be prepared not only for the different content but also for the new style of examinations. And both students and teachers will need help preparing for terminal as opposed to modular assessment.

Below is a list of activities that schools may wish to focus on between now and September 2014.

Timetabling for 2014–15
Schools will already have started to think about the implications for the timetable from September 2014. For some schools, it may mean timetabling more maths and English lessons, particularly for Year 9.

There are, of course, also implications for preparing students in Years 7 and 8 for the new GSCEs as these students will also not have had the new Key Stage 2 curriculum.

Develop a transitional Key Stage 3 curriculum model
Alongside timetabling, schools could develop a transitional Key Stage 3 curriculum model for those cohorts who have not had the new Key Stage 2 curriculum. It will need to fill the gaps in knowledge and conceptual understanding and prepare students for the new GCSEs in English and maths.

Transitional Key Stage 3 assessment policy
From September, the current National Curriculum levels will no longer be a requirement but schools are still allowed to use them if they wish. Every school will have to publish an assessment policy, so in the transitional period – and certainly for 2014–15 – this policy could be based on a version of the National Curriculum with amendments to take account of the new GCSE requirements.

ASCL will publish case studies detailing how some schools are approaching assessment without levels.

Develop a professional learning programme for staff
Many teachers will have spent much if not all of their careers teaching to the requirements of the national strategies. Some will not have experienced a time before levels and may not feel confident about what good assessment practice looks like; many will never have prepared students for terminal examinations or examinations with no coursework or controlled assessment. It may be useful to do a capacity analysis of staff and plan a continuing professional development (CPD) programme that addresses gaps in knowledge, understanding and practice.

Review staffing structure
Schools will already be considering the implication of the curriculum and qualifications changes for their staffing. ASCL has drawn to the attention of senior civil servants and ministers the considerable challenge of teacher supply that will be a consequence of these changes, not least the supply of high-quality maths teachers.

For 11–18 schools and colleges, consideration should also be given to the greater focus on maths in relevant A level subjects.

If you have not already done so, it is worth reviewing your staffing structure against the requirements of the new GCSEs and, where appropriate, A levels, and starting work now on making the changes that will be necessary between now and 2017.

Communicate with parents
This is an anxious time for parents and carers so schools will undoubtedly want to consider how they communicate with families and reassure them about the changes to curriculum, qualifications and assessment. Schools may wish to consider a communication and engagement programme that sets out what the curriculum looks like, how they will be assessing progress and how they will be preparing pupils for the new qualifications and examinations.

What will Ofsted be looking for?

Sir Michael Wilshaw, the Chief Inspector of Schools, outlined what Ofsted will expect from September 2014 in a speech at the North of England Education Conference in January.

Good schools have always tracked their pupils’ progress and Ofsted will expect to see this continue, he said.

“We will not endorse any particular approach. But we do expect every school to be able to show what their pupils know, understand and can do through continuous assessment and summative tests.”

Inspectors will want to see how well the tests are linked to the curriculum and how the results are being used to inform the school about the quality of teaching and the progress of children, he said. They will also want to see how well schools are responding to changes to the National Curriculum from September.

“Every headteacher should be asking themselves the sort of questions that we will be asking when we inspect schools in the weeks and months ahead,” he said. The list he gave covered:

Are staff ready for the significant changes to the curriculum?

  • How is the school’s assessment model linked to the programmes of study and schemes of work in the new curriculum?
  • Is there an effective training programme in place?
  • Are your teachers geared up to teach for linear rather than modular examinations?
  • Is the school timetable and school day flexible enough to accommodate the new curriculum?

Sir Michael added: “Parents have a right to know through clear, unambiguous reporting how well their children are doing. So inspectors will also be paying close attention to how well schools are reporting on progress in relation to the targets that have been set for every pupil at the end of the key stage.”

The changes are considerable, but there is an opportunity here to reintroduce pedagogy, enhance teacher professionalism and further improve the quality of teaching.

I have no doubt that the profession will step forward and show just how strong our leadership is.

  • Leora Cruddas is ASCL's Director of Policy