Ofsted: Curriculum intent isn’t new, and it won’t be the ‘next big thing’

Ofsted has said that its curriculum intent requirements are “nothing new”, nor the “next big thing”, as it attempts to alleviate concerns over the new inspection framework.

The schools inspectorate said today that there was no need for headteachers to write new statements, adapt websites or restructure staffing to cover intent. The watchdog said it had heard of half-day courses for schools on how to write an “intent statement”.

The extra detail also comes following concerns that schools were being put under increasing pressure to change how they teach and prepare for inspections, with very little time to implement the changes.

Under its new inspection framework, Ofsted plans to place greater emphasis on rating schools on what they teach, rather than the outcomes of pupils. Because of the shift in focus, Ofsted has previously said that some schools might want to “review” their curriculum.

In a blog today, Heather Fearn, inspector curriculum and professional development lead at Ofsted, said that “intent is nothing new. There’s no need to write new statements, adapt websites or restructure staffing to cover intent. Intent is not the next big thing.

“Intent is all the curriculum planning that happens before a teacher teaches the knowledge that pupils need to learn the next thing in the curriculum.”

When looking at educational intent, inspectors will mainly be looking at the curriculum leadership provided by senior, subject and curriculum leaders, she said.

In secondary schools, inspectors will look at whether pupils are, if possible, able to study a “strong academic core of subjects”, such as those offered by the EBacc.

“We will consider whether there is high academic/ vocational/ technical ambition for all pupils and find out if some pupils or groups of pupils are missing out,” Fearn said.

Fearn also said use of the term ‘intent’ had moved on following previous curriculum research and the piloting of the new framework.

“When we’re talking about intent, we’re talking about how ambitious, coherently planned and sequenced, how broad and balanced and inclusive the curriculum is,” she wrote.

“Intent is about what leaders intend pupils to learn. It’s as simple as that. Intent is everything up to the point at which teaching happens.”

The inspectorate said that it does not advocate any particular curriculum model, but that intent is about the “substance of education” and whether it is providing pupils with the building blocks of what they need to know to succeed in each subject.

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