Ofsted extends curriculum grace period for a year

Schools will get an extra year to bring their curriculum into line with Ofsted’s new inspection framework, after the watchdog announced an extension to its transition period.

The new framework, which places greater weight on curriculum content and less on outcomes, came into effect last September. However Ofsted worked in a year-long transition so that a judgment is made based on where schools currently are in implementing curriculum changes, rather than expecting them to be “fully ready”.

Under the transition, schools which have a “plan” to review their curriculum and can demonstrate “genuine action” to do so are not penalised.

Now Ofsted’s national director of education Sean Harford has said the grace period will be extended for another year, meaning schools will have this protection until July 2021.

“We know that a great curriculum does not just appear perfectly formed overnight. It takes a great deal of thought, preparation and work to plan it,” Harford wrote in a blog post today.

“I’m also aware, through conversations with the Association of School and College Leaders and the National Association of Head Teachers, that some heads and senior leaders are concerned about getting their curriculum to where they want it to be by this coming September. Some schools are further along their curriculum journey than others.

“We’ve listened to those concerns. So, we’ll be extending the transition period from one to two academic years – taking us through to July 2021.”

The decision follows a fierce backlash against the new framework, which heads say penalises schools that have difficult intakes.

The dispute between leaders and the watchdog came to a head last Friday, when the Headteachers’ Roundtable think tank launched #PauseOfsted, a call for school staff to stop working as Ofsted inspectors in a bid to force the organisation to change tack.

Ofsted has stood firm in the face of criticism of its framework, refusing to stop downgrading schools that it claims are narrowing the curriculum by running a three-year key stage 4.

But Harford said Ofsted did want to give credit to “schools that are working hard to improve their curriculum”.

“The transition arrangements will only apply when it’s clear that a school is well on the way with its curriculum journey – but isn’t quite ‘there’ yet.

“This is not an amnesty for schools where teaching is weak or pupils’ outcomes (including, but not exclusively, national tests and examination results) aren’t good enough.”

But Harford said the transition arrangements would only apply to the descriptors of “what good looks like”, not to ‘outstanding’ and ‘inadequate’ judgements.

“Essentially, these are schools that would otherwise be rated as requires improvement for the quality of education, because they aren’t as far along with their curriculum planning.”

The blog explores the circumstances in which the transition arrangements have been applied so far, and reveals the inspectorate has taken pity on schools with a narrowed key stage 3 curriculum.

“We’ve also seen schools that, by September 2019, had clearly identified how their key stage 3 curriculum was narrower in ambition than the national curriculum – but had a clear plan to show how they would broaden it,” said Harford.

Your thoughts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


  1. Can we fact check this a bit please:

    “Ofsted has stood firm in the face of criticism of its framework, refusing to stop downgrading schools that it claims are narrowing the curriculum by running a three-year key stage 4.”

    Where is this from? Everything I’ve seen suggests Ofsted have “no preferred length of key stage 3”. We seem to be assuming narrowing the curriculum and shortened key stage 3 are the same thing, when in fact there are plenty of schools with full 3 year key stage 3s who have narrowed the curriculum by increasing maths and English contact time and reducing foundation subjects to bare bones, and on the flip side schools who have 2 year key stage 3s who still cover all the NC subjects.

    I continue to be worried that these kind of articles only serve to push schools towards scrapping their existing 3 year key stage 4s, and am interested to know who has modelled the impact of that on foundation subject uptake at Ks4 and ks5. There is no doubt it will impact as it will mean fewer subject choices for students (because schools will have to reduce/ narrow their option blocks).

    Also interesting that no one is talking about the NC requirement for schools to enable any student that wants to do so to be able to do a Language, a Humanities subject, and Arts subject AND a Technology subject. That’s 4 options needed, not 2 or 3. It doesn’t matter that most students won’t choose that combination. The NC says schools must offer that to have a broad and balanced KS4. Are we about to artificially narrow KS4 in order to broaden KS3, and if so, at what cost?

  2. The Emperor has no clothes.

    No amount of spin will make the Emperor appear dressed.

    #PauseOfsted demonstrates that the profession can have an impact.

    BUT just extending a deadline by a year does NOTHING to address all the issues, and if the profession accepts this it will deserve to be written off as a career to avoid.