Make your curriculum outstanding and Ofsted-ready

The Ofsted framework is changing (scroll to 'Improve Your Curriculum' if you're not in England). From 2019-20 inspectors will be judging more than good outcomes, and a school’s grade will depend on the quality of its curriculum. Ofsted will expect to see broad educational goals driving it, and that all the elements - units, lessons, teaching strategies and assessments - are aligned with the goals. Why the change?

First, Ofsted has known for a long time that curricula are often just an elaborated version of the GCSE specification. Chief Inspector Amanda Spielman has said that a high quality curriculum gets equally good if not better exam results than teaching to specification.

Second, Ofsted appear to have seen the light and recognised the important of ‘curriculum alignment’ in educational achievement. A curriculum turns a school’s mission into action, which flows through to better achievement (Wiggins & McTighe, 2007). Now that GCSE itself rewards applying knowledge (AO2) and analysing it (AO3) more than remembering, it is only logical that Ofsted evaluates whether the elements of the curriculum are focussed on these outcomes, and not just covering content.

Will your curriculum impress the inspectors? According to Wiggins & Mctighe, an aligned curriculum has 10 components, shown in the diagram. Ofsted are also looking beyond the intended curriculum and in their ‘deep dives’ will judge whether the teaching they observe is also aligned with the goals.

So what do you do if your curriculum is lacking?



It’s a good idea to audit your curriculum now, so that there is time to re-align everything by next year. As this can be a complex process, we have put together a workshop called ‘Build an outstanding curriculum’, which takes you through the steps.

See workshop ‘Build an outstanding curriculum’

2. Adopt the 5-year plan

If your existing curriculum does not equip students to apply knowledge, why not borrow ours? The 5-year plan, Blueprint is free, thanks to support from AQA and the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.

See the 5-year plan, Blueprint

3. GET CPD on AO2 and AO3

According to schools who have used our 5-year plan, teaching students to apply and analyse knowledge requires a change in mindset. You have to work on carefully building the understanding of concepts and constantly engaging students in the thinking involved in enquiry. If teachers are not doing this, then even a well intentioned curriculum plan will fail. We have developed the Easy Mastery workshop for whole science departments. It is based on our 5As learning pathway for teaching key concepts to mastery. 


What if you have no time to redevelop your curriculum? Many schools told us they wanted high quality, ready-made materials. There weren’t any commercially available products consistent with the 5-year plan, so we decided to produce our own, from first principles. Complete Mastery, is now being used in schools, with promising results.

5. Convince your colleagues

Perhaps the problem is about how to persuade colleagues and senior leaders of the need to change. We've summarised what Ofsted are saying into a few slides, which you are welcome to share. 


Schooling by design

Schooling by design (2007), Wiggins & Mctighe

A 'backwards design' approach to a curriculum, from mission to action, to achievement that influenced the 5-year plan from Mastery Science. 

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Inspecting the curriculum

Inspecting the curriculu, (2019) Ofsted

The report setting out how Ofsted will inspect the quality of the curriculum from 2019-20

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