You are here: Home > Headteacher’s Blog > The Broader Picture

The Broader Picture

Hooray for the statement put out last week by the head of Ofsted, Amanda Spielman, ‘Schools in England are focusing on tests and exams, rather than giving pupils a good grounding in a wide range of subjects.’ She is absolutely right.

Talking to colleagues, this is exactly what is happening in so many schools up and down the country. I have heard reports of schools where the morning curriculum of English and maths is followed by English and maths in the afternoon, and for some lucky children, booster classes in English and maths at lunchtime and after school, with English and maths catch up during the holidays.

Ms Spielman might however want to consider why it might be the case that so many schools are focusing on SATs at the expense of rich and full knowledge – and perhaps consider that this might just be a direct consequence of the accountability system that she heads up.

Having just received our inspection report, we are all very aware of Ofsted’s narrow focus. A brief summary of our report might be that whilst we offer a broad and balanced education, we need to now turn our attention to progress. This however is to miss the point.

I thought I’d share some of the things that I saw going on in school last week. In reception we had children squealing with excitement in response to exploding pumpkins, Year 1 children brambling and collecting windfalls on the school allotment to bake their own blackberry and apple crumble and children in Year 2 making the best ground art from acorns, conkers and autumn leaves in Highgate Woods. In the juniors we had Year 3s exploring the history on our doorstep with a visit to Kenwood House, Year 4 going a bit further afield with a trip to Hampton Court, Year 5s entertaining the school community with the most wonderful class assemblies and Year 6 investigating the perfect conditions in which to grow mold.

As a whole school, last week we introduced the daily mile and prepared for our harvest celebrations – ‘Dingle Dangle Scarecrow’ has never sounded better. The footballers performed with distinction at the tournament at Highgate School, the choirs are preparing for a special surprise for us all next week and we rounded off the week with the best firework event in North London.

And whilst all this was going on we continued with our rich topics, Mandarin lessons, a wide range of after-school clubs and everything else the school has to offer. All this adds up to an exciting, experiential, broad and balanced curriculum that is there to inspire children. The point is that our curriculum supports our children to make great progress, after all, it’s very difficult to write well about something you’ve not understood or experienced. On a learning walk with governors last week, we looked at the fantastic progression in children’s writing throughout the school, from early mark making in our Nursery through to the incredibly sophisticated writing we are seeing in Year 6. It’s impressive stuff and, without a doubt, such progress is underpinned by our rich curriculum.

Ms Spielman is absolutely right in her assertion that schools have a duty to develop each individual child and give them a broad education. ‘A good curriculum should lead to good results’, she says – and it does. I can’t help thinking however that, rather than criticising schools for their narrow curriculums, Ms Spielman should perhaps be focusing attention on her organisation’s narrow inspections.

 

William