Tests and a broad curriculum work hand in hand

Tests and a broad curriculum work hand in hand

This week several large MATs came out to attack Ofsted’s new framework as too “middle class”.

Their main gripe appears to be that they can no longer sacrifice the teaching of more creative subjects in favour of more focus on the core subjects and teaching to exams, whether that be SATs or GCSEs.

Some schools had even introduced three-year GCSE programmes, rather than the usual two, to help more children gain better grades (which in turn makes the school look better).

However, the new Ofsted framework will not only put an end to the three years of cramming for GCSEs but will ensure all schools – from primary to secondary – give the right amount of focus to the arts and creative subjects/experiences.

The MATs critics say this will impact adversely more disadvantaged students as it means they will not get as good GCSE results in the core subjects.

I’m afraid I find that criticism unfounded and rather disingenuous on their part – it’s not about helping the poorer students but helping their league table status.

Schools should never have reduced their arts and cultural offering to children in order to ensure they pass SATs or GCSE examinations.

Yes, it is crucial to ensure standards are maintained through the use of testing but that should not lead to a narrower curriculum.

And if indeed that is what has been happening it’s crucial that Ofsted not only points it out but takes measures to ensure it does not happen again.

However, in this debate, there will be some that will blame the examination. In other words, if we get rid of the examination it will mean schools will automatically provide a broad and balanced curriculum. This is nonsense.

I have worked in schools that had a fantastic arts curriculum and a rich cultural offering but were also rigorous in their preparation for examinations. I also saw the opposite – schools that were poor in both areas and there was no linkage.

Whether children come from working-class or middle-class background the offering should be same academically and culturally.