School development, curriculum and Ofsted

Written by: Helen Frostick | Published:
Curriculum focus: A year 3 class at St Mary Magdalen’s Primary. Curriculum development and design is a school priority (image: supplied)

Schools across England will be reflecting on their curriculum design in light of Ofsted’s new ‘intent, implementation and impact’ approach. National Leader of Education Helen Frostick offers a quick insight into how her school’s curriculum will meet Ofsted’s criteria, including areas for development

The new Ofsted Education Inspection Framework (EIF) handbook was published in May and will be activated for inspections taking place from September (Ofsted, 2019).

In Ofsted’s own words: “Ofsted exists to be a force for improvement through intelligent, responsible and focused inspection and regulation. The primary purpose of inspection under this framework is to bring about improvement in educational provision.”

The focus of inspections will be under four headings:

  1. Quality of education, including its new “intent, implementation and impact” approach (see Headteacher Update, May 2019).
  2. Behaviour and attitudes.
  3. Personal development.
  4. Leadership and management.

Under quality of education, the inspectors will evaluate how much the school builds a curriculum that is ambitious and bespoke to all learners including the disadvantaged and those with SEN.

This extends to the cultural capital that they need to lead a full life. It will include a progression of skills and continuity to a point that the pupils will be able to transfer their knowledge and understanding into employment later in life. Leaders need to consider the unique needs of all learners with a sufficient degree of challenge and support.

The primary school curriculum should be broad and balanced. Too many schools, Ofsted says, have become narrow in focus, concentrating in the main on mathematics and English and preparing their pupils for national tests and assessments.

Intent, implementation and impact

Intent refers to the school’s framework for setting out the aims of a programme of education, to include knowledge and understanding to be gained at each stage. Implementation refers to the breakdown of the framework over time into a narrative and a structure within the school’s unique setting. Impact refers to the knowledge and understanding gained by the pupils over time.

In other words the three “I”s refer to: what you plan to teach, how you plan to teach it and what the pupils learn – and what the school does if the pupils do not learn what we set out to teach them. In considering this new approach, I would like to highlight some points that seem important:

  • The teachers’ subject knowledge will be evaluated. Assessment procedures will be analysed to ensure that teachers are identifying misconceptions and providing clear and direct feedback (implementation).
  • It will be expected that teaching is adapted accordingly. It will also be expected that the teaching environment enables the pupils to focus on learning, with staff providing the resources and tools to facilitate this (implementation).
  • The teaching of reading will be judged to ensure that the pupils build their confidence and a love of reading; the teaching of phonics will be a contributor to this (implementation).
  • Achievements in national tests will be reflected as will the development of detailed knowledge and skills across the wider curriculum (impact).
  • The quantity of the pupils reading, that they read widely, often and with fluency will be important, too, as a measure of how well equipped they are for the next stage of their education (impact).

Intent at St Mary Magdalen’s

Curriculum development and design is a priority at my school, St Mary Magdalen’s in south London. Attitudes to learning are a strength of our school as the curriculum is dynamic and engaging. Our School Development Plan is visual and clear for all and displayed at the heart of the school. The plan clearly shows both the longer term, five-year plan and the current one-year plan. It sums up the “intent” aspect of our curriculum design.

This academic year we are on a journey of personal growth. This sits within a more general growth plan whereby in the next five years we will build a bespoke curriculum, nurture growth mindset, cultivate community cohesion, establish our eco-school and develop our own nursery.

Our aims for our year of personal growth are to:

  • Improve communication.
  • Harness excellence in reading to enhance attainment and progress in writing.
  • Enhance mathematical provision and progress.
  • Fine-tune assessment.
  • Achieve Eco-Schools silver award.

Implementation at St Mary Magdalen’s

Within our curriculum design, the development of skills is integral. As an example, under our drive to further develop our eco-school we have created a cross-curricular bespoke programme of study. Year 6 has developed skills of persuasive writing, by writing letters to Michael Gove, the minister for the environment, urging him to prioritise climate change. They also created a School Waste Policy.

Our pupils are passionate about plants and animals and in their science lessons have been learning about how to help save endangered species and protect habitats. Year 5 has worked with Nathan Atkinson of Rethink Food to consider sustainable food production and are now monitoring their own Tower Garden, which works on NASA space technology principles. They are growing leaves and vegetables, including gem lettuce, basil, pea, mint, butter head lettuce, rocket and chard.

This project links well with mathematics too. Each day representatives from the class take a five millilitre water sample from the bottom drum and test it for a balance of acid vs alkali. They measure the consumption of the plants and top the water up if needed.

In design and technology year 4 has constructed instruments from recycled waste. In art, as a whole-school project we have built a tree sculpture out of recycled plastic bottles.

Key stage one classes have visited the Wetland Centre Barnes, a local Forest School and are looking forward to an educational visit to Battersea Zoo. Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) enjoyed hatching Peking ducklings from eggs as part of their growth study.

Impact at St Mary Magdalen’s

In the light of the changes in the inspection framework, the role of subject leadership is subject to development. Currently, the subject leaders produce an end-of-year report for governors as part of the Headteacher’s Report.

To date, these reports have included the following headings: Standards, Quality of Teaching and Learning, Curriculum, Leading and Managing Staff, Pupil Voice, and the Strategic Direction and Development of the Subject.

The report headings will now include Action Plan Evaluation and Impact. This will consist of a summary of the aims from the beginning of the year with a simple RAG rating: green to illustrate which actions have been completed, amber for those that have been started, red for those that have not been achieved.

In addition, there will be a summary of the impact of the subject leader’s work. For example, under religious education, the development of a system to record assessments and to evaluate pupil attainment and progress has had the impact of encouraging more finely tuned targets and next steps to learning for the children.


The focus on curriculum within the judgement on the quality of education is an indicator that Ofsted recognises the benefit of a broad and balanced curriculum, which stretches and challenges the pupils, while further instilling in them a love of learning for life. At St Mary Magdalen’s our curriculum is engaging and dynamic, however subject leadership needs developing to ensure that we are measuring the impact of what we are setting out to achieve.

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