The following italicised section is straight from the horse’s mouth: Ofsted head Amanda Spielman speaking at the Festival of Education on 23rd June, 2017. For those of us who for many years knew Ofsted mainly as an instrument of policing successive government dictates about exam-based target setting and verdicts of school progress/success focused entirely on this – for example, arriving to inspect an establishment having already decided a judgement on the basis of pure data – this has all the sound of a classic snigger.
Speaking about her experience of inspecting schools, Spielman observes,
In some of those, I have seen GCSE assessment objectives tracking back into Year 7, and SAT practice papers starting in Year 4. And I’ve seen lessons where everything is about the exam and where teaching the mark schemes has a bigger place than teaching history.
That is not what will set our children up for great futures. Nor will the growing cannibalisation of key stage 3 into key stage 4. Preparing for GCSEs so early gives young people less time to study a range of subjects in depth and more time just practising the tests themselves.
We have a full and coherent national curriculum and it seems to me a huge waste not to use it properly. The idea that children will not, for example, hear or play the great works of classical musicians or learn about the intricacies of ancient civilisations – all because they are busy preparing for a different set of GCSEs – would be a terrible shame. All children should study a broad and rich curriculum. Curtailing key stage 3 means prematurely cutting this off for children who may never have an opportunity to study some of these subjects again.
It is genuinely repugnant for Spielman to act like an enlightened critic of such practice when she will know the dark history of its existence. Whilst making some comic capital out of this in my previous posting – though I trust the disdain underpinned – I do think this, and the rest of her observations which can be read here, take the art of patronising and platitudinous comment to obscene levels of contradiction.