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Wellbeing: a whole-school priority

Posted By Jon Murphy, 12 May 2020
Updated: 11 May 2020

As UNICEF reports that 700 million days of education could be lost this academic year in the UK, Jon Murphy, NACE Associate and recently retired headteacher of Llanfoist Fawr and Llavihangel Primary Schools Federation, reflects on the need to focus on social and emotional wellbeing as schools prepare to return, and asks if the focus on health and wellbeing in the new Curriculum for Wales could be helpful to all schools.

Over a shockingly short timescale we have become all too familiar with a vocabulary that was most certainly not part of our daily conversation only a few months ago. “Lockdown”, “social isolation” and “social distancing” have become common parlance regardless of age, occupation or the part of the world in which we live. The coronavirus has undeniably changed the world as we know it. As we learn to live with the consequences of COVID-19 and the “new normal”, and as we start to contemplate a return to school, we will be teaching children to use and apply these new concepts to ensure the continuing safety of all. Like no other period in history, we will be sharply focusing our work to ensure the health and wellbeing of children and young people is secure. Not an easy task when children are naturally gregarious and demonstrative, and when their basic instinct is to be tactile with their peers, particularly the youngest of our charges.

Backed by support and resources from schools, commendable efforts have been made to home educate children. Anecdotally we know there has been considerable variance in the provision made, and there has been a very definite re-affirmation that there are few substitutes for a classroom staffed by qualified professionals. As children return to school, they will be at very different stages in their readiness to learn.

Backed by support and resources from schools, commendable efforts have been made to home educate children. We know there has been considerable variance in the provision made, and there has been a very definite re-affirmation that there are few substitutes for a classroom staffed by qualified professionals. The DfE last week published school case studies presenting a range of emerging practice. As children return to school, they will be at very different stages in their readiness to learn.

Layers of trauma and “the unseen monster”

Without doubt, young people will relish the social interaction of being with peers again. However, there will also be challenges after an unprecedented prolonged period spent out of school. For months many children have been kept at home, told that this is a safe sanctuary and the world beyond is not. Children are incredibly perceptive. Some will have absorbed the stress and fear of their parents and carers, adding to their own insecurities. Some could be painfully aware of the financial impact the virus has had on family income, adding yet another layer of trauma.

When children are integrated back into society and school, many will be taking tentative steps filled with trepidation, re-entering a world which was for so long seen as a place of danger. As they leave their families for the first time, some will fear for their parents or carers, many of whom are employed on the frontline as key workers.

Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget, renowned for his work on child development, simply but very profoundly stated: “children think differently to adults”. With this in mind, we should be aware of how children might perceive COVID-19 and what role we can play in school to mitigate any negative impact on their emotional wellbeing. More able learners may well be able to grasp and understand at an abstract level what the virus actually is. Meanwhile for learners still operating at a concrete level, particularly the very young, the virus is a mysterious thing that they can’t see, smell, taste or feel. It remains something that in their imagination can be conjured up in so many manifestations. Film directors of the horror genre are very aware that the unseen monster is far more terrifying than anything that is visible.

Preparing for a safe return to school

This week the DfE released plans for a phased reopening of schools in England from 1 June at the earliest. Meanwhile Welsh Government has launched the Stay Safe Stay Learning initiative, with Education Minister Kirsty Williams setting out five principles to guide thinking about a safe return to education. The first principle, quite rightly, is the health, safety and emotional wellbeing of children, young people and staff.

COVID-19 has dominated life all day every day for the past few months and we should be under no delusions about its long-term impact; as such we need to be prepared to plan long-term. Safeguarding the health, safety and emotional wellbeing of all in our school communities will be both an immediate and long-term priority; school doors will not open again without planning and preparation for what will be a carefully considered and measured transition back to school life.

Children’s experience of school life is going to be vastly different to what they were used to before school doors were forced to close so abruptly. When schools recommence, we will have to teach them a whole new set of sophisticated behaviours and values relating to social distancing and peer interaction. As stated by the Welsh Minister, physical, mental and emotional health is more important than anything at the moment – an area which had already been brought to the fore in the new Curriculum for Wales.

Bringing health and wellbeing education to the fore

Previous to the pandemic, schools in Wales had been charged with reimagining the educational offer for children and young people through development of the new curriculum. One of the six Areas of Learning and Experience (AoLEs) that will constitute the new orders is Health and Wellbeing, an area that will take centre stage when schools return. Welsh Government sees this AoLE as an area that “will help to foster a whole-school approach that enables health and well-being to permeate all aspects of school life”. The component parts of this AoLE – development of physical health, mental health, and emotional and social wellbeing – must be core to the education of all children on their return to school. Initial provision will need to focus on transition activities that support social and emotional literacy; we cannot even begin to teach the academic subjects until emotional wellbeing is secure.

Currently, alongside the task of teaching, education professionals in Wales are planning for the new curriculum and testing new ways of working for the future. It would seem prudent, considering the current health crisis, to bring their vision for the new curriculum into sharp focus now and to prioritise and even accelerate the development of the Health and Wellbeing AoLE. There is an urgent need to plan for a series of activities and experiences that rebuild children’s confidence and resilience in light of what has now become a part of their daily lives. We must teach them how to live with the pandemic and the part they must play to keep themselves and others safe. Now is the time to be innovative and to reimagine this element of the curriculum because now is the time that it is most needed.

Moving forward: a stronger, wiser generation

It is said that stopping the pandemic is “the most urgent shared endeavour of our times”, and one thing is for sure: when children return to school their health, safety and wellbeing is being placed in the capable of hands of a workforce that will help them learn to interact and exist in a changed world. Schools who made the investment of training staff in emotional literacy initiatives such as Thrive and ELSA will reap the benefits of being able to provide support for the most fragile of those returning to a world that can now seem especially frightening and uncertain. We can take heart in knowing that most learners are innately resilient and will adapt with few problems as schools evolve. We have the tools with the Wellbeing AoLE to be able plan and offer the best provision for keeping all in school safe. The principles and rationale behind the AoLE are sound and the present is the time we would benefit most from the best practice it advocates. As we help children to adapt to a different way of life, who knows, we may even nurture a generation of learners who will be inspired to go onto careers of caring for others or even to be the innovators that prevent such a crisis happening again.

The shadow cast by COVID-19 has forced children to grow up very quickly. It has already stolen a significant portion of their schooling, and we must not allow it to rob them of their precious childhood. As educationalists we are in the privileged position of guiding children as positively as we can through this unprecedented period of history, so they emerge stronger, wiser, safer and more conscious of health and wellbeing than any generation that has gone before.

Tags:  curriculum  lockdown  remote learning  resilience  Wales  wellbeing 

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NACE Quality of Education Curriculum Audit Tool: Q&A

Posted By NACE, 06 February 2020
Curriculum review and development is high on the agenda for all schools. The new Ofsted and ISI inspection frameworks and the new Curriculum for Wales emphasise the importance of an ambitious curriculum vision with sufficient breadth and depth to meet the needs of all learners at all phases, including the most able.
Against this backdrop, the NACE Quality of Education Curriculum Audit Tool© has been developed to support whole-school curriculum review with a focus on provision for more able learners.
Read on to learn more about how the tool could support your school.

What can the NACE Curriculum Audit Tool be used for?   

The NACE Curriculum Audit Tool can be used for a variety of purposes. Use of the tool gives a sharp focus on curriculum provision for more able learners in a school’s care. Importantly, it helps school leaders to reflect on the performance of the more able, gauge curriculum strengths and identify areas for development.

How can the tool help to improve more provision in my school?

The tool helps schools to methodically and systematically reflect on the performance of and provision for more able learners. It allows schools to gauge where strengths lie and to identify areas in need of further development for this specific group of learners.

How can the tool help schools focusing on curriculum development?

The Audit Tool will support schools in developing their vision and principles for curriculum design, providing useful prompters and criteria for schools exploring key questions such as “What should we teach and why?”

How can the tool help schools in Wales focusing on curriculum reform?

The Welsh version of the audit tool has been specifically designed and structured to evaluate present curriculum strategy and provision, with flexibility and adaptability for schools to use it to move in line with education innovation and reform.  

How will the tool complement other self-evaluation methods used by schools in Wales?

Self-evaluation is at the heart of the Welsh school improvement journey and effective schools systematically use robust self-evaluation to progress. In inspection reports, Estyn often cites weaknesses in the challenge that schools provide for more able learners.  
The Audit Tool provides schools with an objective starting point and structure through which to review, challenge, test and develop curriculum. In this way it involves all the school. It allows an in-depth examination of the component parts of a school which make up the whole.
It is specifically designed to sharply focus on the evaluation of curriculum provision in order to judge whether this meets the needs of more able learners and to signpost the way forward. It is not intended to replace other self-evaluation processes and procedures employed by the school, but to supplement and enhance them whilst at the same time avoiding unnecessary overlap.    

Who would use the Audit Tool to carry out self-evaluation?

Evaluations may be carried out by all school stakeholders. Leaders and middle managers would use the tool to make judgements on current provision and performance, overall or focusing on a particular subject/phase. Outcomes can be used strategically to identify school priorities in order to meet the needs of more able learners. Teachers and support staff can use the tool to help judge the effectiveness of curriculum provision and the parameter of learner capabilities. It will help to evaluate more able pupils’ learning to date, and to identify next steps of learning.

What benefits will teachers and support staff gain from using the Audit Tool?

Given the chance to evaluate the curriculum they provide for more able learners, teachers and support staff are more likely to self-reflect on their own performance and become more responsible and accountable for the teaching and learning experiences they provide. When staff can see that the outcomes of their self-evaluation are being taken seriously and acted on by senior leaders, it can prove to be a motivating experience which consolidates trust and confidence across the whole school community.   

Can learners participate in the curriculum audit process?

Self-evaluation is always at its most effective when all stakeholders are fully involved. Changing learners’ roles from passive observers to active participants and valued contributors has the greatest impact on engagement. In best practice, learners are routinely encouraged to self-evaluate.  
Effective self-evaluation offers opportunities for learners to look at themselves, reflect on how they best learn, acquaint themselves with the unknown, be guided on to new learning and to develop as ambitious, capable learners. Becoming part of the decision-making process makes it more likely for those involved to fully engage in the decisions that are made. Learner voice is a powerful force and often we can learn as much from children and young people as they learn from us.
To find out more and to access the NACE Quality of Education Curriculum Audit Tool, click here.

Tags:  curriculum  school improvement  self-evaluation  student voice 

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The new Ofsted reports: focus on curriculum design, depth and progression

Posted By Elaine Ricks-Neal, 11 November 2019

NACE Challenge Award Adviser Elaine Ricks-Neal reviews emerging trends from the first round of Ofsted reports under the new education inspection framework (EIF).

There’s certainly a very different feel to the new Ofsted reports. Whilst they are clearly written with parents in mind – reflected in the use of accessible terminology and avoidance of too much detail in the published reports – there is no doubt that schools’ curriculum design and delivery is under forensic scrutiny. And although there is little explicit reference to more able learners, the importance of high-quality provision for this group is implicit in the strong focus on curriculum planning, subject-level provision, and breadth and depth of learning.

Style and structure of the new reports

The reports are written in a surprisingly simple style which Ofsted has said is intended to be parent-friendly, getting right to the point and largely steering clear of education jargon – for example, “The school is not a results factory.”

Both section 8 and section 5 reports look very similar, each opening with a short paragraph addressing the question “What is it like to attend this school?” – summing up the school ethos, behaviour, attendance and day-to-day opportunities. In most cases, the report’s opening statements are positive, but any issue linked with behaviour or low standards will be simply – even bluntly – highlighted; for example, “Pupils enjoy school, but they should be doing much better.”

The reports then move on to the main section: “What does the school do well and what does it need to do better?” – bundling together judgements for the quality of education, personal development, and leadership and management. This can make it quite hard to tease out the reasons for any difference in section 5 judgements of any of these strands.

Finally, there is a paragraph on safeguarding, followed by improvement points.

What key themes are emerging?

·         Focus on curriculum design and subject plans

The reports may have a simple style, but it’s clear that curriculum plans and schemes of work have really been unpicked to check how well “subject leaders plan the curriculum so that pupils build on their knowledge so that they know and remember more”. If your curriculum is not coherent and well thought-through, there is no hiding place. Not surprisingly, a very frequent weakness is that subject planning is not “precisely planned and sequenced.” In primary schools this is often in foundation subjects. There is also real drilling down into phonics, the reading curriculum, mathematics and the quality of SEND provision.

If standards are referred to, which is not the case in all reports, it is usually a simple broad comment – for example, “pupils achieve well” – and linked back to how well subjects are planned and taught. This doesn’t mean results are not deemed important, and schools which have dropped a grade will usually have a critical comment about standards, but the emphasis is on the impact of curriculum and the way it is planned and taught in bringing about those outcomes.

·         Warnings against curriculum narrowing

In secondary schools, there is the same focus on sequential planning, but also criticism of any perceived curriculum narrowing or lack of entitlement, especially for SEND and disadvantaged pupils. Also under scrutiny are the two-year KS3, low EBacc uptake and sixth-formers who are not accessing work experience. This may be unsettling for many secondary schools who might feel they will now need a curriculum rethink to avoid Ofsted disapproval.

In primary schools, if pupils miss lessons for intervention sessions, a judgement may be made as to whether they are missing out too much on the full curriculum.

What about more able learners?

There is no doubt that breadth and depth of learning is highly valued in this framework and that must be good news for more able learners. Though there is not much explicit reference to able learners, there is a strong focus on how well plans build on what learners already know, and where schools do less well, there is typically a reference to work being “too easy for some” or lack of challenge. 
A good deal of attention is also paid to the depth of teachers’ subject knowledge and the need for learners to have access to “demanding” reading texts. Schools which do very well are complimented for adapting lesson plans well, having an “ambitious curriculum”, or learning being sequenced to develop “deep understanding” with teachers “building on what pupils already know to achieve the highest standards” (examples from an outstanding school judgement).
So, the focus on more able learners is there, though not as we saw it before due to the new “general audience” style of the reports. It is clear that inspectors are digging much deeper than the brevity of the reports might suggest, with a strong focus on the substance and quality of the curriculum and the day-to-day experience. This should ultimately benefit all learners, including the most able.

Tags:  curriculum  leadership  Ofsted  parents and carers  policy  school improvement 

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Diweddariad Estyn: effaith ysgol ar iechyd a lles disgyblion

Posted By Mark Campion HMI, 17 October 2019

Click here to read in English.

Nid yw mynd i’r afael â materion sy’n effeithio ar blant a phobl ifanc, fel bwlio, gordewdra a thlodi, yn hawdd i athrawon. Yn yr ysgol, profiadau bob dydd disgyblion sy’n cael yr effaith fwyaf – p’un a ydynt yn gadarnhaol neu’n negyddol – ar eu hiechyd a’u llesiant. Mewn adroddiad newydd, mae Estyn yn amlygu pwysigrwydd rhoi negeseuon cadarnhaol yn gyson ar draws pob agwedd ar fywyd ysgol.

Mae llesiant disgyblion bob amser wedi bod yn faes sy’n ganolog i’n harolygiadau. Ac, wrth i ysgolion ddatblygu’u meysydd dysgu a phrofiad yn barod ar gyfer y cwricwlwm newydd, bydd y ffocws ar lesiant yn gryfach fyth. Mae’r cwricwlwm newydd yn cydnabod bod iechyd a llesiant corfforol, meddyliol ac emosiynol da yn sylfaen i ddysgu llwyddiannus.

Mae ein hadroddiad yn dwyn ynghyd wybodaeth o amrywiaeth o ffynonellau gwahanol, gan olygu bod ambell ran enbyd ynghylch profiadau disgyblion eu hunain, gan gynnwys ysmygu, yfed ac iechyd rhyw.

Darganfuom fod negeseuon am iechyd a llesiant mewn gwersi, gwasanaethau ac mewn polisïau yn yr ysgolion gorau yn gyson â phrofiad bob dydd disgyblion.

Lle i gymdeithasu, diwylliant anogol, cyfleoedd pleserus i fod yn weithgar yn gorfforol, gofal bugeiliol amserol a gwaith cadarnhaol gyda rhieni, dyma rai o’r dulliau sydd, o’u cyfuno, yn cynorthwyo disgyblion i fod yn unigolion iach a hyderus, yn barod i fyw bywyd boddhaus.

Mae diwylliant anogol, lle y mae perthnasoedd cadarnhaol yn galluogi disgyblion i ffynnu, yn hanfodol i gryfhau iechyd a llesiant pobl ifanc. Ni ddylid tanamcangyfrif y pethau bach y mae athrawon da yn eu gwneud, fel gwenu a chyfarch disgyblion yn ôl enw ar ddechrau’r diwrnod neu wers unigol. Maent yn helpu disgyblion i deimlo’u bod yn cael eu gwerthfawrogi ac yn annog meddylfryd cadarnhaol.

Ystyriwch p’un a yw dull eich ysgol yn gyson ar draws bob agwedd ar ei gwaith. A oes gan yr ysgol:

  • Bolisïau ac arferion sy’n sicrhau bod disgyblion yn gwneud cynnydd da yn eu dysgu?
  • Arweinwyr sy’n ‘gwneud y dweud’ ynghylch cefnogi iechyd a llesiant disgyblion?
  • Diwylliant anogol, lle y mae perthnasoedd cadarnhaol yn galluogi disgyblion i ffynnu?
  • Cymuned ac ethos cynhwysol?
  • Gwybodaeth fanwl am iechyd a llesiant disgyblion sy’n dylanwadu ar bolisïau a chamau gweithredu?
  • Amgylchedd a chyfleusterau sy’n hybu iechyd a llesiant da, fel lle i chwarae, cymdeithasu ac ymlacio amser egwyl?
  • Cwricwlwm eang a chytbwys, sy’n cynnwys profiadau dysgu unigol, yn seiliedig ar dystiolaeth, sy’n hybu iechyd a llesiant?
  • Gofal bugeiliol cefnogol ac ymyriadau targedig i ddisgyblion sydd angen cymorth ychwanegol?
  • Cysylltiadau effeithiol ag asiantaethau allanol?
  • Partneriaethau agos â rhieni a gofalwyr?
  • Dysgu proffesiynol parhaus i’r holl staff, sy’n eu galluogi i gefnogi iechyd a llesiant disgyblion?

Mae arfer dda’n cael ei hamlygu drwy astudiaethau achos yn yr adroddiad. Mewn ysgolion uwchradd, yn benodol, nid yw profiad bob dydd disgyblion o iechyd a llesiant bob amser yn cyfateb i nodau sy’n cael eu datgan gan arweinwyr ysgol. Ond, fe wnaeth Ysgol Uwchradd y Dwyrain yng Nghaerdydd wella arweinyddiaeth yr ysgol yn llwyddiannus a chafodd hyn effaith gadarnhaol amlwg ar y diwylliant a’r gefnogaeth ar gyfer llesiant disgyblion. Mae ei diwylliant yn cydnabod bod pobl ifanc o hyd yn datblygu’n gorfforol, yn feddyliol ac yn emosiynol a bod gan athrawon gyfrifoldeb i fynd i’r afael ag anghenion datblygiadol y plentyn cyfan. Hefyd, mae’r ysgol yn nodi mai o ddealltwriaeth athro o’r ffordd y mae pobl ifanc yn dysgu y mae arbenigedd yr athro yn deillio, yn hytrach na dim ond ei wybodaeth bynciol.

Yn Ysgol Gynradd Gilwern, Sir Fynwy, mae ei hymagwedd at gefnogi disgyblion agored i niwed wedi helpu staff i ddeall yn well y rhesymau sydd wrth wraidd diffyg hunan-barch neu ymddygiad annymunol.

Mae iechyd a lles yn nodwedd bwysig o gyflawni pedwar diben y cwricwlwm newydd mewn ysgolion. Mae gan ysgolion gyfle nawr, yn fwy nag erioed, i gynnig buddion gydol oes i blant a phobl ifanc yng Nghymru.

Mae’r adroddiad llawn ar gael ar ac mae’n argymell ffyrdd y gall ysgolion, awdurdodau lleol, consortia rhanbarthol, darparwyr addysg gychwynnol athrawon a’r llywodraeth wella iechyd a llesiant disgyblion. Gall athrawon ac arweinwyr ddefnyddio astudiaethau achos yr adroddiad i ysbrydoli newidiadau yn eu hysgolion eu hunain.

Tags:  Estyn  leadership  policy  research  resilience  Wales  wellbeing 

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Estyn update: school impact on pupils’ health and wellbeing

Posted By Mark Campion HMI, 17 October 2019

Cliciwch yma i ddarllen yn y Gymraeg.

Estyn’s Mark Campion HMI shares key findings from the inspectorate’s recent report “Healthy and happy – school impact on pupils’ health and wellbeing”.

Tackling issues that affect children and young people, such as bullying, obesity and poverty isn’t easy for teachers. In school, it is the everyday experiences of pupils that have the greatest impact – positive or negative – on their health and wellbeing. In a new report, Estyn highlights the importance of giving consistently positive messages across all aspects of school life. Here, the inspectorate explores what it takes to help pupils be healthy and happy.

Pupils’ wellbeing has always been an area at the heart of our inspections. And as schools develop their areas of learning experience in readiness for the new curriculum, the focus on wellbeing will be even stronger. The new curriculum recognises that good physical, mental and emotional health and wellbeing underpins successful learning.

Our report brings together insights from a range of different sources, making for stark reading in parts about pupils’ own experiences including smoking, drinking and sexual health.

We found that in the best schools, messages about health and wellbeing in lessons, assemblies and in policies are consistent with pupils’ everyday experience.

Space to socialise, a nurturing culture, enjoyable opportunities to be physically active, timely pastoral care and positive work with parents are just some of the approaches that collectively support pupils to be healthy, confident individuals, ready to lead fulfilling lives.

A nurturing culture, where positive relationships enable pupils to thrive is essential to strengthen young people’s health and wellbeing. The little things that good teachers do like smiling and greeting pupils by name at the start of the day or an individual lesson should not be underestimated. They help pupils feel valued and encourage a positive mindset.

Consider whether the approach of your school is consistent across all aspects of its work. Does the school have:

  • Policies and practices that ensure pupils make good progress in their learning?
  • Leaders who ‘walk the talk’ about supporting pupils’ health and wellbeing?
  • A nurturing culture, where positive relationships allow pupils to thrive?
  • An inclusive community and ethos?
  • Detailed knowledge about pupils’ health and wellbeing that influence policies and actions?
  • An environment and facilities that promote good health and wellbeing, such as space to play, socialise and relax at break times?
  • A broad and balanced curriculum that includes discrete, evidence-based learning experiences that promote health and wellbeing?
  • Supportive pastoral care and targeted interventions for pupils that need additional support?
  • Effective links with external agencies?
  • Close partnerships with parents and carers?
  • Continuing professional learning for all staff that enables them to support pupils’ health and wellbeing?

Inspiring good practice is highlighted through case studies in the report. In secondary schools, in particular, pupils’ day-to-day experience of health and wellbeing does not always match school leaders’ stated aims. But Eastern High School in Cardiff successfully improved the leadership of the school which had a notably positive effect on the culture and support for pupils’ wellbeing. Their culture recognises that young people are still developing physically, mentally and emotionally and that teachers have a responsibility to address the developmental needs of the whole child. The school also identifies that a teacher’s expertise lies in their understanding of how young people learn rather than simply their subject knowledge.

At Gilwern Primary School, Monmouthshire (a longstanding NACE member), the school’s approach to supporting vulnerable pupils has helped staff to better understand the reasons behind poor self-esteem or undesirable behaviour.

Health and wellbeing is an important feature in achieving the four purposes of the new curriculum in schools. Schools have the opportunity now more than ever to provide lifelong benefits to the children and young people in Wales.

The full report is available at and recommends ways that schools, local authorities, regional consortia, initial teacher education providers and government can improve pupils’ health and wellbeing. Teachers and leaders can use the report’s case studies to inspire changes in their own schools.

Tags:  Estyn  leadership  policy  research  resilience  Wales  wellbeing 

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Ofsted update: focus on personal development in new inspection framework

Posted By Sean Harford, 30 September 2019
Sean Harford, Ofsted National Director, Education, outlines the renewed focus on personal development in the new inspection framework.

Our new education inspection framework (EIF), which we introduced at the beginning of this academic year, has personal development at its heart. By now, you should be able to read the first new-style inspection reports, specifically focused on informing parents. I hope you’ll find that they are shorter, clearer and more to the point.

We have also evolved the judgements. In the previous framework, we judged ‘personal development, behaviour and welfare’, but under the EIF we will report separately on ‘personal development’ and ‘behaviour and attitudes’. Why, you may ask?

Our idea is that the ‘personal development’ section will explain to parents how schools are helping to develop pupils’ character and resilience, through activities such as sport, music and debating. And we have also taken the opportunity to build the grade descriptors on research and enable inspectors to recognise the pastoral support that schools are providing for their pupils. This is linked to our new focus on schools having a broad and rich curriculum.

That is because our new approach means that instead of inspectors trying to understand schools through reams of data from test and examinations, they will be talking to school leaders and teachers about the real substance of education: the curriculum.

Teachers have told us they believe this approach will help to reduce their workload. I hope it will mean that teachers will have more time to focus on what they teach and how they teach it – which is why they entered this great profession in the first place.

We are also going to be checking that schools have an inclusive culture. This includes teaching those pupils who are the most able, and who may need to be challenged that bit more.

In short, our inspectors are taking a rounded view of the quality of education that a school provides to all its pupils, which means the most able pupils as much as poorer pupils and their peers with special educational needs and/or disability.

Read more Ofsted updates

Tags:  character  curriculum  Ofsted  personal development  school improvement 

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Creating a learning journey to develop character, culture and challenge

Posted By Chesterfield High School, 15 July 2019

Kevin Sexton, Acting Headteacher at Challenge Award-accredited Chesterfield High School, shares the school’s use of learning journeys to support the development of character, culture and challenge throughout students’ career in education.

In our recent presentation at the NACE National Conference, we spoke about our use of learning journeys to support our focus on the three 3Cs used by the PiXL Club in school development – Currency, Character and Culture – as well as supporting our work with the NACE Challenge Framework to improve provision for more able learners and provide challenge for all.

For examples, you can view our school’s overall learning journey here and our learning journeys by subject here.

Looking beyond “currency” to focus on character, culture and challenge

The DfE’s 2017 report “Developing character skills in schools” found although 97% of surveyed schools claimed to promote desirable character traits, only 17% had a formalised plan or policy for this, less than half dedicated any time to staff training for character education, and fewer than a quarter had a dedicated lead for character development.

Currency (all data about the individual learner) will always be important. However, we also want our students to be better people. A newspaper article alerted me to statistics in the latest OECD report on health behaviour in school-aged children, which shared data on the percentage of 15-year-olds who agree that classmates are kind and helpful. The figure was 84% in the Netherlands, 82% in Iceland, 81% in Portugal 81%... and just 59% in England.

What success is it to have very academically successful students who do not know how to be kind or helpful to each other or those in the community around them? We wanted to plan a learning journey for our students that would give them opportunities to be challenged as they developed their character and culture. We asked ourselves:

  • How do we ensure every young person has a chance to develop their character in this school?
  • How will we celebrate young people developing their character?
  • What work do we need to do with parents and other stakeholders?
  • What will be included in a challenging character development programme at our school?
  • What do we want more able learners to be like when they leave our school and move on?

The fourth C: adding “challenge” to the mix

Our involvement with NACE and use of the NACE Challenge Framework provided clarity on how character and culture could support currency; in some cases, it matched existing thinking and in others it inspired refreshing thinking. We used CPD time to look at key characteristics of more able learners across each subject. When completing the Challenge Framework audit, we looked at how we were enabling more able learners to show and develop their talents. We agreed that students who have developed key skills of leadership, organisation, resilience, initiative and communication (LORIC) do have better currency – both in terms of exam data and personal development data.

We discussed how we could use a learning journey to review our current character and culture programme, ask whether it leads to our “desirable end state” for students, identify gaps and introduce new strategies to bridge these gaps. Within this, we created learning journey opportunities that would match key aspects of the Challenge Framework and key characteristics that we were trying to develop for our more able learners. The learning journey model has also proved effective in keeping parents of more able learners involved in their performance both inside and outside the classroom – aligning with the focus on partnership, communication and rounded education emphasised by the Challenge Framework.

Developing a learning journey for your school

The learning journey model is designed to create a plan based on the 3Cs, spanning a learner’s whole school career. It should be understood by everyone in the school community, deliberately and explicitly shared and taught using a common language. It should create sequential activities and challenges which are open to everyone, of all abilities. Students are recognised and rewarded along their journey through schemes such as Duke of Edinburgh, Sports Leaders awards, and so on.

Here are five steps to develop a learning journey for your school:

  1. Lead a session on character education for all staff, exploring its importance within subjects and across the whole school.
  2.  Plot your current character and culture programme. As a group of staff or SLT, identify the gaps. What’s missing? Where does the new careers strategy need to be included (for example)? Does your learning journey lead to your school vision? Does it lead to the “desirable end state” for students?
  3. On a blank learning journey template, plot out your school’s learning journey across all year groups ensuring all students are catered for.
  4. Repeat this process for each year group, adding more detail.
  5. Share your learning journeys with students, parents and staff so all stakeholders can see where learners are heading – in our case, from the start of Year 7 to the end of sixth form.

In line with the new education inspection framework, a learning journey gives you and your school a clear map of where your personal development work is going and how and why it is sequenced in such a way. When new demands come along or as cohorts change, you can review year by year to ensure you don’t lose direction. We have now used the same structure within specific departments, mapping out the 3Cs journey at departmental level and using this to support thinking around the “intent” aspect of the new framework.

Tags:  Challenge Framework  character  curriculum  resilience 

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5 reasons to work towards the NACE Challenge Award

Posted By Langley School, 14 June 2019
Updated: 05 August 2019
The NACE Challenge Award is far more than just a certificate or tick-box exercise, as Jamie Kisiel, Teaching and Learning Coordinator at NACE member Langley School explains…

Our decision to pursue accreditation with the NACE Challenge Award was originally generated from a surprising (to the school) target identified by the ISI (Independent Schools Inspectorate). Our 2017 ISI report found that “more able pupils are not always sufficiently challenged to fulfil their academic potential”, generating a target to “ensure that all lessons provide sufficient challenge for more able pupils so that they are provided more opportunity to explore concepts and exploit their potential.”

The above was contrary to the school's efforts to increase rigour and challenge in the curriculum. So, following a review of strategic planning options, we decided that, although we had been working on challenge, we had not been doing enough to make a material impact. We decided to pursue the NACE Challenge Award, which would give us a framework to intrinsically address these targets as well as providing a wider vehicle for change.

1. Clear structure for school review and improvement

The NACE Challenge Framework provides a structure for schools seeking the NACE Challenge Award – but more importantly it offers a blueprint to build and drive challenge initiatives forward, developing a challenging academic environment for all. The Framework is categorised into six key elements which combine to ensure high-quality provision for more able learners, within the context of challenge for all. Through our focus on Element 3 (which relates to curriculum, teaching and support), a strategy to embed the Framework and develop a challenge initiative soon emerged.

2. Improve the quality of challenge for all learners

“A rising tide lifts all ships” – Joseph Renzulli.

Improving provision for the more able opens the doors of opportunity. The NACE Challenge Development Programme has given us a structure to introduce and maintain high-quality provision at whole-school, teaching and support levels. By emphasising challenge for all learners, including those with high abilities, a philosophy of enquiry and investigation can be nourished. A positive culture of learning continues to grow and develop, with opportunities to challenge mindset creating a more dynamic approach.

3. Challenge for staff, as well as students

The Challenge Framework requires that schools focus on developing challenge both for learners and for staff. This two-pronged approach helps to embed an ethos of challenge that permeates within and beyond the classroom. Staff are encouraged to become reflective practitioners and explore ways to professionally challenge themselves, whether it be through action research projects or coaching/mentoring programmes. This facilitates a symbiotic relationship where both students and staff work through the emotional struggles and triumphs by pushing personal boundaries, developing empathy in the process.

4. Develop in-school action research

The Challenge Framework provides a structured audit process that clearly identifies areas for improvement. Within these areas, schools can develop professional enquiries to address identified issues and investigate potential solutions and strategies for improvement. Regardless of size and scope, action research projects can provide practitioners with excellent opportunities for professional development that are tailored to an area of interest and bespoke to the school’s context and priorities. These investigations can be supported and shared through the NACE Research and Development Hubs – which offer regional-level guidance and support for practitioners conducting research with a focus on provision for more able learners.

5. Professional networking and peer support

Along the journey towards Challenge Award accreditation (and beyond), NACE offers a wide range of support, including formal training and INSET as well as opportunities to connect with peers. Free networking days such as the NACE member meetup I attended in Oxford last term have proved invaluable – offering a platform to generate and exchange ideas with likeminded practitioners, and an opportunity to establish contacts. These networks can then be used to create links across schools to benefit both students and staff. Many schools that have achieved the Challenge Award are very open to collaboration and support, whether through resources or observation days.

Find out more…

The NACE Challenge Award is an accreditation given to schools evidencing school-wide high-quality provision for more able learners, based on the detailed criteria of the NACE Challenge Framework. Both are part of the Challenge Development Programme, which also offers bespoke CPD and consultancy for schools seeking to improve their provision in this area. To find out more, click here or contact NACE to discuss available support and next steps for your school.

Tags:  Challenge Award  Challenge Framework  CPD  research  school improvement 

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Ofsted update: new inspection framework released

Posted By Chris Jones, 17 May 2019
Updated: 08 July 2019
Chris Jones, Director of Corporate Strategy at Ofsted, shares an update for the NACE community on the results of the consultation on proposed changes to the education inspection framework.
Earlier this month we published the outcome of our consultation on a new education inspection framework. I’m really pleased to say that around three-quarters of parents, teachers and headteachers supported our plans to focus on the real substance of education, the curriculum.
We have introduced three new inspection judgements alongside leadership and management: “quality of education”, “behaviour and attitudes”, and “personal development”. These changes are good news for all pupils, including the most able. At their heart is ensuring that all schools focus on giving children the education they deserve.
Through the new "quality of education" judgement inspectors will look at what is learned through the curriculum, how well it is taught and assessed, and the impact it has on learners. In practice, this means we will be spending less time looking at tests and exam data, and instead considering how schools have achieved their results through a broad, rich curriculum and real learning, rather than teaching to the test and exam cramming.
The “behaviour and attitudes” judgement will assess whether leaders are creating a calm and orderly environment, where bullying is tackled effectively by leaders when it occurs. The “personal development” judgement will recognise what schools do to build young people’s resilience and confidence in later life, including through participation in sport, music and extracurricular activities.
Together, these changes will make it easier for Ofsted to recognise and reward early years providers, schools and colleges that are doing the best they can for their pupils, particularly those working in challenging circumstances.
I want to thank all organisations and individuals that took time to tell us what they think about the proposals – the consultation has had the biggest response in Ofsted’s history. The new inspection regime will take effect from September this year.
Share your views:

Tags:  curriculum  Ofsted  policy 

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New Curriculum for Wales: four questions for MAT provision

Posted By Rhys Jones, 16 May 2019
Updated: 07 August 2019
Following the recent publication of the draft Curriculum for Wales 2022, Rhys Jones, Headteacher of Treorchy Comprehensive School, explores how the changes will impact on provision for more able and talented (MAT) learners.

As a Professional Learning Pioneer School we have been involved in the development of the new Curriculum for Wales and its supporting actions and agencies since its inception. Specifically, we are tasked with helping to research, understand and develop the pedagogy to teach the new curriculum; to collaborate with the Curriculum Pioneers to develop the draft Areas of Learning and Experience (AoLEs); and to support non-pioneer schools (known as partner schools) in their preparation for the new curriculum.

Drawing on our longstanding relationship with NACE, consideration of MAT learners has been a core focus in our co-construction work on the new curriculum – including consideration of the following questions:

1. Will the new curriculum help schools identify and challenge MAT learners?

The progression framework in each AoLE spans the age range from three to 16; the new curriculum works on a continuum rather than being split into key stages like the current national curriculum. Although the five progression steps outlined in the “what matters” statements provided for each AoLE are loosely related to ages, teachers are encouraged to look at the whole span of progression. This means that MAT learners in each area will be challenged to work at an appropriately high level.

An example may be seen in the expressive arts AoLE. If a pupil is a MAT musician, they might already be demonstrating performance skills from Progression Step 4 or 5 quite early in their school career and this is readily accepted and promoted by the Curriculum for Wales.

2. How will the new curriculum impact on primary/secondary collaboration?

It is anticipated that there will be much closer collaboration between primary and secondary schools. As mentioned above, the concept of the curriculum as a continuum without key stages is a central principle. It is anticipated that there will be co-construction in terms of planning, implementation and assessment. The primary and secondary sectors will need to learn from one another if the curriculum is to be successful.

Because of the continuum in terms of ongoing and formative assessment, information about MAT pupils will be easily available to all schools at this key transition point.

3. Will the new curriculum offer opportunities for MAT learners?

It should offer opportunities in all AoLEs. Two key strands to highlight at this stage are extracurricular activities and authentic pupil-led learning.

Across the curriculum the artificial divide between extracurricular and curricular activities is being removed. Recognition of the significance of a wide range of rich activities for pupils of all abilities, and of course for our MAT pupils, is positively encouraged in the new curriculum.

This connects to the idea of providing authentic activities in which to base pupils’ learning. Giving learners a voice to help decide the direction of their learning will encourage ownership of learning both inside and outside the classroom.

Both of these examples provide opportunities for our MAT learners, who are particularly likely to appreciate and benefit from independent self-determination in authentic settings.

4. Will teachers need to work differently with MAT learners?

At Treorchy, we would say we have a great tradition of working differently with MAT learners; differentiation by its nature implies working differently.

Because of the innovations mentioned above and because of the greater balance between knowledge, skills and experience, the new curriculum should give us even greater freedom to work with MAT pupils.

Tags:  assessment  collaboration  curriculum  policy  progression  transition  Wales 

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