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Inspection focus: the wider primary curriculum, including science and foreign languages

In Hertfordshire the proportion of good and better schools in the primary and secondary phases has risen from the low 80%s in February 2015 to the high 80%s in April 2016. This figure is above the national average and also Hertfordshire statistical neighbours. This very positive picture is due in no small part to the robust challenge from Herts for Learning (HfL) improvement partners to the schools with regard to improving outcomes for the pupils. In the primary phase, most of the schools which are currently judged to require improvement by Ofsted are likely to be judged to be good at their next inspection.

Ofsted's Chief Inspector, Sir Michael Wilshaw, has recently commented on the study of science and foreign languages in primary schools.

It is fair to say that in recent years, Ofsted’s inspections of primary schools have prioritised the quality of provision in English and mathematics. In my view, this has helped to bring about the improved performance and standards I referred to at the start of this commentary.”

However, the evidence from this recent investigation has convinced me that we need to put as sharp a focus on the other subjects as we do on English and mathematics. As a result, I have reminded inspectors that they should always be looking closely at the subjects of the wider primary curriculum, including science and foreign languages, as set out in the inspection handbook.”

Source: HMCI's monthly commentary:  May 2016

At recent primary improvement partner visits, schools have been asked to focus on the provision they make for science and this has raised the profile of this subject amongst the leaders, including governors.  In most cases, schools are well on the way to ensuring that the requirements of the new curriculum for science are well met. In addition, many have taken effective steps to ensure that the teachers are assessing the progress which the pupils make in science as well as the standard they reach by the end of the academic year. The HfL science advisers are supporting schools with the planning and teaching of science as well as the assessments which teachers need to make. To do this, they have produced a series of thorough documents for teachers and for those with a responsibility for science.

Read about: How HfL supports schools to deliver primary languages

In the secondary phase, the improvement partners typically focus their discussions on a range of subjects because they discuss with the schools the predictions they are making for the pupils in the various examinations.

In Ofsted inspections in the primary phase, one of the HfL advisers speaks to the lead inspector about the effectiveness of the school and attends the inspection feedback. This contributes to the intelligence which the primary advisers have about the requirement for schools to focus on all subjects of the curriculum in their improvement planning. In addition, as a matter of course, the improvement partners and the teaching and learning advisers check for the links which pupils make in their learning across the subjects of the curriculum when they work with the schools.

Link to the full commentary: