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Ofsted’s curriculum review of English – a NATE response

By 20th July 2022Latest News

Ofsted’s curriculum review of English – a NATE response (full version)

Executive Summary

The Ofsted Curriculum Review of English states that it “reflects the advice of the expert panel’s working definition of subject knowledge as the ‘concepts, facts, processes, language, narratives and conventions of each subject’”. This suggests that the authors of the report have developed a full and balanced view of subject English, drawing upon its foundational theory and long history of conceptual development.  Unfortunately, this is not the case, although the report recognises both the functional and expressive aspects of English and the importance of oracy at all key stages.   It also sets out some of the current context of English (such as the worrying decline of post-16 study of English and that 3 in 10 students are not achieving a ‘standard pass’).  It does not directly address how these contextual concerns might be resolved.

Some helpful recommendations are made, including:

  • not teaching GCSE texts at KS3 and early GCSE entry
  • that pre-teaching context is not advisable
  • not using of checklists for writing, such as DAFOREST
  • that teachers should be encouraged to develop their own knowledge of texts for young people
  • not teaching of spellings through decontextualised word lists
  • teaching of whole texts
  • that the use of success criteria and exam mark scheme as curriculum is inappropriate
  • viewing English as a coherent unity across primary and secondary phases
  • that there should be close inter-relationship between the different components of English

The review posits a view of the subject primarily in terms of skills and processes to be taught prior to engagement in language in use.  This does not align with the construction of the subject that has been developed over many years or with the practical experience of English teachers at every level.  The research drawn on is limited and partial, and referencing does not always support the claims that are made.  The Review also fails to recognise the place of drama, media education, language study and digital literacies within English.  The Review will be found wanting by teachers who are seeking guidance in the actualities of classroom work in language and literature, and by researchers who will note the etiolated concept of the subject presented by the Review.

Read the full response here.

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