In January 2019 Ofsted published a new framework for inspection. The focus of this new framework has shifted since 2015, when the last framework was published. One of the key areas of the new framework is on the quality of education provided by a school. The former quality of teaching, learning and assessment judgement has been removed. Replaced by an quality of education judgement. By doing this Ofsted hopes to “de-intensify the inspection focus one performance data and place more emphasis on the substance of education and what matters most to learners”. The way that this has been translated into the new framework is through three areas of focus. The first is the intent of the curriculum, the second is the implementation of the curriculum and the third is the impact the curriculum has on pupils. Intent, implementation and impact. This is the second of three blog posts that will explore these three areas of focus and how they will impact your drama curriculum. This second post will look the implementation of the curriculum.
Ofsted will perform what they call “deep dives”. Each dive will look at a range of specific subjects. It’s purpose is to test whether the whole school curriculum rationale is being implemented in those areas. Having established the intent of your curriculum, they will then move on to look at how you implement your curriculum in Drama.
The focus of this is on the teachers delivering the curriculum. The first key focus is on the subject knowledge of you and the teachers in your departments. Ofsted will want to know if your departments subject knowledge is appropriate to the curriculum you deliver. They will want to see that your staff are deployed appropriately. That staff knowledge strengths are used wisely and staff are supported to close any knowledge gaps they have. A very relevant focus for Drama Departments is non-specialist teachers. Are they well supported for their subject knowledge? Ofsted will be looking to see that you support yourself, and the teachers in your department with sufficient subject support. This support can be in the form of reading material, sharing staffs own knowledge or taking advantage of other CPD opportunities. They will ask if there is an area of expertise that you, or your teaching staff, have that isn’t on the curriculum. Likewise if there is something on the curriculum and none or a few of you are knowledgeable about. This final point will also apply to non-specialist teachers as well. So make sure there is adequate access to appropriate support to allow them to teach your curriculum.
With teachers subject knowledge established. Ofsted will examine how that knowledge is delivered and presented to students. They will want to see that it is delivered clearly. They want to see that over the course of their study students learn to remember content in their long term memory. That they are also able to integrate new knowledge into existing knowledge. Therefore what you teach needs to be sequenced and accumulative. Each new topic coherently building on the previous so that students receive a bigger picture of the whole of the subject of Drama. A picture of Drama that will help them in both further learning and future employment. This doesn’t have to come in the form of anything as fancy as a curriculum map. You need to be able to justify the journey that the students take from entering Drama to leaving it at the end of Key Stage 3, 4 and 5.
You need to use assessment well. Extremely well. It needs to be systematic, thorough and rigorous as well as being useable and doesn’t burden teachers with extra workload. This can be quite hard in Drama with so many different areas to assess across the different Key Stages. There is the practical work, which needs assessing as it is the central purpose of Drama as a subject. However the abstract nature of a performance doesn’t help keep evidence of the work. This is the most time consuming form of marking for the Drama Teacher. There is very little room to streamline this without making it useless and uninformative to the students. For coursework and exam preparation we can use more whole class feedback systems that allow us to be more streamlined in assessment. Likewise for knowledge of key terminology, using online tests that do the marking for you are brilliant. However streamlined it is, Ofsted will want to see that you are acting on the results from those assessments. Something that is often lost, and is well worth remembering, is that assessment can also inform how you teach the same topic next year. You can use it to inform the changes you’d put in place for the future.
Ofsted will consider your teaching environment as well. They want to see that the environment is focused on helping the learners to focus on learning. Some have taken this to mean that all distractions. Resulting in removing displays and any personality from the space so that students sole attention will be on you. This is one interpretation of it and in some settings and circumstances it will work. But it doesn’t have to work for all. We don’t all have to abandon displays, but we do need to make sure that the displays are supporting the learning that is taking place. Many Drama Studios don’t have displays anyway, due to their construction and the use of curtains etc…. Where there are displays they are often dwarfed by the size of the room. In my experience as well, where a student sits to listen to you is a long way away from a display board than perhaps if they were in a standard classroom. In my Drama Studio, I have three display boards. Two are used for supporting the curriculum with Key Terminology, information about the plays we study and the such like. The third board, which is tucked away in the corner, celebrates students work and masking making.
A final area is reading and developing learners confidence and enjoyment of reading. That should also include reading a range of different materials. Reading scripts obviously is an important element of our curriculum. But that engagement with reading doesn’t have to be just scripts in Drama. Students can read information sheets, articles, pages, or even whole chapters, from books on topics that support their study. Whether these are done for homework or in class is up to you. I’ve introduced a lot more reading in class, which has made a greater and different impact that I first thought. The immediacy of the information that they have read makes for more interesting and engaging conversations. This has proved more successful that reading it for homework and coming back into class to discuss it.
What is important that the Ofsted framework offers no guidance on how to teach. There is no direction to teachers to use direct instruction, strip away classroom displays to bare walls or ban all forms of group work and discussion. Ofsted have never told you how to teach. These things I mention here are useful. The quickest and the most effective way to get my students to learn information is for me to tell them directly through direct instruction. Big, fancy and complex classroom displays can be time consuming to do and distract students attention, but at the same time it doesn’t always. You know your students best. You know your context best. Ofsted will want to see that you have taken the appropriate decisions and direction to deliver the curriculum in a way that serves the best of the cohort you teach.