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Has Ofsted lowered standards?

Over the years there have been numerous attempts to generate all encompassing and amazing schemes of work. By and large these have failed. I used to have all my lesson plans on an Access database with hyperlinks to specification, worksheets, powerpoint etc all ready to go. It was something to behold. In fact the Estyn inspectors said I should send it to QCA – they thought it was that good. I didn’t bother though as I was unconvinced that it would be of any use.
Using other peoples schemes of work is problematic:

  • You might not have the same kit.
  • You almost certainly won’t have the same kids.
  • You don’t have the same background knowledge.
  • You might not be following the same specification.
  • If your lesson lengths and allocation are different you might have to rejig lesson plans anyway.

All of which leads to a general scheme of work getting more and more watered down as you apply it more widely. It’s not that a few schemes haven’t made a good fist of it but it needs central control if you really want to make it work. Training and kit needs to be provided so that the thing really goes well. In fact what’s even better is if, as the Network Coordinators have done in Scotland, you work with groups of teachers to build a SoW together.

Anyway, that’s not really the point of this piece. So years ago the QCA produced a scheme of work. It was by and large pretty poor. Given the above it was always going to be as this was written in such a form that all schools could apply it. That meant they didn’t assume you had anything but the most basic of resources and even those weren’t insisted on. (This was to stop teachers pointing out that a bit of kit was in the QCA scheme and hence needed funds to buy it, which could hardly have been refused, to avoid this they hardly mentioned proper kit at all). Now an awful lot of schools switched from their own, well tailored SoW to the QCA one? Why? The QCA scheme was a lowest common denominator type affair. It was clearly inferior to many of the schemes of work people already had in place, so why would people switch?


If you knew Ofsted was coming in you switched to the QCA scheme because then you knew that your SoW couldn’t be criticized. So what was supposed to be a good idea actually meant children got poorer quality lessons. Not only that but teachers good practice got diluted as they followed what they thought was supposed to be “the way” to do things. Not only that but increasingly this has been part of the acceptance of bought in SoW and lots of science teachers have had their skills at putting together a SoW blunted.

Putting together a SoW is an important job for a head of department to do. Tailoring the SoW to your school, apparatus, children and teaching staff is what makes physics department really tick. We need to make sure that this is recognized as a skill all science teachers need to learn to do. They may not be writing the SoW for a department but hopefully they’ll have played a part in putting it together. By supporting teachers in their development, rather than “inspecting” them, we can give children the education they deserve.



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January 2014
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