How should Ofsted conduct a curriculum review?
… a narrow focus with a very limited approach to languages education in England.
In a new research paper, academics Pachler and Broady respond to government policy on teaching and assessment of modern foreign languages (MFL) in schools across England.
A review of modern foreign languages
The focus is particularly on the curriculum research review commissioned by Ofsted (2021b). I’ve taken a little look through to see what I could learn and offer a short summary below.
The purpose is to explore the literature in the field of foreign-language education, identifying factors that contribute to high-quality languages curriculum, assessment, pedagogy and system.
The research identifies Ofsted’s own assertion that educational research is “contestable and contested” (2021a) and aims to highlight the current ‘available research evidence’ and the legitimacy of a regulatory body to conduct these reviews.
The context for the discussion is offered, focusing predominantly on the core of education that drives the quality of education, with curriculum review designed to be a force for improvement as well as to provide guidance to schools; best conceptualised by the education inspection framework (EIF, 2019).
A top-down approach
The paper highlights that a top-down approach constrains a teacher’s professional judgement, making them less able to respond effectively to their own particular context. It highlights how partial Ofsted’s reading of the language teaching and learning research can be, suggesting that its interpretations are not all shared by the authors of the research themselves! Quite astonishing …
The research summary also highlights a lack of understanding of important contextual factors such as local ideologies of education, structural and organisations features of provision and notions of professionality, particularly identifying how the Ofsted interpretation of self-efficacy is flawed.
Considering that the teaching sector has struggled to recruit language teachers, despite the need for a renewal of MFL curriculum, the building blocks of high-quality language education is not, academics argue, what languages are about.
It raises further questions about objectivity, politics, evidence-based education and a collective vision for all, with expert views considered.
This paper will prove an interesting read for all language teachers and an interesting document for school leaders interested in Ofsted and curriculum policy evolution.
Do read the full paper.