Primary Focus

From Leader Summer Term 2019 issue

It’s a privilege to have been appointed as ASCL’s Primary Specialist and I’m excited to be able to build on this area of ASCL’s specialisms. Prior to my appointment, I spent 22 years in education, beginning my career as an English teacher and going on to influence whole-school outcomes in middle and then senior leadership. My experience spans a wide range of schools from a variety of demographics, including British Forces schools and inner-city academies. My last position as assistant headteacher in a high school had specific responsibility for data, assessment, reporting and examinations and leading the English department. Being part of a three-tier multi-academy trust (MAT), leading on transition and working alongside other leaders, kept me up to date on curriculum, assessment and accountability across all key stages. Seeing the dedication and commitment of how my ASCL colleagues are working to support our members makes me exceptionally proud to be a part of this team, and I look forward to working with our primary members.

ASCL provided invaluable professional development support to me when I was a senior leader. I remember the first time I attended ASCL Annual Conference and the positivity that lasted a long time after the weekend had ended. You will understand, therefore, why I’m keen to get even more primary-specific professional development opportunities up and running, so do keep checking the website. Planning for the next ASCL Primary Conference is also well under way, and I hope many of you will attend this fantastic CPD opportunity tailored specifically to meet the needs of primary colleagues. Part of my new role will be to support recommendations made by the ASCL Commission on the Forgotten Third. I was a member of the commission and the final report will raise some strong concerns about what happens to our young people who achieve below the GCSE ‘standard pass’ grade 4 in English. The commission has led us to look at the educational journey of a young person from as far back as early years and through Key Stages 1, 2 and 3. We feel that children’s experience of early language acquisition has ramifications for the rest of their lives. The importance of confident communication through talk and being able to close the word gap is essential in changing the life chances for our young people. I’ll be asking for your views on the primary-related aspects of the report when it’s published. 

As I write this, I’ve been in post for almost three weeks. I’ve already met some of our elected Council members and they’ve raised some key issues affecting our primary members, including Reception Baseline Assessment, SATs (including Labour’s recent announcement to remove them), Relationships and Sex Education reforms, ongoing funding and recruitment and retention concerns.

New Ofsted framework: top tips for primaries

Additionally, following the publication on 14 May 2019 of Ofsted’s new framework, the new focus on ‘curriculum intent’ is unsurprisingly emerging as one of the greatest challenges among primary colleagues. Considering this, here are some top tips to support primary leaders, specifically on curriculum intent in the new framework:

Curriculum planning
Leaders need to focus on the three ‘i’s’ of curriculum: intent, implementation and impact. Being confident in how your school curriculum can positively impact pupils will now be more important than ever.

Intent
Your curriculum intent should be built on your school’s values, and your curriculum building decisions should be based on informed and deliberate choices, which are evidence-based. 

Consider the needs
Think about the needs of your pupils and how your curriculum can address these. Additionally, when considering the disadvantage gap, you should focus on the importance of oracy. Developing speech and vocabulary from as far back as early years go hand-in-hand in improving the outcomes of young people at the end of Key Stage 4.

Quality discussions
Develop the quality of curriculum thinking within your school and within your senior leadership team discussions. This is not a task that can be completed over a weekend by one person. For small primary schools, there is the additional challenge of expertise, and leaders will need to consider this carefully.

Stay positive 
Look at this as a positive prospect and take time over it. Your curriculum should not be rooted in intuition and should be for the good of the children in your care, and not what’s good for Ofsted. I very much look forward to supporting you and meeting with you soon. 


Tiffnie Harris
ASCL Primary Specialist
@tiffnieharris

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