Schools positive about curriculum change

Caroline Wright, Director of British Educational Suppliers Association, (BESA) discusses the latest research on the impending changes

Schools, primaries in particular, have certainly had a tough time over the past year, with the long awaited curriculum arriving with very little guidance and support from the Government. In our role as the sector’s trade association, we meet with schools on a regular basis to understand the feelings, issues and needs of schools. We also carry out regular research to gain more specific information.

Our most recent research report, ‘Strategic and Curriculum Change’ examined the opinions and trends of senior leadership teams on funding and curriculum change. The research demonstrates that schools are becoming increasingly positive about the changes the new curriculum will have on decision making and resourcing in English. 

While there is still concern out there, just 37% of schools are showing a negative view, a significant improvement compared with 68% in 2013. This more positive outlook may come from schools feeling they are better qualified to make the necessary decisions. Primary schools in particular are focusing on greater investment in continuing professional development (CPD) and training – 79% of schools indicate a need for even more CPD and training provision, an increase from figures gathered in 2013.

The findings also revealed that schools are currently giving greater attention to reporting and assessment due to the changes in Ofsted inspection arrangements –76% of primary schools and 75% of secondary schools are increasing their focus on Pupil Premium reporting, which, in light of the increased funding and associated pressure by Ofsted is expected to see results.

In terms of assessment as a whole, the survey also highlighted that although summative assessment continues to be of importance there is a shift towards formative assessment. End of lesson assessment also remains important. Further to Ofsted inspections across all schools, another area of increasing focus is continuing professional development and training, with a significant 61% increase. 

When it comes to those who shape schools’ investment, we also start to see another trend forming, with external advisors having less influence on procurement decisions and governors, bursars, senior leadership teams, and to a certain extent, classroom teachers having a greater level of responsibility. As the Government steps back, giving more autonomy to schools, it is unsurprising that teachers are having a great influence on spending. As schools become more accomplished in managing their budgets it is also predictable that they are reaching out less to external advisers.

Although the research comes at a time of significant change, the results indicate a positive approach by educators. Over the majority of areas, the view of the changes and their impact on resourcing in schools is generally positive. In terms of a long term trend this is very typical of the education sector; after a few years of concern schools have worked hard to establish an effective structure to support the recent curriculum and assessment changes. The transition from teacher to teacher and business manager is increasingly apparent.