An inspection trial for Ofsted’s new school curriculum has shown that just eight of the 33 primaries inspected had a strong curriculum.

In comparison, more than half of secondary schools were found to have a strong curriculum in the inspection trial.

The inspectorate also found that 15 of the primaries inspected finished in the bottom two of its five ratings, with three secondaries doing so.

Ofsted visited the primary and secondary schools in a bid to test how they would inspect the implementation, intent and impact of the school curriculum for the new inspection framework – which will be introduced later next year.

High scores for primary schools were achieved

The research from Ofsted shows that when broken down by subject, most of the high scores for primary schools were achieved in maths and English.

Ofsted’s chief inspector, Amanda Spielman, said: “It’s true that what gets measured, gets done and mathematics and English are what is measured in primary schools.

“It’s hardly surprising that they get most lesson time and the most attention from leaders.”

Ms Spielman added: “It’s possible clearly to do this badly as we found during Phase 1, where some schools were practising SATs in Year 6 before Christmas and focusing on reading comprehension papers rather than encouraging children to read.”

She added that the survey from Ofsted appears to suggest that most primary schools are doing well but this cannot be said for foundation subjects.

She explained: “It’s disappointing to see so few high scores in technology subjects, arts and humanities.”

Using themes or topics as a way of teaching foundation subjects

The Ofsted research highlights that nearly all primary schools looked at using themes or topics as a way of teaching foundation subjects, but not for maths, English or science.

Ms Spielman says: “The schools that were most invested in curriculum design had a focus on subject knowledge that had to be learned and designed their topics around that.

“What appears to happen is a selection of topics are being taught that do not link particularly together or allow progression through and good coverage of the subjects.”

Ofsted visited 64 schools to test its curriculum inspection model and included two special schools for a visit.

This is the third piece of research published on the curriculum by Ofsted as the inspectorate prepares to revise how school inspections will be carried out under a new framework.

More information

The new survey published by Ofsted can be found on the website.