Ofsted’s new focus on personal development

A student holding cash

Ofsted has chosen to put a clear focus on the personal development of pupils, following a wide ranging consultation that ran from January to April 2019, and which received over 15,000 responses from teachers and other stakeholders.

The objectives of the new framework, which has come into use this month, and the reforms proposed in the consultation are designed to focus on what Ofsted’s report calls “the real substance of education: the curriculum“. This includes reducing unnecessary work for hard pressed teachers and ensuring that all learners have access to ‘high quality education’.

Ofsted’s report on the responses to its consultation are pretty stark. Among other things it says that ‘Inspectors will put more focus on the curriculum and less on how schools and colleges generate, analyse and interpret data.’

A welcome change

This welcome change is reinforced by the new commitment from Ofsted to give greater recognition to the provision in schools of work to support the personal development of learners. This theme of personal development will consider what a school or college does to help develop learners’ character, resilience and values, as well as assessing what a school does to provide advice and support to assist learners succeed in life.

These changes have profound implications for schools, students and their families. No one doubts that learners need to be prepared for adult life in a more structured way than in the past – because of the huge economic and social changes of the last twenty years or so – and there is broad common agreement on that need. The problem is how to deliver the kind of service that Ofsted want to see become a regular part of the ordinary school curriculum, given that I doubt many schools are prepared to meet this new challenge within their established practices.

Preparing young people for life beyond education

Our programme was founded eight years ago to provide precisely the kind of learning outcomes that Ofsted now requires. During that time, we have spoken regularly about the need for schools to prepare young people for life beyond education, through a much broader and interconnected approach to the ‘real world’ and its many tests.

Having delivered Keep the Cash in well over one hundred schools, we know how to successfully engage learners in grappling with the challenges they face in building their own independent adult lives. The many students we have worked with over the years have all demonstrated a clear appetite for learning these life skills. If we can develop that through the entire education system, then it will be much easier to develop resilient, active citizens who understand how the system they live in actually works, and who can therefore contribute to it for the benefit of us all.

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