John Coats

What started out as an ominous looking forced overhaul of our SCITT curriculum in order to tick some Ofsted boxes around something called the Core Content Framework (CCF) has instead turned into one of the most liberating and exciting processes for the Sheffield SCITT.

Once we got our heads around what we were being asked to do, we realised that, provided we covered the CCF itself, we were being given great freedoms. We were being given permission to articulate what we wanted our course to achieve (our intent) and to design everything about our delivery (implementation) in order to ensure that it did just that (impact).

Writing our intent statements – we ended up with 12 – was easy. We have always known and talked about what is important about our course, but we had not (for a while at least) set them out quite as clearly before or involved our wider partnership in creating an ownership of these intent statements. There is something about putting words on paper too that makes very public what it is that we are about, and ultimately on what basis we will judge our own success.

Running alongside the changes to our curriculum we have been developing an assessment rubric that we had piloted on some of our primary routes. As Covid-19 struck we were in the process of learning from the pilot and refining our rubric for the next cohort of trainees. Whereas previously we might have vacillated and agonised over relatively trivial adaptations that in the grand scheme would have made no difference whatsoever to trainee outcomes, we now found ourselves with a document that told us what to do.

Our curriculum intent statements suddenly gave us the answers to the questions we were asking about our assessment rubric. Should we include descriptors that go beyond the standards required to pass QTS? Yes, because we want our curriculum to be designed to model and articulate what exemplary practice looks like. Were we right to have broken down the trainee journey into as many steps on our assessment rubric? Yes, because we want accurate assessment with next steps always clear. How do we want ongoing assessment to be done? On a live document as a collaboration between mentor and trainee because we want support to be ‘done with’ rather than ‘done to’.

So, have we moved completely seamlessly to a perfectly functioning new curriculum? Of course not. We have had teething problems like anyone else, and will no doubt adapt and change aspects. Our primary vehicle for identifying areas for development is our quality assurance processes. Now that we have written down in words what our curriculum intent is, designing quality assurance processes has become easy. Our quality assurance paperwork is no longer an arbitrary list of things we think we would like to see to prove that our course is brilliant. It is instead a process that attempts to evaluate the impact of our course against each of our 12 intent statements. Yes, we still have non-negotiables that we check up on, but we are now measuring ourselves against a different ruler – namely our own intent statements.

I have not actually ripped up our existing SCITT Self Evaluation Document (SED) as yet, but as soon as we start getting meaningful information back from our quality assurance processes about how effectively we are achieving what we say we want to I will be glad to do so. I am fairly confident that our new SED will write itself in the same way that our assessment rubric and quality assurance have done so far.

Dare I say, thank you Ofsted?

John Coats is Chair of the Sheffield SCITT Management Board





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