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Response to Ofsted Inspection Framework consultation

Culham St Gabriel’s Trust www.cstg.org.uk is a leading funder supporting excellence in RE through research, development and innovation. We work closely with teachers of RE, as well as organisations that promote the subject and offer high quality CPD.

In relation to the aspects that concern RE, CSTG welcomes the proposed new inspection framework. We see it as an opportunity to focus inspection teams on subject curriculum provision including RE, and to focus RE teachers on key aspects of high quality curriculum intent, improvement and impact. We look forward to Ofsted making judgements about whether a school is offering children the full curriculum for as long as possible, including RE. We will support partnership work to ensure that RE teachers rise to the challenge of a new inspection framework. Specifically, we very much welcome:

  • The structure of curriculum intent, implementation and impact
  • The emphasis on deep learning, cultural capital, long-term memory and progression
  • The frequent mentions of ‘National Curriculum and RE’
  • The inclusion of spiritual, moral, social and cultural development (SMSC).

We would also suggest that the framework could be further strengthened by:

  • Making ‘National Curriculum and RE’ the phrase that is used every time, not just sometimes; and ensuring that ‘breadth and ambition’ should apply to RE as well as other subjects.
  • Throughout the framework (eg 157, 162 and elsewhere), making a clear distinction between the ‘Ebacc’ as a metric and ‘subjects with academic rigour’. Ofsted is already aware that RE has suffered because the Ebacc is assumed in many schools to be a core of academically rigorous subjects. The new GCSE in RS, approved by the Minister of State, is academically rigorous and is not in the Ebacc. This has incentivized too many schools to narrow their curriculum in ways that are either unfeasible for RS, or illegal. We would invite Ofsted to consider a wording such as ‘Ebacc and RS’ in places.
  • Having a more tightly defined method for identifying and challenging non-compliance in RE (see 43, 51 and elsewhere) and ensuring that complaints about non-compliance are known about in advance of the visit (this is not currently done).
  • Ensuring that the guidance is clear on the duties of schools without a religious character (33). There is some text in the existing framework which has not been transferred over.
  • Defining spiritual, moral, social and cultural development as not simply respect for different faiths, but also knowledge and understanding of different faiths and worldviews (204-207).

CSTG has already welcomed the publication in September 2018 of the final report from the Commission on RE and its proposed national entitlement statement https://www.commissiononre.org.uk/final-report-religion-and-worldviews-the-way-forward-a-national-plan-for-re/ . The entitlement is designed to overcome the known inequalities of delivery in RE, the product of a broken locally agreed syllabus system. A nation-wide definition of what every child should know and understand in RE is long overdue. Its facility as a measurement in schools could prove very useful, particularly for busy inspectors. We most warmly recommend that Ofsted’s new framework should reference the national entitlement statement and work with the National Association of Teachers of RE and the RE Council to enable inspectors to be familiar with the entitlement statement.