Blog: Deep diving into a broad and balanced curriculum

There are many elements surrounding the word curriculum, including our perception of what a ‘deep dive’ into a broad and balanced curriculum is and why we should perhaps embrace the concept before, during and after inspection.  I believe that when all schools review, monitor and evaluate their curriculum provision (as described above) the deeper they dive, the more they will understand their current successes and ensure their vision.    

The words ‘balance’ and ‘broad’ were at the centre of the 2002 Education Act, which required schools to provide “a balanced and broadly based curriculum which: promotes the spiritual, moral, cultural, mental and physical development of pupils/students at school and of society, and prepares pupils at the school for the opportunities, responsibilities and experiences of later life”. 

This all-encompassing statement has supported school curriculum development since and is the centre of our current national curriculum, as seen below: –

  • The school curriculum comprises all learning and other experiences that each school plans for its pupils.
  • The national curriculum forms one part of the school curriculum, including teaching RE and SRE (secondary), providing a daily act of collective worship and specific provision for PSHE.
  • Schools are also free to include other subjects or topics of their choice in planning and designing their own programme of education. (Extracts from Paragraph 2 of NNC 2014)

Therefore, schools are required to provide a curriculum of 12 subjects, plus RE, SRE and PSHE, (up to the end of KS3), while the EYFS Framework consists of 7 areas of learning for children during the Foundation Stage. 

In order for the curriculum to be effective and meet the statutory requirement, schools need to ensure it provides enough subjects, areas and experiences in a suitable timetable to prepare pupils for the opportunities, challenges and responsibilities of later life.  This ‘broad’ curriculum should be taught, available and on offer to all pupils for as long as possible.

Schools’ balanced ‘curriculum’ should ensure each subject, area and experience has enough space to have a distinct role that enables pupils to gain benefit from their inclusion in the timetable.  Too often art, music and languages are not given quality time due to tests and exam pressures.  Some may remember the higher priority given to science during KS2, when included in SATs tests and its demise following its removal.  A broad and balanced curriculum is difficult to implement against a background of the annual publication of SATs and exam results, alongside academisation and inspection.

Now, finally, to the most recent Ofsted framework, which has an overall effectiveness judgement supported by judgements around:

Quality of education

Behaviour and attitudes

Personal development

Leadership and management

During an inspection the deep dives consist of inspectors:

  • Evaluating senior leaders’ intent for their curriculum and their understanding of its implementation and impact.
  • Evaluating subject leaders’ long- and medium-term plans, with a rationale for content choices and curriculum sequencing.
  • Planning visits to lessons linked to subjects or curriculum areas connected to evaluations.
  • Scrutinising books and other pupils work connected to evaluations.
  • Discussing with teachers around their curriculum decisions on content and sequencing.
  • Holding discussions with pupils from observed lessons.

I believe that a broad and balanced curriculum can be enhanced by this new focus on ‘quality of education’, where curriculum planning, delivery and impact are seen as holistic by the inspection process.  Pupil’s behaviour, attitudes and personal development elements have consistently been reviewed using a variety of evidence, while leadership has always been seen this way.

In conclusion, co-ordinated ‘deep dives’ included as part of our own curriculum monitoring, will allow us to create a school curriculum that is broad and balanced.  It will also enable us to better understand all that a child learns from every experience created by our own unique educational environment.


John Croghan M.Ed. BA. Cert.Ed.

If you would like to speak to John please email john.croghan@evaluate-ed.com.

Content Development and Monitoring

John Croghan M.Ed. BA. CertEd. has over 50 years of experience in education, as a teacher, leading learning in classrooms from EYFS to Y11, as well as a leader and primary headteacher.  He enjoyed his role supporting Every Child Matters in schools and has advised and supported schools across the West Midlands, as well as leading OFSTED inspections.   He is currently a school consultant, mentor, and governor. 

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