The Head of Ofsted launched the organisation's annual report on Tuesday. You can read what she said here (it's not long), and read the actual report here (very much longer). There was a report in the Guardian. Understandably, most people saw the Guardian article first. It led its comments with this:
"The chief inspector of schools in England has pushed back against growing calls to make the national curriculum more diverse, warning against making curriculum changes based on a single issue or purpose."
I was confused by this as how do you make the curriculum more diverse through single issues, but it turns out that this was just poor phrasing at the Guardian. What Amanda Spielman actually said was:
"... increasingly we see efforts to commandeer schools and the curriculum in support of worthy social issues and campaigns. In the last year, many of these calls have been about environmental causes and against racism. Climate change activists have called for new qualifications or more explicit alterations to the curriculum. They sometimes forget the importance of grounding climate change within the wider body of learning about science and about geography. And they don’t always notice how much schools already do in this space."
This was her only reference to climate / environment in her speech, and there were no mentions in the press release or the report itself.
What to make of all this?
Well, "commandeer" is an odd word to use, and it's not clear which groups are accused of doing this. Who can try to commandeer schools? Rogue governors, or an autocratic headteacher, perhaps? That's about all, and there are checks and balances to help prevent both these. "Influence" would have been a happier word, especially if it had said: "influence the curriculum" or "influence the DfE", as this is exactly what has been going on, which is as it ought to be in a democratic society.
No one I know "forget(s) the importance of grounding climate change within the wider body of learning about science and about geography", although they are usually at pains to say climate change education should extend beyond science and geography to other subject areas. It's certainly the case that a lot of the people "don’t always notice how much schools already do in this space". Does Ofsted, I wonder.
So why did Spielman single out climate change activists for comment when there's no mention of them in what was for the most part a thoughtful report about important matters? That's even odder than the use of "commandeer".