Leadership and the curriculum

A conference for primary and secondary school Deputy and Assistant Headteachers

The Tomlinson Centre, Queensbridge Road, E8 3ND
Friday, 22 March 2019, 9.15am – 3.45pm


The most recent message from Ofsted is that the new way of working will be to celebrate schools who are able to demonstrate how they know their curriculum is successful. This conference is a time dedicated for leaders to hear a number of speakers on the subject of how the curriculum is fundamental in shaping experiences for pupils and will enable you to consider your curriculum intent, implementation and impact and will challenge you to consider where moral purpose lies in the leadership of this.

The morning will focus on the curriculum, with specific workshops for primary and secondary schools, whilst the afternoon will provide colleagues the opportunity to hear entertaining speakers with diverse experiences of leadership. The aim is also for you, as leaders, to have time to reflect on what is already successful and come away with some ideas for your schools.

The conference aims to:

  • offer a national update on how Ofsted inspectors are preparing for the new framework
  • provide ideas and information on developments about the curriculum – thinking, knowledge and learning
  • provide opportunities to exchange insights on leadership

Who should attend?

  • Primary Deputy and Assistant Headteachers
  • Secondary Deputy and Assistant Headteachers
  • Special Deputy and Assistant Headteachers


8.45 – Registration and refreshments

9.15Welcome and introductions – Sian Davies, Assistant Director, Hackney Learning Trust

9.20New thinking about old tools: knowledge in curriculum – Christine Counsell, Director of Education, Inspiration Trust

Christine Counsell will survey arguments for a renewed emphasis on knowledge in school curricula. In particular, she will explore the relationship between knowledge and literacy, and the implications of ‘powerful knowledge’ for sustainable improvement in outcomes for the disadvantaged.  The session presents basic principles for curriculum design such as subject coherence, distinctions between substantive and disciplinary knowledge and the relationship between ‘core’ and ‘hinterland’. Participants will be invited to examine the meaning of ‘the curriculum as the progression model’ and the possibilities for much more radical, far-reaching transformations in pupil attainment by replacing a short-term intervention culture with a long-term curriculum design culture.

10.20 – Session 1 by phase

Primary – Intent, implementation, and impact: How one primary school designed and delivered a knowledge-rich curriculum
Led by Danielle Dennis, Associate Professor of Literacy Studies, University of South Florida and Professor-in-Residency, Cottenham Primary School

The focus of this presentation is on the lessons learned from designing and implementing a primary knowledge rich curriculum. The presentation will share one primary school’s journey over the past three years in determining the scope and sequence of the curriculum, as well as the professional development needs of teachers and leaders to execute the plan. Next steps and questions for consideration will be shared.

Secondary – New thinking about old tools: knowledge in curriculum
Led by Christine Counsell, Director of Education, Inspiration Trust

This session will explore the above issues in greater depth with specific reference to the secondary context, including a focus on assessment and the importance of decoupling formative and summative assessment, and treating the expanding domain as progress. Participants will tackle exercises which can be used for CPD back in school. Emphasis will be placed on exploring the role of broad, thorough and rigorous Key Stage 3 subject curricula (with particular reference to RE, history, art and music) in transforming disadvantaged pupils’ access to and success in English Language and English Literature GCSE.

11.20 – Coffee

11.40 – Ofsted curriculum review – the process and outcomes – Kate O’Shaughnessy, Director at OSC Education Ltd

Kate will share her experience of being part of the recent Ofsted Curriculum Review working party and share the results of this. 

12.10 – Session 2 both primary and secondary phase

Ofsted curriculum review – the process and outcomes

Led by Kate O’Shaughnessy, Director at OSC Education Ltd

This session will continue with the theme from Kate’s talk. There will be opportunities for questions and answer and a school based task.

12.45 – Lunch

13.30 – Session 3 by phase

Primary – Leadership and teamwork in the eye of the storm
Led by Mark Denton, Director of Max VMG and Ocean Racing Skipper

Mark Denton’s unique multi-media account of a young leader’s experience leading a team in the world’s toughest yacht race, the BT Global Challenge.

From being selected as skipper, to the team’s last footsteps up the dock 18 months later, this is his refreshingly honest and heartfelt account of the trials and the tribulations, failures and successes, mistakes and lessons that encompass every leader and team’s journey, no matter what the task.

Expertly told by a master speaker, it’s a roller coaster of a story that has audiences literally hanging on the edge of their seats. Chronologically structured to mirror the race’s key stages, each section is a mix of the presenter’s rich insight blended with stunning video footage and images that bring the learning alive. The key lessons are highlighted throughout and summarised at the end.

Hugely valuable for any Leader who is leading diverse teams in a highly competitive and constantly changing environment!

Secondary – The new curriculum and the challenge for school leaders
Led by Sir Alasdair McDonald, former Headteacher and Government Adviser on Education

Implementing the new curriculum presents a range of operational and also more philosophical challenges to school leaders. Drawing on his experience in England, Wales, Scotland and internationally, Alasdair will address some of these issues as they affect both individual schools and school partnerships.

14.30 – Coffee

14.45 What we do, why we do it and who we do it for – Matthew Burton, Headteacher at Thornhill Academy, Yorkshire (Educating Yorkshire TV Series)

The talk will look at how the curriculum is something that transcends the subjects and topics taught, and how important a school’s culture is in ensuring the curriculum best meets children’s needs.

15.30-15.45 – Closing remarks

See the full programme



Christine Counsell, Director of Education, Inspiration Trust

Christine Counsell has been a leading curriculum developer in history for the past decade. She is editor of the influential professional journal for history teachers, Teaching History. She is leader of the PGCE History course at the Faculty of Education at Cambridge University.

Dr. Danielle Dennis Associate Professor of Literacy Studies, University of South Florida and Professor-in-Residency, Cottenham Primary School

Dr Danielle Dennis is an associate professor of literacy studies. She serves as the co-coordinator of the Urban Teacher Residency Partnership Program and as program director of the Cambridge (UK) Schools Experience. Her research focuses on literacy assessment, policy, and building teacher capacity. She is the author of ‘Designing a Knowledge-Rich Curriculum’ and is currently working with a primary school in Cambridge, England in building a knowledge-rich curriculum and studying the professional development support needed to build capacity across teaching staff and leadership. Dr. Dennis serves on the editorial review board of The Reading Teacher and is an associate editor of School University Partnerships journal.

Matthew Burton, Headteacher at Thornhill Academy, Yorkshire

Matthew Burton, rose to fame in the Channel 4 documentary Educating Yorkshire. He is the newly appointed Headteacher at Thornhill Academy. Matthew has gone on to talk at a number of events and conferences about the techniques he uses to motivate those he works with as well as the many stories he has from his time spent at the front of a classroom.

Mark Denton, Director of Max VMG and Ocean Racing Skipper

Get ordinary people to achieve an extraordinary thing in such a highly competitive and constantly changing environment? Sharing this crucial learning as a conference and keynote motivational speaker, and doing that in a really engaging way is Marks’ passion, mission and forte, so that others can benefit from his hard-earned learning. Mark is the founding director of Max VMG, and Ocean Racing Skipper who completed the BT Global Challenge.

Sir Alasdair McDonald, former Headteacher and Government Adviser on Education

Alasdair was Headteacher of Morpeth School in Tower Hamlets for 21 years up to August 2013. During that period, attainment at the school rose significantly and OFSTED inspections in both 2007 and 2013 rated Morpeth as Outstanding. The school was featured as one of the 12 schools in the OFSTED publication “Achieving against the odds”as well as being the London Evening Standard’s first ever “Most Improved School”. In 2003 he was awarded the CBE and in 2009 he was knighted for services to education, both in Tower Hamlets and nationally.

Kate O’Shaughnessy – Director at OSC Education Ltd

Kate has worked in education for 15 years, the last ten years in senior leader roles. She now runs an education consultancy and is a teaching fellow at UCL. During the last year she has been part of Ofsted’s Research and Evaluation team, conducting research into two projects – curriculum and lesson observation. The findings of the curriculum work have been published, and form the background research on curriculum for Ofsted’s upcoming EIF. Her joint article, written with Ofsted colleagues, on the curriculum appeared in BERA’s Research Intelligence this February.