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English literature teachers’ conceptions of essential knowledge at Key Stage 3: A case study of the powers of teacher voice in the knowledge debate

Written by: Stewart Pinnock
6 min read
Stewart Pinnock, Assistant Headteacher, The Broxbourne School, UK The term essential knowledge is derived from the National Curriculum for England and Wales and its requirement to teach students ‘essential knowledge they need to be educated citizens’ (DfE, 2014, p. 6). It is a term also used by Ofsted to describe its expectation that a school’s curriculum contains knowledge that students ‘need to succeed in life’ (2021, p. 34). The expectations on teachers arising from these stipulations are daunting because of their potential scope. This small-scale research project explored conceptions of essential knowledge at a time when the position of knowledge in the curriculum was – and continues to be – subjected to high-stakes inspection (Ofsted, 2021). According to Ofsted, ‘The end result of a good, well-taught curriculum is that pupils know more.’ (Ofsted, 2019, p. 3) This unambiguous statement has consequences for schools, since they must consider carefully the place

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