9 January 2020

Newsletter: Spring Term 2020


Having carried out the ISEB Curriculum Review, in which many of you participated, new specifications for 13+ CE are currently being developed. The new specifications will follow the following aims.

Pupils who have pursued a course of study based on CE specifications and assessments will:

  • be equipped not only for the next stage of their education but for life-long learning based on a secure foundation of subject knowledge, concepts and skills and the ability to apply what they know to new situations;
  • be enthusiastic learners who are open to new ideas and experiences, curious, questioning and keen to experiment;
  • enjoy reading and be able to communicate clearly orally and in writing;
  • have the confidence to think, weigh up evidence and make up their own minds, and the resilience to learn from their mistakes;
  • have the skills to work independently and collaboratively;
  • understand how subjects connect with each other;
  • demonstrate cultural and environmental awareness and empathy, developing an understanding of their own place in the world.

Work on individual subject specifications is well under way. The extent to which each subject will contribute to each of these aims will vary, but all will be influenced by the spirit of ‘less is more’, thus ensuring that knowledge is not prized of itself, but for how it can help pupils progress, develop their understanding and apply what they learn to new situations.

Over the coming weeks, draft specifications will be put out for consultation. Building on the successful review last year, we expect this to include teachers from prep schools which will be using the specifications, and from senior schools which will have views about appropriate preparation for study in Year 9. We also hope to hear from other interested parties and will welcome views from anyone engaged in teaching Years 7 and 8, including overseas and outside the patron associations (GSA, HMC and IAPS).

Alongside and after the consultation, the priority will be to develop with Galore Park and Hodder Education, our partner publishers, the provision of textbooks and on-line materials to support the new specifications. This offers an exciting opportunity for those who would be interested to be involved in the authoring and development of new resources across the subject range. If you are interested in writing or reviewing teaching and learning resources (print and digital) for Galore Park or Hodder Education, please click here. We would be very pleased to hear from you.

The next stage will be the publication of specimen papers, ensuring that there is ample preparation time for the first teaching to Year 7 from September 2021, in readiness for first examination in 2022-2023 (first summer examination 2023).


We look forward to welcoming Heads, Deputy Heads and those involved in curriculum leadership at Key Stage 3 to the ISEB Conference 2020. To register, please click here.

The conference, which will take place at Charterhouse on 28th April 2020, will provide an opportunity to hear about the development of the new 13+ CE specifications as well as to debate issues relating to the prep school curriculum.

Our keynote speakers will include Dame Alison Peacock, the CEO of the Chartered College of Teaching and originator of the Learning Without Limits approach, and Christine Counsell, who sits on Ofsted’s curriculum advisory panel and was the Director of Education at the Innovation Trust. There will also be sessions on the ISEB Project Qualification, which is now in its pilot year, and GL Assessment’s Pupil Attitudes to Self and School (PASS) assessment.


In this area, we are pleased to have been able to move much more rapidly. We are excited to be piloting the ISEB Project Qualification during the current academic year, with a view to introducing it more widely from September 2020.

The ISEB Project Qualification takes its inspiration from the Extended Project Qualification (EPQ) which is taken in many senior schools in Year 12. Those who have introduced the EPQ in their schools have been impressed by the way in which their pupils’ interest and enthusiasm is sparked, and the intellectual development and confidence that ensues.

The aim of the new ISEB Project Qualification is to give younger pupils, particularly those in Years 7 and 8, the opportunity to develop the same important skills of independent enquiry and research, within a framework which has been structured and tailored specifically for their age group. Initial reactions from prep schools have been very encouraging, showing that many are keen to adopt this approach in their own schools and that they value the skills their pupils will develop as a result.

The model of learning is based on research evidence that indicates that independent learning works most effectively through a process of guided discovery, in which pupils are taught the skills they need in order to engage in independent learning, are provided with scaffolding to help structure their work and, during the process of the research project, are given guidance from a mentor whose questions and comments help to facilitate the process.

Indeed, it is important to understand that the greatest value of the ISEB Project Qualification lies not in the final presentation, but in the process which pupils undertake as they complete their research projects. They will ask and frame a question, review sources, reflect upon their findings and learn to draw and express balanced conclusions.

Projects may be subject related, focussed on the creative and performing arts or sport, or arise from PSHE topics or other interests: schools will be able to use the ISEB Project Qualification as suits their needs. We see this as part of the preparation for lifelong learning which is an important part of prep school provision and something which will give pupils valuable skills to support them in their future studies.

With best wishes for the coming term,
Kate Allen