Crispin Weston

UK Country Manager, oXya UK

Speaking at


Our chaotic and incoherent curriculum theory

The Chief Inspector of Schools has announced that schools will be more closely inspected on their curricula, while lamenting the fact that teachers are so poorly informed about curriculum theory. Yet her own grasp of curriculum theory is fundamentally flawed. Her commentaries presume a false dichotomy between knowledge and skill and between curriculum and assessment. She uses curriculum at one moment to refer to what we teach and at another to how we teach it. Her assumption that “the content and structure of knowledge…is something for school leaders to decide on” [2018 commentary] is absurd.

This chaotic and incoherent understanding of curriculum is not confined to the Chief Inspector. It is common among those today who style themselves curriculum experts. Tim Oates, who chaired the 2011 Expert Panel on the Curriculum Review, has made much of the recent work of Professor William Schmidt’s theory of “curriculum coherence”. Yet his definition of this term and of “curriculum” itself both differ markedly from Professor Schmidt, on whose authority the recent Curriculum Review was substantially based.

Crispin will review different theories of curriculum and will propose a way through the morass of conflations and contradictions that are making a nonsense of our current discourse.


Crispin taught History, Philosophy and Computer Studies from 1990, developed educational software and was involved in a series of initiatives by BESA, the DfE and Becta to support better data interoperability in education. In 2007, he mounted a legal challenge to Becta’s learning services procurement and founded an edtech suppliers’ group, subsequently working for Becta as a data standards consultant. He chaired the British Standards Institute’s committee for data standards in learning, education and training, representing UK interests at ISO/IEC and Europe’s CEN. He now blogs at and manages oXya UK, a Hitachi commercial cloud services company.

Twitter: @crispinweston


Inventing the horseless carriage: why edtech hasn’t worked but is still our only hope

The performance of our education system is inconsistent, mediocre by international comparison, and fails to meet the expectations of many parents and employers. Teachers work in isolated and poorly supported environments, often subject to excessive workload and with little useful theory to underpin their practice. Popular theories of education, which emphasize teachers’ tacit knowledge and intuition and the infinite variability of educational requirements, only exacerbate their problems. Instead of telling teachers how to cope within a dysfunctional system, Crispin will argue that we should redesign the system. Our traditional “craft of the classroom” does not supply the expertise that is required for this task. We need to understand the role of data in education, how we can better express our educational objectives, how we can design educational processes that can be applied consistently at scale, and how we can build the technology to provide practical support to frontline teachers. Crispin will argue that the role of technology in education has been widely misunderstood and will explain what the government should do to initiate a process of useful technological innovation.

The digital transformation of education: opportunities, benefits and barriers

The difficulties facing the “Cinderella service” illustrate a more general dysfunction in the education services of most developed countries. Not only are we unable to deliver educational services consistently, but there is little consensus over what our objectives should be or how our effectiveness should be measured. Previous investments in ICT have had little or no positive impact. Crispin will analyse what went wrong, what we need to do differently, and why the intelligent application of digital technology remains the only plausible answer to the fundamental problem that we face in education today.