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How will Ofsted inspect the curriculum?

Inspectors will carry out 'deep dives' into subject teaching, planning and sequencing to assess the quality of a school's education

Ofsted will carry out deep dives into subject teaching to assess curriculum

Ofsted will carry out a series of “deep dives” into the way separate subjects are being taught in order to assess a school’s curriculum, under its new inspection regime.

Evidence will be gathered through lesson visits, work scrutiny, discussions with teachers, pupils and an evaluation of senior leaders’ intent for their school’s curriculum and their understanding of how it is being implemented.

Ofsted has said this will allow inspectors to get a “valid judgement on the quality of curriculum a school provides".


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However, the NAHT headteachers’ union has warned that Ofsted plans could prove to be unworkable. 

Its deputy general secretary Nick Brook said the plans had been developed in "isolation of reality on the ground" for inspectors.

In primary schools, Ofsted has said it will always carry out a deep dive of reading and one or more foundation subjects. 

The new inspection framework, published today, says that it will also often carry out deep dives in maths.

At secondary school, it will look at a sample of four to six subjects.

As part of its deep dive, Ofsted will also carry out an “evaluation of curriculum leaders' long- and medium-term thinking and planning including their rationale for content choices".

Under its new inspection framework, Ofsted is also extending the length of inspections at "good" schools to two days – apart from in schools with fewer than 150 pupils, where inspections will remain one day long.

Ofsted has put curriculum at the centre of its inspection plans with its plan to replace teaching and learning and pupil outcomes as separate inspection judgements with a new quality of education grade.

It will assess the intent, implementation and impact of a school’s curriculum alongside teaching and learning and pupils’ results to give each school a quality of education inspection grade. 

It is giving schools until the summer of 2020 to develop their thinking on curriculum and has indicated that this period could be extended.   

Under the new framework, schools will still receive an overall inspection grade and Ofsted is retaining its four inspection grades: "outstanding", "good", "requires improvement" and "inadequate".

Announcing the new framework, Ofsted’s chief inspector Amanda Spielman said: “The new quality of education judgement is rebalancing inspection to look more closely at what is taught and how it is taught. That is really getting to the substance of education with test and exam outcomes being looked at in the context rather than as a standalone thing in isolation.”

She added: “Our goal is really simple: to be a force for improvement through our inspections. We want to provide parents with the assurance they need, support teachers and leaders to excel – and help make sure all children and learners to get the education they deserve.”

Nick Brook has questioned whether Ofsted will be able to reliably assess the quality of education in a school.

He said: “The ambition in Ofsted’s plans is sound, but we are deeply concerned that it will prove to be unworkable in practice. Under these new arrangements, inspectors are being asked to do too much, with too little resource, and with too great a degree of subjectivity.

“It is right that Ofsted looks at the ‘quality of education’ on offer in schools – one would not expect them to look at anything else. But Ofsted has given its inspectors an impossible task to perform."

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