Revealed: Ofsted’s favourite subjects for a deep dive

FOI request reveals major variations between the subjects Ofsted chose to prioritise during new curriculum-focused inspections

John Roberts

Ofsted visits from January 2021: all you need to know

A breakdown of Ofsted’s curriculum-focused inspections has shown major variations in how often different subjects are chosen for “deep dives”.

Data from more than 2,000 school inspections, since September last year, shows that primary school inspectors were more than twice as likely to look at history as geography.

And at secondary school, 90 per cent of inspections involved deep dives into English compared with 78 per cent in maths and 68 per cent in science.

The figures also reveal that in both primary and secondary inspections, neither arts or music feature prominently in the deep dives.

Deep dives: How will Ofsted inspect the curriculum

Ofsted: A first look at watchdog's curriculum focused inspections

Inspection: Watchdog introducing quality of education grade

In primary school inspections, art was the subject of a deep dive in 13 per cent of inspections and music was looked at in seven per cent.

At secondary level, 23 per cent of inspections looked at art and eight per cent looked at music.

The data has been obtained through a freedom of information request and published on LinkedIn by former Ofsted divisional manager Adrian Gray.

The deep dive is a key element of Ofsted’s school inspections under its current framework, which was launched in September last year.

It is part of the inspectorate’s assessment of a school’s curriculum, which feeds into the quality of education grade.

Ofsted has said previously that inspectors will always carry out a deep dive in reading and in one or more foundation subjects at primary school, and that they will often carry out a deep dive in maths.  

At secondary level, Ofsted carries out deep dives into between four and six subjects. 

A breakdown of the inspections shows reading and maths were the most common subjects for a deep dive in primary followed by science, history and geography.

At secondary level, English was the most commonly looked at subject followed by maths, science, history and languages.

Breakdown of Ofsted’s deep dives by subject

A freedom of information act has revealed which subjects Ofsted has done the most deep dives in

A freedom of information act has revealed which subjects Ofsted has done the most deep dives in

In his LinkedIn post, Mr Gray said: “The data shows that Ofsted is not really challenging across the whole curriculum with any consistency.

“Despite PE being a compulsory subject for all pupils up to 16, it only featured in 15 per cent of secondary schools.

“Where are the arts? Music featured in eight per cent of secondary and seven per cent of primary inspections.”

He also said it was unclear why history was being looked at twice as often as geography at primary school level.

And he added: “In primaries, some subjects are almost ignored. Technology, languages or RE were each looked at in barely three per cent of inspections; art and music get only a little more interest.”

Ofsted’s routine school inspections have been on hold since March because of the coronavirus crisis but are currently scheduled to return in January next year, although this date is being kept under review.

Education secretary Gavin Williamson told the Schools and Academies Show last week that an announcement on Ofsted’s return would be made within weeks.





Register to continue reading for free

It only takes a moment and you'll get access to more news, plus courses, jobs and teaching resources tailored to you

John Roberts

John Roberts

John Roberts is North of England reporter for Tes

Find me on Twitter @JohnGRoberts

Latest stories

Teaching remotely

11 annoying moments from remote learning

The move to teaching remotely hasn’t been easy for school staff, but at least it has been memorable. Here are some of your tricky moments from the front line of lockdown learning this week
Joshua Lowe 16 Jan 2021

Coronavirus and schools: LIVE 15/1

A one-stop shop for teachers who want to know what impact the ongoing pandemic will have on their working lives
Tes Reporter 15 Jan 2021