Everyone knows the music, even if they haven’t seen the film. It starts with a low, ominous der-der. That sound alone is enough to get the heart racing. By the time the der-ders have been corralled into a persistent, regular rhythm, you are completely gripped with terror. Ah, the genius of John Williams’ iconic theme from Jaws.
Talking of terrifying deep dives, are you expecting Ofsted any time soon? No doubt you are aware of the Education Inspection Framework, published in May 2019. As part of this new approach, inspections will include ‘deep dives’ into certain subjects.
While we are not here to prepare school leaders for these, we did think lesser mortals might value some insight into what might be involved, together with some tips on how to brace themselves for the inevitable inquisition into reading.
What is an Ofsted deep dive?
If you’re prepared to search, you will find all sorts of rationales and reassurances. At the very least, you should look at the new framework document. Stated simply, however, the basic aim of a deep dive is for inspectors to take a detailed look at certain subjects and knit those findings together to arrive at an overall assessment of the quality of teaching in your school.
No escape from the Ofsted inspector
As a class teacher, or even a subject lead, the decision on which subjects will be chosen for closer inspection at your school will probably be beyond your pay-grade. At primary level, however, one thing is certain: reading will be one of them. It is a mandatory part of the inspection because of its pivotal role in all other aspects of learning. Which is fair enough.
A deep dive Ofsted inspection is inevitable
Knowing that it is unavoidable does give you an advantage – it gives you plenty of time to make sure you have everything in place and have answers ready for the dreaded deep dive questions that are bound to come your way.
Ofsted’s deep dive is a three-pronged attack
Whatever the subject, the deep dive focuses on the three ‘I’s: Intent, Implementation and Impact. Intent deals primarily with the ambition and organisation of the curriculum. As it sounds, it looks at your curriculum intent. Implementation is essentially about the actual teaching, learning and assessment. Impact is largely about results but, for reading, also considers how well pupils have been inspired to use it both for pleasure and for meeting their life goals.
What do Ofsted inspectors want to see?
If you’re wondering what to expect, in many ways it won’t be much different from previous inspections. There will be lesson visits/observations and book/work scrutiny. They will want to take a good look at how you teach phonics.
Staff and pupils will be asked questions and there’s a good chance that they will want to hear pupils reading in a lesson observation. What you might notice, however, is a sharper focus on what children are reading, how teachers know that their reading is progressing and the way in which your school nurtures a love of reading, right down to your reasons for choosing which books to read to your class. So, you might want to think about that.
Ofsted deep dive questions for reading
For teachers and subject leaders, it might well be the conversations with inspectors that are the most feared aspect of the whole process. You get the sense that the deep dive questions are beginning to acquire a reputation similar to the bogeyman, vampires or even sharks, but that need not be the case.
Forewarned is forearmed, as they say, so take the time to look at some of the questions that have been asked so far since the Ofsted Framework was updated. There are plenty of examples of these questions already circulating on the internet.
When it comes to reading, the dominant themes appear to centre on being able to say exactly how you monitor progress, help the struggling and ensure that all pupils have suitable books. You will need an in-depth knowledge of your phonics programme and how you implement it in your school.
There is also a strong focus on sharing stories both in school and at home, so you need to be able to say not just what you are reading to your class but why you chose that book.
Reading deep dive – a rich and varied reading diet
There is certainly a focus on ensuring that pupils are receiving a rich and varied diet of reading matter in your school’s curriculum. Naturally, you will have included classic literature and poetry in that but, if you think your class might need a quick top-up, why not use our classic text reading comprehension packs? That way, you can quickly give them a nourishing morsel of Dracula, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland or The Hound of the Baskervilles.
Pupil progression in primary school reading
Remember, although this is not a test for the children, you might want to make sure they’re on top form in case they get asked a question. Our KS1 revision blasters, for instance, could provide a low-pressure way of preparing them for that.
You might even want to enhance the look of your classroom with eye-catching visual supports, as long as they are there for their learning value. For example, you can pander to Ofsted’s stated aim to ‘develop pupils’ vocabulary, language comprehension and love of reading,’ by using our KS2 reading posters for unfamiliar words which illustrate how to use context clues to infer meaning.
We hope we have given you some ideas for how to prepare for your deep dive but, above all, don’t worry. Assuming you know what you’re doing and why you’re doing it, you might even enjoy letting those illustrious visitors see how your love of reading is enhancing your teaching practice and benefitting your pupils. That way, you should probably emerge unscarred from your experience.