By Sue Drury
Last updated 09 October 2020
Good writing needs a good plan. No doubt, you have drummed that into your pupils throughout your teaching. The question is, do you practise what you preach?
If you haven’t enjoyed one already, the chances are you could be welcoming Ofsted for an inspection before too long. Would you be ready?
While we could never tell you exactly what to expect, nor how to prepare, there are plenty of things you could do to give yourself the best chance of feeling that you have done yourself and your school justice.
The key thing is to have an idea of what’s coming and, of course, a plan.
Ofsted inspection – setting the scene
The chances are that Ofsted have changed their approach since they last visited your school. Hopefully, 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. Assuming you haven’t experienced one before, we thought you might value some tips on how to brace yourselves for their arrival.
What is an Ofsted deep dive?
If you’re prepared to search, you will find all sorts of rationales and reassurances about deep dives. 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.
A deep dive into reading is mandatory because of its pivotal role in all other aspects of learning. Maths is likely to be another key focus. Beyond that, they could take a close look at any other subject from history to DT. So, what if one of those subjects is writing?
Ofsted deep dive questions
Whatever the subject, the deep dive is searching for evidence that your teaching is guided by their sacred trinity: Intent, Implementation and Impact. Intent deals primarily with the ambition and organisation of the curriculum. Implementation is essentially about the actual teaching, learning and assessment. Impact is largely about results, although the official line does stress that the inspectors will be just as interested in seeing first-hand how pupils are making progress by talking to them, looking at their books and so on.
Lesson visits and work scrutiny
In some ways, the inspection won’t be much different from previous ones. For example, there will still be lesson observations and book scrutiny. However, they will also want to know that you have a clear idea about how each lesson fits into the grand scheme of your curriculum. This is where an intimate knowledge of your school’s curriculum map will be essential.
Pupil progression in primary school – curriculum intent
This theme of learning being a journey needs to be reflected in any lessons they observe too, so don’t be tempted to pull out an ‘Ofsted lesson’ in an attempt to impress them. It should be clear to them that each session is part of a logical sequence, that it builds on previous learning and you know where you’ll be taking them next. Needless to say, make sure that books demonstrate the skills you have taught and that your marking is up to date and helps to support progress. You won’t be able to fake this with an all-nighter when you’re told they’re coming so it’s best to keep on top of this, including indications of next steps and, ideally, examples of pupils responding to your feedback.
Ofsted’s deep dive – details matter
Even though the new Ofsted Framework clearly states that they will not be interested in seeing a school’s internal assessment data, that doesn’t mean you won’t need to keep clear records of pupil progress. Our pupil tracking sheets for KS1 and KS2 can help you there and are flexible enough to cover all abilities and starting points. We also provide targeted writing assessment resources to help you get an accurate picture of your pupils’ progress, such as our Y2 writing assessment pack, specially designed to be rated against the Y2 TAF.
Preparing for the subject deep dive
Knowing how important it will be for inspectors to see work in the context of the whole curriculum, you will need to be confident that the evidence is there. Once again, this is not something that can be generated at short notice so you need to make sure your whole curriculum is carefully mapped out and every lesson is an integral part of that jigsaw. It’s the opposite of ‘dancing like no one’s watching’ – plan as if Ofsted is always watching.
At this point, you might want to draw on our model text units for years 3 to 6 that will produce authentic evidence for clearly defined objectives across a range of text types, typically in a cross-curricular way. Or there are our Write Now resource packs that encourage writing for pleasure and greater depth by drawing on the inspiration of teacher and published author Hayley Scott.
The Ofsted inspector
For teachers and subject leaders, it might well be the conversations with inspectors that are the most intense parts of the whole process. Regardless of how the inspectors might try to sugar-coat this process, being put on the spot in this way would probably unsettle the best of us.
All you can do is get some feel for what you might be about to face, so take the time to look at some of the deep dive 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. But if you have prepared thoroughly and, crucially, long before the inspectors arrive, you should emerge victorious.
What to take away from your Ofsted deep dive
Remember, whether you’re a class teacher, subject lead, middle leader or headteacher, you’re a professional that wants to do the best for your pupils so plan now to make sure that your professionalism, dedication and skill is crystal clear during any deep dive. That should be your new resolution. And your key to a happy ending.