In our previous article, we took a look at what Ofsted’s inspections under the new Inspection Framework will look like from September 2019.

In this article, we will look at our summary of Ofsted’s research about the “Deep Dives” to see what Ofsted may be looking for.

It should be noted that:

  • The Deep Dives are principally to gather evidence in relation to “quality of education”, and the lesson visits can also gather evidence in relation to “behaviour and attitudes”.
  • These lists should not be used as a “box-ticking” exercise. For example, Ofsted does not want to see “Ofsted lessons”.
  • This is not a definitive list – Ofsted describes it as “illustrative – but does show what Ofsted will be looking for…

Lesson Visits/Observations

For its research, Ofsted created a set of 18 indicators, which were grouped into three main themes:

  • Curriculum,
  • Teaching, and
  • Behaviour.

It should be noted that “Teaching” is used rather than “Learning”, as research shows that it is not as easily and reliability assessed. Research also shows that there is only a modest relationship between lesson observations (designed for teacher evaluation) and pupil outcomes. The intent, instead of focusing on an individual teacher or classroom, is to provide indicators of practice at subject level.

Whilst the lesson visits will typically be between 15 and 30 minutes each, there is no set figure. However, visits that lasted longer than 20 minutes generally produced more reliable assessments. Additionally, there was no requirement that lesson visits need to coincide with the start of the lesson.

However, there is considerable flexibility:

  • One HMI said it was useful to being able to extend observation time to better observe activities.
  • Others said that sometimes 15 minutes was sufficient time, especially when the lesson was not going so well. This shorter time period allowed them to move on to the next observation quickly, so as not to place unnecessary burden on staff and pupils.

There were 18 indicators that were used in the pilots. 2 of these indicators were not easily able to be assessed, and of the remainder, Ofsted is prioritising on the following 8 indicators in additional pilot visits:


    • Teachers use their subject expertise to provide effective learning opportunities.
    • The lesson content is appropriate to the age group and does not lower expectations.
    • There is a logical sequence to the lesson.


    • Teachers demonstrate good communication skills.
    • Teachers possess good questioning skills.
    • Teachers give explicit, detailed and constructive feedback in class.


    • Teachers create supportive classrooms focused on learning.
    • Pupils’ behaviour contributes to the focus on learning.

The above was categorised into the following 6 categories

1 – This aspect is absent in practice

2 – Major weaknesses evident (leaders have not identified or started to remedy weaknesses).

3 – This aspect is sufficient but there are some weaknesses overall in a number of examples (identified by leaders but not yet remedying)

4 – This aspect is embedded with minor points for development (leaders taking action to remedy minor shortfalls).

5 – This aspect is embedded in practice (many examples of exceptional teaching).

N/A – Unable to score this indicator as not observed in the time provided.

A 1 (worst) to 5 (best) point range is used to differentiate it from the 1 (Outstanding) to 4 (Inadequate) overall effective assessment range. There are discussions as to whether it should be reduced to a 1 to 3 point range, so this may not be finalised.

However, use of these point ranges can lead to unintended consequences, such as standardisation and potential gaming, and therefore the judgement of inspectors must be central to inspection.

Book scrutinies

Just like lesson visits, Book scrutinies were assessed on a 1-5 point scale, with each band having an indicator (its own separate description). Sadly, these indicators have not been released, but it is presumably in line with the above 1-5 point scale.

Again, there has been discussion as to whether this should be reduced to a 1-3 scale, which seems to show improved reliability for “depth and breath of coverage” but reduced reliability for “practice”.

The indicators that were used are:

  • Building on previous learning,
  • Depth and breath of coverage,
  • Pupils’ progress, and
  • Practice.

A typical description for each of these indicators are:

Building on previous learning

    • Pupils’ knowledge is consistently, coherently and logically sequenced so that it can develop incrementally over time.
    • There is a progression from the simpler and/or more concrete concepts to the more complex and/or abstract ones.
    • Pupils’ work shows that they have developed their knowledge and skills over time.

Depth and breath of coverage

    • The content of the tasks and pupils’ work show that pupils learn a suitably broad range of topics within a subject.
    • Tasks also allow pupils to deepen their knowledge of the subject by requiring thought on their part, understanding of subject-specific concepts and making connections to prior knowledge.

Pupils’ progress

    • Pupils make strong progress from their starting points.
    • They acquire knowledge and understanding appropriate to their starting points.


    • Pupils are regularly given opportunities to revisit and practice what they know to deepen and solidify their understanding in a discipline.
    • They can recall information effectively, which shows that learning is durable.
    • Any misconceptions are addressed and there is evidence to show that pupils have overcome these in future work.


The results of the Ofsted pilot were:

  • Ofsted found the overall approach used by Inspectors helped produce standardised results.
  • Focused scrutiny across a single subject/department/year group helped in securing greater reliability.
  • Book securities need to be carried out in the context of conversations with subject leaders or teachers on the tasks and how they contribute to learning progression, and alongside lesson observation.
  • For inspections done near the beginning of the Autumn term, workbooks from the previous year would need to be available as well to make valid and reliable judgements.
  • Schools that use alternative methodologies in teaching and learning (e.g. Montessori schools) may not necessarily be captured in workbooks.

Question for you: Are your workbooks from the previous year available if you have an inspection near the beginning of the Autumn term?

Second question: Would it help Inspectors to make valid and reliable judgements?

Behaviour and attitudes

Amanda Spielman, the Ofsted Chief Inspector since January 2017, said this about the “Behaviour and attitudes” judgement, which can be monitored as part of the “Deep Dives”, when talking at the National Day Nurseries Association.

Let’s be clear. You aren’t going to get a lower inspection judgement if a usually angelic little Dylan hits Simone because he wants her toy. Unwanted behaviour is going to happen, and all children behave unpredictably from time to time.

But helping children learn how to regulate their own behaviour is a fundamental job of the early years. …

So our inspectors aren’t going to penalise you for unwanted behaviour. Not every child has to be ‘good’, in inverted commas. What we want to see is how you deal with this behaviour when it happens, and model better behaviour in future. How are you helping children manage their feelings? Do you make sure they recognise the impact of what they do on others?

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Sources for this article

The sources for this article have been taken from Ofsted’s documents under the Open Government Licence. It contains public sector information licensed under the Open Government Licence v3.0.

The sources include:


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