Ofsted, deep dives and the EIF

Ofsted's Education Inspection Framework and Voice's survey.

member meeting

By Martin Hodge, Professional Officer

Whenever Voice staff speak to members in England about their workload and pressures, sooner or later Ofsted will be mentioned – from the gathering of data, to preparing lesson plans and resources; from putting up vibrant displays, to ensuring every book is marked. 

The thing is – does any of this make a difference?  What is it that Ofsted is looking for?

In September 2019, Ofsted launched its new Education Inspection Framework (EIF).  This moved the focus of inspection away from school leaders, pupil targets and data and onto curriculum intention and pupil experiences, and it is fair to say that Voice was optimistic about this change in direction.

It is worth being familiar with the documentation Ofsted produces.  This is the best way to be sure about what Ofsted says it wants and is the best way to refute any myths or rumours you may encounter.

Ofsted has made it clear that it will continue to use progress data as a starting point, but will use observation, and professional discussion with staff, to determine whether pupils are getting a good quality education.  Therefore, leaders, teachers and support staff will need to explain why they do something – the reason for teaching a subject their way and explaining how that meets the needs of the pupils – and this will be different in every single setting.

Is the curriculum ambitious for the pupils, or is it more about the school’s position in the league tables? 

In order to fully investigate the curriculum, Ofsted carries out ‘deep dives’ with subject leaders so they can find out where the expectations and outcomes are achieved. 

Understandably, this is causing panic, especially in small schools where staff have taken on leadership of a subject but do not get any time, or recognition, to influence the curriculum. 

If this is the situation for you, it may be prudent to have a conversation with your leaders in advance so that you are aware of the decision-making structure within the curriculum.  And for there to be a curriculum map to show where each topic or learning experience fits within the curriculum.

If your school uses a bought-in scheme of work, do you know the reasons why?  And if you are the curriculum lead in name only, make sure you take your school leader into the deep dive to support you.

See also this Ofsted Blog and TES article.


It is about being prepared, but it is not about ‘mocksteds’.  Ofsted has been quite clear that it does not expect settings to grade lessons and does not expect schools to bring in external advisors to inspect. 

A school’s role is to provide a high-quality education for its pupils.  To do this, it may monitor the quality of the learning, discuss curriculum development and support improvement, but there is no need to employ external advisors, or to create a culture of fear, and all settings should be supporting staff and considering their workload and wellbeing.

Take part in our survey

Now that the Education Inspection Framework has been in use for a term, Voice would like to know about your experiences.

Please complete our short survey and join the conversation, email us at any time, or comment below.

Update (13 February 2020)

Ofsted: Curriculum transition extended for a year


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