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Preparing for Ofsted in your Department

Preparing for Ofsted

If you are part of middle leadership, then you will most likely have had your fair share of Ofsted inspections. But, if you are new to the role, then it is important to note, that most likely, Ofsted inspectors will organise a meeting with you while they are in school. 

Although this may at first seem rather daunting, there is a broad range of things you can do to prepare yourself effectively before any questions are asked. What’s more, you should treat this as an opportunity to showcase the amazing things that you and your department have achieved, and therefore the impact you have made as a leader. 

With the new Ofsted Inspection Framework underway, it is crucial that you consider the 3 I’s – Intent, Implementation and Impact. Especially, if your subject is chosen for a deep dive. Remember to provide evidence examples of how and where the improvements are being made, too. This is vital if you are going to communicate how teaching and learning and their impact on progress have improved, for example. Here, you would need evidence that substantiates your claims and clearly enables the inspector to visualise the growth journey you and your team have been on. 

What do the 3 I’s look like?

Although the 3 I’s are the basis of three independent areas of curriculum development, it is important to note that Ofsted inspectors will not assess them as separate entities. When performing a deep dive on your department area, they will triangulate in one measurement. So, with this in mind, it is important to remember that the embedding of successful curriculum content requires all three to work symbiotically. Let’s take a look at each of the 3 I’s and what they actually look like departmentally. 


Ofsted state that curriculum intent is essentially the framework for setting out the aims of a programme of education. This, therefore, includes the knowledge and skills that children will acquire at each stage of the curriculum. Working backwards from the desired outcome is effective when planning learning content, as you can then create clear targets and aims for all children while constructing a pathway that enables them to get there. 

Ofsted will look at:

  • How well curriculum coverage meets the national requirements. 
  • How aware your colleagues and team are of the expectations outlined by the curriculum. 
  • The effectiveness of planning for future development beyond the curriculum. 
  • Whether the appropriate resources are in place to enable your practitioners to deliver a rich and challenging curriculum that enables students of all abilities to progress. 


When assessing the implementation of the curriculum, Ofsted inspectors will be interested in how your plans for success have been rolled out to the wider team and what this looks like within the realms of the classroom. In other words, they will want to explore the teaching activities that have been chosen and how these are delivered. 

Ofsted will look at: 

  • The standard of teaching and learning within the subject, and will assess that levels of teaching are strong and create opportunities for students to acquire key knowledge outlined as part of the curriculum and how this builds upon their prior learning. This will be done through a range of teaching and learning observations. 
  • How you have led the professional development of your practitioners, and how you provide them with guidance and support to deliver curriculum content. 
  • How assessment for learning is overseen. 
  • How you champion the subject area you are leading with both your teaching practitioners and pupils within your care. 


Finally, Ofsted inspectors will want to see the fruits of your hard work and will assess whether your learners have developed the key knowledge and skills intended through the implementation of the curriculum. 

Ofsted will look at:

  • How do you monitor the effectiveness of teaching within your department; how does this translate into progress and impact on learning, and how does this contribute to high standards. 
  • How do you and your team evaluate and summarise all aspects of the subject to map out future steps for continuous improvement?

What are they going to ask me?

The Ofsted deep dive on a subject area translates to an in-depth examination of your subject through the aforementioned 3 I’s. Many middle leaders will now have experienced this approach to inspection by now, but if you are new to the role, then you should know that this will involve a range of lesson observations within your subject area, book looks, and discussions with you, the subject lead. With this in mind, there is a range of questions that you could be asked about your department, and it is important that we prepare effectively to respond accurately and with evidence.

Schemes of Work

As mentioned previously, Ofsted inspectors will be interested to triangulate the intent, implementation and impact of the curriculum and the schemes of work you have created in response to it. 


  • How bespoke is your scheme of learning?
  • How does it link to the national curriculum standards? 
  • How have you communicated the pathway to the point you are at now to your practitioners?
  • Do you have a scheme that all teachers follow for consistency?
  • How does your curriculum coverage impact the wider curriculum?
  • What are the strengths of your subject area?
  • Are there any areas of development that you are currently working on?

Intervention Strategies

As you will already know, no two students learn in the same way, and when it comes to progress, they will want to know what interventions have been put in place to make sure that everyone is able to achieve. 


  • What departmental interventions do you currently have in place?
  • How do you carter for gaps in the learning when delivering schemes of work?
  • What do you and your teachers do to support children who are struggling with the content?
  • What are you doing to close the PP and Non-PP gap?
  • How are SEND pupils supported in your subject?
  • How do you assess the impact of your interventions?

Impact Progression

Progress is no doubt a key focus of Ofsted Inspections, and you can expect lots of questions and discussions about how students are making progress and how this progression aligns itself with the national curriculum standards. 


Questions to ask yourself before the Ofsted Inspection takes place

Although you will undoubtedly be asked a broad range of questions as part of your subject deep dive, it is always important that we are self-reflective, too. Don’t forget to emphasise the amazing achievements that you and your team have made, and celebrate the journey you have been on together. 

Here is a list of questions that you should ask yourself to prepare even more effectively:

  • Why are your schemes of work effective?
  • How does your curriculum planning align itself with the curriculum outlines? 
  • How do you know your schemes are working?
  • What are the strengths of your department?
  • How could I improve the schemes even further to address development areas?
  • How is attainment measured within my subject area? 
  • Is this an effective way of measuring progress?

So, whether you have had ‘the call’ or are looking to get prepared ahead of time, make sure that you are organised and prepared to showcase the amazing things that you and your team are doing on a daily basis. 

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The author

Daniel Robertson is a Digital Journey Lead for Spurgeons Children's Charity. Prior to this role, he has worked as a Teacher of English in a wide variety of school settings.

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