Last reviewed on 9 March 2022
School types: All · School phases: All
Ref: 36144

Get to grips with the 2019 inspection framework. Find out how to assess your curriculum's 'intent, implementation and impact' with our prompts, and how inspectors will judge behaviour in your school.

Impact of COVID-19

Ofsted recognises that most schools will have been unable to implement the curriculum in the usual way.

As such, inspectors will look at how your school has adapted and prioritised the curriculum from September 2020, including:

  • How your school has implemented it remotely
  • How subject leaders and teachers have identified pupils’ learning gaps and new starting points, and
  • How they have responded to that in their curriculum planning

If you're directly deploying tutors to support catch-up, inspectors will consider how this supports your curriculum's aims. The use of tutors will be integrated into the evaluation of 'quality of education' and 'leadership and management', rather than being inspected separately. 

See paragraphs 13 to 15 of the School Inspection Handbook.

Transitional arrangements in place until September 2022

Some sections of the 'quality of education' criteria include transitional arrangements to account for schools not being able to adopt their curriculum fully. They were previously in place until March 2022, but Ofsted has since extended them.

In primary schools, these arrangements:

  • Don't apply to reading, writing and maths
  • Only apply to science and the foundation curriculum

See paragraphs 229 and 230 of the School Inspection Handbook.

A sharper focus on the curriculum with the 'quality of education' measure

The 'quality of education' measure:

  • Is a combination of the previous 'teaching, learning and assessment' rating and the 'pupil outcomes' grade
  • Puts a single conversation about education at the centre of inspection, drawing together curriculum, teaching, assessment and standards

By taking into account a school's broader curriculum offering, it aims to lessen the reliance on exam results as a measure of school quality.

The 4 inspection judgements

Ofsted 2019 inspection framework
Adapted from an Ofsted presentation


Read more about how Ofsted inspects your curriculum.

Intent, implementation and impact

Ofsted splits up the 'quality of education'  judgement into these 3 curriculum concepts:

  • Intent: your curriculum plan, including its design, structure and sequence
  • Implementation: how you teach and assess your intended curriculum
  • Impact: the outcomes for your pupils as a result of the education they've received

Inspectors won't judge them as 3 separate measures – they'll consider them all as part of your ‘quality of education’ judgement.

See our curriculum jargon buster for examples.

Intent: what are you trying to achieve with your curriculum?

Your curriculum intent is what you want your pupils to know and be able to do – both at different stages of their education (for instance, spring term of year 4), and by the time they leave your school.

Use these prompts when thinking about your curriculum's intent, for a flavour of what inspectors might ask.

  • What are the objectives for your curriculum? What do you want pupils to be able to know and do by the time they leave?
  • How does your curriculum plan set out the sequence and structure of how it's going to be implemented?
  • Why is it shaped the way it is? What values have guided your decisions about the curriculum you have in place? How does your curriculum reflect your school's context?
  • To what extent have you made these objectives clear? Does everybody know them?
  • How does your curriculum reflect national policy, for example, British values, or relationships and sex education (RSE)?
  • How does it cater for different pupil groups, such as pupils with special educational needs (SEN) or disadvantaged pupils? Make sure these pupils aren't 'shut out' of pursuing subjects they wish to study because of too sharp a focus on exam results

Actions to take

  • Look at who's in your school and shape your curriculum to the needs of your intake. For example, if you have lots of pupils with English as an additional language (EAL): how does the entire curriculum support their learning of English? If your pupils arrive with above average standards of attainment, how does the curriculum make sure they continue to attain high standards?
  • Involve your parents, pupils, staff and governors. What would they like to see in the curriculum?
  • Make sure you aren't just 'talking the talk' and that you're clear about how your curriculum plan is being implemented, and what impact it's having. Senior leaders and teachers alike should know the rationale behind your curriculum and how what they're doing relates to it
  • Give subject and/or middle leaders the time and support to develop schemes of work that match your curriculum intent, make the most of their expertise, and build good progression from pupils' starting points, whatever these may be. This will save time later and reduce the burden of planning on teachers
  • Primary schools: have your subject leaders carry out a curriculum intent audit
  • Secondary schools: have your subject leaders carry out a subject-specific curriculum intent audit for Englishmathssciencegeographyhistory and modern foreign languages (MFL)
  • See questions Ofsted might ask middle leaders, and headteachers and the SLT about the curriculum

Implementation: how is your curriculum delivered?

Your curriculum implementation includes teaching methods, classroom resources, sequencing and structure of lessons, and assessment.

Use these prompts to understand what inspectors might ask you.

  • What do your objectives look like in practice? 
    • How does the current curriculum match the intention?
    • What subjects are you teaching?
    • What's the content of those subjects?
    • How do those subjects join together? What cross-curricular links are there (in particular, in the development of literacy and numeracy across the curriculum)? How are you developing progression as pupils move through the school?
    • Is the curriculum for each subject designed, over time, to maximise the likelihood that children will remember and connect the steps they've been taught?
    • How is the curriculum being differentiated for different ability groups?
    • Are subjects staffed appropriately? Are staff trained? Are subjects adequately resourced in terms of time and other resources?

For teachers:

  • Why are they teaching this particular lesson/topic?
  • How are their teaching methods delivering on the objectives for this subject?
  • How does this lesson/topic fit into previous schemes of work?
  • How does this lesson/topic further pupils' learning?
  • How well do resources match the curriculum and schemes of work?
  • To what extent do teachers use homework to prepare for new topics and/or to consolidate classwork? How do they encourage broader reading, enquiry and thinking outside of contact time?

Actions to take

Remember, there's no magic formula for the perfect curriculum – you should always have sound justification for why you are or aren't doing something, and how this relates to your curriculum intent. Use the following as suggestions for how you might provide a broad and balanced curriculum.

Primary schools

✔ Prioritise phonics and the transition into early reading in Key Stage (KS) 1, and encourage older children to read widely and deeply

✔ Feed language, writing and maths skills throughout all subjects

✖ Don't focus too heavily on English and maths at KS2, to the detriment of the wider curriculum

✖ Don't spend a disproportionate amount of time on SATs preparation, such as mock tests and booster classes, when formal assessments return

You can also ask your subject leaders to carry out a curriculum implementation audit to spot any weaknesses.

Secondary schools 

✔ Invest time in making KS3 a strong foundation for KS4, to avoid interventions and catching up in year 11. Make sure schemes of work provide a solid foundation for the demands at GCSE

✔ If you've shortened KS3, make sure you have sound justification for doing so. Are pupils getting long enough to develop depth and breadth of learning before being narrowed into GCSE subjects? 

✔ Make sure pupils aren't unnecessarily restricted from taking whatever subjects they like and that there's a wide range of options available, particularly for disadvantaged groups and pupils with low attainment

✔ Dedicate substantial timetable slots beyond the 'core' subjects

✔ Think about how you can structure the timetable to allow for a wider range of subjects and extra-curricular opportunities. For example, Manchester Communication Academy have a simple, block timetabling system that makes sure their pupils experience a variety of subjects, without negatively impacting on school finances or pupil outcomes

✔ Pitch year 7 work at the correct level. Don't underestimate the quality of work being done in primaries. Contact local primaries, or your main feeder schools, to make sure you know what work they're doing and how you can build on this in year 7

✔ Encourage the take-up of core EBacc subjects at GCSE, such as the humanities and languages, alongside the arts and creative subjects

✖ Don't push pupils into less rigorous qualifications to boost league table positions

✖ Don't spend a disproportionate amount of time on test or exam preparation at the expense of teaching

All phases

✔ Offer a wide range of extra-curricular activities, visits, trips and visitors to complement and broaden the curriculum, but make sure these are purposeful and link with what is being taught in class. Ofsted representatives have said that what have been traditionally thought of as 'extra-curricular' activities are considered part of the curriculum

✔ Think about offering specialist focus weeks, or project days, where all pupils come off-timetable, to provide broader provision in non-core areas such as technology, science or the humanities

✔ Encourage reading for pleasure at all ages

Impact: what difference is your curriculum having on pupils?

Your curriculum impact is the extent to which pupils have learned what you intended them to learn, and how you know this.

Use these prompts when thinking about your curriculum's impact, so you can anticipate what inspectors might ask.

  • How well are children learning the content outlined in the curriculum? How do you know?
  • How well are pupils prepared for their next stage of education or working life? Where do they go?
  • What are the types of both formative and summative assessment used? What impact do they have on the curriculum? Do they dictate the curriculum?
  • How do you know your curriculum is having an effect across all pupils, including those who are disadvantaged or have low attainment? 

For teachers:

  • How well are key subject knowledge and skills consolidated before moving onto the next topic? How do teachers know? 
  • How do teachers know pupils remember what they've been taught?
  • How well developed are pupils' learning habits and learning skills? How do teachers know?
  • How do teachers use evidence of pupils' learning to feed into their planning and adaptation of the curriculum, both collectively and individually?

Actions to take

  • Think about 'outcomes' more broadly than exam results:
    • For secondary schools, this might mean progression and leavers' destinations
    • For primaries, this might mean instilling a love of reading, developing learning skills, or making sure they're well-prepared for secondary. The range of activities pupils do prepares them for the future, but won't necessarily show in results
  • Use a range of both qualitative and quantitative data to show how you know pupils are learning. Ofsted will look at performance data, but they'll also look at:
    • The quality of work in pupils' books, to see how pupils are progressing and the kinds of tasks they're doing
    • Outcomes of conversations with pupils and teachers 
    • How the wider curriculum framework is supporting teachers to deliver lessons
    • How you use data and how this informs your curriculum design, rather than looking at the data itself

How will you be accountable for your curriculum quality?

Inspectors will triangulate evidence about your curriculum from various sources, such as:

  • Answers to questions about your curriculum's intent, implementation and impact from senior leaders, curriculum leaders and teachers. There'll be a greater emphasis on conversations with curriculum leaders than previously
  • Work scrutiny
  • Lesson observations
  • Nationally-generated performance information about pupil progress and attainment, available from the inspection data summary report (IDSR)
  • Conversations with pupils to "gauge their understanding and participation in learning", as well as their "perceptions of the typical quality of education at their school in a range of subjects"
  • Listening to pupils read 

What you can do now about your curriculum 

  • Assess your curriculum using Ofsted's quality indicators as a guide (see the sub-section below). Use our guidance for how to review your curriculum
  • Show you're making curriculum development and design a priority. Survey your staff to see how confident they feel in these skills 
  • Have a plan: how is curriculum development work going to be shared out between different members of staff? How long will it take?
  • Use our prompts above to help you think about and discuss your curriculum's intent, implementation and impact. Make sure you involve all members of staff early so everyone is able to talk about your curriculum consistently by the time of an inspection
  • Read more about how to integrate your curriculum with your financial planning to maximise your resources

Assess your curriculum using Ofsted's curriculum quality indicators

As part of their curriculum research, Ofsted inspectors used 25 indicators to assess the quality of a school’s curriculum. This does not mean inspectors will use these indicators during inspections going forward, but you can use them as a starting point when thinking about your own curriculum and to identify room for improvement.

Go through each indicator and give it a grade according to the criteria described in the document.

'Behaviour and attitudes' has moved away from 'personal development'

The new framework separates the former 'personal development, behaviour and welfare' judgement into 2 separate judgements – 'personal development' and 'behaviour and attitudes'.

On the whole, the way Ofsted inspects behaviour and personal development hasn't changed. Separating into 2 judgements simply allows for an enhanced focus and clearer reporting on each individually.

It's important to know that Ofsted will clamp down on evidence of off-rolling, but inspectors will look at off-rolling as part of the 'leadership and management' judgement.

Behaviour and attitudes

Inspectors will look at how you create a safe, calm, orderly and positive environment in your school and the impact this has on the behaviour and attitudes of pupils.

This includes factors such as:

  • Setting clear routines and expectations for behaviour across all aspects of school life, not just the classroom
  • Having clear and effective behaviour and attendance policies in place
  • Pupils' attitudes to learning and how motivated they are
  • Having a positive and respectful school culture
  • Providing a safe environment for pupils where bullying, discrimination and peer-on-peer abuse, including sexual harassment, sexual abuse and sexual violence – online or offline – are not accepted and are dealt with quickly, consistently and effectively

Inspectors will also expect you to have effective behaviour policies in place regarding harmful sexual behaviour. Read more about harmful sexual behaviour in the section below.

See paragraphs 233, 234 and 236 in the School Inspection Handbook.

Inspectors will:

  • Observe pupils' behaviour around school
  • Speak to staff, on an individual basis, about behaviour at the school. This is likely to be a sample of staff that research suggests are most affected by challenging behaviour, such as trainees, TAs, supply staff, ECTs, administrative staff and catering staff
  • Speak to a range of pupils from different backgrounds about behaviour at the school, including those who've received sanctions
  • Gather views from parents 
  • Examine the school’s analysis of, and response to, pupils’ behaviour and misbehaviour (for example, through awards and exclusions) over time
  • Look at the experience of particular individuals and groups, such as pupils with SEND, and how your school is working with multi-agency groups to make sure pupils receive the support they need
  • Analyse absence and persistent absence rates for all pupils
  • Evaluate the prevalence of permanent exclusions and the effectiveness of suspensions (fixed-term exclusions) and internal exclusions 

See paragraphs 242 to 246 of the School Inspection Handbook.

Personal development

Inspectors will consider how your school supports pupils to develop in many diverse aspects of life.


  • Will primarily gain evidence for this through the curriculum
  • Won't attempt to measure the impact of your school’s work on the lives of individual pupils. This is because the impact of your provision for personal development often won't be assessable during pupils’ time at school

Inspectors will expect your school to:

  • Address sexual harassment, online abuse and sexual violence, alongside other related aspects like online risks, consent and what makes a healthy relationship, both online and offline, in your curriculum (read more about this in the section below)
  • Provide effective pastoral support

See paragraphs 249 to 252 of the School Inspection Handbook.

Actions to take

  • Download and adapt our model behaviour policy and see examples from other schools
  • Look for patterns in any data or information you collect around behaviour and exclusions – are any groups over-represented?
  • Think about how awareness of safeguarding issues feeds into the curriculum, for example, through teaching about topics such as internet safety, bias, sexting and critical thinking
  • Offer a wide range of extra-curricular opportunities that enhance pupils' cultural development, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds. For example, debating and the Duke of Edinburgh award

How you address harmful sexual behaviour

Inspectors will look at how you make sure your school’s culture addresses harmful sexual behaviour.

They won't inspect your approach to it separately. Instead, they'll consider it when assessing other areas, like your curriculum and pastoral support.

Read more about how Ofsted will assess your approach to harmful sexual behaviour.

Actions to take

Other changes: internal data ignored and longer section 8 inspections

Inspectors won't look at internal progress and attainment data

Inspectors will look at how you use assessment in your school, but won't look at your non-statutory, internal progress and attainment data. This is a way of addressing staff workload and the data-driven culture that has arisen as a result of Ofsted inspections.

Schools will be asked to explain why they have collected specific assessment data, what they have learnt from the data and how that is informing their curriculum and learning.

See paragraphs 223 and 225 of the School Inspection Handbook.

You shouldn't have more than 2 or 3 data collection points a year

If you formally collect assessment data more often than this, you should have a clear rationale for doing so. 

Inspectors will look for:

  • Whether leaders and staff understand the limitations of assessment
  • Whether staff are spending too much time on setting assessments, and on collating, analysing and interpreting data from assessments
  • Whether staff are acting on findings from data or collecting data for data's sake

See paragraphs 214, 216 and 217 of the School Inspection Handbook.

Longer section 8 inspections for 'good' and 'outstanding' schools

Ofsted has increased from 1 to 2 days the time a lead inspector is on-site during a section 8 inspection for 'good' and 'outstanding' mainstream schools. The exception is for the smallest schools (150 or fewer pupils on roll), who'll continue to have 1-day section 8 inspections.

See paragraphs 53 and 54 of the section 8 inspection handbook.

Actions to take