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Last updated on 24 September 2019
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The new 'quality of education' measure puts your curriculum in the spotlight. Find out how inspectors will judge your intent, implementation and impact, the evidence they'll rely on, and what makes an 'outstanding' quality of education.

The new 'quality of education' judgement combines aspects of the previous ‘teaching, learning and assessment’ and ‘outcomes’ judgements.

A reminder about 'intent, implementation and impact'

The new ‘quality of education’ judgement looks at your curriculum, which includes teaching, assessment and standards.

Ofsted's working definition of 'curriculum' centres around the concepts of 'intent', 'implementation' and 'impact'.

The curriculum is the substance of what's taught, with a specific plan of what pupils need to know, in total and in each subject.

  • Intent: the extent to which the school’s curriculum sets out the knowledge and skills that pupils will gain at each stage. The design, structure and sequence of your curriculum
  • Implementation: the way that the curriculum developed or adopted by the school is taught and assessed, in order to support pupils to build their knowledge and to apply that knowledge as skills
  • Impact: the outcomes that pupils achieve as a result of the education they've received. Pupils should be able to do more and know more than when they started

Intent, implementation and impact won't be judged separately.

A 3-stage inspection process

1. A top-level view

Who's involved? SLT and curriculum leaders

How will inspectors do this? Conversations, looking at curriculum documentation

Inspectors will discuss:

    • What’s on offer
    • Who it’s for
    • When it’s being delivered
    • The school's context
    • Leaders’ understanding of curriculum intent and sequencing
    • Why content and sequencing decisions were made

2. A ‘deep dive’ into specific areas, subjects or topics to gain first-hand evidence

Who's involved? SLT, curriculum leaders, teachers and pupils

How will inspectors do this? Conversations, work scrutinies, lesson observations, looking at curriculum documentation

The core of the ‘deep dive’ approach is: “Let’s see that in action together”. Inspectors will gather evidence on intent, implementation and impact over a sample of subjects, topics or aspects identified in the conversations you had in the top-level view. They'll carry out as many activities as possible jointly with school and curriculum leaders.

In primary schools, a 'deep dive' will look at:

  • 3 to 5 subjects (depending on the size of the school)
  • Always reading
  • Always one or more foundation subjects
  • Often maths

And in secondary schools:

  • 4 to 6 subjects (depending on the size of the school)
  • A wide variety of pupil groups
  • Different year groups

3. Identification of patterns and areas for further examination

Who's involved? SLT, curriculum leaders, teachers, governors and pupils

Inspectors will triangulate the evidence gathered in a 'deep dive' to test whether any issues they uncovered are systemic and which are isolated to a single aspect (for example, a particular teacher, subject, or year group). They'll quality assure the evidence they have, and identify areas for further investigation on day 2. Leaders can provide further evidence if they wish. 

Sources of evidence include work scrutinies and lesson observations

Inspectors will rely heavily on first-hand evidence. There won't be one type that's more important than another – inspectors will triangulate the evidence and the focus will be on the interconnection of all the pieces of evidence and what they tell inspectors about whether pupils are knowing more, remembering more and being able to do more. A 'deep dive' includes:

Conversations with...

... SLT

  • Evaluation of your intent for the curriculum in a subject or area being inspected, and your understanding of its implementation and impact
  • Discussions about teachers' content and pedagogical knowledge, and how you're supporting them

... curriculum leaders

  • Evaluation of your long- and medium- term thinking and planning, including your rationale for content choices and curriculum sequencing 
  • Discussions about the programmes of study that classes are following for particular subjects or topics, the intended end points, and your view on how pupils are progressing
  • Discussions about teachers' content and pedagogical knowledge, and how you're supporting them

... teachers

  • Discussions to understand how the curriculum informs your decisions about content and sequencing to support effective learning
  • Discussions about the programmes of study that classes are following for particular subjects or topics, the intended end points, and your view on how pupils are progressing
  • Discussions about how often you're expected to record, upload and review data

... pupils

  • Discussions with pupils from the lessons inspectors observe about what they've remembered about the content they've studied
  • In primary schools, listening to a range of pupils read

Read what questions inspectors might ask the headteacher and SLTmiddle leaders and teachers.

Work scrutinies

Inspectors will look at a minimum of 6 pieces of work per subject, per year group, and look at at least 2 year groups. They won't grade individual pieces of work or teachers.

The purpose of work scrutiny is to evaluate whether pupils' books support other evidence that what your school set out to teach (your intent) has indeed been covered. 

It won't be a randomly selected sample of work, but will be chosen in connection with other evidence and the focus of the 'deep dive'. Inspectors will look at books in context with other evidence (such as conversations with pupils), because simply having 'covered' part of the curriculum does not mean that pupils know more or remember more.

Inspectors will ask teachers and curriculum/subject leaders about:

  • The purpose of the piece of work
  • How it fits into a sequence of work over time, and how far leaders/teachers understand this
  • What pupils already knew and understood

Lesson observations

Inspectors will visit 4 to 6 lessons for each subject/topic/area, depending on the size of the school. It'll be a deliberately and explicitly connected sample of lessons, chosen in connection with other evidence and the focus of the 'deep dive'. They won't grade individual lessons or teachers.

The purpose of lesson observations is for inspectors to evaluate how well what's going on in lessons contributes to your curriculum's intentions.

Inspectors will ask teachers and curriculum/subject leaders about:

  • The purpose of the lesson
  • How it fits into a sequence of lessons over time, and how far leaders/teachers understand this
  • What pupils already knew and understood

Documentation and data specific to the curriculum

Inspectors will review:

  • Schemes of work or other long-term planning in whatever form you usually use these documents (e.g. curriculum maps, knowledge organisers), usually alongside discussion with curriculum leaders

In terms of the impact your curriculum is having, inspectors will look at:

  • Nationally generated performance information about pupils' progress and attainment (available in the inspection data summary report – IDSR)
  • Nationally published information about the destinations to which your pupils progress when leaving school
Exclamation mark

Remember, inspectors won't use your internal assessment data as evidence of progress or an effective curriculum. If you collect non-statutory data in your school, they'll want to know what conclusions you've drawn, how it informs your curriculum and teaching, and what actions you've taken as a result of it.


  • 'Intent', 'implementation' and 'impact' won't be judged separately
  • Ofsted doesn't specify how you should lay out curriculum or lesson planning, how long it should take or the detail it should go into
  • You don't need to provide individual lesson plans
  • There doesn't need to be a particular frequency or quantity of work in pupils' books
  • Ofsted won't grade individual lessons, teachers, or books
  • You'll be judged fairly for taking a radically different approach to the curriculum, as long as it's got appropriate coverage, content, structure and sequencing and you've implemented it effectively 

Grade descriptors – what's an 'outstanding' quality of education?

In a nutshell

Everyone knows your curriculum intent (what you're teaching pupils, as well as why you're teaching them that) and how it's being implemented, including their role in that.

The curriculum, schemes of work, lessons and work given to pupils are sequenced and planned effectively so that pupils know more, can do more, and remember more.

Teachers' pedagogical and subject content knowledge is good. Pupils' work and outcomes are good, including for specific groups.

All of this is consistent across all subjects and year groups.

  • Your curriculum intent and implementation are embedded securely and consistently across the school
  • Teachers have a firm and common understanding of the school’s curriculum intent and what it means for their practice
  • Lessons contribute well to delivering the curriculum intent
  • The work given to pupils, over time and across the school, consistently matches the aims of the curriculum, and is coherently planned and sequenced towards cumulatively sufficient knowledge and skills for future learning and employment
  • Pupils' work is consistently of a high quality
  • Pupils consistently achieve highly, particularly the most disadvantaged. Pupils with SEND achieve exceptionally well

Your school also meets the following criteria (for 'good') securely and consistently:


  • Leaders adopt or construct a curriculum that's ambitious and designed to give all pupils the knowledge and cultural capital they need to succeed in life*
  • Your curriculum is coherently planned and sequenced towards cumulatively sufficient knowledge and skills for future learning and employment*
  • Your curriculum is successfully adapted, designed or developed to be ambitious and meet the needs of pupils with SEND, developing their knowledge, skills and abilities to apply what they know and can do with increasing fluency and independence*
  • Your curriculum isn't narrowed and you teach a broad range of subjects at all stages (for example, in Key Stage 2 and 3)*
  • In secondary schools, you aim to have the EBacc at the heart of your curriculum and have made good progress towards this (doesn't include alternative provision or special schools)


  • Leaders provide effective support for those teaching outside their main areas of expertise
  • Leaders understand the limitations of assessment and don't use it in a way that creates unnecessary burdens on staff or pupils


  • Teachers have good knowledge of the subject(s) and courses they teach
  • Teachers present subject matter clearly, promoting appropriate discussion about the subject matter being taught
  • Teachers check pupils’ understanding systematically, identify misconceptions accurately and provide clear, direct feedback
  • Teachers respond and adapt their teaching as necessary without unnecessarily elaborate or individualised approaches
  • Teaching is designed to help pupils to remember long term the content they've been taught and to integrate new knowledge into larger ideas
  • Teachers and leaders use assessment well, for example to help pupils embed and use knowledge fluently, or to check understanding and inform teaching
  • Teaching materials reflect the school’s ambitious intentions for the course of study. Materials clearly support the intent of a coherently planned curriculum, sequenced towards cumulatively sufficient knowledge and skills for future learning and employment
  • Teachers make sure their own speaking, listening, writing and reading of English support pupils in developing their language and vocabulary well

Pupils' work

  • The work given to pupils is demanding and matches the aims of the curriculum in being coherently planned and sequenced towards cumulatively sufficient knowledge
  • Reading is prioritised. There's a rigorous and sequential approach to the reading curriculum to develop pupils’ fluency, confidence and enjoyment in reading
  • Reading attainment is assessed at all stages and gaps are addressed quickly and effectively for all pupils
  • Books connect closely to the phonics knowledge pupils are taught when they're learning to read
  • There's a sharp focus on making sure that younger children gain phonics knowledge and language comprehension necessary to read, and the skills to communicate


  • Pupils develop detailed knowledge and skills across the curriculum and, as a result, achieve well. This is reflected in results from national tests and examinations or in qualifications obtained
  • Pupils are ready for the next stage of education, employment or training. They have the knowledge and skills they need and gain qualifications that allow them to go on to destinations that meet their interests and aspirations and the intention of their course of study
  • Pupils with SEND achieve the best possible outcomes
  • Pupils’ work across the curriculum is of good quality
  • Pupils read widely and often, with fluency and comprehension appropriate to their age
  • Pupils can apply mathematical knowledge, concepts and procedures appropriately for their age

* There'll be a transition period until September 2020. If it's clear from leaders' actions that you're in the process of bringing this criteria about, even if it's not fully the case yet, you'll still be judged favourably. Read more about this below

Read the full grade descriptors in the 2019 school inspection handbook (pages 49 to 52).

Transition period for 'intent' judgements

Ofsted will use transition arrangements when judging your school's curriculum intent. These will be in place until July 2021.

When inspectors make judgements about certain criteria for 'good' (marked with an asterisk above), they'll consider whether actions you're taking are likely to result in a 'good' quality of education in 2 years' time.

However, these transition arrangements don't apply to reading, writing or maths. For those subjects, if you don't meet the criteria for 'good', no transitional considerations are taken into account.

Ofsted explains this here.

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