Ofsted 'deep dives': science

Find out how Ofsted inspectors do a science 'deep dive' and see what they might ask by downloading our list of questions based on previous inspections.

Last reviewed on 9 March 2022
School types: All · School phases: All
Ref: 39112
  1. How deep dives work
  2. Impact of coronavirus 
  3. Questions Ofsted might ask during science deep dives
  4. Differences between primary and secondary science deep dives
  5. Doing your own deep dive

Ofsted inspectors use subject 'deep dives' to inspect your curriculum. Inspectors will make a judgement on its intent, implementation and impact of your curriculum.

See paragraph 199 of the School Inspection Handbook for more details.

The transition arrangements Ofsted has set out for schools to develop their curriculum plans in line with the 'quality of education' judgement applies to science teaching. The transitional period will be up for review in September 2022. To learn more about it, check out this article from The Key.

See paragraph 230 of the School Inspection Handbook for more details.

How deep dives work

Who's involved?

Your senior leadership team, curriculum leads, subject leads, teachers and pupils.

How will inspectors do the 'deep dive'?

  • Conversations with teachers (download the questions in the section below)
  • Looking at curriculum documentation
  • Lesson observations (4 to 6 per selected 'deep dive' subject)
  • Work scrutinies:
    • Reviewing at least 6 workbooks or pieces of work per lesson observed
    • Scrutinising work in depth (from at least 2 year groups)
  • Conversations with pupils in the lessons observed

You don’t need to prepare any special curriculum documentation to present to inspectors during a deep dive. They will be able to gather all the evidence they need from your existing curriculum plan and the teaching activities they observe.

Read our article on how Ofsted inspects your curriculum and Ofsted’s guidance on inspecting the curriculum for more details.

Impact of coronavirus 

Ofsted recognises the challenges faced by schools during the pandemic, including that most schools will have been unable to implement their curriculum in the usual way. 

During an inspection, inspectors will seek to understand how your school adapted and prioritised the curriculum from September 2020, including:

  • Exploring how remote education led to your curriculum changing or adapting
  • Looking at 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 inspection handbook.

Questions Ofsted might ask during science deep dives

The questions below will help you familiarise yourself with the kinds of questions inspectors are likely to ask, based on the 2019 framework. They'll still be relevant now as inspectors have continued to ask questions along these lines.

With questions such as these, inspectors are trying to understand:

  • How your curriculum matches the scope and ambition of the National Curriculum
  • How you have decided to organise your curriculum 
  • If the chunks you have broken it up into make sense to the pupils

The KeyDoc doesn't include every question Ofsted might ask a subject lead – use it alongside our list of curriculum questions to reflect on your approach and be ready to talk about it confidently.

If you're a primary science teacher, check out our list of curriculum questions for primary teachers.

Inspectors will want to talk to subject leads

Don't worry if you're not a specialist in your subject. Ofsted doesn't expect subject leads (especially in small schools) to be topic experts, they just want to know that you have given careful thought to the content you want pupils to be taught and to remember.

If your school doesn't have a subject lead, inspectors may put their questions to your headteacher or senior leaders instead.

Differences between primary and secondary science deep dives

At the primary phase, Ofsted has a strong focus on reading. This means that a science deep dive might be less detailed or focused on a particular topic compared with a reading one. So don't be alarmed if the questions your colleagues in charge of reading are preparing for are more technical than yours! 

At the secondary phase, Ofsted doesn't focus in on any particular subject, so each deep dive should be equally as detailed.

Doing your own deep dive

Ofsted does not recommend doing your own internal deep dive, as that would only provide a snapshot of the effectiveness of your curriculum. It might be more effective for you to take a more long-term approach to investigating the quality of your curriculum.

If you do decide you want to do an internal deep dive, we provide a 'how to' guide in this article.

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