Ofsted 'deep dives': maths (primary)

Find out what evidence inspectors will look at during a maths 'deep dive', and what questions they might ask. Download our list of questions to help you prepare.

Last reviewed on 8 March 2022
School types: All · School phases: All
Ref: 38804
  1. How 'deep dives' work
  2. Impact of COVID-19
  3. Questions Ofsted might ask during a maths 'deep dive'
  4. Every subject won't be the same

Ofsted inspectors use subject 'deep dives' to inspect your curriculum

They'll use them to consider the 'intent, implementation and impact' of your curriculum as part of the 'quality of education' judgement.

The transition arrangements Ofsted has set out for primary schools to develop their curriculum plans in line with the 'quality of education' judgement don't apply to maths. Maths, like reading and writing, is subject to the requirements set out in the 2019 framework.

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

How 'deep dives' work

Who's involved?

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

How will inspectors do this?

In primary schools, inspectors will usually look at between 3 and 5 subjects, depending on the size of your school and the inspection team. They'll gather evidence through:

  • Conversations (see the list of questions in the section below)
  • Work scrutinies (reviewing at least 6 workbooks or pieces of work per lesson, observed from at least 2 year groups)
  • Lesson observations (typically 4 to 6 lessons)
  • Looking at curriculum documentation

You can read more about how deep dives work in this Ofsted guidance.

Ofsted has clarified that you don't need to provide curriculum planning or evidence in any specific format, as long as inspectors can easily access it.

See paragraph 75 of the inspection handbook, linked above.

Impact of COVID-19

Ofsted recognises the challenges placed on schools during the coronavirus 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 over this period, including:

  • Exploring how you implemented your curriculum remotely
  • 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.

Use the section below to help familiarise yourself with the kinds of questions inspectors are likely to ask based on the 2019 framework.

Questions Ofsted might ask during a maths 'deep dive'

Ofsted won't expect subject leaders to be specialists in maths, especially in small primary schools. They will be more interested in what you want your pupils to learn, and why.

Inspectors will broadly be interested in asking you:

  • Does your maths curriculum match the scope and ambition of the National Curriculum?
  • Are there clear endpoints? How is content broken down into manageable sections to build towards those endpoints?
  • Are those sections logically sequenced? Do they prepare pupils for future learning?

This is set out in Ofsted's blog post about what to expect on a primary deep dive.

They will also ask more specific questions about your maths curriculum and teaching.

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

Remember, inspectors aren't there to inspect maths in particular, but how your curriculum is embedded consistently across the whole school.

Ofsted has advised against carrying out your own deep dive to assess your curriculum. If you still want to use the deep dive model, see our article for more information.

Every subject won't be the same

Ofsted will 'often' do a maths deep dive, but their main focus in primary schools is on reading.

This means that maths deep dives are often not as detailed or focused on a particular topic as in reading. Don't be alarmed if the questions your colleagues in charge of reading are preparing for are more technical than yours.

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