Ofsted 'deep dives': reading (primary)

Find out what Ofsted inspectors might ask during a reading 'deep dive'. Download our list of questions – it's based on inspections under the 2019 framework.

Last reviewed on 8 March 2022
School types: All · School phases: All
Ref: 38740
  1. How 'deep dives' work
  2. Impact of COVID-19
  3. Questions Ofsted might ask during a reading 'deep dive'
  4. Further reading

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

In a primary school, you'll always have a reading 'deep dive' as part of your inspection.

How 'deep dives' work

Who's involved?

Your senior leadership team, 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 towards the end of this article)
  • 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)
  • Curriculum documentation (you don't need to prepare this in any specific format – see paragraph 75 of the School Inspection Handbook)

Read our article on how Ofsted inspects your curriculum and this Ofsted guidance for more details.

To drive positive changes in your school around the curriculum, head to IdeaStream from The Key – a curated library of bitesize CPD videos, where experienced school leaders share best practice from challenges they’ve already tackled. If you're not yet an IdeaStream member, find out more here.

Impact of COVID-19

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

Transitional arrangements

Some sections of the 'quality of education' criteria include transitional arrangements to account for this.

However, if you have primary-age pupils in your school, these transitional arrangements don't apply to reading, writing or maths. This means that if your school’s teaching of reading doesn't meet the criteria for 'good', your school will not be judged 'good'.

See paragraphs 13, 229 and 230 of the inspection handbook.

Use of tutors

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 paragraph 15 of the inspection handbook.

Questions Ofsted might ask during a reading 'deep dive'

Inspectors will want to speak to whoever leads English as close to the start of the deep dive as possible, to get a sense of the 'big picture'.

They'll broadly be interested in finding out if:

  • Your English curriculum matches the scope and ambition of the National Curriculum
  • There are clear endpoints, and if content is broken down into manageable sections to build towards those endpoints
  • Sections are logically sequenced, and if they prepare pupils for future learning

They'll then have a discussion with you to see how you choose to teach and assess reading, and will likely ask to see some lessons as part of the deep dive.

Download our list of questions previously asked during inspection

This list is based on questions Ofsted inspectors have asked subject leads and teachers in 5 primary schools. If your school doesn't have a subject lead, inspectors may put their questions to your headteacher or senior leaders instead. 

Most of the questions are based on inspections that took place when the 2019 framework was first introduced. They'll still be relevant now as inspectors have continued to ask questions along these lines. 

The list above 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.

Further reading

Ofsted has advised against schools conducting their own deep dives to assess the quality of the curriculum. However, you can use these questions to carry out your own deep dive if you've found the format works for your school.

See our article on conducting your own subject deep dive for more support.

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