Before the Ofsted Call - Top Tips for Subject leaders

Based on the experiences of subject leaders in schools that have been inspected recently, here are a few top tips that might be useful to consider before and after the Ofsted call:

Before the call:

  • Make sure you are clear about the intent for your subject. Not just that you have high expectations (who doesn’t?!), but why the curriculum in your subject is right for your children and how it reflects their needs and the context of the school. A scheme written for a school in an inner city will not be a perfect fit for a small coastal school.
  • You might not know why certain curriculum choices were made because they were taken before you took on the role, and you have just inherited long-term plans. Why do we use a particular scheme? Why do we study that period in history? Why that artist or that author? If this is the case, do some research and find out.
  • How was the key subject-specific knowledge and vocabulary identified for each unit of work and year group, and why? Again, you might need to do some research here if you weren’t the subject leader when these decisions were made.
  • Don’t forget the EYFS curriculum in your subject, especially if you are a KS2 or KS1 teacher. How does the EYFS curriculum link to the KS1 curriculum in your subject, even if it isn’t called ‘geography’ or ‘history’ in Reception? Make sure you have looked at this in detail and can explain progression and sequencing from children’s starting points on entry
  • Do you know which subject-specific threads run through the subject curriculum, e.g., repeated themes and concepts? Ofsted is looking for this ‘coherence’. This could be leadership in history, online safety in computing, throwing and catching in PE, or a sense of place in geography. Make sure you can show this in planning and discuss what it looks like.
  • Consider subject pedagogy. For example, despite having an overarching Teaching and Learning policy in a school, the specifics of teaching PE are different to the teaching of phonics. How is your subject taught, and how do you know your colleagues do it? What has been the impact of CPD in this area, and any subsequent monitoring?
  • Think about the difference you have made as a subject leader since you took on the role. Be prepared to summarise this with a few key examples. It’s often difficult to remember this if asked about it during inspection because we are always moving on to the next thing in school, but it shows you have had an impact as a leader and gives credibility to your action plan: you get stuff done.

And when you do get the call:

  • Inspectors will have the class timetables for the two inspection days. Check when your subject is being taught and ask those class teachers precisely what they are teaching. Not just that they are teaching ‘History’, but it’s ‘the second lesson in a sequence of lessons about using historical sources in our local history unit’. Then, when you walk down the corridor with an inspector the next day and they ask what you will see in that class, you can give a detailed and accurate answer. By asking your colleagues what they will be teaching, you can also be prepared for any anomalies between two classes in the same year group and be able to explain them. You must ensure that you can show this is not typical and that, over time, both classes make the same overall progress throughout the year.
  • And if an inspector asks you a question you don’t know the answer to or for some information you don’t have to hand, explain that you can find out or locate that document and will get back to them. They are in school for two days, and you’ll know where to find them!
 Click here to see a wide range of inspection-related resources for subject leaders.
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