Top tips for Subject Leaders before an Inspection

Top tips for Subject Leaders before an Inspection

So, the school has finally had the phone call. Weeks of SLT jumping every time the phone rings are over and the school has received notification that Ofsted inspectors are on their way tomorrow. The headteacher emerged from their office after speaking with the lead inspector and informed you that your subject will be a deep dive. Aren’t you the lucky one?

So what could you focus on in the minimal time between now and the inspectors arriving tomorrow morning, fresh from the nearest Premier Inn and full of unlimited breakfast?

What to focus on…

There is obviously nothing major you can change, but here are a few suggestions to make sure the conversations you have with an inspector and the other deep dive activities go as smoothly as possible.

  • Check what the school website says about your subject, for example, what is being taught during the current term and any other information. The lead inspector will have looked at curriculum pages carefully, which might inform their questioning. For example, they might see that a school appears to allocate more time to history than geography in some year groups and want to know why. Or why your school chose a particular curriculum approach or scheme. (The Learning Challenge Curriculum, coincidentally from Focus Education, as it happens, might be worth looking at if you are developing any subject areas. Just saying…)
  • Look at the timetables that have been shared with the lead inspector. Where teachers are timetabled to be teaching your subject, go find them and ask them what they are teaching in those lessons during the inspection. Get the details, not just, “Oh, we’re doing The Romans”. How does the lesson tomorrow fit within the sequence of that unit? What will the children learn, and how does it build on prior knowledge? Then, when you walk towards that classroom the next day with an inspector, and they ask what you expect to see, you can provide a detailed answer. (It also ensures your colleagues stick to the timetable. “I wasn’t going to do history now if they’re doing a deep dive. I was going to do an impromptu Forest School session and hide up a tree instead.” “Er, no, you aren’t.”)
  • Consider what you would want to draw inspectors’ attention to during the inspection. We know inspectors will ask to see specific books, visit certain lessons and meet with certain pupils. Still, there is no harm in asking if you could also include something that you are especially proud of or that shows the impact of your work as a subject leader. Perhaps a quick walk around the school the afternoon before they arrive would be helpful. You could check if your subject features on a ‘Our Best Work’ display at the moment or remind yourselves that you must mention the new resources in KS1, how subject vocabulary is displayed consistently across classrooms, etc.
  • Prepare three or four examples of what you have done as a subject leader and what the impact has been. You might have forgotten what you have implemented because schools are so busy, and as a subject leader, you are always working on the next priority – and teaching a class every day. But it is really useful if you can summarise what you have done since taking on the role, along the lines of: “Since taking on the subject leadership of ________, I introduced X, lead Y and made sure Z was consistent across the school.” This shows an inspector that you get things done and reassures them when you discuss your action plan that there is every likelihood it will be completed because you have established your track record.
  • Do a quick check of your subject leadership folder and /or relevant information on your laptop. Is information accessible?! Remember, the discussions between you and the inspector are not a memory test. You can have documentation to refer to and share with the inspector. Just make sure you have it to hand now, ready for the next day and that your laptop will not suddenly do automatic updates or someone has moved your subject leadership folder when tidying up…
  • And remember, you can have a member of SLT with you, even if this is just for moral support.


Pop a bottle of something nice in the fridge or buy yourself a treat of some sort for after it’s all over. The build-up to inspection can seem intolerable and prolonged, but the process will pass faster than a KS2 teacher heading for the door when someone asks if anyone can cover a Reception class.

And you’ll be brilliant.

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