Ofsted Crib Sheets Explainer: Training Guides For Ofsted Inspectors Now Free For All Schools

We’ve recently seen the emergence of a selection of ‘Ofsted Crib Sheets’ – training materials and summary documents given to inspectors as part of their pre inspection training and development. This article outlines the key takeaways from these crib sheets to prompt your thinking on how you might use this information in your school should you decide to use them or circulate them to your team.

As usual at Third Space Learning we’ve focused on the maths documents as that’s our area of expertise but the link provided includes Ofsted training materials for PE, English, History and several other subjects.

Download Free Resources

Ofsted Preparation Guides

Prepare for your next inspection with this step-by-step math framework. Includes checklists and questions for an Ofsted deep dive in math.

Download Free Now!

How and why the Ofsted crib sheets were leaked

Over the course of this term, these training materials started to emerge on social media and in whatsapp groups, initially leaked anonymously or by those who’d received them from ‘inspector colleagues and friends’.

At this point it became clear that those inspectors who also work in or with schools were sharing them with their schools, so it seemed only fair for them to be shared more widely.

In an effort to level the playing field, teachers took to Twitter to share several of these documents from various different sources. Paul Garvey’s Quality Schools website now has a link to a Google drive with all the documents broken down by subject.

crib sheets tweet
Talk for Teaching’s Paul Garvey has shared a Google drive with crib sheets for a range of subjects, including maths.

About the Ofsted Crib Sheets

These Ofsted crib sheets and other documents were not initially designed to be read by the wider public or to inform schools’ decision-making so, we can’t guarantee their accuracy and legitimacy. However, we understand many schools will want to review these materials ahead of an Ofsted deep dive and use them as part of their strategy and planning. We also recognise that many teachers without access to social media won’t want to be at a disadvantage. 

The documents have not been received with universal support on social media; there’s quite a lot to question in the approach, as there was with the Ofsted maths research released previously. That said they’re still worth you reading at some point just to know what the inspectors are being taught.

Given how busy everyone is right now and the fact that even the maths documents run to several pages, we’ve drawn up a quick summary of what’s included on the two main documents (together known as the Ofsted crib sheets):

  • Maths Guidance Notes
  • Maths Aide Memoire

Differences between primary and secondary crib sheets

There are separate documents for primary and secondary schools however the content they contain is extremely similar which is why we have only provided one summary below. The secondary documents mention ‘year 7’, ‘GCSE resits’ and ‘A Level’ in a couple of places, and the primary documents mention year 5, year 6 and early years, however this has little effect on the overall content.

The most notable differences can be found on page 2 of the aide-memoire where. Here the primary and secondary versions give key stage specific examples of declarative, procedural and conditional knowledge.

Primary maths aide memoire

ofsted aide memoire doc 1
Ofsted Maths Aide Memoire page 1 for Primary
ofsted aide memoire doc 2 primary
Ofsted Maths Aide Memoire page 2 for Primary

Secondary maths aide memoire

Ofsted Maths Aide Memoire page 1 for Secondary
Ofsted Maths Aide Memoire page 2 for Secondary
Ofsted Maths Aide Memoire page 2 for Secondary

Maths crib sheet: focus areas for inspectors

Ofsted makes the following caveat:

  • Schools are not expected to articulate their intent as is outlined in the document
  • Schools are not expected to provide documents to act as evidence in the areas outlined
  • Inspectors are instructed to investigate any issues outside of the school’s control that may be affecting the education of their pupils
  • Schools should have already identified these issues and taken steps to mitigate their effects.

The crib sheet identifies six focus areas for inspectors.

  1. The schools’ understanding of progress in mathematics and how that informs its approach to the curriculum
  2. The extent to which teaching supports the goals of the mathematics curriculum
  3. The effectiveness of assessment
  4. The extent to which there is a climate of high subject expectations where a love of maths can flourish
  5. The quality of systems and support for staff development
  6. The extent to which whole school policies affect the capacity for effective mathematics education. 

1. The school’s understanding of progress in mathematics and how that informs its approach to the curriculum


  • The curriculum should be well sequenced to engineer success and prevent misconceptions
  • Opportunities to identify gaps are provided
  • Automaticity of key facts and methods should be developed through over learning
  • Pupils should use efficient and formal methods
  • Problem-solving strategies should be taught for specific types of problems

1a) Planning how to identify the facts, methods and strategies 

Stronger practiceWeaker practice
∙ A curriculum should engineer success by incorporating detail, sequencing and the ‘bigger picture’
∙ The curriculum plan should identify core knowledge and emphasise repetition to embed in the long term memory
∙ The most useful number facts, conventions, formulas and vocabulary in each topic are ordered to enable them to be learnt and used until they can be accurately recalled. 
∙Patterns, principles and rules are learnt aid ‘number sense’
∙ Non-specialists or inexperienced staff don’t receive clear guidance on which resources to use and the order to use them.
∙ Curriculums are continually re-designed for the sake of it rather than using iterative approaches to improve plans over time. 
∙ Pupils use a calculator at all times because they are confident with maths facts
∙ Pupils lack of automaticity of number facts
∙ Prompts, scaffolds, manipulatives and calculators are used beyond explaining underlying principles 
∙ Pupils choose from a variety of physical resources which risks increasing the number of steps required and overloading working memory. 

1b) Planning to ensure pupils learn useful methods

Stronger practiceWeaker practice
∙ Pupils are taught efficient methods for finding solutions in exercises and problems that enable both understanding of the underlying principles as well as speed and accuracy.
∙ Standard methods for presentation and calculations across the department
∙ Pupils come up with their own informal calculation methods
∙ Pupils are limited to using inefficient methods they are familiar with.  

1c) Planning to ensure pupils learn strategies to solve problems

Stronger practiceWeaker practice
∙ Pupils learn specific problem-solving strategies for different types of problems.
∙ Pupils have previously obtained automatically with key facts and methods. 
∙ Pupils know how to identify and separate out deep structures from superficial features of problems. 
∙ The department relies on open ended problem solving activities
∙ Presenting pupils with ever changing problem types can prevent them making connections between problem types and strategies.  
∙ The department does not distinguish between a pupils lack of automaticity of facts and methods, and inability to identify the problem’s structure and type.
∙ Problem solving activities are set every lesson
∙ Problem solving activities are offered only as a ‘challenge’

1d) Planning to ensure that pupils have encountered all of the linked facts and methods required for new content

Stronger practiceWeaker practice
∙ Topics are broken into manageable steps
∙ Lessons have a clear focus
∙ Instruction is clear and free of unnecessary content.
∙ Lessons my be spent recapping material; there is no expectation that every lesson includes new content
∙ Lesson sequences are planned in a logical order
∙ Departmental policy is to ensure new learning is evident in every lesson
∙ Departmental policy is that every lesson should include problem solving
∙ Lessons are used to ‘find out’ new content. This can result in pupils remembering the activity itself rather than the intended knowledge.

1e) Planning to allow pupils to combine knowledge from different areas of the curriculum

Stronger practiceWeaker practice
∙ Key concepts are planned and repeated within and across topics
∙ Pupils are taught to practice core facts, methods and strategies
∙ The curriculum anticipates, specifies and prevents misconceptions from building up
∙ Topics are covered without focusing on the order and detail in which they are covered
∙ Departments overly emphasise the ‘why’ of a procedure. The development of understanding can happen through using core facts, methods and strategies.

1f) Delivering content so pupils know more and remember more

Stronger practiceWeaker practice
∙ The curriculum provides opportunities for over learning through repetition
∙ Previously taught concepts are reviewed regularly
∙ Concepts that have been learnt to automaticity are applied to more complex tasks
∙ Pupils only practise a few examples and then move on
∙ Review time is not built into the scheme of work
∙ Investigations are used to review concepts
∙ Pupils are only assessed on previously learnt material in yearly tests

1g) Identifying and repairing knowledge gaps 

Stronger practiceWeaker practice
∙ Knowledge gaps are identified and closed in year 7
∙ The curriculum provides opportunities to seek out gaps in learning 
∙ Technology and homework are used to support catch up
∙ Learning gaps are identified in lessons without the curriculum structure providing adequate time
∙ Summative assessments are used to identify gaps in knowledge 
∙ Lesson time is used to give some pupils extra practice of key facts.
∙ Homework is not checked for accuracy and high standards

1h) Preparing for exams?

Stronger practiceWeaker practice
∙ A high quality well sequenced curriculum with sufficient breath and ambition allows pupils to be fully prepared for the exam
∙ Pupils are familiar with the format of the GCSE examination papers
∙ Pasts papers are used extensively and are used to inform planning and interventions
∙ Pupils are repeatedly tested with unfamiliar content 

1i) Anticipating and responding to the needs of different groups of pupils

Stronger practiceWeaker practice
∙ The curriculum engineers pupil success
∙ The causes of gaps in learning are identified and fixed
∙ Pupils with the prerequisite required for a topic are extended to think about concepts in more complex ways. 
∙ Teachers maximise the opportunities for pupils with SEND to obtain practice within lessons
∙ Teachers are given discretion to judge when differentiation is needed
∙ Differentiation policies insist on blanket rules being applied
∙ ‘All, most, some’ activities are used
∙ Lower prior attainers are always given scaffolded work and so never have the opportunity to practise skills to automaticity
∙ Peer learning is used in mixed ability groups
∙ The school has a nurture group for pupils who are ‘not secondary ready’ 

Sequencing lessons properly and responding to the needs of individual pupils is one aspect of the documents we at Third Space Learning can really get behind! Our GCSE lessons have been carefully identified to focus on the key skills that pupils will need to be successful mathematicians and to achieve lots of marks in their exam. Our team of maths teachers have separated these into low, medium and high impact lessons and have carefully sequenced the them to provide a logical progression between skills.

Here’s an example of what we mean.

GCSE lesson programme
Third Space Learning’s order of GCSE lessons

2. The extent to which teaching supports the goals of the mathematics curriculum


  • Questioning should be used to support learning
  • Formal assessments should provide meaningful feedback 
  • Key facts should be memorised using a variety of techniques
  • Concept should be taught using logical steps
  • Classrooms should be calm and free from distractions
  • High expectations in the classroom
  • Pupils should receive the support they need to overcome barriers to learning

2a) Choosing teaching approaches

Stronger practiceWeaker practice
∙ Following the explaining of a concert, teachers use questioning to reinforce, check understanding and allow for immediate rehearsal
∙ Teachers draw attention to what is important through ‘thinking out loud’ and worked examples to allow pupils to make intended connections
∙ Teachers use a high standard of mathematical vocabulary
∙ Pupils use representations such as diagrams to expose the structures of concepts
∙ Formal assessments are used to embed content and provide feedback to pupils. The results affect planning, setting and interventions.
∙ Questioning results in the pupil guessing or using trial and error
∙ Tasks are provided without a specific curricular intent. 
∙ The pupils are always expected to explain their reasoning 
∙ GCSE exam questions are used to perform gap analyses 
∙ Testing is used without meaningful feedback

2b) Remembering content in the long term

Stronger practiceWeaker practice
∙ Systematic rehearsal approaches are methodical and relate to recently taught material
∙ There is an emphasis on the memorisation of key facts
∙ Purposeful practice allows pupils to gain familiarity with methods
∙ Intelligent variation is used to highlight patterns and underlying principles
∙ Problems with a similar structure are linked together. 
∙ Regular quizzes and tests support regular retrieval
∙ Class books contain practice of previously taught facts
∙ Teachers uses familiar analogies and mnemonics to support recall
∙ Pupils recall in union
∙ Pupils have opportunities to over learn in lessons 
∙ Activities don’t overload working memory by asking pupils to make choices about resources, seating or tasks.
∙ Pupils tasks are not related to the teachers examples
∙ Pupil are overly reliant on adult help 
∙ Pupil’s use whiteboards are used for most calculations
∙ Pupils enjoy the activity but are not focused on the content

2c) Using the classroom environment to support learning

Stronger practiceWeaker practice
∙ Pupils lay out their work clearly and precisely
∙ Concepts are taught using logical steps.
∙ Teachers ensure all pupils have automaticity before moving onLearning materials are free of distraction
∙ Mathematical vocabulary and notation are modelled by the teacher and expected from the pupils in written and oral work.
∙ Pupils know they are equally likely to be asked a question in class and are expected to think of  suitable answer
∙ The classroom is noisy with lots of pupil movement
∙ Pupils are not informed when their answers are wrong
∙ Pupils always work in groups
∙ The classroom is colourful with lots of access to facts and vocabulary

2d) Overcoming barriers to learning

Stronger practiceWeaker practice
∙ Approaches seek to prevent rather than circumvent barriers
∙ Group work does not predominate lesson structure with periods of silent working to help reduce anxietyIntelligent variation is used in tasks to help pupils make links between knowledge
∙ Testing for success 
∙ Opportunities for additional practice are provided.
∙ Pupils have enough phonics and vocabulary knowledge  to understand questions
∙ Oral work and translations are provided for pupils with poor English language skills
∙ Pupils are allowed to opt out of maths activities and classes
∙ Tests include content that has not yet been taught

2e) Using resources to support teaching

Stronger practiceWeaker practice
∙ Resources are used as an aid to reveal mathematical structure
∙ Resources are selected in relation to what is being taught and are familiar to pupils 
∙ Textbooks are used intelligently to support learning.
∙ Curricular intent leads planning not the textbook
∙ Exercise books are used as a revision source
∙ The department using a ‘Concrete Pictorial Abstract’ approach in all lessons
∙ Textbooks are used to guide the teaching of mathematics 
∙ Pupils only ever use photocopies or loose worksheets rather than actual textbooks

3. The effectiveness of assessment


  • Assessments should be used to support learning 
  • Assessments should be used regularly to provide diagnostic information

3a) Choosing and assessing content

Stronger practiceWeaker practice
∙ Teacher decide on appropriate proxies for learning and use these in informal tests
∙ Assessment is used ‘as learning’ to build memory
∙ Assessment is used ‘for learning’ to identify gaps
∙ Assessment ‘of learning’ is used in summative assessments
∙ Assessments are used at the beginning and end of topics to demonstrate progress rather than inform teaching
∙ Pupils are tested on content they haven’t been introduced to
∙ ‘Progress’ does not result in automaticity of key facts and methods
∙ KS3 teachers use KS2 data to identify gaps
∙ Schools uses progress tracking systems that drive artificial acceleration through the curriculum 
∙ Self and peer reviews are used to provide measures of pupil understanding
∙ Tests are avoided
∙ Parents do not know how their child is doing

3b) Assessing automaticity

Stronger practiceWeaker practice
∙ Frequent, timed low stakes tests of core facts provide diagnostic information for teachers
∙ Assessments have clear benchmarks that remove the possibility of other methods being used
∙ Teachers assess automaticity using pupils work and in class feedback
∙ Pupils do not have opportunities to over-learn and so struggle with recap activities 

4. The extent to which there is a climate of high subject expectations where a love of maths can flourish


  • Maths should have a high profile in school
  • Learning maths should be viewed like art or poetry, as a way to help pupils grow as human beings. 
  • Pupils know that hard work and focus pay off
  • Pupils should receive enrichment beyond classroom learning

4a) The profile of maths in school

Stronger practiceWeaker practice
∙ Maths is seen as supporting other subjects and worthy of study in its own right
∙ Staff project positive attitudes towards maths across the school
∙ Success in maths in celebrated 
∙ Teachers set defined benchmarks for success which is shared with pupils and parents 
∙ The school give extra maths support to struggling pupils by removing them from creative subjects
∙ Increasing frequency and duration of maths support that leads to pupil fatigue
∙ The department discourages the use of rewards in the belief it will prevent intrinsic motivation from developing

4b) Ensuring high expectations for pupils 

Stronger practiceWeaker practice
∙ The curriculum is engineered for success in order to promote a love of maths
∙ Topics have explicit success criteria to help pupils to work towards a specific goal
∙ Assessments are set at the right level so that the success rate is high and pupils can look forward to them
∙ Pupils know that hard work and focus are what count
∙ The teacher expertise demonstrates the awe and wonder of mathematics
∙ The focus is on making lessons fun and relevant using novel activities 
∙ Competitions and quizzes are avoided for fear of maths anxiety
∙ Pupils see mathematics as a unalterable genetic trait and therefore strive for the minimum standards

4c) Enriching the curriculum beyond the classroom

Stronger practiceWeaker practice
∙ Pupils benefit from trips that highlight where mathematics can take them 
∙ Pupils learn about maths underpins technology, engineering and scientific discovery
∙ Pupils take part in enrichment opportunities such as clubs and competitions 
∙ Pupil premium funding is only used provide catchup support

Read more: Ofsted pupil premium

5. The quality of systems and support for staff development


  • Curriculum development should form part of the schools day to day activity
  • Teachers should be continually developing skills and subject knowledge

5a) The department’s capacity to design and implement effective maths education

Stronger practiceWeaker practice
∙ The department uses schemes of learning and resources that are proven to be effective
∙ The department monitors and reviews the effectiveness of curriculum planning, pedagogical approaches of staff and assessment of pupils 
∙ The department is overly reliant on interventions to close learning gaps
∙ Curricular selected based on ‘fun’ rather than evidence.
∙ Higher than average results are used to suggest that no improvements are needed
∙ Teachers are required to use ineffective pedagogies such as exploration. 

5b) Identifying the strengths and areas of development in the curriculum 

Stronger practiceWeaker practice
∙ Curriculum development is a normal part of school activity
∙ All staff are encouraged to identify problems are present solutions 
∙ Pupil errors suggest how the scheme of work might be improved 
∙ Both the granular detail and ‘bigger picture’ are able to respond flexibly to pupils lower down the school before growing more stable over time
∙ Teachers make use of professional learning networks 
∙ Monitoring systems focus on what the teacher is doing rather than how the pupils are acquiring content
∙ Feedback is given is given to teachers without examples of how it has worked in practice
∙ The curriculum is reactive rather than proactive

5c) Ensuring high quality teaching from all staff

Stronger practiceWeaker practice
∙ Each year pupils are taught by adults with different experiences, personalities, interests and specialisms.
∙ The department facilitates this by ensuring continuity and consistency in the pupils education
∙ Teachers use detailed and annotated schemes of learning 
∙ Teachers receive specific support plans when needed
∙ Less experienced staff observe more experienced staff
∙ School wide systems to prompt consistency are not in place

5d) Encouraging staff to develop their subject knowledge

Stronger practiceWeaker practice
∙ Teachers have their subject and pedagogical knowledge assessed
∙ There is a culture of discussing mathematical ideas and research, refining approaches and implementing practices that are known to be effective.
∙ Material are made available for teachers to self study
∙ School leaders remove unnecessary tasks from teachers
∙ Professional learning is not prioritised
∙ The school provides training for all teachers without it forming part of a wider plan to develop areas that staff require support in.

6. The extent to which whole school policies affect the capacity for effective mathematics education


  • Departments should develop their timetables equitably
  • Departments should have flexibility to adapt school wide policies to suit their needs
  • Schools should foster culture that develops and supports and makes staff feel valued

6a) Timetabling priorities 

Stronger practiceWeaker practice
∙ Timetabling is approached equitably
∙ High risk pupils receive teaching from the most qualified staff
∙ Older year groups are given priority at the expense of other groups of pupils

6b) Ensuring school wide policies support departmental needs

Stronger practiceWeaker practice
∙ There is flexibility for departments to do what is best for their pupils
∙ School policies foster high expectations regardless of subject
∙ Mathematical proficiency from hard work is celebrated as much as sporting or artistic achievement 
∙ Schools allow pupils with SEMH to opt out of lessons in particular subjects leading to a narrowing of the curriculum and the prevention of learning for other pupils
∙ Departments must follow a school policy that consists of writing extensive comments that give little return

6c) Priorities for discussions at line management meetings with SLT

Stronger practiceWeaker practice
∙ All teachers and leaders are equally important in engineering mathematical success
∙ Discussions focus on systems that identify and close gaps, but also seek to prevent them from forming over time
∙ There is a culture of honest discussion, reflection and conserve feedback
∙ Teachers feel valued and want to improve
∙The responsibility for attainment lies with the subject lead and other leaders

Are these Ofsted crib sheets important?

Unsurprisingly the leaking and sharing of this content online has promoted some strong opinions on twitter.

ofsted crib sheet tweet 1
Not all teachers will be taking the same approach to using these crib sheets going forward.
ofsted crib sheet tweet 2

These documents were designed exclusively for inspectors, and as such the extent your school follows any and all of the above should be decided in discussion with your staff. 

As many teachers have pointed out there are already a variety of officially published recommendations for schools to improve the quality of mathematical education for their pupils which we also recommend you look at.

Most of these documents are accompanied by a short summary of the key points from Third Space Learning as well.

Ofsted maths research review

EEF maths reports

National Centre for Excellence in the Teaching of Mathematics

Next steps

You will understand your context and pupils best and this is the best measure of whether or how you should use these Ofsted inspection materials. Our recommendation is, whatever you think of them, now you’ve got them, it’s worth examining the content in detail, especially if you have an Ofsted inspection looming.

Read more:
Third Space Learning Upsell Section


Every week Third Space Learning’s specialist school tutors support thousands of students across hundreds of schools with weekly online 1 to 1 maths lessons designed to plug gaps and boost progress.


Since 2013 these personalised one to one lessons have helped over 150,000 primary and secondary students become more confident, able mathematicians.


Learn about the scaffolded lesson content or request a personalised quote for your schoolto speak to us about your school’s needs and how we can help.


FREE Ofsted Deep Dive Questions: Preparation And Discussion Framework

Questions are taken from those that have turned up most frequently in recent Ofsted Deep Dives, as provided to us by teachers from inspected schools, following the current Ofsted Education Inspection Framework.

Many of the questions apply across other subjects - not just maths!

Download free