The Most Common Ofsted Deep Dive Questions 2024: With SLT Recommendations For How To Answer And Prepare For Them

Under the new education inspection framework, schools are subject to Ofsted deep dive questions into multiple areas of the curriculum. 

This article is designed to help headteachers, school leaders and curriculum leaders, in both primary schools and secondary schools, explore and prepare for common Ofsted deep dive questions during inspections.

About these deep dive questions

We’ve organised this comprehensive list of Ofsted deep dive questions into 9 key categories, and where relevant, included senior leadership recommendations for tackling them.

It is unlikely Ofsted will ask every single question on the extensive lists provided. If you need to focus your planning, we’ve also highlighted the 11 most commonly asked deep dive questions. All of them gathered from primary and secondary schools inspected under the Ofsted inspection framework from 2019 onwards.

11 most asked Ofsted deep dive questions

These are the 11 most frequent Ofsted deep dive questions. They may vary in structure or according to your context, but at the very least make sure you think about how you’ll answer these.

  1. How do you assess the impact of your curriculum on pupil learning?
  2. How did you choose this specific lesson for the pupils?
  3. Can you demonstrate how you support pupil premium and SEND pupils?
  4. How do you challenge and support the most able students in [subject]?
  5. Do you use any schemes for [subject]? How did you choose this scheme?
  6. How do you track and assess pupil progress and attainment over time?
  7. What CPD provisions are provided for staff? 
  8. What strategies are in place to promote positive well-being of pupils?
  9. Can you provide evidence of effective safeguarding practices?
  10. How do you involve parents, carers and the wider community within education?
  11. How do you ensure a consistent approach to behaviour management and discipline across the school?

Download this free framework of the most frequently asked Ofsted deep dive maths questions to help you prepare your answers for when the call from Ofsted arrives.

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Ofsted Deep Dive Preparation Framework

Help your school get ready for the new Ofsted inspections with this framework of the deep dive questions you can expect to be asked.

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How to use these deep dive questions

Use the following Ofsted questions and answers in a number of ways to help prepare primary and secondary schools for Ofsted inspections:

  1. Share them with school leaders, teachers, wider staff and governors
    During an Ofsted visit, inspectors may ask questions to any member of staff about practices such as safeguarding. Therefore, ensure all members of staff are well-versed in Ofsted deep-dive questions.  
  2. Focus on specific aspects of a deep dive 
    Use these questions during staff meetings as guidance to assess specific areas of the school curriculum such as maths, and wider policies in school such as the behaviour policy.  
  3. Reflect on school practices
    Consider how teaching within the school reflects the curriculum intent, implementation and impact. Assess the consistency of these practices across year groups and the school. This can also be a helpful process to identify any internal areas for improvement and provide extra training where appropriate. 
  4. Find supporting evidence for Ofsted’s deep dive questions 
    These questions should not create extra work for school staff. But having evidence to hand to support answers, particularly for school leaders and subject leaders, helps make the deep dive process easier and smoother. 

While it may seem daunting, it’s important to remember that schools do not need to have mastered everything. But being able to demonstrate an understanding of what you have achieved, the areas you’re yet to achieve and the plan for getting there is key.

Sources for these deep dive questions

In researching this article we drew on the experience of school leaders, teachers and governors who’ve had inspections under the new Ofsted framework 2019.

Several of the schools we work with have also talked to us about the kinds of questions asked in a maths deep dive around interventions and impact for students in receipt of pupil premium. We have included some of our findings from that as well.  

And then, of course, there are a plethora of Facebook groups where teachers have also shared other lists of questions. 

Where there was useful commentary about possible answers to questions we’ve included these too. 

This article is an attempt to provide a complete repository of Ofsted deep dive questions and answers in one place as a useful reference when you’re preparing for your own Ofsted inspection.

Ofsted deep dive questions: key themes

These Ofsted deep dive questions are organised by key themes. Some are applicable to several sections and some are variations of similar questions so you can prepare for any approach Ofsted take.

Schemes of work and curriculum planning questions

Your approach to the national curriculum and the schemes of work you follow – whether created in house or from a commercial provider – will be a key topic for discussion with inspectors. Common questions included:

  • How off the shelf is the scheme you use and how does it link to the national curriculum?
  • How do class teachers know what went before in previous years?
  • What is your pedagogy in foundation subjects?
  • What schemes, if any, do you follow?
  • How is your curriculum coverage progressive across all year groups?
  • What are the strengths/areas of development in your subject?
Response from schools

One teacher commented:

“They constantly asked me about how our school scheme linked to the national curriculum; progression; interventions; planning; small steps; teachers’ and TAs’ subject knowledge.

I told them we follow White Rose – which links to NC (all staff explained that as well) – they were happy that we were doing fluency, reasoning and problem solving. Some of their questions feel really weird in terms of how you answer them, as it seems so obvious”.

Another maths lead said “They asked about progression in learning – how do class teachers know what went before in previous years? How off the shelf is the scheme you use? What are your strengths and weaknesses? What is your pedagogy in maths lessons?”

We asked: What was the reason they asked the ‘off the shelf’ question? Did they say what they thought of off the shelf schemes?

To which the teacher responded:

“The new Education Inspection Framework (EIF) refers to learning being sequenced and adapted to suit the school I think. We use a scheme as a basis but heavily adapt and move objectives etc around. They didn’t comment on off the shelf as such other than the question. They want to know how the school embedded and revisited objectives.”

Related resources for scheme of work and curriculum planning questions 

Third Space Learning believes that every school is unique. Schools should customise the scheme to suit the context and needs of their school, whether that’s using a spiral curriculum or an alternative approach.  

Our one-to-one maths interventions are personalised to each pupil. Academic experts design and continuously update lessons delivered thousands of times to create the perfect lessons for one to one learning.

Non-prescriptive flexible and adaptable schemes of work in the Third Space Learning maths hub support target areas such as: 

Free resources 

Standards, progress and achievement questions

Often, progress is mentioned during an Ofsted deep dive. Schools can expect questions and discussions about progress in pupils’ learning against the national curriculum: how teachers know what went before, how they know where they are going, and how they are supporting pupils to get there. 

Some progress questions include:

  • How do you make sure that children who get ‘stuck’ feel supported in lessons by other teachers? What is in place for these children?
  • Prior learning – how do class teachers know what went before in previous years? 
  • How as subject lead do you know what is happening across the school. What would I expect them to see/hear? How do you assess and monitor it?
  • How do you know there is progression throughout the school?
  • How are end of term assessments fed back into teaching and learning?
  • How do you fill gaps in maths and decide on maths interventions?
  • How do you ensure that the children are ready for the next key stage? 
  • How is your curriculum coverage progressive across all year groups? 
  • How do you ensure curriculum coverage across all year groups?
  • How do you ensure that all teachers build on prior knowledge?

Resource and intervention support: standards, progress and achievement

Primary schools using the Third Space Learning maths hub can evidence the 56 pre- and post-topic diagnostic assessment checks to monitor progress and highlight pupils and areas that need extra support. 

Secondary schools can use the free multiple choice GCSE Diagnostic Questions to identify key gaps in learning.

Both resources can help identify which pupils will benefit most from the specialist one-to-one maths interventions from Third Space Learning’s maths tutors.

Those schools that have their own confident maths specialists in school regularly use these primary intervention lesson packs to focus on each child’s gaps. 

Third Space Learning’s maths resources are examples of differentiated and scaffolded lessons and resources to ensure all pupils can access the curriculum and catch up with the rest of the class.

While premium Third Space Learning maths hub users have access to the entire range of hundreds of maths resources, every teacher and school leader can download samples for free. Both premium and free Third Space Learning maths hub users can find the resources they need in minutes

You can find resources for KS3 and KS4 in the Secondary Resource Library, there is no log in required.

Free resources

Subject leadership questions

Ofsted inspectors ask subject leaders deep dive questions about their specific subject. At this point, subject leaders should go into detail about the curriculum intent, implementation and impact. 

Each subject leader interview often lasts around an hour. Ofsted can ask: 

For primary schools only:

  • What is happening in Early Years Maths?
  • What links are there between your subject and the rest of the curriculum?
  • If all children are using the year group objectives how do you ensure challenge?

For primary and secondary schools:

  • How do you know what’s taught at the previous/next key stages? 
  • How did you design your curriculum? 
  • What was the starting point?
  • How have you sequenced your curriculum and why?
  • How do you monitor individual subjects?
  • What resources do you have?
  • How do you use the community, trips and visitors in your subject?
  • What’s on your action plan this year?
  • What are the strengths/areas for development in your subject?
  • How do staff differentiate in your subject?
  • What is your pedagogy in maths lessons?
  • What do Staff think of your subject?
  • What do children think of your subject?
  • As the subject lead, how do you know what is happening in maths across the school?
  • How do you bridge gaps between key stages?
  • What is the aim for all children to know when they leave Y6?
  • What is the aim for all children to know when they leave Y11?
  • How do you know that it is year group relevant?
  • How do you make sure you cover the elements of the maths national curriculum?
  • What core concepts flow through your entire curriculum? Can you talk through three examples?
  • How do you teach core concepts in equal measure?
  • What does a maths lesson look like?
  • How are assessment results fed back into teaching and learning? 
  • How are gaps in learning filled? 
  • How are you evidencing practical lessons which use concrete apparatus?
  • What is your understanding of mastery?
  • How do we know where the gaps are?
  • How do you set homework?
  • What’s your vision for maths?
  • What mathematical opportunities are there outside maths lessons/school?
  • What do you do to support children who are struggling?
More general questions asked to Subject Leaders:
  • Do you feel supported?
  • Do you have all the tools you need to do this role?
  • How do you ensure accurate assessment?
  • What aspirations do you have for these children? 

Resource and intervention support: subject leadership

As a subject leader, ensuring you have a curriculum map for your subject to hand can help relieve pressure when talking to Ofsted. Ensure that the curriculum map is broad, ambitious and up to date. 

Additionally, note the reason for the curriculum sequence beforehand and provide examples of differentiated and scaffolded lessons and resources to ensure all pupils can access the curriculum and catch up with the rest of the class may be of help during the interview. 

For primary school subject leaders, it may be useful to include the knowledge pupils need for EYFS, Key Stage 1, Key Stage 2 and will need for Key Stage 3. Similarly, secondary schools may want to include the knowledge pupils bring from Key Stage 2. 

It may also be helpful to arrange frequent meetings with subject leaders in the local area to help with curriculum maps and planning for both GCSE maths schemes of work and primary maths schemes of work

Free resources:  

Lesson observation questions

During an Ofsted subject deep dive, inspectors will also undertake lesson observations. Before and during the observations, Ofsted will ask the subject leader or (if there isn’t one) the headteacher or senior leaders a series of questions about what you would typically expect to see in a lesson observation. Expect questions such as:

  • What will we see in the lesson observation?
  • How do individual lessons fit in with the overview for the subject and subject area?
  • What would you expect the teaching assistant to be doing during the lesson?
  • DO teachers and pupils use the correct vocabulary for the topic?
  • Will the teacher’s questioning encourage learning and enquiry?
  • Does the teacher have strong subject knowledge? How have you ensured this?
  • Are the children learning new knowledge/skills? How is this evidenced?
  • How does the lesson fit in with the overview for your subject?
  • Does the teacher’s questioning encourage learning and enquiry?

These questions are similar to those that Ofsted inspectors have always asked, even under the old framework, but now they have a greater emphasis on subject knowledge and pupil progression.

While there will undoubtedly be some variation in the kinds of questions asked between subjects and year groups, these examples give a clearer picture of the general ideas and intentions behind a deep dive-focused inspection.

Resources and intervention support: lesson observation questions

Knowledge organisers for primary pupils and revision mats for GCSE can be valuable tools to help children recap the core concepts of any given subject. For those unfamiliar with knowledge organisers, find out exactly what they are and how to use them

Third Space Learning’s one to one maths interventions follow the national curriculum to support quality first teaching. Pupils complete an initial diagnostic assessment to identify the gaps in knowledge maths specialist tutors can support pupils with.  

Tutors use assessment for learning and post-session questions at the end of every tutoring session to assess pupil progress and address further knowledge gaps. 

Free resources: 

Questions about pupils with Special Educational Needs (SEND)

SEND is a common theme for Ofsted questions during deep dives and links often to the questions around progression for the whole class. As ever the inspectors will want to know before they go into any classroom, or look at pupils’ work in books, what they are likely to see and how you are providing for children with SEND. Expect questions such as:

  • How do you support SEND pupils?
  • How do you plan to ensure good progress?
  • How do you know this is happening across the school?
  • How do you assess and monitor it?
  • How do you know there is progression throughout the school?

Resources and intervention support: pupils with SEND

Provisioning for SEND pupils is particularly difficult when it comes to extra-curricular activities and interventions. At Third Space Learning, we’ve designed our one to one interventions to be sensitive to pupils’ needs in many ways.

The Third Space learning platform is highly visual and scaffolded to make learning easier for all pupils. Because our interventions are online and use a microphone only, our tutors have become accustomed to gauging pupil reactions through sound alone and have developed high levels of emotional empathy.

Individual attention from tutors also helps pupils with special educational needs focus more easily on the lesson and subject. It encourages them to communicate more confidently without the anxiety that might be present in a full classroom.

guided maths questions gcse

Pupil premium questions

Prudent and impactful spending of the school’s pupil premium grant has been a focus for Ofsted over the last few years, and the deep dive framework continues this trend. Some of the questions inspectors asked were:

  • How do you provide for pupil premium pupils?
  • How do you improve pupils’ cultural capital (and how do you ensure it)?
  • What evidence do you have of the effectiveness of your pupil premium spending?
  • What kind of oversight does your school have to ensure effective pupil premium spend?

Resources and intervention support: pupil premium

Interventions are a clear and accountable way of spending pupil premium funding. Third Space Learning’s one-to-one maths interventions provide exceptional progress in a short space of time and hence exceptional value for money.

One-to-one tuition helps pupils make an average of seven months progress in 14 weeks, providing a rapid boost to maths confidence and ability — decreasing the attainment gap. 

7 months progress in 14 weeks

There is minimal need for school staff involved in Third Space Learning interventions, meaning no addition to staff workload while specialist maths tutors support target pupils.

Senior leaders can monitor progress quickly and easily thanks to regular progress reports for individual pupils and cohorts. This informs them how successful the pupil premium budget spending is.

Find out more about how Third Space Learning could help your school maximise the impact of your pupil premium funding.

Free resources: 

Read More: 

Intervention questions

Questions from Ofsted regarding interventions or boosters are common. Ofsted may ask teachers what interventions are in place, with a particular focus on interventions for pupil premium children. Expect questions such as:

  • What in-school interventions take place?
  • How are gaps in learning filled?
  • What do you do to support children who are struggling?
  • Are the staff conducting interventions subject specialists or support staff?

Ofsted inspectors are looking to ensure that there is adequate provision for pupils who have learning gaps that may be current or future barriers to learning.

Running regular, timetabled interventions throughout the year ensures that these go ahead. But you need to plan sessions well, and not implememtn on an ad hoc basis.

Resources and intervention support: assessing intervention quality

As the largest provider of specialist maths interventions in the UK (over 159,000 pupils taught so far), Third Space Learning understands what it takes to run a high-quality intervention. 

To be effective, interventions need to be: 

  • Structured
  • Personalised 
  • Led by subject specialists 
ofsted deep dive maths intervention tsl
one-to-one interventions like Third Space Learning’s maths programmes provide
impact reports to SLT to judge effectiveness for the children receiving them.

Many primary and secondary schools have 15-20 pupils enrolled in personalised one-to-one interventions with Third Space Learning — all within a single hour of the school day. Highly trained tutors help to create confident, able mathematicians whilst reducing teacher workload. 

For more information on tutoring, read tutoring for schools, including strategies on how to ensure your school tutoring intervention is a success.

Free resources: 
Read more:

Workload and well-being questions

Ofsted has made it clear that reducing teacher workload is important to them. Although it may not come up as a section by itself, many of the other sections intrinsically link to workload and teacher well-being. They are looking for a top-level view. For example, they may ask questions such as:

  • Do you feel supported (by curriculum leaders and senior leaders)?
  • Do you have all the tools you need to do this role?
  • What support do you provide in a leadership role to ensure a good work-life balance for staff?
  • How do you support the teachers?
  • How do you support new staff?
  • What training/support have you received?

Resources and intervention support: alleviating teacher workload

Third Space Learning helps to reduce teacher workload by enabling schools to run up to 15-20 personalised one-to-one interventions within a single hour session. Saving teachers planning time and carrying out 15-20 personalised interventions themselves.  

Personalised one to one interventions help pupils who may be falling behind catch up with their peers, enabling class teachers to spend less time worrying about organising and delivering catch-up lessons in their own time.

Teaching staff also benefit from over 1500+ ready-to-go resources in the Third Space Learning maths hub. Registration for this is completely free to review all the resources.

Free resources: 

CPD questions

Continuous professional development is key to ensuring quality first teaching, so expect to be asked during any subject deep dive what provision you currently have in place for teachers, and just as importantly, how do you support new staff. Questions to think about are:

  • What CPD provision do you have for all staff?
  • How do you support new staff?
  • How do you ensure teachers and TAs have the required subject knowledge?
  • What training/support have you received?

Resources and intervention support: staff progression is key to pupil progression

Third Space Learning provides schools with two types of CPD to help empower teachers.

Maths Masterclasses are longer, conference-style content delivered by primary maths specialists such as Jane Gill or Chris Dyson, and cover key mathematical topics.

There are also 150+ Maths in Minutes videos: bitesize CPD with top teaching tips which can be easily watched before teaching a topic. These videos are also brilliant for improving subject knowledge amongst ECTs and TAs.

All teaching staff can complete CPD on demand and at a time and place convenient to them with unlimited staff accounts available for all one to one intervention customers and premium Third Space Learning maths hub schools.

Free resources: 

Additional Ofsted deep dive questions

For completeness, the following are the remaining deep dive questions that teachers have received from Ofsted. Some are general, and some are specific to their particular subject.

Questions to senior leaders

  • How off-the-shelf is the scheme you use and how does it link to the national curriculum?
  • What are your strengths and weaknesses?
  • Which objectives are embedded and revisited?
  • What in-school interventions are carried out?
  • When we walk around what will we see being taught in maths?
  • What support do you provide in a leadership role to ensure a good work life balance for staff?
  • What do you do when a new child arrives? 
  • How do you support SEND pupils?
  • How do you support pupil premium pupils?

Questions to children

  • Do you enjoy maths?
  • Are you challenged in maths?
  • Do you get help in maths?
  • How do you know what you are learning today?
  • What would you change about maths?
  • Do you learn maths every day?

Book scrutiny questions

One school’s experience involved the lead inspector taking 6 children from each of the 2 lessons observed and asking them to talk through individual pieces of work in their books. 

Pupils also had to explain what they had learnt in that lesson.

Evidently, learning objectives must be tight and refer to the learning in the lesson.

Some questions that may be asked during a book scrutiny:

  • Where is there evidence of what you have put in place and the impact it has had? 
  • Where have you identified weaknesses and what have you done about it? 
  • Is there consistency across the year groups?
  • How do we ensure culture capital in maths?
  • How do we ensure that children remember what they have learnt?

When the inspection team were looking at books with the small steps for the year group: 

  • Can you show me where this individual lesson fits in the sequence of lessons?
  • What objective is this?
  • Can you talk me through the book? What are you seeing?
  • Where will they go from here? 

Safeguarding questions

It is important to note that questions around safeguarding may be asked to any member of staff in the school, not just teaching staff. 

  • Is safeguarding practice effective in implementation?
  • How often are your school’s safeguarding policies reviewed?
  • Are your leaders aware of how to identify and respond to online safety concerns?
  • Are staff trained to identify pupils at risk of neglect, abuse or exploitation and do they know how to report concerns? Do they log evidence of these concerns?
  • Are your children safe from discrimination and bullying?
  • Do your children understand how to stay safe online?
  • Do your leaders understand how to identify if children are at risk of County Lines?
  • How does your school monitor for incidents of peer-on-peer abuse?
  • How effectively does your school/college protect children from extremism and radicalisation?
  • Does your designated safeguarding lead (DSL) have enough time, training and resources to fulfil the demands required of the role?
  • Looking at your child protection record, can you tell me how this incident of peer-on-peer abuse was dealt with in more detail? (Show a record of incidents, and evidence of how they were acted upon, which external agencies were involved etc.)
  • How do your leaders Identify children and learners who may need early help or are at risk of neglect, abuse, grooming or exploitation? 

Read more:  The 12 Most Important Ofsted Safeguarding Questions and Answers [2024]

Ofsted deep dive questions regarding data, progress and attainment tracking

The common consensus now is that Ofsted has little to no interest in viewing data but they may still ask questions that pertain to it. 

One school said, “There was no interest at all in data.” Others mentioned that they did receive questions regarding external data such as SATs scores, and disadvantaged gap, including looking at the 3 year trend. However, they “…refused to look at internal data.”

Therefore, it may not be necessary to go out of your way to prepare any specific data, but you shoul (regardless of Ofsted) familiarise yourself with your school’s external data, the trend, strengths/weaknesses and be prepared to discuss your views.

For example, after explaining their school’s strategy, one teacher was asked “Although this is all in place Year 6 SATs results are still low. Why? What are you doing about it?”

Focus on the data that works for your school and your pupils

Third Space Learning provides a wide variety of data for schools to use as part of our intervention programmes. Reports range from the granular (progress reports for individual pupils) to the broad (progress reports per cohort).

Tutors use these reports to further personalise and adapt lessons for each pupil between sessions, ensuring they’re learning the curriculum content at the best pace for them. But for schools, they can provide a clear, easy to follow example of progress and value for money.

This helps teachers and school leaders become more knowledgeable in an ‘external data’ sense so that if Ofsted should ask, they can respond with confidence.

Third Space Learning’s regular reporting ensures maths
progress is tracked throughout our online interventions.

Contributors

We’d like to thank the following teachers and school leaders for their responses to our questions, and their feedback about what an Ofsted deep dive means and incorporates. Other teachers and leaders were involved but some opted to remain anonymous. If you think we’ve quoted you in this document without attribution do please get in touch and we’ll add your name to the list.

Many of the questions were first shared via the Primary Maths Subject Leaders Facebook group.

Linda Potter
Lauren Baker
Marcus O’Donohoe
Louise Betts
Wendy Cook

Further reading:
How are Ofsted inspections structured?

School inspections are structured around the 3 I’s — curriculum intent, implementation and impact. 

Before the deep dive, inspectors speak with senior leaders to gather a top-level view of the intent of the wider school curriculum. 

Following a call with the headteacher or school leader, Ofsted visits the school in person and completes a deep dive into their selected subjects. 

A new Ofsted analysis in the 2022/2023 academic year found the number of deep dives conducted in primary schools was, on average, four. This typically increased to five subjects for secondary schools. 

Upon completion, inspectors bring all of the gathered information together to assess the quality of education delivered throughout the whole school and provide the school and parents with ratings and reports on the inspected areas. 

What does a deep dive in maths look like?

A deep dive in maths looks like an Ofsted school inspection that focuses on ensuring maths progress for pupils and bridging the gap in maths between key stages.

What is the purpose of a deep dive?

The purpose of a deep dive is for Ofsted to establish a clearer idea of the overall teaching quality of a school by examining a national curriculum subject in detail.

What is a deep dive in school?

A deep dive in school is an in-depth examination of a national curriculum subject by an Ofsted inspection team. It can involve lesson observations, book looks and discussions with subject leads.

Third Space Learning Upsell Section
DO YOU HAVE STUDENTS WHO NEED MORE SUPPORT IN MATHS?

 

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.

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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!

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