Concerns have been raised after Ofsted admitted it did not have a central record of the ‘deep dives’ that inspectors have carried out on different subjects this year.

Ofsted do deep dives into individual topics – not always the same ones – as part of school inspections.

Concerns have been raised in the past that certain topics, such as music and art, have received less scrutiny from inspectors than other topics.

A former senior Ofsted official has requested figures under the Freedom of Information Act on the number of deep dives carried out on individual subjects by inspectors in the spring of this year.

However, the inspection stated that it does not systematically collect this data.

Adrian Gray, former Ofsted division manager, who submitted the freedom of information (FOI) asks, said, “I find that quite amazing. Unless Ofsted has this information, how can they be sure they are carrying out a balanced curriculum survey? »

He added: “I’m not interested in hitting Ofsted but I’m interested in helping schools, and I’ve submitted this request to understand what subjects Ofsted chooses to do deep dives in, how often and how this process works.”

James Bowen, policy director of school leaders’ union NAHT, also raised concerns about Ofsted’s response.

He said: “It seems strange and rather surprising that Ofsted does not keep track of the number of deep dives it has made in each subject.

“Given the important role deep dives play in inspections, you would have thought Ofsted would carefully monitor how often each subject is examined and whether some are examined more often than others.”

As reported by YourMr. Gray was previously able to obtain data on the number of times subjects were selected for inspection.

An FOI request he submitted in 2020 revealed major variations in the frequency with which different subjects are chosen for deep dives.

Primary school inspectors were more than twice as likely to be interested in history than geography.

And in secondary schools, 90% of inspections involved deep dives in English, compared to 78% in math and 68% in science.

The figures also revealed that in primary and secondary inspections, neither the arts nor music feature highly in deep dives.

In its response to Mr Gray’s latest FOI, Ofsted said it was able to provide the data for this request in 2020 “because we had recently carried out an internal analysis and therefore maintained a full list of deep dives for the relevant period you have requested”.

However, he was told that the inspection did not have the same centrally collected data for deep dives carried out during inspections in the spring of this year.

The response letter says: “In this case, I can confirm that we do not hold aggregated data regarding the number and subjects of deep dives that were undertaken during school inspections in the spring of 2022.

“Although the inspectors record the deep dives they make, the information is not recorded systematically in such a way that it can be easily extracted and collated into a complete list.

“We have considered whether or not there are other ways for us to extract the information you have requested. At this time, we do not believe there is a way to do this without a high level of manual intervention; with either a review of published reports or the individual evidence bases for each inspection. This exercise may not be definitive and we believe may exceed the appropriate limits provided by law.

An Ofsted spokesperson said: ‘We do not need to aggregate information on the number of deep dives undertaken by subject in order to make a balanced assessment of an individual school’s curriculum.

“We inspect all schools against the same criteria, set out in the Education Inspection Framework, and in-depth reviews are only part of the process. The in-depth analysis methodology uses a subject sampling approach at the individual school level.

“The range of subjects sampled allows inspectors to examine relative strengths and weaknesses, with a view to identifying any systemic issues related to the quality of education as a whole. This robust approach allows us to arrive at fair and accurate judgments for each school.

Ofsted to produce reports on how subjects are taught

“Over the past two years, we have developed the lead role for each subject in the national curriculum and created a curriculum unit that currently publishes research journals on each subject.

“Our goal is for the journals to support and inform those who are leading the thinking on subject teaching. Once we have published all the research reviews, we will gather further evidence to publish a series of reports looking at how each subject is taught in English schools.


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