Ofsted’s revised framework from September 2021 continues to place the curriculum at the centre stage of inspections. As part of the curriculum ‘deep dives’ a sample of subjects or topics will be scrutinised alongside the relevant subject leader in order to gather evidence about curriculum implementation. We know that these will include discussions with senior leaders, curriculum leaders, teachers and pupils, scrutiny of pupils’ work and visits to a connected sample of lessons. But what exactly can you expect from a ‘deep dive’ and how can you prepare for one? Read on as I delve into one such ‘deep dive’ which will be a part of all primary inspections: reading.

The EIF clearly states that ‘inspectors must focus on how well pupils are taught to read as a main inspection activity’. This element requires much more focus than in previous inspection frameworks because inspectors will pay particular attention to pupils who are reading below age-related expectations, i.e. the lowest 20%. The framework states that the purpose is ‘to assess how well the school is teaching phonics and supporting all children to become confident, fluent readers’.

As part of a deep dive into reading the provision in Early Years is scrutinised. Can you demonstrate that adults in your Early Years settings are expert in teaching systematic, synthetic phonics and ensure that children practise their reading from books that match their phonics knowledge?

The key here is how well you and your leaders are ensuring the ‘fluent readers’ element of this and how well prepared you are to demonstrate that your successful teaching of phonics does indeed enable your pupils to become, ‘fluent readers’.


Some questions you may wish to consider alongside our consultants would be:

  • Can you demonstrate that you are determined that every pupil will learn to read? Indeed, will all pupils, even your weakest readers, make sufficient progress to meet or exceed age-related expectations?
  • What rationale are you using to select those stories, poems, rhymes and non-fiction texts which you intend to develop pupils’ vocabulary, language comprehension and love of reading?
  • Do all staff demonstrate a high level of expertise in the teaching of phonics and developing a love of reading? If not, how effectively has you CPD programme been in supporting them?
  • How confident are your pupils in talking about the books they are reading or have read? Will they be confident when reading to an inspector?


It is not merely the senior leaders who will be involved in the discussion about school development plan priorities for reading. It is also about how knowledgeable teachers are as to the rationale behind the texts they choose, the reading activities they plan and how effectively they organise their classroom environment so that it captures the pupils’ imagination?

As a result of the lock down in schools the last meaningful data on phonics and reading outcomes was in 2019-how can you demonstrate that you have made progress over the ensuing years without nationally validated data to support your assertions?

Of course, there also has to be question about how well you involve parents in developing reading with their children.

Ultimately, can you demonstrate the expertise, enthusiasm and determination to ensure that the pupils in your school become ‘fluent readers’ and are you indeed, truly a reading school?


If you are keen to ensure your school has a full understanding of and is thoroughly prepared for a deep dive into reading, get in touch today to find out how our school improvement support can help.




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