New Ofsted Protocol – What To Expect, How to Prepare

What do Deep Dives look like in practice? How does treatment of a specialist subject like music differ from core subjects like reading and maths? What can heads and subject leaders expect on inspection day? Do early criticisms levied by teachers and governors have merit and potential long-term impact? And most importantly, how can schools overcome any assessment blindspots?

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2-PART SERIES: Inspection Favours the Subject Deep Dive

Click here if you missed the first article in our two-part in-depth series on Ofsted’s new Education Inspection Framework – Putting Education at the Centre of Inspection.

So now that we’ve fully unpacked what Ofsted is looking to achieve with its new inspection framework, it’s important to turn from high-level strategy to on-the-ground implementation:

  • What do Deep Dives look like in practice?
  • How does treatment of a specialist subject like music differ from core subjects like reading and maths?
  • What can heads and subject leaders expect on inspection day?
  • Do early criticisms levied by teachers and governors have merit and potential long-term impact?
  • And most importantly, how can schools overcome any assessment blindspots?


Four Keystones for Headteachers

So as the first sets of inspection results flow through the new system and you begin to prepare for your own upcoming assessment, what can you, your staff and your pupils expect?

TES offered some early insight into the new inspection regime, based on the first batch of reports published. They identified four key areas of which schools should be aware:

  • Curriculum features heavily in the positive reports
  • But results do still count
  • SEND matters
  • Pupils voices are promoted 1

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The newspaper reported that at Leyland St Mary’s Roman Catholic School in Lancashire, “which went from ‘requires improvement’ to ‘good’, inspectors found that leaders had developed strong curricula for reading, writing and maths.2

[Alternatively] Hawkesbury CE Primary School in Badminton, South Gloucestershire, has been downgraded from ‘outstanding’ to ‘requires improvement.’ Its report includes concerns that over several years, standards in reading and maths have declined in both key stages 1 and 2. [The report] says teachers’ plans to improve pupils’ progress in reading lack the detail that is needed and leaders have not identified the root causes sufficiently.”3

While reflecting just two of many hundred inspection results, these report snippets highlight how Ofsted’s new assessment protocol looks heavily at standards and pupil outcomes through the lens of curriculum versus that of delivery. And in those instances where improvement plans, root causes and progression cannot be sufficiently well-mapped, schools are shown to receive significantly downgraded assessments.

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Our Approach - Curriculum, SEND and Pupil Voice

Sing Education takes the keystones of curriculum, inclusion and pupil voice very seriously. 

We start by looking at the current provision in place and how this can be further developed or refined. We sit down with the school and analyse what they’re already doing – and to offer solutions they might implement to improve this. One way, of course, is to utilise Sing Education staff on site. The second, and powerfully complementary approach, is to utilise Sing Education’s consultancy expertise to augment or reframe your current provision.

For instance, we might work alongside your internal music coordinator or class teachers themselves to ensure that music provision is unified and works across the board. That includes everything from curricular music to choirs, clubs, SEN groups, instrumental tuition, singing assemblies and more. We collaboratively develop bespoke progression maps and schemes of work, which represent the programme’s medium and long-term planning. These tools are also great for reporting – for class teachers to develop reports and updates for parents on what the children have been learning. 

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But, most importantly, these tools enable us to track the progress of pupils which can subsequently be used for Ofsted planning. Our progression maps and schemes of work allow schools to clearly demonstrate that their music curriculum is progressive and is in line with the new framework. We can also introduce additional recordkeeping elements when appropriate. For example, in some schools, we have charted records of ‘pupil voice’ to monitor what children are remembering from their learning in the classroom so that if Ofsted comes in to do a deep dive on music, we have evidence of logging pupil progression over time.

Deep Dives - Questions and Preparation

Rose Moss, product owner at Twinkl, the online community hub for teacher-created planning and assessment materials, suggests Deep Dive planning include the following key dimensions 4:

  • General Curriculum Questions
      • Remember, Ofsted want to understand your intentions for the curriculum. They also want to know how you’re going to implement this and monitor the impact. The focus on lesson sequencing is something you can easily prepare for 
        • Curriculum intent – what does the curriculum intend to do?
        • implementation – how is the curriculum implemented?
        • impact – what progress do children make?
  • Reading and Maths Questions
    • Ensure you’ve spoken with all key stages and try to gather as much information as possible about how they plan and implement reading and maths. Use this to work out where each key stage sits in the sequence of learning for pupils. 
    • Sit down with EYFS teachers and Year 1 teachers, as well as Year 2 to Year 3 to ensure you have a thorough understanding of how transitions are managed effectively.
    • Ensure Maths CPD is offered where possible and kept up to date to ensure all staff have as much understanding as possible (including in-school CPD).
    • Ensure all data is collected on intervention, is kept up to date and clearly shows reasoning behind decisions made.

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Download our Ofsted Deep Dive Resource


  • Specialist Questions (e.g., Music)
      • Is music woven together and sequenced in a coherent way that enables children to develop musically and become more sophisticated, nuanced and technically more adept as they mature?
      • Does the curriculum Incrementally build the technical knowledge of how to play an instrument?
      • Does the learning incrementally build knowledge of the structures and devices that underpin the construction of musical words?
      • Curriculum intent is about understanding and planning the steps that pupils will take to achieve an increasing musical outcome. As a result, do pupils engage within music with increasing accuracy, fluency control and expression? Do they Increase in aural memory?
      • Do pupils grow in knowledge and appreciation of music, over time how it’s been a conduit of human expression?
  • Focused SLT Questions
    • Deep Dives are curriculum-based. So, if you’re a member of SLT you’ll definitely be involved. Inspectors will want to know how the planning of curriculum areas is done collaboratively between class teachers, subject leaders and SLT. 
    • Here are some questions which regularly come up: 
      • Tell me about the CPD provision you have in place for staff?
      • Can you talk me through how you support new members of staff? NQTs?
      • How do you ensure a good work/life balance for your staff?
      • How do you support SEND/PP pupils within the setting?

Moss concludes by advising “Everybody in school will need to be as prepared as possible for a Deep Dive: SLT, class teachers, governors and even students! 5” 

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Concerns Over Inspection Changes

There are, of course, some perceived difficulties with Ofsted’s new approach.

Nick Brook, deputy general secretary of the NAHT headteachers’ union, expressed early doubts whether Ofsted would be able to reliably assess the quality of education in a school.

He said: “The ambition in Ofsted’s plans is sound, but we are deeply concerned that it will prove to be unworkable in practice. Under these new arrangements, inspectors are being asked to do too much, with too little resource, and with too great a degree of subjectivity.

“It is right that Ofsted looks at the ‘quality of education’ on offer in schools – one would not expect them to look at anything else. But Ofsted has given its inspectors an impossible task to perform.6

According to Kapow Learning, “Ofsted have adopted an approach that now has a thorough dig into individual subjects, with the view that it’s a sure-fire way of ensuring that schools take non-core subjects seriously. That said, subjects that were previously of little interest to inspectors, have now suddenly taken centre stage, leaving already overworked and unsuspecting subject leads (who don’t get additional TLR payments or extra time) in the firing line.7</sup”

And now, even some months on from launch, the national body for school governors has also expressed concern with the new assessment practice. 

According to SchoolsWeek, a report published by the National Governance Association finds “Ofsted’s new framework is diminishing the role of governance in schools, patronising staff and leading to rushed inspections 8

Emma Knights, chief executive of the NAG, said “it was ‘particularly dispiriting ‘ the changes ‘render governance less visible.’

The inspectorate’s commitment to us that governance would feature as much in inspection as it has done in the past has not materialised,’ she added.

Knights said it was ‘important in terms of improving the system to have acknowledgement when governance is working well: that emphasis of what ‘good’ looks like from Ofsted is taken seriously”.

The NGA has now urged that governance ‘should return as a mandatory portion of the report.’” 9

Sing Education - Your Partner for A Deep Dive in Music

It started with a simple idea. What if Sing Education could produce the very best music education resources available to train young learners from nursery straight through to junior school (KS2) and then train up a cadre of excellent teachers to deliver their singing-led approach to schools across London? Done!

Over the last 10 years, Sing Education has invested heavily in the development, testing, training and rollout of our own bank of high-quality, bespoke curricular resources. This is one of our strongest elements of differentiation which sets us apart from individual peripatetic practitioners and from other music services. It is a distinct point of pride for the organisation. 

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Download our Ofsted Deep Dive Resource

According to Josh Cadman, co-founder and director at Sing Education “This year we have developed our new Music Curriculum Pack. We’ve designed it to equip our partner schools with the tools they need to successfully monitor the music curriculum and demonstrate it to Ofsted.

As headteacher at a Sing Education partner school, you can expect the following lesson planning, music resources and training opportunities to be made available to you – tailored to your specific learning setting:

  • Long-term planning 
    • Progression skills map/curriculum framework
    • Term by term outline of music education plan
    • Delineated on a whole school basis (i.e., Years 1-6)
  • Medium term planning
    • Cornerstone of the deep dive inspection
    • Provides detailed planning on lessons, links to curriculum and specific learning outcomes 
    • Pupil voice templates to monitor what children are remembering from their learning in the classroom
  • Training
    • Training on all of the bespoke resources above, including video training, is also provided, to ensure headteachers feel fully equipped and ready for a Deep Dive.


To learn more about Sing Education, including how our music provision, online instrumental lessons and at home learning resources contribute to a well-rounded music curriculum, please visit

For even more info, practical tips and guidance, click here to download your FREE “Deep Dive Resource Recap”


About Us

Founded in 2014 and serving more than 9,000 children each week, Sing Education is a first class provider of primary school music education. Focusing on high-quality, singing-led tuition, we deliver a complete solution for schools which includes teacher recruitment, training and management, bespoke curricular resources and educational consultancy services. 

Through music lessons, singing assemblies, choirs, after school clubs and instrumental tuition, Sing Education works with students from Nursery right through to Year 6. Our core philosophy is that “Every Child Has A Voice,” and, as educators active in the classroom, our directors and teachers know firsthand how much young learners benefit from exciting, rewarding music education. 

#SingEducation #MusicChangesLives



  1. A first look at Ofsted’s new inspection reports – TES
  2. As above
  3. As above
  4. Ofsted Deep Dive Questions: Everything You Could Be Asked and How to Prepare – Twinkl
  5. As above
  6. How will Ofsted inspect the curriculum? – TES
  7. What is an Ofsted Deep Dive? – Kapow Primary
  8. Governors: New Ofsted inspections ‘rushed’ and reports ‘patronising’ – SchoolsWeek
  9. As above
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