More thoughts on primary history OFSTED deep dives

Recently Matthew Purves , the Deputy Director for Schools, set out OFSTED latest thinking on deep dives in primary schools. He makes reference a number of times to what that means in history. Here are some of the highlights for you to ponder.

‘A deep dive… involves gathering evidence on the curriculum intent, implementation and impact over a sample of subjects, topics or aspects. This is done in collaboration with leaders, teachers and pupils. The intent of the deep dive is to seek to interrogate and establish a coherent evidence base on the quality of education.’

Inspectors usually need to talk in more depth about a chosen deep dive subject with the subject leader. In smaller schools, one member of staff often leads many subjects, and this will be taken into account. Wherever possible, inspectors will avoid conducting multiple deep dives in subjects that have the same leader. Inspectors will ask questions to get a deeper understanding of how a subject has been planned across the school, the rationale behind it, how the children learn it, and how the school knows this. Three important things to note are:

Observing learning

Inspectors will not judge individual lessons, but they will want to see if what’s happening in a lesson matches the outline given by subject and senior leaders. For example, if a deep dive is being undertaken in history, inspectors are likely to visit four to six history lessons and ask the history lead ‘Where does this lesson fit into the planned history sequence that you told me about?’ and ‘How does it build on subject learning to help children transition to the next stage?’

Inspectors may also be interested in how key subject vocabulary is used in the lessons, how teachers ensure that Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) pupils benefit from the same ambitious curriculum as other pupils wherever possible and the flow and pace of knowledge and skills acquisition.

Talking to teachers

Inspectors do not judge individual teachers. They are primarily focused on how teachers plan and deliver a sequence of lessons over time to help children learn the curriculum content in class. While a teacher of Year 4 may not have in-depth knowledge of the history requirements for another year group, inspectors will expect them to understand what key knowledge and skills they are teaching that will be essential for their study in later years at school; in other words, how their Year 4 history curriculum builds towards what the children will learn in Year 5 and beyond.

Inspectors may also talk to individual teachers about the lesson they’ve observed, although individual teachers and lessons are not graded in the new framework.

They could also discuss how the lessons inspectors have visited fit within the larger sequence of lessons they are teaching on the history topic, what key concepts they wanted pupils to take from the lesson, and how that builds on what they have learned before and gets them ready for what they will learn in the future. Ofsted are keen to make sure that meetings with teachers are planned sensitively and timed in a way that limits the interruption to class teaching time.

Work scrutiny

Inspectors will look at children’s work, combined with other evidence, to give them a fuller picture of children’s learning of the curriculum. Work scrutiny may be undertaken alongside the subject or curriculum leader.

Inspectors will take a selection of books from a range of classes to scrutinise subject learning, to ensure that learning intentions are tight. They may also look at how misconceptions are addressed in classwork. Inspectors are definitely not expecting a specific style or amount of marking.

There is no preference over children having ‘topic’ or ‘subject’ books or folders, as long as it is clear to the children which subject they are learning. If the subject is more practical, inspectors may not even look at the books.

Talking to children

As well as looking at children’s work, inspectors will have conversations with children about their learning. Again, this is to help them build a clearer understanding of how well curriculum content is learned and retained in school. Inspectors will want to meet a cross section of children, including those whom they have seen in lessons and whose work they have scrutinised.

Inspectors will sometimes ask children to recall and describe their learning in the previous year, which provides evidence regarding progression and sequencing. Inspectors are sensitive to the fact that different children can be more or less talkative and don’t reach conclusions solely based on pupil conversations – the main objective is to connect lots of different types of evidence.






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