Ofsted inspection toolkits: ‘The best preparation’

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From the 90-minute call to subject deep dives former headteacher Helen Youngman has created a range of tried and tested toolkits to support schools with every aspect of their Ofsted inspection


Helen Youngman’s ambition is to inspire primary schools to achieve outstanding results for their pupils. An experienced practitioner with 22 years’ teaching and leadership experience, she has worked in a range of primary schools, many in challenging situations.

Ofsted graded Ms Youngman’s leadership as outstanding at consecutive inspections, however she does not want her legacy to be words in an Ofsted report, rather she wants to be remembered for the care and nurture she gave to children and families over many years.

She remembers the stress that accompanies Ofsted inspection, which can build for many months and years beforehand. She can often be heard stating during her in-person training courses that if she had superpowers she would blast Ofsted – and SATs for that matter – into outer space, never to be seen again!

During the Covid lockdowns, Ms Youngman put her time to good use by writing a comprehensive set of inspection toolkits to try and take some of the pressure and fear away from the process. The resources range from curriculum deep dive toolkits for different subjects to toolkits focusing on specific areas of inspection, such as Pupil Premium, reading and phonics, SEND, and early years.


The 90-minute phone call

Many headteachers dread the phone call notifying them that their Ofsted inspection will start the very next day. The 90-minute phone call is pivotal to the direction and outcome of the whole inspection, so it is crucial for headteachers and senior leadership teams to plan and prepare for it in advance.

“The longer you work on it the better your evidence and preparation will be,” she said. “A tiny part of the call will be about the domestic arrangements for the inspection but the majority of it will be a big picture discussion with headteachers and principals about their opinions on the three ‘i’s – intent, implementation and impact.”

Ms Youngman continued: “It is a big deal because during the conversation the lead inspector will decide on the subjects they are going to deep dive. They will also make judgements on your leadership, so what you say needs to be an accurate representation of your school and your school’s best practice. The 90-minute phone call resource pack provides details of the questions you will face during the call, as well as comprehensive model answers and an evidence-builder to identify where evidence can be found within your school.

Top tips for the 90-minute phone call

  • Plan for the call in advance. Work out the questions you are likely to be asked and put together your responses.
  • Decide who is going to be on the 90-minute phone call and who is going to speak.
  • There is a lot of information to convey so you must put your school across in the very best light you can.
  • This is not always possible but choose the subjects that the inspectors are going to deep dive and work out what needs to be in place for the inspection to be successful.
  • The 90-minute phone call resource pack: https://bit.ly/3Is3ohD


Subject deep dive toolkits

Ms Youngman has produced a series of deep dive toolkits covering all the foundation subjects as well as maths, and reading and phonics. The toolkits contain everything subject leaders require to excel during a deep dive including:

  • All the Ofsted deep dive questions (subject-specific) with comprehensive model answers.
  • Example subject action plans.
  • CPD impact examples.
  • Monitoring templates specific to each subject.
  • Subject-specific pedagogies.
  • Raising standards and quality of teaching and learning in every subject.

Ms Youngman added: “In every subject the inspectors will talk about your practice but they always want to see it happening. Core data is only a small element of an inspection. The majority of the inspection is about what you actually do. The proof isn’t a bar graph or a chart, it’s demonstrating what children have learned – and articulating that.”

The toolkits address deep dives in a wide range of subjects, including art and design, computing, design technology, geography, history, maths, modern foreign languages, music, PE and science.

One headteacher, whose school was inspected in September 2022, said the toolkits were “simply the best Ofsted prep out there”. They continued: “The inspection happened exactly as Helen said, and every suggestion she made was invaluable. The deep dives were exactly as Helen outlined and the prep materials she provides are literally everything you need to succeed. I am so grateful I invested in the training and resources – they were without a doubt the reason we did so well at inspection.”

Top tips for subject deep dives

  • Create a well-sequenced progressive curriculum map for your subject.
  • Show that you support and provide professional development for staff so they can teach their subject well.
  • Assess and gather information about the quality of teaching and learning in your subject. This will include watching lessons, sampling work and speaking to the children.
  • Make sure that you can show there is a broad curriculum in your subject. This means engaging the children in the curriculum and not always teaching the same knowledge in the same way. For example, if you are teaching map skills, you might take pupils out to the local area, do digital mapping, or read a fantasy story and create a map of that.
  • Find the core subject deep dive toolkits via https://bit.ly/3VHyEhO
  • Find the foundation deep dive toolkits via https://bit.ly/3Cg2Mu8


Reading and phonics

The reading and phonics deep dive is very intensive and it is vital the subject leader is well prepared. The reading and phonics deep dive has seven distinct aspects. Inspectors will look at.

  • Whole-school reading culture.
  • Text selection.
  • Reading for pleasure.
  • Teaching reading.
  • Phonics.
  • Comprehension.
  • Assessment.

The reading and phonics inspection toolkit covers each aspect in detail and provides all the questions and comprehensive model answers. As well as deep dive questions and answers, this toolkit features booklists for children from EYFS to year 6, a reading interest inventory to help children discover books they are keen to read, and the progress children are expected to make in every year group.

Top tips for reading and phonics

  • Prepare in advance. If you know what the inspectors are going to be looking for you can gather your evidence and put your best foot forward.
  • The reading deep dive usually starts with an inspector accompanying the subject leader on a learning walk, so plan this very carefully. It is important to convey your best practice in every area of inspection, from how you create an effective reading culture and ethos in your school to how you teach the strategies of reading.
  • Prepare teachers and children well by working through the questions they are likely to be asked during the inspection.
  • Reading & Phonics Deep Dive Toolkit: https://bit.ly/3Gpaj9g


The self-evaluation form

By 8am on the first day of the Ofsted inspection schools must provide (among other things) a self-evaluation summary and a current school improvement plan. Writing a self-evaluation form (SEF) can be daunting because there are no statutory or standard formats to use. However, the SEF resource pack features five example best practice SEFs, including two for good schools and one for an outstanding school.

“This is basically headteachers’ and principals’ judgement on the quality of each area in their school, from curriculum design to behaviour and attitudes,” Ms Youngman explained.

“A lot of schools simply compile lists of what they have done but you must demonstrate impact too. For example, you may have trained all your staff on Accelerated Reader – but what impact has it had on the children’s progress?”

Meanwhile the Senior Leadership Team (SLT) Inspection Toolkit aims to ensure that the SLT has everything they need to excel during Ofsted inspection. This resource includes sections on curriculum design, leadership and management, behaviour and attitudes, personal development, SEND, EYFS, safeguarding and SMSC (spiritual, moral, social and cultural development). There is also a complete outline of every statutory requirement you need to be compliant with, from website content to staff recruitment.

Top tips for creating an effective SEF

  • Don’t simply write a list of what you have done. You need to demonstrate the impact each initiative has had on children and their learning.
  • Remember to link your SEF to your school improvement plan. If you say that you are good in all areas, for instance, you should give the reasons why you are not outstanding. These should also be on your school improvement plan.
  • SEF Resource Pack: https://bit.ly/3lKs771
  • Senior Leadership Team Inspection Toolkit: https://bit.ly/3yfKrKx


Pupil Premium

Pupil Premium spending, impact and outcomes are a clear focus for every Ofsted inspection.

The Department for Education’s on-going “understanding progress” research shows that disadvantaged and other vulnerable pupils have been hardest hit over the last two years, particularly when it comes to lost learning, wellbeing and safeguarding concerns.

During an Ofsted, inspectors will gather evidence about your school’s use of Pupil Premium and catch-up funding. They will want to find out about the level of funding in the current academic year and previous years, how leaders and governors have spent the funding, the impact the funding has had, and the learning and progress of disadvantaged pupils.

Top tips for Pupil Premium

  • Show a range of examples of outstanding practice in relation to reducing gaps in attainment and outstanding provision for Pupil Premium children.
  • Go beyond the data – as well as presenting data, put together good case studies of Pupil Premium pupils.
  • Remember that it is not just about achievement and attainment in English and maths. It is a good idea to include subjects like art, design technology and PE too.
  • Pupil Premium Inspection Toolkit: https://bit.ly/3yfL6eZ


Final thought

We shall leave the final word to one London headteacher who was inspected in May 2022: “We thought we had heard it all about deep dives – we were very wrong! If you are due an inspection I would thoroughly recommend that you invest in Helen’s training and deep dive toolkits. I genuinely thought I had heard it all, but was recommended this training and the toolkits by a respected colleague. I can only say thank goodness I heeded her advice! It turns out the training and reading we had completed up until then was vague and if we had stuck with that our inspection outcome would have been very different.

“Helen’s training is thorough and precise and our subject leaders all stated that it was the reason behind their individual and ultimately our school success. Get your staff this training and these toolkits and it will be the best inspection preparation you can have.”


Further information & resources

Headteacher Update Knowledge Bank

This article has been published by Headteacher Update with sponsorship from Helen Youngman Education. It has been written and produced to a brief agreed in advance with Helen Youngman Education.


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