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Deep Dive

 As there is a lot of anxiety around the Ofsted Deep Dives in the teaching community, in this post, I would like to share my experience with my recent Ofsted MFL Deep Dive in a hope that it might be useful to some of you at some level even though experiences will vary from school to school; also depending on whether your inspector was a subject specialist or not.

During the late afternoon of the day when the call came in, we were notified by our SLT about which departments will be ‘deep dived’. Reading this post, you can rightly guess – ours was one of them.

The inspector that was assessing our department, was MFL specialist with a degree in French and an ex Headteacher. 

In my opinion, for the Subject Leader, this information could be a positive one in terms of being reassured that the inspector will have the understanding of how your subject, in my case – languages, is taught and learnt in U.K. secondary schools or negative one in terms of they can scrutinise, question and unpick your curriculum and provision in much more depth than a non-specialist inspector. 

However, in both scenarios the scrutiny will be a thorough and intensive one! 

Here is what it looked like on the day…

The format of the day:

I have taught my first lesson as normal.

From the second lesson, to start with, I had a cca. 30 minutes long interview with the inspector answering a set of questions such as: 

  • How closely is your curriculum aligned with the National Curriculum for MFL?

  • How do you ensure your curriculum is ambitious?

  • Why have you sequenced it like this?

  • How do you ensure there is a clear progression in your curriculum?

  • Walk me through what students can do in year 7 as opposed in year 8, at KS3 as opposed in GCSE?

  • What do you expect your students to know by the time they leave your school?

  • How do you ensure students retain the essential knowledge?

  • How do you close the gaps in their knowledge?

  • How do you address misconceptions? How do you know students understand?

  • What is your marking and feedback policy like? Why? What is the rationale behind it?

  • What forms of assessment do you use to assess your students? How often?

  • How do you support students with SEND?

  • How do you stretch your higher attaining students?

  • How does your staff keep their language knowledge up to date?

  • What does the CPD look like in your school/department?

In my case, the inspector didn’t want to see any of my documents, all I was asked to do is to ‘walk the inspector through’ it. I suppose it was to gauge whether I knew it really well; why we have planned it the way we have and how we knew the curriculum was working for our students. Obviously, this could have been different if it was a non-specialist, and they could have asked to see our curriculum map and sequencing documents…

After the interview, we have moved onto joined lesson observations

We observed 3 lessons, each for 20 minutes to see if what I was saying can be seen in the classroom practice – a part of Ofsted’s triangulation.

First observation was year 10 GCSE class – the teacher was modelling under the visualiser co-construction of an 80-90-word task in the run up to students’ CAEs. The inspector asked me to select 2 ex. books, one to be from a student with SEND/EAL and carefully looked through students’ books and folders which contained various workbooks providing scaffolding, such as i.e., writing and speaking workbooks… with a comment: ‘I can see what you have been talking about…’

When looking through the SEND/EAL student’s book, I mentioned that the student has joined the school in year 9 and chose to take up GCSE German. ( I knew this student as I taught him the previous year.)

This was followed (after the inspector looked at the Retrieval Practice tasks in the book) by a comment: ‘I can see, he is getting it…’

Second observation was year 8 class completing their summative assessment. 

Still, we stayed for cca. 15 minutes during which the inspector circulated the classroom, looking at students completing the assessment and picking up some ex. books to look through (again selecting 2 – one being a SEND student). I was also asked to take a note of their names as these students would become a part of the pupil voice and interview. The class teacher was circulating during the assessment.

Third observation was my own class of year 8 students covered by our ECT who only found out she will be covering my lesson in the morning when she arrived in school as the day’s timetable was emailed later on in the evening and I haven’t picked it up till the morning – I suppose we got some sleep, at least! 

During this part of the lesson, students were completing independently translation activity whilst the teacher was circulating and then giving feedback using CFU/ probing questions/process questions etc. 

The inspector sat at the back of the classroom next to a student and at one point, quietly asked the student to read out a small section of her writing. As previously, 2 ex. books were selected. 

The students whose books were selected were also interviewed by the inspector as part of the triangulation and evidence collecting process.

There was one more round of observations during the last lesson, this time with a member of the SLT and I also got to be observed with my year 7 class. 

This was the second lesson in the sequence of lessons talking about pets. I was using MWBs for dictation, translation, CFU as well as cold calling – grammatical concepts of genders which I haven’t taught explicitly in this sequence, but students could transfer the knowledge of it from their previous learning and could produce written output independently.

After this set of observations at the end of the lesson, the inspector came back to my classroom and asked me a few additional questions that are mentioned in the list above. 

I also had to respond to a comment about independent speaking, specifically pair/group work which wasn’t witnessed. The inspector felt there was a lot of speaking but it was teacher led. 

At this point, I had to ‘defend my cause’ and explain that the KS3 classes observed were at the start of the learning sequence and nowhere near the independent spoken production phase which is only possible after extensive practice and rehearsal towards the end of the learning sequence. In response to the GCSE class, I had to explain that we did not change our lesson planning because we had the Ofsted in, and at that point, we were preparing students for their writing CAEs hence that was why writing strategies inc. metacognition were modelled and taught.

In a response to this comment, we have offered to the inspector to come and see another lesson to demonstrate that our students can speak independently, even though it wouldn’t be in our current lesson sequence.

The last stage was the interview with the team. The feedback from them was that they were asked about safeguarding, workload, briefly about the curriculum and our ECT was asked whether she feels she is getting adequate mentoring and support during her first teaching year.

On the morning of the next day, we were told unofficially, the department had done well, the inspectors were happy with the evidence and won’t be seeing more language lessons! Well done, team!

From the experience I had, the inspector was not interested in what pedagogical approach to language teaching we use/follow but was interested in students making progress: knowing more, remembering more and thus being able to do more!!

The experience was very intense and exhausting, and I was in bed by 8pm! 

No curriculum is perfect. The only advice from my own experience, would be: Know your curriculum and the rationale behind it really well, make sure it is logically sequenced, the staff in your department also knows it and can verbalize it, ensure that what you say is evident in the classroom practice, can be confirmed by your students during their interview and don’t hide anything or don’t put up an ‘one off show’! Do what you normally do and if something is not there yet (it’s work in progress), say it and say what you are doing about it.

The curriculum is not finite; it is a working document which is constantly reviewed and adapted as necessary…

We use E.P.I approach, examples of our curriculum map and sequencing documents are available on my Curriculum page.


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