Office for Standards in Education (Ofsted)
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‘Deep dives’ removed from ungraded inspections

Recently (04 May 2024), at the National Association of Headteacher’s (NAHT) Annual conference, Ofsted’s Chief Inspector, Sir Martyn Oliver, announced changes to ungraded inspections.

  • ‘Deep dives’ during ungraded inspections to stop from September.
  • Move will affect 40% of all school inspections.

The changes are designed to reduce the burden on school leaders and allow more time and flexibility for inspectors to get to know the school, including its context and priorities.

From September, inspectors will no longer conduct subject deep dives during ungraded inspections, which are designed to check on standards in schools that already carry a good or outstanding grade. Instead, school leaders will have the opportunity to discuss their school’s strengths and areas for development with inspectors.

The lead inspector’s initial phone call will focus on getting to know the school, its context, priorities and progress since the previous inspection. There will then be more space for school leaders to help shape the inspection plan and ensure it is focused on the right things.

The inspection framework will remain unchanged, but in place of the deep dives, inspectors will typically use extended learning walks to consider the impact of the curriculum and pupils’ personal development. Safeguarding arrangements, behaviour and attendance will continue to be evaluated in the same way.

The changes have come about mainly as a result of feedback from small primary schools, many of whom feel the deep dive methodology is particularly challenging. However, the changes will benefit all schools – nearly 3,000 ungraded inspections planned for next year will now benefit from a more flexible and collaborative approach. That represents more than 40% of all planned school inspections.

The move comes during Ofsted’s ongoing Big Listen consultation exercise that runs until the end of May. Responses to the Big Listen, currently totalling over 15,000, will be assessed over the summer, with further measures to be announced in the autumn.

Sir Martyn Oliver told the NAHT conference:

We’ve been listening to thousands of people at visits and events, at meetings and roundtables, at small discussions, and at big conferences like this one. 

On ungraded inspections, we will no longer conduct deep dives from September…The emphasis of these inspections will be on providing school leaders with opportunities to demonstrate where they have improved and to discuss where they still have work to do.

We also hope that this change will reduce the burden on subject leaders and more junior colleagues. We’ll focus on a dialogue with you and your senior leaders. So, while we will still want to have conversations with subject leads, this will be less intensive for them.

To contribute to the Big Listen, visit

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