OFSTED Subject Guidance English 2014

The OFSTED subject guidance is used by inspectors when carrying out subject surveys.  It should not be used for the more familiar inspections known as Section 5 or full inspections.  For these inspections the Ofsted School Inspection Handbook is the text which should be used.

Who should you be interested in these documents?

Well Subject Leaders should take a look at them since they lay out exactly what Ofsted looks for in a survey visit and they are unsurprising more subject focused than the School Inspection handbook.  They also focus on the curriculum rather than behaviour as a judgement area.  Behaviour still features however in the overall judgements, teaching judgements and leadership judgements.

Do they have any other use?

Senior leaders might find the documents useful too if they are carrying out what many refer to as a Faculty reviews or the checking of provision for a given subject area.  I have noticed one or two inspectors carry copies of the subject guidance for those subjects that they might be weakest in.  As I said above, full school inspections are based on the school inspection handbook but if you are about to be lumbered with multiple observations of lessons in a subject you might not feel strong in I suspect these documents might assist you in identifying what might differentiate a good lesson from an outstanding and so on. Personally, having taught sciences, maths, PE, business, humanities and technology I find the documents on  Modern Foreign Languages and English particularly helpful to me if I am observing MFL or English lessons in my school.

What’s changed then?  English first!

Having downloaded the subject guidance for 2014 provided by OFSTED here I thought I would start by reviewing the changes in the guidance for English first.  Here are my observations.

A lot of the wording remains similar although the sentence structure and sequences have been changed so it reads better IMHO. All references to groups of pupils have been updated to include Pupil Premium as well.

Section on Overall Effectiveness

  1. The elements referring to SMSC in the good and outstanding descriptions  have been removed.
  2. The outstanding descriptor relating pupils high levels of literacy  contributing to outstanding learning has been removed.

Section on Achievement

  1. The description from outstanding referring to pupils being keen readers  and showing sophisticated insight into a range of  texts has been removed.
  2. The Generic descriptors for outstanding achievement have been updated.  In particular there is a focus on the acquisition of knowledge.
  3. The Subject guidance descriptors for Good achievement remain largely the same except for some being joined together.
  4. The Subject Guidance descriptors for requires improvement are broadly the same except it refers to inconsistency in place of ‘not yet good’   I assume this means that for something to be good there needs to be consistency.

Section on Teaching

  1. The generic descriptor for outstanding teaching reinforces the needs for imparting knowledge to pupils.
  2. In the generic inadequate descriptions there is added “Pupils cannot communicate, read, write, or apply mathematics as well as they should.”

Section on Curriculum

  1. The outstanding grade has had the reference to SMSC removed.
  2. It has also had the reference to effective and imaginative use of literature, film and other resources to promote creativity, reflection, collaboration and self-awareness removed.
  3. The good Grade descriptor has had the reference to SMSC removed.
  4. The RI Grade descriptor has had the reference to SMSC removed.
  5. The inadequate Grade descriptor has had the reference to SMSC removed.

Section on Leadership

  1. In the generic grade descriptors for outstanding the impact of governors is highlighted.  This is repeated in the good descriptor.
  2. In the generic grade descriptors for outstanding the emphasis on pupils securing a thirst for knowledge and a love of learning is now emphasised.  This is repeated in the good descriptor,
  3. In the generic grade descriptors for outstanding the impact on pupil premium pupils is explicit, the relationship with parents is also added and safeguarding is now mentioned. References also appear to these areas in the other grades for good, RI and inadequate.
  4. In the supplementary grade descriptors for outstanding the reference to English making an excellent contribution to whole-school priorities, including consistent application of literacy and numeracy policies is removed.  It is also removed from the other grade descriptors.


There are no surprising or drastic changes to the English Subject guidance.  I will add more as I read through the others.  Most of the changes are subtle and reflect the changes to the School Inspection Handbook.   Here is the list I will be working from when talking to my middle leaders.

  • What strategies are in place to allow Governors to have impact on driving up subject results and how do they challenge subject areas?
  • Although subject areas are not providing direct evidence for impact on SMSC they still have a role to play in terms of a whole school inspection.  What evidence is there that a given subject contributes?
  • Have subject areas kept up with the focus on all groups of pupils in particular PP and SEND.  How do you do it in your school?  What evidence is there that you are impacting on them and closing gaps?
  • The reference to safeguarding in subject areas is interesting.  Surely that is a whole school issue?  On reflection subject areas will be rich in evidence relating to safeguarding.  Areas you might consider evaluating at a subject level include: health and safety, how bullying is dealt with, how pupils with medical needs are supported, how well educational visits are utilised and planned, safe use of ICT and the capacity to discuss other issues as of the curriculum.

Hope somebody finds this useful.


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