Created in collaboration with our Ofsted expert. 




Ofsted inspections can be very stressful – once a school receives the call that they are going to be inspected, many go into a frantic panic to ensure everything is in place.

Whilst schools should not operate thinking an inspection is imminent, good leaders ensure there are systems in place in which the school is constantly evaluating its performance and capacity to improve; therefore, they will already be prepared for an inspection and can avoid the associated panic.

This guidance document outlines the aspects that leaders should be constantly evaluating, and offers tips on how they can be evaluated to ensure they are Ofsted-ready should they receive the inspection call.


Daily routine


Schools should reflect on their day-to-day routines, ensuring they are efficient, that there is a structure in place to ensure a consistent routine that pupils are familiar with, and that all stakeholders know their responsibilities within the routine and are held to account to ensure the routine is consistent.


Self-evaluation form


A school self-evaluation form (SEF) is a key document that is sometimes not updated as often as it should be. The SEF should be updated throughout the year by senior leaders and any updates should be shared with all stakeholders including governors. The SEF should be concise and must justify a school’s reasons for judging themselves within Ofsted’s framework and highlight key areas for development; e.g. if a school judges their pupil outcomes to be ‘good’, school leaders must be able to justify why this judgement was given – an example of this could be:

All pupils continue to achieve and exceed the national age-related expectations at KS2 in reading, writing and maths and achieve ‘greater depth’ – as a result, progress continues to be in the top 10 percent of schools nationally.

By using the statement above, the school has clearly justified its reasons for evaluating its overall effectiveness as good.

School leaders can use our School Self-evaluation Form (Two Page) Exemplar template to develop their school’s SEF, ensuring that justification is given for each grade.


School development plan


The school development plan (SDP), also known as the school improvement plan (SIP), is a key document that is crucial to the school. Schools adopting good practice constantly review their SDP in conjunction with all stakeholders and use the document as a tool to continue the development of the school.

The SDP should be ‘owned’ by all stakeholders and be monitored against the true events of the school. Milestones are a common aspect in most SDPs; however, schools do not necessarily achieve all the milestones. In these situations, schools should highlight any changes to milestones, the overall plan and the impact it has.

Our Developing and Maintaining an Ofsted-Ready School Improvement Plan guidance outlines how schools can develop and maintain their SDP to ensure it is always Ofsted-ready, and advises on what Ofsted looks for in an SDP. Additionally, schools can use our template School Development Plan which contains prompts and amendable fields to assist in the creation of an SDP.


Leadership monitoring and evaluation of teaching and learning


Schools must have a system in place to ensure they monitor the effectiveness of teaching and learning – it is no longer good practice to just observe teaching, instead leaders must use a triangulation-based approach. Leaders need to ensure that they have reviewed teaching (lesson observations), reviewed the work produced by pupils (book scrutiny) and linked this with assessment information (pupil progress data). By having a secure monitoring system in place, leaders can be confident when making judgements on the quality of teaching and learning.




Governance needs to have an impact on the effectiveness of a school; not only should governors be knowledgeable, but they must also show how they hold school leaders to account. Accountability and instruments of accountability are essential for a school to improve; the governing board should ensure that the school is working effectively. Schools need to invest time and training to provide governors with the skills they need to challenge the school. Effective governance ensures governors are acutely aware of the functionality and process of the school, but they also have measures in place to ensure all stakeholders are held accountable.

School leaders should ensure there is a package of induction and continuing training in place for governors so they are equipped to undertake their role effectively – this is not a quick-fix and takes time to implement. The most effective schools are the schools in which governors are supported with high-quality CPD and training. By making sure that they are equipped, they are less likely to find the inspection process worrying.

Schools must take the time and effort to ensure that the minutes of meetings governors attend are well documented and that they depict a good level of challenge.

Governors can also take steps to ensure they are well prepared for an inspection by utilising our Governor Ofsted Preparation Checklist, which can help preparation for an inspection by assisting in ensuring governors have relevant documentation and information prior to an Ofsted inspection, so that they can effectively demonstrate their strategic impact on the school.


Staff CPD


Schools should ensure a strategic approach is taken towards CPD and that sufficient evidence is kept to link to its impact on the performance and management process.


Curriculum design


Schools need to think carefully about the curriculum and ask themselves the following key questions:

  • What is the quality of the curriculum?
  • How effective is the assessment structure of the curriculum?
  • Does the curriculum meet the needs of all pupils?
  • Is the curriculum improving outcomes for all pupils?

If schools cannot answer these questions positively or show impact evidence, the curriculum is not fit for purpose.




School leaders need to ensure that the school meets statutory safeguarding requirements and that the safeguarding ethos of the school promotes the safety of all pupils.

Our Safeguarding Ofsted Preparation Checklist provides a school’s designated safeguarding lead and other key members of staff with the ability to log the relevant files and information that Ofsted might require during an inspection.  


Middle leaders


Middle leaders are important in making a school highly effective. They need to have consistent support from senior leaders to show them how to become effective and accountable leaders. Middle leaders need to be given time outside their classroom role to monitor the impact of their subject or area, and need to be held accountable for the performance in that area.

Effective schools invest time, training and support from senior leadership to ensure that middle leaders are successful in their role. A clear structure should be in place to grow the potential of middle leaders so that they build their potential to become future senior leaders.

Find out more about what Ofsted expects in relation to middle leaders by reading our Ofsted and…Middle Leaders guidance.




NQTs need support from leaders in order to become high-quality teachers. NQTs are often the most enthusiastic members of staff; however, they can become quickly disillusioned due to the pressures of teaching. Schools should have a good network of support in place for NQTs and will often need additional support and guidance prior to an inspection.

Our NQT Ofsted Preparation Checklist provides a step-by-step record of how to support NQTs throughout an inspection.


What’s next?


While schools may never feel fully prepared for a visit from Ofsted, ensuring all the areas identified in this document are consistently evaluated and, where necessary, changes are made, can help to prepare a school as much as possible.

Our Ofsted Preparation Resource Pack contains all the checklists mentioned above, plus more – such as checklists for SBMs, SENCOs and HR departments.

One key way to ensure your school is always prepared for Ofsted is to make sure staff know what is expected of them during inspection – this can be particularly important for NQTs and new members of staff. Our What to Expect from an Ofsted Inspection Meet and Brief Pack can be used to bring staff up-to-speed with everything they need to know to be prepared for an inspection.

Another area that needs consideration is ensuring schools have all the necessary evidence in place for Ofsted. Again, this can be a stressful experience if this evidence needs to be gathered after the call. Our Ofsted’s Expectations of Evidence guidance document outlines the evidence inspectors will expect to see during an inspection, how this evidence is expected to be presented, and how schools can ensure they have their evidence ready should they get the call.