Phonics in the new Ofsted Education Inspection Framework: What are inspectors looking for?

new ofstead framework

If you’ve already read the previous blog posts in our series to help you prepare for the new Ofsted Education Inspection Framework, you’ll know that how well pupils are taught to read will be prioritised as a main inspection activity in Primary schools from September 2019. But what does the Framework specifically say about phonics? We’ve taken a closer look and pulled out five key things that inspectors will be looking for.

1) The prioritisation of reading is all about ensuring that children are equipped with the skills they need to access the curriculum as a whole, regardless of their starting point. Inspectors will expect your school to have a ‘sharp focus’ on making sure that children have the phonics knowledge, language comprehension and communication skills that will form the foundations of their future learning and will help them avoid falling behind.

2) They’ll also be checking that teachers have sufficient expertise in the teaching of phonics and reading, as well as a clear understanding of how pupils learn to read. They want to see that this expertise leads to consistency for pupils from year to year.

3) Inspectors will be looking for rigorous and systematic teaching of synthetic phonics from the beginning of Reception, i.e. starting with the easiest sounds, and progressing to the most complex. Likewise, the sequence of reading books should show a cumulative progression in phonics knowledge, with frequent and detailed assessment used to identify any pupil that’s falling behind the pace of your school’s phonics programme, so that they can be offered targeted support to address any gaps right away.

4) Reading books should closely match the phonics knowledge that pupils are being taught and you should offer them plenty of opportunities to practise reading and re-reading the grapheme-phoneme correspondences that they have learned – both at school and at home. They should be hearing a wide range of texts read aloud in the classroom, including stories, poems, rhymes and non-fiction to develop their vocabulary, language comprehension and love of reading.

5) Your school’s phonics programme should match – and aim to exceed – the expectations of the English National Curriculum and Early Learning Goals. Inspectors will want to see that you have clear expectations of pupils’ phonics progress term by term, which are fully aligned to your school’s phonics programme, from Reception to Year 2. By the end of Reception, all children should be able to read words and simple sentences accurately, with increasing speed and fluency.

Get support from Oxford

The new Ofsted Education Inspection Framework for England states that schools should be ‘Be efficient and effective in the use of resources’. Here at Oxford, our phonics programmes will help your school meet the demands of the Framework. Read more about them on our website:

Read Write Inc. Phonics provides a systematic and consistent approach to transforming your teaching of reading and writing. Its core Storybooks closely follow the progression of the phonics teaching, revisiting and practising previous sounds learned to ensure children are able to decode the books they are given and that they experience success. 

Project X is a whole school reading and writing programme that includes Project X Phonics, Hero Academy and Alien Adventures, which offer fully decodable stories and independent readers with a fine, cumulative phonic progression matched to Letters and Sounds, accompanied by clear planning and assessment support. 

Floppy’s Phonics delivers effective synthetic phonics teaching using favourite characters from Oxford Reading Tree.

If you’d like to know more about our phonics programmes, or any other resources from Oxford University Press, book an appointment with your local Educational Consultant.


Want more details?The Ofsted Education Inspection Framework and School Inspection Handbook are available in full on the gov.uk website.

Download the Ofsted Education Inspection Framework 

Download the Ofsted School Inspection Handbook