How Can Schools Ensure that Governors are ‘Ofsted Ready’ at All Times?
Martin Cain considers what inspectors are looking for in terms of good governance and how governors can best prepare for an inspection.
When a school is inspected the expectation is that representatives of the governing body will be available to meet with the inspection team and be able to:
· Articulate their shared vision for the school;
· Show that they are aware of its strengths and weaknesses; and
· Describe ways in which they have provided the appropriate levels of challenge and support to leaders.
Make challenge and support a constant focus for governors
The most effective way of preparing governors for an inspection is to engage them in posing key ‘exploratory’ questions to school leaders about the quality of educational provision on an ongoing basis and as an integral part of their role, rather than just when the Ofsted phone call is taken. School leaders should also ensure that governors are also conversant with the evaluation tools that are in use at the school which inform its own judgements about the quality of provision.
Key features of effective governance
Effective governing bodies embody the features outlined below in all aspects of their work, and most crucially on an ongoing basis throughout the school year, every year:
· Strategic leadership that sets and champions vision, ethos and strategy;
· Accountability that drives up educational standards and financial performance;
· People with the right skills, experience, qualities and capacity;
· Structures that reinforce clearly defined roles and responsibilities;
· Compliance with statutory and contractual requirements; and
· Evaluation to monitor and improve the quality and impact of governance.
‘How’ is more important than ‘what’
Governors must be able to clearly articulate how they know they are effective and would do well to regularly self-reflect against the questions below:
· How do you ensure that there is a clear strategic vision for the school?;
· How do you know if something needs to improve and how do you make sure it does?;
· How do you know that the actions you agree, are taking the school in the direction that you have set?;
· How do you ensure that financial decisions made are the right ones?;
· How do you ensure that the actions you take are in the best interests of pupils and achieve the desired impact? and
· How do you ensure that the school fulfils its statutory duties, e.g. with regard to safeguarding, equalities and website compliance?
A governing body conversant with the key features described above and which poses the ‘how’ questions to itself in its regular work will find itself well placed to provide the required levels of support and challenge to school leaders and the wider staff body through, for example, its link governor roles and committee structure; it will then also find itself in a strong position to be able to explore all aspects of the quality of provision with leaders at all levels of the school through the ‘what’ questions provided below, which build on the ‘how’ questions and are thus more granular in their focus.
Key ‘what’ questions for governors to explore with school leaders at all levels of the school Curriculum implementation – delivery, teaching and assessment
· How well do leaders know the skills and proficiencies of their staff?;
· How are non-specialist teachers supported?;
· Can subject leaders talk with confidence about what their teams are teaching, when they are teaching it and how?;
· How do leaders ensure that teachers access training and new pedagogical approaches?;
· Do teachers use evidence-informed strategies in their planning?;
· Do leaders ensure that staff are well equipped (delivery tools, resources, time etc.) to deliver the curriculum?; and
· Is assessment used effectively?
Curriculum impact - attainment and progress, reading and destinations
· How well are pupils doing compared to their potential?;
· How do we know how well pupils are doing?;
· How is progress measured?;
· Is there any in-school variation in standards? If so, why?;
· How is reading integrated into each subject and curriculum area?;
· Are any key groups of pupils underachieving (e.g. SEND/disadvantaged)? If so, why?;and
· Do post 16 pupils progress to the most appropriate destinations for them?
Behaviour and attitudes
· Do staff have the required knowledge of the relevant policies?;
· How do the school’s attendance rates compare in relation to those nationally?;
· What processes are in place for following up on poor attendance and what has been their impact?;
· What are the most significant outcomes (both positive and negative) for the school in relation to pupil behaviour?;
· What is the extent of low level disruption in classes?;
· How many bullying incidents have been logged and what has been the impact of approaches used to minimise and eliminate bullying?;and
· How effective have the use of alternatives to suspension or exclusion been?
Personal development of pupils
· Are there curriculum plans in place for CEIAG and Relationships and Sex Education?;
· Is the quality of the overall school environment (including displays of pupil work) as good as it should be?;
· Does the school provide the opportunity for pupils to explore opportunities to participate in debate and explore their understanding of what is meant by protected characteristics?;
· What is the level of take-up of extra-curricular activities?;
· How are British values promoted through assemblies, educational visits and the wider curriculum?;
· Do SEND pupils access the full curriculum offer?;and
· How well are pupils supported by the pastoral structure?
Leadership and Management
· How do senior leaders ensure clarity of vision, ethos and strategic direction?;
· How do senior leaders hold middle leaders and teacher to account for the educational performance of the school?;
· How can senior leaders demonstrate that procedures for safeguarding and child protection are robust and effective?;
· How do senior leaders ensure the school fulfills its Public Sector Equality Duty under the Equality Act 2010?; and
· What processes are in place to ensure the effective financial performance of the school, value for money and the efficient and effective use of resources.