How will inspectors assess governors as leaders?

12 Aug

From September 2019, Ofsted’s new inspection model takes effect.   There will not be a separate judgement for governors. Rather, inspectors will include a section on governance in their report subsuming governance practice into leadership and giving leadership a grade.   What does this mean?

I           The areas that will come under the microscope

Gulshan Kayembe, one of The Key’s associate experts who has experience of inspecting schools and academies, has described what the inspectors will be scrutinising when judging governance. Set out below are the key questions they will ask themselves prior to making judgements. For instance, do governors

  • understand their role and carry it out effectively;
  • ensure the school/academy has a clear vision, ethos, and strategic direction;
  • ensure resources are well managed;
  • hold executive leaders – the headteacher or the Chief Education Officer (CEO), for example – to account for educational performance and the performance management of staff;
  • oversee the financial performance of the school/academy, and ensure money is well spent (including the pupil premium);
  • hold leaders to account for the quality of education and staff training;
  • ensure the provider fulfils its statutory duties (complying with provisions of the Equality Act 2010, implementing the Prevent Strategyand abiding by the advice contained in Keeping Children Safe in Education);
  • promote the welfare of learners; and
  • ensure that the education the school/academy provided has a positive impact on all its pupils?

The full judgement on leadership covers a wide range of matters for which the school/academy leaders are responsible.

You can read a full description of the judgements vis-à-vis governance on pages 66 to 67 (paragraphs 233 to 241) of the inspection handbook.

In maintained schools, those responsible for governance are governors. In a single academy trust, it’s the trustees. In Multi-Academy Trusts (MATs), it may be local governors or trustees depending on the scheme of delegation.

II          Evidence inspectors will use

Ofsted will gather evidence for its evaluation of governance through:

  • meetings with governors and/or trustees;
  • first-hand evidence gathered during the course of inspection;
  • responses to staff and pupil questionnaires, and Ofsted’s Parent View questionnaire;
  • documents setting out governance priorities;
  • governance records, like minutes and reports;
  • schemes of delegation (if it’s a MAT); and
  • any school/academy improvement plan/strategic plan (or equivalent) that sets out the longer-term vision for the school/academy.

Inspectors will look for evidence that governors

  • undertake purposeful visits to the school/academy;
  • perform link roles effectively; and
  • regularly attend full governing board and committee meetings.

Inspectors will not expect all governors to be equally active in governing board business or involved with the school/academy.  However, they’ll look at how well the chair of governors and the school/academy make use of each governor’s skills-set.

III        Governors’ role on inspection day

During the inspection, governors will be involved in two specific meetings.

The headteacher will let the chair know when the school/academy has been notified of an inspection, and what Ofsted’s key lines of enquiry will be.  The headteacher would have spoken to the lead inspector about this in a pre-inspection phone call.  S/he will also check out which other governors are available to be at the school/academy for meetings with inspectors and try to make sure that governors in key roles, or roles that relate to Ofsted’s lines of enquiry, can be there.

If governors in key roles aren’t available, it’s a good idea to meet before the inspection so they can share information about the good practice going on in the school/academy and provide reassurance!  However, given the short notice, this will be difficult.

(a)        First meeting with inspectors

Inspectors will meet with the chair of governors and as many other governors as possible to evaluate how well they know their roles and the school/academy and how effectively they hold school/academy leaders to account.

The school/academy will arrange the time of this meeting with the lead inspector during a pre-inspection phone call. The headteacher, or another school/academy leader, will let governors know when it’s taking place.

In a MAT, this meeting will also include the Chief Education Officer (CEO) or her/his delegate.

Here are 30 areas in which inspectors will (possibly) question governors.

  • The vision of the leaders and how it is shared and promoted
  • The issues faced by the institution
  • The school’s/academy’s strengths and areas of development; how governors build on the strengths and tackle weaknesses
  • The challenge and support governors offer to the institution
  • The sources of information governors use to find out the views of parents/carers and pupils
  • The measures governors take to promote equality of opportunity
  • The way the School/Academy Development Plan is constructed
  • The way governors evaluate the impact of this plan when it is put into practice
  • Governors knowledge of how the school/academy finances are being managed and whether they are getting value for money
  • The way the Pupil Premium Grant (PPG) is being used and evidence deployed to test the impact of that use
  • For primary schools/academies – the way additional Physical Education funding is being used and the effectiveness of that use
  • For secondary schools – the way in which the literacy and numeracy catch-up premium is being spent and its impact
  • Safeguarding arrangements for children and how governors ensure that policy is translated into effective practice
  • The way governors monitor the training in safeguarding they and the staff receive
  • The risk assessment undertaken to promote children’s safety – for instance, girls vis-à-vis female genital mutilation (FGM) and boys and girls in the area of radicalisation and sexual exploitation
  • Measures taken to promote pupils’ safety off-site when on work-experience or during residential trips
  • For special schools/academies – especially those for children with behavioural difficulties – how staff use restraint and record instances when taking measures
  • How well pupils are progressing and achieving in the subjects
  • Ways in which the school/academy is building on pupils’ strengths and dealing with their weaknesses in the subjects
  • The manner in which the school/academy is supporting specific underachieving ethnic groups to do better
  • Arrangements for tracking pupils’ progress
  • For special schools/academies – how governors and staff prepare pupils to be independent as they grow up
  • Governors’ knowledge about the quality of teaching going on in the school/academy
  • The manner in which governors build on the good teaching and deal with the inadequate performance of those not coming up to scratch
  • The arrangements for differentiating the curriculum to give all pupils the opportunity to make good progress
  • Methods used for governors to monitor pupil and staff attendance and strategies deployed to improve both if they fall below certain standards
  • Governors’ strategies to ensure that pupils are not bullied or harassed, especially if they suffer from disabilities
  • The control of social media
  • The manner in which exclusion rates are monitored
  • Methods used to prepare pupils for life in modern Britain in relation to valuing democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and tolerance of different faiths albeit not showing tolerance of faiths that demonstrate intolerance

(b)       Second feedback meeting with school leaders and governors

Governors and the headteacher will be invited to a feedback meeting at the end of the inspection. Inspectors will share their findings and talk through the outcome of the inspection (including how they’ve provisionally graded the school/academy against each of the key judgement areas).

More information about the feedback meeting is on pages 30 to 31 of the inspection handbook.

IV        Inspection of governance in a MAT

As part of the pre-inspection phone call, inspectors will talk to academy leaders about

  • governance arrangements in the academy/trust and
  • the trust’s scheme of delegation.

The inspection handbook advises inspectors to establish who is responsible for what within a trust, so that they ask the right questions of the right people.

Local governors in a MAT can expect inspectors only to ask questions about, or hold them responsible for, areas where the local governing board has delegated responsibility.  Otherwise, inspectors will treat trustees as the ones responsible for governance.

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