Ofsted 2019: How will governance be inspected?

31 Dec

I        Preamble

In March 2019, The Key, the governors’ organisation, interviewed Matthew Purves, the Deputy Director for Schools Inspection. In response to a question, Mr Purves said that governance would now be part of the overall judgement on leadership and management.   There would not be a separate judgement or grade for the quality of the work that governors do.

He acknowledged, in broad terms, that pupils’ standards of achievement had risen over the last score of years.  However, he admitted that the inspectors had been too focused on data rather than the quality of education, which was at the heart of the new framework.  In future, there would be “a single conversation about teaching quality and outcomes”.  To ensure that this was appropriately covered, he explained, inspectors would be asking the following questions.

  • What is it that the school/academy wants children to learn?
  • How does that translate into classroom practice?
  • How is that curriculum passed on through teaching?
  • How do teaching, learning and the quality of education impact on the standards children achieve?’

Ofsted will examine how well those “responsible for governance” deal with the following matters.

  • Understanding their role and how well they carry it out.
  • The school’s/academy’s vision, ethos, and strategic direction.
  • The management of resources.
  • The oversight of finance and ensuring that money, including the Pupil Premium Grant (PPG), is well spent.
  • How well governors hold the executive leaders (the headteacher or CEO, for example) to account for educational performance, the performance management of staff and the quality of education and training.
  • How well governors fulfil their statutory duties (like the ones placed on school/academy by the Equality Act 2010, the Prevent Strategy and Keeping Children Safe in Education).
  • The way governors promote the welfare of learners and ensure that the education the school/academy provides positively impacts on all pupils.

A full description of the judgement is on pages 11 to 12 of the inspection framework and page 66 to 67 of the inspection handbook.

The structure of education in England is messy, because of which there are multiple accountabilities.  In schools and standalone academies, people in charge of governance are governors.  In Multi-Academy Trusts (MATs), the responsibility for governance could lie with the trustees or the governors of the academies for which the trust board is responsible – or both.  Ofsted is keen to ensure that inspectors hold the right people to account.

II      Basis for judgements

Ofsted will use a range of evidence to make their judgments on whether the quality of governance stands up to scrutiny. They will garner their data from the list below which is not exhaustive.

  • Meetings with governors and/or trustees
  • First-hand observations and reading of the paperwork gathered during inspection
  • The responses of staff members, pupils and parents to inspectors’ questionnaires
  • Documents setting out the governors’ priorities
  • Governance records, like minutes and reports
  • Schemes of delegation (if the academy is in a MAT)
  • Any school/academy improvement plan/strategic plan (or equivalent) that sets out the longer-term vision for the school/academy

In addition, the inspectors will look for evidence that governors

  • have link roles and carry them out effectively through visits and
  • regularly attend full governing board and committee meetings.

They will not expect all governors to be equally involved in the school/academy.  What will be critical is how well the chair of the board discharges her/his responsibilities including the aplomb with which the skills set of the members is exploited to benefit the school/academy.

III     What happens during the inspection

Inspectors will have two meetings with selected governors.  They will meet the chair of governors and as many other governors as possible to evaluate what they know and understand, how they discharge their functions and how effectively they hold school/academy leaders to account.

It will be the headteacher’s responsibility to inform the chair and governors of the planned inspection once s/he receives notification, and the areas on which Ofsted will focus once the head has had a telephone conversation with the lead inspector.   The headteacher should also ascertain which other governors will be available at the school/academy for the two meetings with inspectors. (See the paragraph above.)  It would be desirable for those governors overseeing the areas of Ofsted’s enquiries to be available.  However, if that is not possible there is an onus on the responsible governors to pass on the germane information to those who can meet the inspectors.

Questions that inspectors will ask of the chair and available governors will be in the following areas.

(1)        Their role and responsibilities – covering their vision for the school/academy, strategy, the issues affecting the institution, its strengths and weaknesses, the priorities as encapsulated in the development plan and how they propose to develop them, the challenge they offer and how the legal requirements – such as the promotion of equal opportunities – are met.

(2)        The oversight of the finance of the school/academy and its impact.  This would include the use of the Pupil Premium Grant (PPG).

(3)        The safety of the pupils which would cover safeguarding the girls against female genital mutilation and all children from abuse on- and off-site, the protection of pupils when on work experience and educational trips and the records that are kept of untoward events.

(4)        The strengths and weaknesses of pupils’ progress and achievements, identification of gaps between boys and girls and among different ethnic groups, how the governing board builds on those strengths and deals with the weaknesses, the manner in which they close the gaps and for special schools – how well youngsters are prepared to live independent lives.

(5)        Knowledge of the quality of teaching and learning including how good practice is promoted and weaknesses tackled, the quality of careers guidance (for secondary schools/academies) and the range of experiences offered to the pupils – especially those who have special needs.

(6)        The personal development of the pupils – which would cover their behaviour, attendance, how both are monitored and what measures taken to improve them – and the way staff members promote the following

  • the importance of democracy,
  • the rule of law,
  • individual liberty, which would include a care for others, and
  • tolerance for those of different faiths and none.

If you’re a governor within a MAT, you can expect inspectors to ask you only questions about, or hold you responsible for, areas where your local governing board has delegated responsibility. Otherwise, inspectors will treat trustees as the ones responsible for governance.

At the end of the inspection but before the inspectors disappear, the governors and headteacher will be invited to share their findings, including how they’ve provisionally graded the school/academy in each of the key areas.

IV     Reaching for the sky

The grade descriptors for leadership are set out on pages 74 to 76 of the inspection handbook.

To be rated ‘outstanding’ for ‘leadership and management’, a school/academy must meet the criteria set out in the Good grade securely and consistently.  These are as follows.

  • Leaders have a clear and ambitious vision for providing high-quality education to all pupils, realised through strong, shared values, policies and practice.
  • Leaders focus on improving teachers’ subject, pedagogical knowledge in order to enhance the teaching of the curriculum and the appropriate use of assessment. The practice and subject knowledge of staff, including newly qualified teachers, build and improve over time.
  • Leaders aim to ensure that all pupils successfully complete their programmes of study. They provide support for staff to make this possible and create an inclusive culture, not allowing gaming or off-rolling.
  • Leaders engage effectively with pupils and others in their community, including parents, employers and local services.
  • Leaders engage with the staff. They are aware and take account of the main pressures on them and are realistic and constructive in the way they manage their workload.
  • Leaders protect staff from bullying and harassment.
  • Those responsible for governance understand their role (which includes having a vison and strategy for translating that into excellent practice, oversee the use of resources effectively and hold leaders to account for the quality of education) and carry it out effectively.
  • Governors ensure that the school/academy fulfils its statutory duties.
  • The school/academy’s culture promotes safeguarding by
  1. identifying pupils who may need early help or at risk of neglect, abuse, grooming or exploitation;
  2. help pupils reduce their risk of harm by drafting in support they need expeditiously or referring them in a timely way to those who have the expertise to help; and
  3. managing safe recruitment and allegations about adults who may be a risk to pupils.

In addition, an outstanding school or academy will be one where the following requirements are met.

  • Leaders ensure that teachers receive focused and highly effective professional development. Teachers’ subject, pedagogical and pedagogical content knowledge consistently build and develop over time. The impact is seen in the improvements in the teaching of the curriculum.
  • Leaders ensure that highly effective and meaningful engagement takes place with staff members at all levels and that issues are identified. When issues are identified, they are consistently dealt with appropriately and quickly.
  • Staff members consistently report high levels of support for well-being issues.

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