Ofted answers questions that matter to governors.

On 4th April 2014 Ofsted published revised subsidiary guidance which stated that inspectors should “identify and engage with the right people” (Para 100). I and others contacted Ofsted seeking clarification about who were these right people. Many of us had been wondering what happens when Ofsted come in and meet these “right” people. Shena asked Ofsted to clarify some other matters which had been exercising some of us. The answers to these questions are reproduced here with Shena’s permission. To read the original post click here.

What happens when Ofsted meet the governors?

I asked Ofsted for clarification around some matters that have caused concern to some governors and schools. My questions are below, with the responses from the Ofsted policy team (April 2014).

Q 1. Once the school has been alerted to a forthcoming inspection, what is the proper mechanism for the governors being informed? Is it up to the HT when and how he lets them know, or are they advised separately by the inspection team through the chair (whose details should be on edubase) or perhaps through the clerk to the governing body?

A 1: Schools giving governors notice of inspection

During the initial telephone call to notify a school about inspection, the lead inspector must make arrangements for “a meeting with the chair of governors or a representative of the body responsible for governance”. The head teacher must inform the chair of governors about the inspection in order to arrange this meeting.

The School inspection handbook [paragraph 15] also states that the lead inspector must request during this initial telephone call that as many governors as possible are present at the feedback meeting at the end of the inspection. It is the responsibility of the school to ensure that all governors are informed about the inspection and given the opportunity to attend the feedback meeting.

Q2: The inspectors expect to meet the chair and other governors – what is the process to avoid any such governors being “hand-picked”? Time constraints seem (anecdotally) to limit the number of governors seen to about four. What happens if eight want to turn up?

A2: Governors who meet with inspectors

Inspectors are required to meet separately* with the chair of governors. Inspectors may also request meetings with any other governors, as per paragraph 54 of the School inspection handbook: “Inspectors will always seek to meet with governors […] during the course of the inspection.” (*C2G says: Have not previously found mention in the Handbook of meeting the CoG separately, so will be double-checking this statement)

Q3: Do governors have an entitlement to attend the briefing? And is that all governors, or just the chair, or those invited by the school, or by the inspector?

A3: All governors must be invited to the feedback meeting at the end of the inspection. The School inspection handbook [paragraph 69] states that “Attendees at this feedback meeting should include as many representatives from the governing body, or those responsible for governance, as possible.” All governors must be permitted to meet with the inspectors and schools cannot ‘cherry-pick’ which governors to inform or invite. Inspectors may elect to meet with members of the governing body who are responsible for an aspect of the school that may be of specific interest based on the lead inspector’s pre-inspection analysis.

Q4: Once the draft report has been sent to the school, must that draft report be routinely shared with the chair, and within what time frame? Should it be sent to all the governors? (with the need for confidentiality noted, of course, by which governors are already bound)

A4: Sharing the draft report with governors

The draft report is confidential to the school and should not be shared with anyone outside the school. The governing body, or equivalent, is, in law, the appropriate authority for the school, so the Headteacher should share the draft report with them. However, it is important to note that the purpose of the draft report is solely to give the school the opportunity to check the factual information presented, and make any comments. (C2G says: Governors who met individual inspectors at different times may however wish to be certain that unsubstantiated messages about, for example, their knowledge of the impact of pupil premium spending, were not conveyed to the lead inspector, so it is useful to be able to check the draft report for accuracy BEFORE it is published …)

Q5: Can (ie legally) the HT choose to, or must he, share the draft report with all teaching staff? If it is confidential to “the school”, is that understood to be only the leadership of the school? And does leadership mean the GB?

A5: Sharing the draft report with school staff

The draft report is confidential to the school and should not be shared with anyone outside the school. It is acceptable for the Headteacher to share the draft report with other school staff.  Given the confidential nature of the draft report, this will usually involve the leadership team. Again, it is important to note that the purpose of the draft report is solely to give the school the opportunity to check the factual information presented, and make any comments.

Q6: Does the HT have the right to share confidential GB minutes with inspectors? For example, a committee meeting that dealt with specific incidents of homophobic bullying would be useful evidence of how the school addressed this issue. The question is whether the inspector has the absolute right to demand the minutes, and also whether the HT has the right to provide such minutes (if they have been deemed confidential by the GB)?

A6: Schools sharing governors meeting minutes with inspectors

The notification letter sent to head teachers before an inspection asks the head teacher to provide “documented evidence of the work of governors and their impact”. This can include minutes of any meetings.

In terms of the legal powers of inspectors to request minutes of governors meetings, The Education Act 2005 [Section 10; paragraph 1; clauses d and e] states that,

“[The Chief Inspector has] a right to inspect, and take copies of, any records kept by the school, and any other documents containing information relating to the school, which he considers relevant to the discharge of his functions, and a right to inspect and take copies of —  any records kept by the provider relating to the provision of education for pupils registered at the school, and­    any other documents containing information relating to the provision of such education by the provider, which the Chief Inspector considers relevant to the discharge of his functions.”

In the Framework for school inspection, the code of conduct for inspectors [paragraph 77] states that inspectors must “respect the confidentiality of information, particularly about individuals and their work”. Any sensitive or confidential information shared with the inspectors by the head teacher, governors or school staff will be treated appropriately and will be used only for the purpose of the inspection.

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