Ofsted’s 2015 Annual Report and governance matters

The Annual Report of Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Education, Children’s Services and Skills 2014/15 was published on 1st Dec 2015. Below are extracts of the report where governors/governance is mentioned.

Page 13    I believe it is right to give more autonomy to the front line but we must ensure that schools have the capacity to use their freedoms effectively. Without enough good leaders and teachers, effective oversight and governance, and a concerted effort to support the most disadvantaged, we will not bring about the improvements needed.

Page 15    Capacity
Capacity – leadership National Governors’ Association reported this year that a third of governors are finding it difficult to attract good candidates for senior staff posts

Page 19    Capacity – governance
Weak governance continues to be a common issue in underperforming schools of all types. This year, we recommended an external review of governance for almost a third of schools judged inadequate or requires improvement, nearly 500 schools in total.
The good news is that these reviews seem to be having a positive impact. Of the 350 schools that had a review of their governance in 2012/13, almost four fifths improved their leadership and management judgement at their next inspection. The difference an external review of governance can make was particularly seen in secondary schools: 71% of secondary schools that had an external review of their governance improved compared with 62% that did not undertake a review.

HMI tell me that the best governing bodies are increasingly professional, with members who have the skills and knowledge needed to oversee the running of complex organisations. These governors have a good understanding of the available performance information and are able to use it to hold senior leaders to account. They make sure, for example, that there is a focus on how well the most disadvantaged pupils are performing. My concern is whether there are sufficient people of this calibre becoming governors and whether they are lending their expertise where it is most needed. Over the next year, Ofsted will carry out an in-depth survey to look into this issue.

Page 20    Capacity – meeting the needs of the disadvantage
The performance of pupils and students from low-income backgrounds continues to be the most troubling weakness in our education system. The lack of capacity in leadership, teaching and governance disproportionately affects the most disadvantaged pupils. We need a concerted effort to improve the capacity of teachers and leaders and, in doing so, tackle the ‘long tail of underachievement’ that is preventing far too many of our most disadvantaged from reaching their potential.

Page 25    Many secondary schools do not have high enough expectations or lack focus on the pupils or classes that are underperforming. Where Key Stage 3 is not a priority, teaching is often weak and pupils fall behind. Where the achievement of the most disadvantaged is not a priority, the underperformance of these pupils goes unnoticed by leaders and governors. Where leaders and teachers have not set high enough expectations for behaviour, learning is made impossible by chaos in the classroom and corridors.

Page 26    Learning and skills in prisons and young offender institutions are not being prioritised by many prison governors, and as a result, standards that were previously low have further declined. Although two prisons have been inspected and found outstanding, showing what is possible, of the other 50 inspected this year almost three quarters were not good. Standards are markedly worse compared with last year.

Page 33    19 In those schools that acted on these weaknesses, increased challenge from governors made a substantial difference. Prior inspections of these schools found that governors were not always experienced or confident enough to challenge leaders robustly. Many tended to rely too much on what they were told by leaders and were not proactive enough in bringing about change. This was compounded when parents were largely happy with the education their children received. As schools improved, this was often accompanied by increased capacity to hold the school to account by the governing body. Other schools remained as requires improvement because the governors did not understand what change was needed nor how to secure rapid and sustainable improvement.

Page 33    20 Partnerships and external support, from a variety of sources, contributed to the success of the schools that improved. Again, it was the role of the headteacher in seeking out partnerships, or reinvigorating existing ones, that was particularly relevant. The work with other primary schools to share good practice in teaching, particularly in mathematics and English, was effective in a number of schools. Local authorities, multi-academy trusts (MATs) and national and local leaders of education all played a role in assessing and developing improvement plans, monitoring progress and developing senior leaders and governors.

Page 34    Case study Careful restructuring with a strong emphasis on sustaining high standards has enabled the school to improve very quickly. There is a powerful vision of respect and equality for all that has resulted in outstanding behaviour. Staff and governors have high expectations of all pupils. Governors employ great rigour. They know the school well and monitor its work thoroughly. There is a whole-school focus on continuous improvement. The school has also looked to other schools for mutual support. The school has now become the leading partner in the London Diocese Board of Schools’ Rapid Improvement Group.

Page 39    30 The overarching conclusion from this work is that tackling disadvantage is a leadership issue. The major weakness in the schools that were less effective for disadvantaged pupils was that senior leaders and governors did not regard the performance of pupils in this group as a school priority. Because leaders in these schools believed that overall performance of pupils compared well to national levels, many leaders did not dig further to challenge whether this masked underperformance in this group. These leaders either did not have the monitoring systems in place to track this group or were not making use of the information they had. Governors should have been challenging senior leaders on this issue, but, in the majority of these schools, they shared the same blind spot. As a result, they did not receive enough information about the performance of this group and were not clear about the impact of pupil premium spending.

Page 42    36 In many of the secondary schools that improved to good this year,47 there was clear evidence that there had previously been complacency. Across these schools, there had been individuals who did not believe there was a need for rapid change: governors, headteachers, middle leaders, teachers. In some schools, improvement only came when particular individuals left.

Page 42    37 One of the common factors that contributed to complacency was that behaviour in these schools wasn’t seen as an issue. Relationships between pupils and their peers, and between pupils and teachers, were friendly. The schools were calm and quiet. Relationships between senior leaders, middle leaders and governors were cordial and therefore there was not enough of a challenge about improving the schools. The weakness, however, was that this kind of environment was cosy rather than focused. Young people need focus, challenge and energy. Because some teachers did not expect more from pupils, and because some leaders did not expect more from teachers, pupils were not always pushed and so they did not achieve what they could have achieved.

Page 43    Throughout the school, the extent to which teachers, leaders and governors had high expectations for individual pupils and for the school became more consistent. What had been patchy and unconvincing became more rigorous and determined.
Page 53    69 What differentiates the colleges that succeeded from those that are in decline is the calibre of the leadership and management.67 In the weaker colleges, leaders and managers were often over-optimistic about the impact that their improvement work was having. As a result, they were not rigorous enough in how they evaluated the provision and then did not go on to put measures in place to improve quality consistently enough across the college. Governors should increase rigour by challenging leaders, but in these colleges, that level of challenge was not present.

Page 54    Case study Strode College in Somerset is an example of a highly effective and improving college serving learners from a wide geographical area. The majority of learners receive outstanding information and advice before and during their study programmes. Pastoral and academic support and guidance as well as careers advice and guidance are also very strong. Learners develop excellent literacy and numeracy skills because teachers integrate the teaching of English and mathematics very successfully in lessons. Governors, leaders and senior managers set a clear and ambitious vision and strategic priorities. They maintain strong links with local employers and the local enterprise partnership. As a result, they are successfully raising aspirations and addressing the developmental needs and priorities within the community and local economy.

Page 56    Case study After a judgement of satisfactory for overall effectiveness in May 2012, and requires improvement in February 2014, Gateshead College, a general FE college, achieved an outstanding grade for all aspects of its provision in June 2015. At the two previous inspections, learners’ progress was slow and too many of them failed to complete their courses. Managers had not taken effective action to drive improvements, especially in the quality of teaching, learning and assessment. By the time inspectors visited the college last June, a dynamic and inspirational Principal, ably supported by a highly skilled senior team and governors, had successfully developed and delivered a clear and ambitious vision for learners that had led to significant improvements throughout the college. The governing body left no stone unturned in its scrutiny of progress against agreed targets for improvement. All staff had responded well to the more stringent performance management scheme that had a direct impact on improving the quality of teaching in all subject areas. Outstanding teaching and learning prepared learners very well for their next step and a high proportion of learners achieved their qualifications.

Page 61    97 Despite the high proportion of effective special schools, there remain some schools where the provision is not yet good enough. Leadership and governance are frequent areas for improvement, with poor systems for identifying and monitoring the school’s strengths and weaknesses and unrealistic views on the school’s effectiveness. There had been periods of staffing upheaval, including of leadership, in many schools prior to inspections where they were judged inadequate. Poor achievement or underachievement was prevalent in all schools. This was frequently linked to teachers’ low expectations and inability to plan effectively enough to meet pupils’ special educational needs. Of most concern, work to keep pupils safe and secure was not as effective as it should be in all of the 16 maintained schools judged inadequate this year.

Page 68    113 Where providers declined or did not improve, this was linked to leadership and management. This included a mixture of insufficient oversight, lack of clarity in how leaders and managers evaluated the provision, lack of governance and not addressing fundamental areas for improvement over time. Other weaknesses included insufficient use of data to monitor the provision in order to respond quickly to a decline in the proportion of learners achieving qualifications, or slow improvement in the outcomes and the learning experience for learners. Another challenging factor was the impact on provision where providers were subject to changes in management, restructure or merger.

Page 71    118 Prison regimes did not give sufficient priority to education and training as a means of reducing reoffending or rehabilitating offenders. Prison governors were still not doing enough to ensure that their prisons had enough education, training and work places for all prisoners throughout the working week. Governors were not held to account for the quality of this provision or its impact on supporting prisoners’ employment on release.

Page 79    135 Inspection reports on secondary schools in this group make the explicit link between variable standards in the quality of teaching and weak or erratic leadership. Neither the capacity of headteachers, governors or partnerships and support stands out as particularly poor – though none of these is effective enough to secure lasting change. What does stand out is the variable quality of middle leaders, often in successive reports. Most frequently, this is a lack of accountability and insufficient rigour in monitoring teaching and standards in their areas of responsibility

Page 79    Headteachers and governors
138 In 2012, the National College for School Leadership published a report on leadership in schools that identified factors that were having an impact on the school leadership landscape.84 One of these factors was geography. The labour market for school leaders was segmented, with: ‘relatively little movement between geographic regions or even between school governance types. Senior leadership posts were far more segmented both regionally and by governance type than classroom teacher posts, and senior leaders became increasingly constrained geographically by family and other considerations compared with the relatively younger pool of classroom teachers. The data suggest that particular types of school have very strong preferences for senior leaders who share a religion, and previous work experience in schools with a similar ethos.’

Page 80    140 In 2014, Governors for Schools conducted research that showed that up to one in four school governor positions was vacant in some rural and deprived areas, while one in 10 of the 300,000 governor posts across the country is unfilled.85 By contrast, our evidence from the inspection of free schools this year found that some free schools were able to draw on professionals with an unusually wide range of experience and expertise who brought ambition and an outward facing approach to these boards. This raised the level of professionalism on the governing bodies and had a positive impact on the ability of the board to challenge effectively.

Page 86     Case study
The Nishkam Primary School in Birmingham that moved from requires improvement to outstanding in just over 18 months, because of its high-quality leadership and very strong governance arrangements. This multi-faith school with a Sikh ethos encourages high standards in everything the school does. The school ensures that pupils develop a strong awareness of living in a multicultural country and know about British values. They learn about democracy through holding elections for positions of responsibility, with candidates preparing their own manifestos. They understand the need for rules and that individuals have responsibilities to others as well as their own rights. They have a strong code of conduct through which they respect all others, whatever their background.

Page 87    Governance
162 In every type of school, challenge and support for the leadership comes from a strong and effective governing body. It was clear from visits to schools that were not delivering well for pupils from low-income backgrounds that lack of challenge from governors was a contributing factor to schools failing to prioritise the attainment of this group. There was a relationship between weak governance and weak school self-evaluation. When the achievement of disadvantaged pupils is not included in the school’s self-evaluation, governors were not effective in ensuring that pupil premium funding was used well.92 In our report on the most able, we found that only a very small proportion of schools designated governors with responsibility for the performance of the most able pupils.

Page 88    Last year, we reported that reviews of governance were having a limited impact, often taking too long to arrange and not being carried out robustly. In 2012/13, we recommended an external review of governance in over a fifth of schools that were judged inadequate or requires improvement. An evaluation of the 350 schools that had been re-inspected since suggests that the impact has been positive, though it is difficult to separate out the impact of the external review from other factors influencing the school. Almost four fifths of schools that undertook an external review of governance improved their leadership and management judgement at their next inspection. The difference was considerably larger for secondary schools: 71% improved compared with 62% that did not undertake a review. Where reviews had taken place, inspectors identified positive outcomes that included developing clearer action plans, improving the quality and recording of governing body meetings and making better use of information about outcomes to sharpen monitoring and hold leaders to account.

Page 90    173 At their best, MAT leaders know the academies within their family of schools well. They use assessment information proficiently to target support for individual academies and take robust action to tackle underperformance and weaknesses in leadership and governance. Successful leaders of academies in MATs understand their responsibilities and embrace the culture of high accountability.

Page 95    Case studies The school’s pupils are caring, hard-working and well-adjusted young people with a strong respect for British democracy. The schools motto is ‘Improvement is limitless’, and staff, pupils, parents and governors are united behind it. The school places great importance on the values of hard work, a love of learning, service to others and caring for each other. Many pupils contest roles and positions of responsibility including associate governor roles and school council. They have a healthy respect for British democracy and historic freedoms and can identify the risks posed by extremist ideas and groups.Beauchamps High School, Wickford.

Sir Michael Wilshaw’s speech also mentioned governance.

My inspectors tell me that the best governing bodies are increasingly professional, with members who have the knowledge and background to effectively challenge senior leaders. My concern is whether there are sufficient people of this calibre becoming governors and whether the expertise is available where it is needed most.

That is why, last year, I recommended to government that it should give serious consideration to mandatory training for all governors and trustees. I am deeply disappointed that there has been such little progress on this recommendation.

 

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