Ofsted Annual Report 2016/17: Governance matters

Amanda Spielman presented her first annual report as Ofsted Chief Inspector today. The full report can be read here. Below, are the parts of the speech where governance was referred to (the numbering is that of the report itself).

Schools that require improvement

Inspection outcomes


37. A common factor in the schools that do not improve to good or outstanding is that they have a higher proportion of deprived pupils. Fifty-five per cent of the schools that currently require improvement have high proportions of pupils from deprived areas.

38. Although these schools can face major challenges, great improvements can be, and are, made. Last year, six schools that had previously required improvement were judged to be outstanding at their latest inspection. Four of these were in the most deprived quintile of schools. Having lots of children who are from deprived backgrounds may make improving a challenge, but it can be done.

For example:

  • Herbert Morrison Primary School in Vauxhall, London, was judged to require improvement in November 2014. Since then, senior leaders, staff and governors have worked relentlessly to ensure that achievement and teaching have improved rapidly. The highly innovative curriculum is varied and engages pupils’ interest. Teachers plan work that brings the curriculum to life and develops pupils’ interest and curiosity. Combined with this, the school uses pupil premium funding wisely. It accurately tracks and supports the progress of disadvantaged pupils. As a result, at the time of its next inspection, in November 2016, inspectors noted that the disadvantaged pupils were making excellent progress. The school was judged to be outstanding in this inspection.

41. We analysed the inspection reports of these secondary schools that have been stuck at requires improvement or inadequate for a long time. The reports highlighted the following common issues:

  • Governance.

    Weak governance was a common feature. The main weaknesses included:

    • not challenging effectively or holding leaders to account (for instance by being too accepting of what they were told)
    • not understanding school performance or quality well enough
    • not holding leaders to account for the use of additional funding (such as the pupil premium)
    • failing to act swiftly enough to challenge or support
    • not checking the quality and impact of external support.

Some governors lacked the confidence, skills and understanding to carry out their role effectively.

Multi-Academy trusts

  • Governance. In the weaker MATs, there were not clear and published schemes of delegation
    that outlined the roles and accountabilities of each level of governance. In particular, there was ambiguity between the board of trustees and local governing bodies. Weaker trust boards did not have an accurate picture of pupils’ progress in their schools. The weaker boards were overly dependent on school leaders and too few trustees to interpret data. Weaker MATs did not have clear strategies for the spending of additional funding, such as pupil premium funding, nor were there processes to evaluate the impact of the additional funding.

Independent schools

65. The DfE introduced new standards for independent schools in January 2015. In the year before the standards were introduced, 79% of schools inspected met all standards, compared with just 66% in 2016/17. The most common failings this year include ineffective safeguarding, poor leadership and poor effectiveness of leaders, governors or proprietors.

Schools capacity to improve

73. Some non-association independent schools fail to improve because of ineffective and confused governance arrangements. We reviewed 25 inspection reports for special schools graded inadequateor requires improvement. We also analysed the results of a questionnaire on governance submitted by lead inspectors for 50 independent schools inspected in summer  2017. These two sources highlighted the following issues.

74. The responsibility for effective governance in these schools rests firmly with the proprietor. However, the proprietor may be an individual, group of individuals, a trust, a charity or a company. Sometimes, the proprietor is the headteacher and fulfils both the role of school leader and governance. This may make an objective analysis of the school’s performance difficult, unless they have recruited a governing body to support them. In other examples, the proprietor is too remote from the school to oversee it effectively.

75. There are many instances of individuals, companies and joint proprietors fulfilling their governancerole with insight and integrity. These proprietors understand the strengths and  weaknesses of theschool and are actively involved in improvement planning. However, in schools that are less than
good, this is not the case. The proprietor’s oversight of the school’s effectiveness is poor. They do not hold school leaders to account effectively for pupils’ progress and well-being. They have little understanding of how pupils’ progress is assessed and whether progress is good enough. They may understand that there are regulations that the school must meet to fulfil the terms of its registration. However, they do not check sufficiently on how well the regulations are implemented and how pupils benefit from this. This means that, in these schools, pupils miss out. They do not have access to all the areas of learning and to the high-quality teaching that would enable them to progress and develop well. In some cases, pupils are also not kept safe enough.

Independent specialist colleges and high needs provision

Inspection outcomes

132. In the providers judged good or outstanding for their high needs provision this year, inspectors found that:

  • High-quality leadership and governance that provided a high level of support and challenge,
    alongside realistic and ambitious plans for the learners’ futures.

Sixth form colleges and 16 to 19 academies

Inspection outcomes

104. There were eight sixth form colleges inspected this year that declined to requires improvement or inadequate. Across these colleges, inspectors found that:

  • governors, senior leaders and managers had not identified a deterioration in students’ progress quickly enough; in all but one of the colleges, leaders had taken action to tackle the decline but this had not yet led to consistent improvement in students’ progress

105. There were two sixth form colleges that improved to outstanding. In these colleges, inspectors found that:

  • the principal, leadership team and governors had worked relentlessly to develop high aspirations and expectations for students and staff

Community learning and skills providers

Inspection outcomes

127. In the providers judged requires improvement or inadequate this year, inspectors found that:

  • governors and managers not having access to, or not using, timely and accurate data to analyse and improve performance

2 thoughts on “Ofsted Annual Report 2016/17: Governance matters

  1. Pingback: Reviewing 2017 and governance matters. With links. | Governing Matters

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