Ofsted Inspection Handbook (Sept 2018) and governance matters

Ofsted has recently published the School Inspection Handbook (Sept 2018). This handbook is primarily a guide for inspectors on how to carry out school inspections. However, it is made available to schools and other organisations to ensure that they are informed about the process and procedures of inspection. Below are extracts from the Handbook which relate to governors/governance. The Handbook also includes information concerning the meeting which the inspectors will hold with those responsible for governance as well as information about who can attend the feedback meeting and see the draft report. There are many myths around the role of governors during inspection so the clarification is welcome.

Outstanding/exempt schools

21. In addition, exempt schools may be inspected between risk assessments where:

  • concerns are raised about standards of leadership or governance

Short inspections of good schools

As is the case for all schools, a good school may still receive a ‘no formal designation’ inspection carried out under section 8 at any time if:

  • concerns are raised about standards of leadership or governance that suggest that it should be inspected earlier than its next scheduled inspection

Statutory provisions

  • Ofsted will report on any failure to comply with statutory arrangements, including those relating to the workforce, where these form part of the inspection framework and evaluation schedule (Part 2 of this handbook)
  • Leadership and governance
  • As many governors or trustees as possible are invited to meet inspectors during an inspection.
  • For academies, inspectors meet those directly responsible for management and governance, including the CEO/their delegate (or equivalent), the chair of the board of trustees and other trustees.
  • An inspector may talk to the chair of governors by telephone if s/he is unable to attend a face-to-face meeting with the inspector in school.
  • All those responsible for governance need to know the outcome of the inspection as soon as possible. Individual governor representatives must keep the outcomes confidential until the school has received the final inspection report.

Notification and introduction

37. During the initial notification phone call, the inspection support administrator will check the number of pupils on roll at the school, the governance arrangements for the school and whether the school has any special educational needs or additional resource provision.

40. The purpose of the lead inspector’s initial call is to:

  • confirm what the governance structure of the school or academy is,31 including with reference, particularly for academies and multi-academy trusts, to the range of functions delegated to local governing bodies or other committees
  • make arrangements for a meeting with the chair of the governing body or, where appropriate, the chair of the board of trustees and as many governors as possible – they will also invite as many governors as possible to attend the final feedback meeting

41. Inspectors will request that the following information is available at the start of the inspection:

  • documented evidence of the work of those responsible for governance and their priorities, including any written scheme of delegation for an academy in a multi-academy trust
  • any reports of external evaluation of the school, including any review of governance or use of the pupil premium funding.

The start of the on-site inspection

62. Inspectors will not arrive before 8.00am. The lead inspector should meet the headteacher and/or senior leadership team briefly at the beginning of the inspection to:

  • confirm arrangements for meetings with representatives of those responsible for the governance of the school and with key staff

Observing teaching, learning and assessment

67. Inspectors will visit lessons to gather evidence about teaching, learning and assessment and will consider this first-hand evidence alongside documentary evidence about the quality of teaching and views from leaders, governors, staff, pupils and parents. Inspectors will also include evidence from observing pupils learning in, for example, extra-curricular activities. This range of evidence also informs the evaluation of pupils’ progress, pupils’ personal development, behaviour and welfare, and the impact of leaders’ and managers’ improvements to teaching and assessment.

Meeting those responsible for governance

88. Inspectors will always seek to meet those responsible for governance during the inspection. This will usually include maintained school governors or academy trustees and sponsors (including sponsor representatives, where they exist). However, in a multi-academy trust, the board of trustees may have established a local governing body to which it may have delegated certain governance functions. In some other cases, there may be a local governing body that is wholly advisory, with no formal governance responsibilities delegated to it. Inspectors should ensure that meetings are with those who are directly responsible for exercising governance of the school and for overseeing its performance.

89. The contribution of governors to the school’s performance is evaluated as part of the judgement on the effectiveness of leadership and management. As with the meetings between inspectors and pupils, parents and staff, meetings with those responsible for governance should take place without the headteacher or senior staff.

Providing feedback

96. The on-site inspection concludes with a final feedback meeting with the school. Those connected with the school who may attend include:

  • the chair of the school’s governing board and as many governors as possible
  • for academies, the chair of the board of trustees and as many trustees as possible

97. During this meeting, the lead inspector will ensure that the headteacher and governors are clear:

  • about the provisional grades awarded for each key judgement; sufficient detail must be given by the lead inspector to enable all attendees to understand how judgements have been reached and for governors to play a part in beginning to plan howto tackle any areas for improvement
  • that the grades are provisional and so may be subject to change as a result of quality assurance procedures or moderation and must, therefore, be treated as restricted and confidential to the relevant senior personnel (as determined by the school); they must not be shared beyond the school’s leadership team and governors (including those unable to attend the final feedback meeting); information about the inspection outcomes should be shared more widely only when the school receives a copy of the final inspection report
  • about reasons for recommending an external review of governance and/or an external review of the use of the pupil premium (where applicable) and reference to the fact that this will be followed up at the next inspection
  • that, on receipt of the draft report, theymust ensure that the report remains restricted and confidential to the relevant senior personnel (as determined by the school, but including governors) and that the information contained within it is not shared with any third party or published under any circumstances

Special measures

108. When the evidence indicates that one or more of the key judgements is inadequate, inspectors must consider whether the school is failing to give its pupils an acceptable standard of education. If this is confirmed by the evidence, inspectors must consider whether leaders, managers and governors are demonstrating the capacity to improve the school. If both of these conditions are met then the school requires special measures. If neither or only one of these two conditions are met, the school has serious weaknesses

After the inspection

Arrangements for publishing the report

121. Inspection reports will be quality-assured before Ofsted sends a draft copy to the school. The draft report is restricted and confidential to the relevant personnel (as determined by the school), including those responsible for governance, and should not be shared more widely or published.

Effectiveness of leadership and management

151. The CIF sets out the overarching criteria for judging the effectiveness of leadership and management.

152. In making this judgement in schools, inspectors will consider:

  • the leaders’ and governors’ vision and ambition for the school and how these are communicated to staff, parents and pupils
  • whether leaders and governors have created a culture of high expectations, aspirations and scholastic excellence in which the highest achievement in academic and vocational work is recognised as vitally important
  • how effectively leaders use the primary PE and sport premium and measure its impact on outcomes for pupils, and how effectively governors hold them to account for this the effectiveness of the action leaders take to secure and sustain improvements to teaching, learning and assessment and how effectively governors hold them to account for this
  • how well leaders ensure that the school has a motivated, respected and effective teaching staff to deliver ahigh quality education for all pupils, and how effectively governors hold them to account for this
  • the quality of continuing professional development for teachers at the start and middle of their careers and later, including to develop leadership capacity and how leaders and governors promote effective practice across the school
  • how effectively leaders monitor the progress of pupils to ensure that none falls behind and underachieves, and how effectively governors hold them to account for this
  • how well leaders and governors engage with parents and other stakeholders and agencies to support all pupils
  • how effectively leaders use additional funding, including the pupil premium, and measure its impact on outcomes for pupils, and how effectively governors hold them to account for this
  • the effectiveness of governors in discharging their core statutory functions and how committed they are to their own development as governors in order to improve their performance
  • how well leaders and governors promote all forms of equality and foster greater understanding of and respect for people of all faiths (and those of no faith), races, genders, ages, disability and sexual orientations (and other groups with protected characteristics), through their words, actions and influence within the school and more widely in the community
  • the effectiveness of safeguarding
  • the effectiveness of leaders’ and governors’ work to raise awareness and keep pupils safe from the dangers of abuse, sexual exploitation, radicalisation and extremism and what the staff do when they suspect that pupils are vulnerable to these issues

Sources of evidence

154. Inspectors will obtain a range of evidence from meetings with leaders and governors and first-hand evidence of their work across the school. Inspectors will use documentary evidence provided by the school, evaluating the impact of leaders ‘and governors’ work, both currently and over time, in conjunction with first-hand evidence. Responses to the staff questionnaire and Parent View will also provide useful evidence for judging the culture that has been established in the school by leaders and managers.


156. In judging the effectiveness of leadership and management, inspectors must also judge whether the school’s arrangements for safeguarding pupils are effective, and whether those responsible for governance ensure that these arrangements are effective. There is detailed guidance on evaluating safeguarding arrangements in ‘Inspecting safeguarding in early years, education, skills settings’.


157. Inspectors will seek evidence of the impact of those responsible for governance. This includes maintained school governors, proprietors or academy trustees. In a multi-academy trust this may include members of the local governing board55 at school level, as well as the trustees.

158. Where a children’s centre is managed directly by the school’s governing body, inspectors will consider the impact of any judgements about the children’s centre or the services and activities offered through or by the centre, in judging leadership and management.

159. Inspectors will consider whether governors:

  • work effectively with leaders to communicate the vision, ethos and strategic direction of the school and develop a culture of ambition
  • provide a balance of challenge and support to leaders, understanding the strengths and areas needing improvement at the school
  • provide support for an effective headteacher or are hindering school improvement because of a lack of understanding of the issues facing the school
  • performance manage the headteacher rigorously
  • understand the impact of teaching, learning and assessment on the progress of pupils currently in the school
  • ensure that assessment information from leaders provides governors with sufficient and accurate information to ask probing questions about outcomes for pupils
  • ensure that the school’s finances are properly managed and can evaluate how the school is using the pupil premium, Year 7 literacy and numeracy catch-up premium, primary PE and sport premium, and special educational needs funding
  • are transparent and accountable, including in recruitment of staff, governance structures, attendance at meetings and contact with parents.

160. Inspectors will report on the achievement of pupils who have special educational needs and/or disabilities. This includes reporting on the pupils in any specialist resource provision managed by the governing body and the extent to which the education the school provides meets the needs of these pupils.

161. Inspectors will recommend an external review if governance is weak. Under ‘What the school should do to improve further’, inspectors should use the following words in the report: ‘An external review of governance should be undertaken in order to assess how this aspect of leadership and management may be improved.’

162. The school should decide how this review will take place and commission it. Reviews should be developmental. They do not represent a further inspection, although inspectors will follow up on the review during any subsequent inspection. Full details of what might be the form and nature of such reviews can be found at: www.gov.uk/reviews-of-school-governance

Use of the pupil premium

163. Inspectors will gather evidence about the use of the pupil premium in relation to the following key issues:

  • how leaders and governors have spent the pupil premium, their rationale for this spending and its intended impact

Grade descriptors for the effectiveness of leadership and management

Note: Grade descriptors are not a checklist. Inspectors adopt a ‘best fit’ approach that relies on the professional judgement of the inspection team.

Outstanding (1)

  • Leaders and governors have created a culture that enables pupils and staff to excel. They are committed unwaveringly to setting high expectations for the conduct of pupils and staff. Relationships between staff and pupils are exemplary.
  • Leaders and governors focus on consistently improving outcomes for all pupils, but especially for disadvantaged pupils. They are uncompromising in their ambition
  • Governors systematically challenge senior leaders so that the effective deployment of staff and resources, including the pupil premium, the primary PE and sport premium, Year 7 literacy and numeracy catch-up premium and special educational needs funding, secures excellent outcomes for pupils. Governors do not shy away from challenging leaders about variations in outcomes for pupil groups and between disadvantaged and other pupils nationally.
  • Leaders and governors have a deep, accurate understanding of the school’s effectiveness informed by the views of pupils, parents and staff. They use this to keep the school improving by focusing on the impact of their actions in key areas.
  • Leaders and governors use high quality professional development to encourage, challenge and support teachers’ improvement. Teaching is highly effective across the school

Good (2)

  • Leaders and governors are ambitious for all pupils and promote improvement effectively. The school’s actions secure improvement in disadvantaged pupils’ progress, which isrising, including in English and mathematics.
  • Leaders and governors have an accurate and comprehensive understanding of the quality of education at the school. This helps them plan, monitor and refine actions to improve all key aspects of the school’s work.
  • Leaders and governors use professional development effectively to improve teaching. They use accurate monitoring to identify and spread good practice across the school.
  • Governors hold senior leaders stringently to account for all aspects of the school’s performance, including the use of pupil premium, the primary PE and sport premium, Year 7 literacy and numeracy catch-up premium and special educational needs funding, ensuring that the skilful deployment of staff and resources delivers good or improving outcomes for pupils.

Requires improvement (3)

  • Leadership and management are not yet good.

Inadequate (4)

Leadership and management are likely to be inadequate if one or more of the following applies.

  • Capacity for securing further improvement is poor and the improvements leaders and governors have made are unsustainable, have been implemented too slowly or are overly dependent on external support.
  • Leaders and governors, through their words, actions or influence, directly and/or indirectly, undermine or fail to promote equality of opportunity. They do not prevent discriminatory behaviour and prejudiced actions and views.
  • Leaders and governors are not protecting pupils from radicalisation and extremist views when pupils are vulnerable to these. Policy and practice are poor, which means pupils are at risk.

Attendance and punctuality

Sources of evidence

180. Inspectors will make this judgement using evidence seen during the inspection as well as evidence of trends over time. The judgement will be informed by documentary evidence about behaviour, including how the school tackles poor behaviour, as well as discussions with and observations of pupils at break times, lunchtimes and between lessons. Inspectors will assess the school’s use of exclusion, including the rates, patterns and reasons for exclusion, as well as any differences between groups of pupils. Inspectors will gather the views of parents, staff, governors and other stakeholders.

Inspection of religious education and collective worship

Schools with a religious character

The inspectors who conduct section 48 inspections are appointed by the school’s governing body or the foundation governors in a voluntary controlled school, having consulted with person(s) prescribed in regulations (normally the appropriate religious authority) where applicable. The inspectors are normally drawn from the relevant faith group’s section 48 inspection service, although not all faith groups have their own inspectors organised in this way. Regulations specify that section 48 inspections must be conducted within five school years from the end of the school year in which the last section 48 inspection took place.

The relationship between section 5 and section 48 inspections is governed by a protocol between Ofsted and signatory faith group inspectorates. Ofsted’s lead inspector should check the section 48 arrangements and:

  • if no section 48 inspection by a suitable person has taken place, the lead inspector should check the arrangements; if the governors have not arrangedfor a section 48 inspection, inspectors should conclude that they have failed to carry out a statutory responsibility and refer to this in the section 5 inspection report, as part of the governance narrative under the leadership and management section of the report.

31This must be checked with the headteacher as part of the call. Where multi-academy trusts have delegated responsibility to local governing bodies, this should be set out in a scheme of delegation. Academies should also set out their governance structure in their annual statement of accounts, which can generally be accessed through the DfE performance tables’ site. Inspectors should clarify where responsibility lies and who they should talk with during the inspection, especially where a school is part of a multi-academy trust.

55In a multi-academy trust, this could include meeting with a local governing board where relevant responsibilities are devolved in accordance with the scheme of delegation.

4 thoughts on “Ofsted Inspection Handbook (Sept 2018) and governance matters

  1. Pingback: Ofsted Inspection Handbook Sept 2018; knowing what’s changed matters | Governing Matters

  2. Pingback: Sixth anniversary matters | Governing Matters

  3. Pingback: Seventh anniversary matters | Governing Matters

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.