Category Archives: Ofsted

What governors think of the NAHT motion matters

Today scrolling through Twitter I came across the following tweet.

This was the NAHT debating a motion asking Ofsted to REDUCE emphasis on inspecting governance as part of Leadership and Management. I asked for comments from other governors. Almost all were surprised at this. We couldn’t understand the reasoning behind the motion. There were some light hearted comments such as “Isn’t it lovely that they are concerned about extra pressure on us. They are only looking out for us.” Another comment, in similar vein, was from me. I said that reading this gave me the impression that somewhere a conversation like the one below had taken place which led to the motion.

GB to Head, “Could you include x,y,z in your report, please?”

Head to GB,”Don’t worry about that. I’ve got it under control.”

GB to Head, “No, we really do need it. For one thing it’s our job. For another, we are due an Ofsted and we want to ensure we know our stuff.”

Head to GB, “Ah, Ofsted! Don’t worry about that. We’ll get them not to hold you to account. We’ll tell them you’ve got too much work to do.”

Other governors had also read the Schools Week tweet which led to more discussions. Numerous serious points were made in response to my question and question/comments by others. I’ve summarised discussions from different threads on Twitter and Facebook below.

  • This may indicate that heads don’t really understand governance
  • The role and responsibility has changed since I’ve been a governor. The workload means it’s like a job now
  • There are some heads who get frustrated by their governors and we must acknowledge this. On the other hand there are also heads who try and run the school as their personal fiefdom and try and exclude the GB. We have a duty to be as professional as we can and heads need to understand and respect what governance is and what we do
  • Not a straight forward debate. Looking at the framework, it is a part time job
  • Collaboration is key
  • Power grab?
  • We are volunteers which means that if the workload gets too much we can leave. “But I’m a volunteer” should not be used as an excuse
  • Unfortunate that those who may have had a poor experience of governance assume it’s typical in every institution
  • Are they are considering our health and wellbeing?
  • We have gone from “cup of tea, sticky bun and agree with the head” to a very different model. Some governors and heads have kept up and some haven’t
  • Getting paid may be a better route than downplaying the role in Ofsted inspections. But if you pay peanuts, you’ll get monkeys!
  • Some governing bodies create an unnecessary workload for themselves and do not distribute workload effectively.
  • Training of governors is an issue
  • Motion was proposed and passed at the conference. The reason for it needs to be heard
  • If governance goes wrong then everything will
  • Schools need good governance and governance needs to be accountable
  • Really disappointed to see this motion
  • Governance is essential in any organisation
  • My role as chair is far more stressful than my job (I’m saying this tongue-in-cheek)
  • If this happened, where is the incentive to fix bad governance? One role of god governance is to hold heads to account. How would that happen?
  • Perhaps they don’t want to be held to account
  • I feel passionately that strong governance remains
  • Personally I would prefer separate judgement for governance
  • I don’t agree the governance should be a separate judgement. We are part of leadership and management and this emphasises that
  • GBs are accountable in law. Reduce work load by discouraging unneeded hoop jumping? Yes. Make GBs less accountable? Absolutely not!
  • Train governors to understand role. That will help in reducing workload
  • I can see two sides to this. The possible impact of poor governance on a head and the inability of a head to control good governance
  • Ofsted don’t have the expertise to measure governance accurately
  • Inspectors shouldn’t be judging without full understanding
  • Can have good school leaders let down by poor governance. Opposite also happens
  • In some schools senior leaders have little or no contact with governors. Not great for headship preparation
  • Many heads do not do governance training and do not understand the role
  • In one GB meeting the head brought so many staff that they outnumbered the governors
  • Part of the issue is the paucity of governance subject content in many NPQH courses. Starting with a low knowledge base does not help

The debate wasn’t live streamed and the only other tweet I saw was one saying that the motion had been carried. So, we don’t know the context to the motion or how the debate went. Governors would like to know more about what was behind the motion but want to make it clear that we do not wish for reduced accountability or reduced emphasis on governance within the leadership and management judgement. If the motion had called for induction for new governors and CPD we too would have been behind the motion. 

Governance matters in Ofsted’s Annual Report 2016

The Annual Report of Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Education, Children’s Services and Skills 2015/16 was published today. Below are extracts from the report which relate to governance.

A common set of values

Over the last couple of years, there has been a focus on a number of state-funded schools in Birmingham at the centre of the so-called ‘Trojan horse’ episode. In 2014, Ofsted found that there had been a concerted campaign by some people to impose a narrow faith based ideology on these schools and to alter their character and ethos. Since then the schools in question have undergone changes of leadership and governance and are now generally improving.

Capacity to deliver higher standards

Worryingly, schools are also reporting that they are finding it difficult to recruit headteachers. Two fifths of governors say they find it hard to recruit to senior staff posts.

70. Not everybody is content about the move away from national curriculum levels. Where a small proportion of governors reacted positively to the change, responses from our call for evidence on governance  showed that these were in the minority. Governors were clearly confused about the reason for the change and made the point that challenge was difficult when the yardsticks are internal rather than linked to a national system. The most common views given were either that the loss of levels was a step backwards, or that it had not been properly explained to them. The common perception was that the change made it difficult to understand school systems, how progress was measured and whether progress was good enough.

77. While the overall picture in maintained secondary schools is an improving one, with an increase of 12 percentage points since 2011, there has been a considerable fall in the quality of non-association independent schools serving secondary aged pupils since 2014. In 2014, the independent school standards were amended and strengthened. Since 2015, these independent schools have been inspected against the common inspection framework, which holds them to account in similar ways to maintained schools for the quality of their work. In 2015/16, 28 independent schools for secondary aged pupils declined from good or outstanding to less than good. Sixteen of these were faith schools. Common features in declining schools62 were poor leadership, management and governance. Because of poor monitoring of safeguarding practices and the quality of teaching, weaknesses were able to develop without intervention being taken. A failure to stay up to date with current requirements was frequently an issue. For many of the faith schools that declined, there were also concerns about the narrowness of the curriculum.

Disadvantage

100. Governing bodies play an important role in challenging senior leaders on the achievement of disadvantaged pupils. In our report on governance, ‘Improving governance’,we reported that over half of the 2,600 responses to our call-for-evidence identified a commitment and knowledge of the local community as an essential aspect of good governance. For those schools in deprived areas, improving governance involved working hard to understand the particular issues in the community and finding innovative ways in which to address disadvantage.

101. Actions taken by some of the survey schools to improve their understanding of and engagement with the community included:

  •  an audit of skills that included a ‘knowing the local community’measure
  • the recruitment of people who work in the local community who could relate information from school to families and vice versa
  • the recruitment of governors from small local firms and local religious organisations
  • encouraging parent governors to share information both from the community and to the community, and to contribute to higher aspirations.

Post-16 education and training

131. We inspected 82 general FE colleges in 2015/16. Most of the colleges that were previously good remained good following short inspection, but a large majority of those that previously required improvement or were inadequate did not become good. All of the colleges judged inadequate this year were characterised by systemic weaknesses in leadership and/or governance. Strengthening leadership capacity within the sector remains a priority.

Study programmes at level 2 and below

Case study relating to the discussion of

143. Long-term outcomes for students who do not reach level 2 are poor

At Derwen College, governors, the chief executive and senior managers have established a culture of very high expectations for all students. Staff reinforce very high standards across the college, at work and in the residences. Students at this independent specialist, residential college for young people who have learning difficulties and/or disabilities greatly enjoy their learning, their work experience and the social aspects of college life. Almost all make excellent progress in the development of their personal and vocational skills, and are very well prepared for life in modern Britain.

The challenges for post-16 education

167. General FE colleges have the potential to have the greatest impact in bridging this divide. Yet there are concerns that there is not enough leadership capacity within the FE sector to enable the improvement. This year, the effectiveness of leadership and management was judged to be good or outstanding in only 52% of general FE colleges. Of the 82 general FE colleges inspected in 2015/16, 28 (34%) were judged to require improvement and a further 12 (15%) were judged inadequate for overall effectiveness. Almost half of these colleges have performed poorly for many years. All of the inadequate colleges were characterised by systemic weaknesses in leadership or governance.

Special Schools

190. It is not surprising that the characteristics of highly effective special schools, whether independent or maintained, do not differ much from those for mainstream schools. Behind this are the aspiration, vision and quality of leadership and management at all levels, including governance. Outstanding special schools have leaders who are tenacious in their aim for high standards in teaching and learning. They are rigorous in how they check on the impact of the schools’ work on the progress and well-being of every pupil.

192 Perseid School is a happy and inspirational place. Pupils are keen to get off the buses when they arrive because they enjoy coming to school. External partners and other professionals recognise that leaders and governors are committed to ensuring that the school remains a centre of excellence that others can learn from. This has led to the school becoming the hub of a teaching school alliance and a valued training provider within the local area. Leaders and governors are continually looking for ways to make further improvements. They constantly evaluate how their actions are making a difference and draw on the advice of other professionals to confirm their findings. They will not compromise on the high standards of care and education provided throughout the school. For example, governors insisted that the local authority conduct a full review of health and care services to ensure that the diverse needs of the growing number of pupils attending the school could continue to be met. Consequently, all pupils continue to receive high-quality support to allow them to make outstanding progress. Parents say that they appreciate the support and the wrap-around care that is provided by all staff at the school. They miss it during the holidays because the school plays such a significant role in the lives of their children.

193. In good and outstanding special schools inspected this year, governors provided robust challenge and support. They held leaders to account rigorously for pupils’ progress and well-being. They were clearly focused on the responsibilities of the school to secure the highest outcomes for each young person in both their academic and personal development. Often, their governors included parents and experts from within education, social care and health who thoroughly understood the potential barriers that a disability or need might present to learning. They asked highly pertinent questions as to how well the school is doing, querying how specific interventions are working. For example, in a school specialising in providing for pupils with social and emotional challenges, they checked on how effective the schools’ behaviour management approach was and whether incidents had reduced over time. Where pupils’ primary needs were linked to communication and language difficulties, they checked carefully on pupils’ progress in these areas. They ensured that pupils had any additional technological aids and other resources they needed swiftly and staff had the training to use them.

A letter to Meadowgate School:

‘You have made significant improvements to the already outstanding quality of education provided in the school since the last inspection. This is because you are determined that each pupil shall achieve the greatest possible academic and personal success, and benefit from the highest standard of care and support. This commitment is shared by other leaders, including governors, and all staff. You and many of your colleagues have completed high-level research into techniques that best enable pupils to learn and make rapid progress.’

Learning and skills in prisons and young offender institutions

214. Governors are still not doing enough to ensure that education, training or work reduce re-offending and rehabilitates prisoners. In 13 out of 20 prisons, inspectors found governors did not provide enough activity places to ensure that all prisoners had good access to education, work or vocational training throughout the week. Prisoners waited too long before activities were available to them.

220. Of the 33 prison and young offender institution inspections of the National Careers Service provision, around two thirds provided good support for prisoners to understand their education, training and employment options on release. However, many prisons, governors and Offenders’ Learning and Skills Service managers did not work closely enough with the National Careers Service and local employers to ensure that learning and work activities linked closely enough to resettlement plans on release. There were too few opportunities for prisoners nearing the end of their sentence to gain direct work experience in the community.

Safeguarding

222. The vast majority of early years providers, schools and FE and skills providers take their safeguarding responsibilities very seriously and take action to keep pupils safe and well. However, there are exceptions. This year, 2% of maintained schools and 3% of providers in FE and skills were found to have safeguarding arrangements that were not effective. The proportion of independent schools where safeguarding arrangements were not effective was much higher, at 15%. Whether in the state-funded or independent sector, these weaknesses were the result of poor governance, leadership and management. Leaders failed to check whether their staff were actually complying with instructions and applying guidance as to how to keep children safe.

Safeguarding children and young people in schools and FE and skills providers

233. Weaknesses in any aspect of safeguarding bring with them serious concerns about the effectiveness of leaders, managers, governors or proprietors. The common thread in all provision where safeguarding was ineffective was a lack of rigorous oversight. This included leaders not regularly checking that they are fulfilling all of their responsibilities. Having policies is not enough. They must be put into practice, reviewed and evaluated.

237. In many of the independent schools where safeguarding was not effective, staff, leaders, governors and proprietors were not adequately trained in safeguarding or leaders were not checking that staff understood and were following up in practice the training they had received. Occasionally, individual members of staff had not received any training at all. Training alone is not enough. It cannot be assumed that it will automatically lead to a change in staff behaviour and practice.

Promoting British values and protecting pupils from the risk of extremism

262. After a period of intense focus on Birmingham from Ofsted and other agencies in relation to extremism, there have been some improvements. Two of the schools that were at the heart of the Trojan horse concerns (Nansen Primary School and Rockwood Academy, previously Park View Academy) are no longer in special measures and were judged good. We found strengths in leadership and management, including governance. Inspectors continue to consider carefully how effectively leaders and managers promote fundamental British values and keep pupils safe from the risks of extremism and radicalisation when inspecting all types of schools, including independent schools.

Capacity in the school system

270. England’s schools system continues to grow in diversity. Regardless of whether a school is an academy, an independent school or maintained by the local authority, the quality of the school depends on attracting and retaining the best teachers and leaders. The ability of a school to maintain its performance or to improve depends on the effectiveness of the oversight and challenge the school receives. This means that highly skilled governors, high-performing multi-academy trusts and active sponsors are more important than ever.

Leadership capacity

291. A recent survey of over 5,000 governors by the National Governors Association and the Times Educational Supplement found that over a third of respondents had reported difficulties when recruiting a headteacher. There was little difference in the views of governors of primary schools and secondary schools about the difficulties of headteacher recruitment. Over two fifths of governors said that they had found it difficult to recruit to senior staff posts.

293. In June 2016, inspectors visited seven strong-performing MATs to gather evidence about the characteristics of effective trust leadership and governance. Each of the seven MAT chief executives spoken to during these visits said they had clear strategies for identifying and growing leaders within their constituent schools. They identified potential leaders early on in their careers and were quick to provide opportunities for them to develop their leadership skills. Structured coaching and mentoring from experienced headteachers was often the norm. Some MATs provided their potential leaders with regular opportunities to shadow senior staff. They also encouraged leaders to take up secondments at other academies within the chain, when the time was right, to allow emerging skills to be applied in context and the confidence of new leaders to grow.

Governance

297. Governors play an important role in improving schools. As changes within the education system place more power in the hands of governing boards, their importance will continue to grow. Governing bodies are responsible for:

  • setting the school’s vision, ethos and strategic direction
  • holding the headteacher to account for the performance of the pupils, teachers and school
  •  ensuring financial integrity.

298. At the root of much school failure is weak governance. In the 2015/16 academic year, inspectors recommended an external review of governance in 295 schools, which is a third of all the schools judged to require improvement or to be inadequate this year.

299. This year, we carried out a survey report to look at the effectiveness of governance. Inspectors visited 24 recently improved schools in some of the poorest areas of the country. Neither the types of school, nor the structure of governance, were the reasons for the original weaknesses in governance. In order to improve, they needed to become more self-aware. Two thirds of the survey schools had not engaged in any self-evaluation of governance prior to being found to be less than good.

300. All of the boards needed to develop the professional knowledge, understanding and insight within the Board. However, over 1,600 responses to our call-for-evidence from governors told us that it is difficult to access high quality professional support and training. National Leaders of Governance and Professional Clerks are in particularly short supply. Boards also told us that they are finding it difficult to appoint people who possess the required expertise for the role and who are willing to take on the responsibility and be accountable . Around three quarters of respondents to the call for evidence reported that recruitment and retention were significant challenges for the sector.

301. In independent schools, there is no requirement for there to be a governing body. There is still a need for them to demonstrate sound governance, as for maintained schools. For some schools, this means that they have established a group of directors or advisers or a small group of named governors who are charged to oversee the leadership of the school and hold it accountable. In other schools, it is the proprietor or the proprietorial body that fulfils this role.

302. In all independent schools inspected this year where the school was inadequate, and in many of the schools that were judged requires improvement, governance was weak. Systems for holding leaders to account were underdeveloped. Those responsible for governance had had little training. They did not fully understand their responsibilities for holding school leaders to account, including ensuring that they continue to meet the independent school regulations.

Multi-academy trusts

309. This year, inspectors also visited seven of the strongest performing MATs to better understand what is working well.186 These visits showed the difference that effective MATs can make to the lives of pupils. Inspectors found executive leadership, with a proven track record of turning around failing schools. Leaders had a clarity of vision and the urgency to reach higher standards, particularly for disadvantaged pupils. There were clear, delegated frameworks of governance and intelligent use of assessment information so potential problems could be anticipated.

NOTE: Keep an eye out for Ofsted’s report on governance “Improving governance: governance arrangements in complex and challenging circumstances” which is due to be published mid December.

 

Ofsted feedback and draft report matters

Autumn term’s school inspection update has been published which has important messages for inspectors but these should be read by us all too. Sean has, very kindly, written about governors and the inspection feedback and access to the draft report which  will reassure governors. I’ve copied the passage below.

I have picked up that there are still cases where governor representatives who have not been present at the feedback meeting are being informed that the provisional judgement from the inspection cannot be shared with them. This is not the case. Every member of the appropriate governing authority of a school is entitled to know, in confidence, the inspection outcome, regardless of whether or not they attended the feedback meeting. Similarly, when the draft report is shared with the school, all governor representatives are entitled to see the report, along with relevant senior personnel as determined by the school.

Sean has previously answered governors’ queries about this and this topic has also been included in the inspections handbooks. Hopefully, this latest inspection update will finally lay this myth to rest.

Ofsted Inspection Handbook and governance matters

Ofsted has recently published updated Section 5 and Section 8 school inspection handbooks. The revisions to the Section 5 reflect latest education policy and the updates in the Section 8 handbook have been done to ensure it is in line with changes to statutory requirements.

Below I have copied parts of the Section 5 handbook which relate to governors/governance. The important point to note is that inspectors, while judging effectiveness of leadership and management will now also consider how committed the governors are to their own development (see text in red below). This means that we should be prepared to answer questions on the arrangements we have made for our training and CPD. Boards may like to consider maintaining a training log which may include details of governor CPD and its impact.

Notification and introduction

34 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

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

  • confirm what the governance structure of the school or academy is, 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 multi-academy trust, and as many governors as possible – they will also invite as many governors as possible to attend the final feedback meeting
  • request either a face-to-face meeting or a telephone call with a representative from the local authority, academy chain, multi-academy trust board, sponsor or other relevant responsible body; this does not apply to stand-alone academy converters

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

  • documented evidence of the work of governors 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.

64 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.

Meeting those responsible for governance

85 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.

86 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

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

  • the headteacher and other senior leaders agreed by the lead inspector and headteacher
  • the chair of the school’s governing board (or the local governing body in the case of an academy that is part of a mult academy trust), and as many governors as possible
  • in an academy that is part of a multi-academy trust, at least one representative of the board of trustees
  • a representative from the local authority (for maintained schools) or academy sponsor and/or the designated responsible body

93 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 how to 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 the 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, they must 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

Serious weaknesses

99  A school is judged to have serious weaknesses because one or more of the key judgements is inadequate (grade 4) and/or there are important weaknesses in the provision for pupils’ spiritual, moral, social and cultural development. However, normally, inspectors will have judged leadership and management to be at least grade 3 because leaders, managers and   governors will have demonstrated the capacity to secure improvement.

Effectiveness of leadership and management

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

141 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 actions 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 a high 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 use performance management to promote effective practice across the school
    • how effectively leaders monitor the progress of groups of pupils to ensure that none falls behind and underachieve, and how effectively governors hold them to account for this
    • how well leaders and governors engage with parents, carers 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.

142 Where the school has received external support, for example from the local authority, academy proprietor or trust, inspectors will evaluate and report on the quality and the impact of the external support and challenge on improvement in the school.

Sources of evidence

143 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.

144 Inspectors should consider any evidence the school has from regularly surveying the staff and how leaders and managers have responded to concerns raised by staff or parents, for example about how teachers are supported by senior leaders to tackle low-level disruptive behaviour. Inspectors will always report on the school’s activity to survey staff, whether   through the school’s internal procedures or its use of the Ofsted questionnaire (they will do this in the ‘information about this inspection’ section).

Safeguarding

145 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’.

Governance

146 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 board at school level, as well as the trustees.

147 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.

148 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
  • understand how the school makes decisions about teachers’ salary progression and performance
  • 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.

149 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.

150 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.’

151 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: http://www.gov.uk/reviews-of-school-%09governance.

Use of the pupil premium

152 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

Attendance and punctuality

Sources of evidence

168 Inspectors will gather the views of parents, staff, governors and other stakeholders

SSAT have published a summary of changes. 

Short Ofsted inspection matters; a Chair’s story

My local authority holds LA and Link Governor forums. As I am the Training Link governor, I try and attend these forums as often as I can. At this term’s forum there was a presentation by a Chair of Governors about his experience with the new, short inspection regime. This was the first short inspection in my LA so this presentation was very useful and interesting.

This school had been judged as Good in 2011. In 2013 the school was advised that it would not be inspected at least for another 12 months. In September 2015 the GB appointed a new Headteacher. On Monday 11th January 2016 the school received a call informing them that they would have a short inspection the next day. The headteacher drew up a timetable for the day. During the first hour the head met the inspector and they went through the school data. The inspector was told about student tracking, progress, results and the changes the head was putting into place. The Chair commented that everything the inspector asked the head were things we as governors should know!

While touring the school, the inspector went into a classroom and saw children learning about pets. It was “Bring your pet to school” day and the school had decided not to cancel it. There were numerous questions on safeguarding. The inspector then went into the office to check the Single Central Record. The register is kept up to date. However, the inspector made a few suggestions to bring it in line with best practice and asked the school to add a few extra columns. One question that the inspector asked was if any of the staff had worked abroad and was the school aware of anything which may have happened while the staff member was abroad. As it happened the school does have a staff member who has recently returned to the UK. The Chair told us that the inspector didn’t make the staff member responsible for the register feel as if they had let the school down. The inspector asked them to get the required information and update the record and he would come back at the end of the day. This was done and the inspector was satisfied when he re-examined the register.

The meeting with the governors took place at lunch time; four governors met the inspector. The inspector used the information he had gathered to check the governors’ understanding of progress, results and interventions. The inspector asked about one year group which is a challenging one. He wanted to know if the governors were aware of how these students are tracked, if they were making expected progress, the interventions in place and their effects. The Chair told us he keeps an “Ofsted folder” which has information which may be needed at inspections. He said he found this very useful during the inspection as he was able to refer to it when needed. The inspector wanted to know if governors were given all the information they needed. He asked if governors were aware of the work done by the SENCO, the strategies she uses and their impact. The inspector knew that writing had been the focus during the last two inspections. The governors were asked why was writing still a priority. This question was answered by the governor responsible for monitoring this area. He told the inspector that the school had introduced a new English programme and felt that they should keep focusing on writing for the time being.

The Chair told us that student progress in his school is not as good as other schools in the borough but the governors were able to 

(a) assure the inspectors that they knew this was the case and

(b) put the data into context

Governors were asked about student attendance. As this is a small school few unauthorised absences affect the data dramatically. Governors were asked what steps was the school taking to address unauthorised absences and were told that they needed to be robust in their tackling of this issue. The Chair asked if the inspector would put this in his report. The inspector said he would be commenting on attendance. The Chair told us that the governors were happy about this as the school could point to the Ofsted report when emphasising the need to attend school regularly.

Governors were asked if they knew what new initiatives had been put into place by the head and the impact these were having. The governors were asked about EYFS, if governors accessed training (the Chair had the training record with him and showed it to the inspector) and if there had been any complaints against staff. The inspector was impressed that the school, a small primary in a leafy suburb, had accessed Prevent training.

The Chair told us that judging by the questions they were asked the inspector was trying gauge if the governors and the head’s priorities and vision for the school were the same and if they questioned and challenged the head.

The school has been graded Good (the report has been made public). The Chair told us that they were satisfied with the grade as they know they are not Outstanding but will be! The Chair was happy with the new inspection regime and the inspector. He said the whole process had felt supportive and it did feel as if the inspection had started by assuming that the school continued to be Good.

The Chair ended his presentation by advising us that as governors we need to be clear about our vision for our school, accountability, safeguarding, being able to track pupil progress and financial regularity.

It was good to hear from someone who has gone through the new, short inspection and it was reassuring to hear that the experience had been a positive one.

Sir Michael Wilshaw’s views on governance matter

In his second monthly commentary, Sir Michael Wilshaw discussed the role governance plays in today’s complex educational landscape. The important points in his commentary, for me, are as below.

1. Importance of training: Sir M Wilshaw is of the opinion that people who do not have the right training and the understanding of the role have no place on boards. He is disappointed that there has been no progress on making training mandatory. He believes high quality training, especially for chairs and vice chairs is essential. He has asked inspectors to focus on training and the arrangement to schools make for this when they judge governance.

I agree with all of this and have previously written about it here and here . Governors themselves have been asking for training, at least induction training, to be made mandatory. This is especially important as governors in academies are company directors and charity trustees and need to understand what this entails.

2. Payment: He asks once again if the time has come to think of paying governors, at least the chair and vice chair, in order to recruit the most able people to serve on boards of schools in difficult circumstances.

Nothing I have read so far convinces me that paying would help raise governance standards. I have written in more detail about this here.

3. Board constitution: Sir M Wilshaw discusses “representative governors”, in particular parent governors. He agrees with the Department’s view that governance should be about the level of knowledge people bring to the board rather than how many people represent particular groups.

I have expressed my views on this here and here.

Sir M Wilshaw goes on to say that commitment to the role is essential and there is no place for people who serve on boards just to enhance their CV’s (I am reminded of Gove’s “local worthies”!).

4. In depth survey into board effectiveness: Ofsted will carry out an “in-depth and far-reaching survey” into effectiveness of governance. The report will be published next year and will be looking into

  • Do boards have enough professional skills and experience?
  • Paying governors
  • Do LA’s and Regional Commissioners intervene soon enough?
  • Are there provisions for training?
  • Support received for appointments of heads and the board’s role in succession planning
  • Role of NLG’s
  • Are external reviews of governance an effective tool to bring about improvement?
  • Challenges of governing stand alone academies
  • Relationship between MAT boards and their local governing bodies

This seems like it will be an extensive piece of work. I’m interested in finding out how it will be done. Will governors of schools being inspected between now and when the report is published be used to inform Ofsted’s views on the above matters? I think governors of schools due to be inspected should be ready to answer questions on at least some of the above (training will definitely be asked about, I think).

One concern is whether Ofsted has the governance expertise to undertake this task. 

As part of this survey he is calling for evidence from anyone who has a view to express. I hope governors and trustees will take part in this survey so that our views are expressed and hopefully inform the report.

It has been pointed out that clerks are conspicous by their absence in this commentary.

I share these concerns. Clerks can make or break a governing board. For a board to be truly effective it needs to have the services of a good, independent, well paid, professional clerk. Maybe the survey Ofsted will carry out needs to look at this too.
Update: 

Emma Knights of NGA responds

Martin Mathews responds

Sir John Dunford comments

Publishing governance information as PDF is acceptable; its the information that matters!

Governing bodies are now required to publish information about governors on websites. This is in the interest of transparency. Statutory Guidance published on 14th August 2015 states (para 25) that

Governors hold an important public office and their identity should be known to their school and wider communities. In the interests of transparency, a governing body should publish on its website up-to-date details of its governance arrangements in a readily accessible form.

The footnote states that readily accessible means the information should be on a webpage without the3 need to download or open a separate document.

The Academies Financial Handbook (AFH) states that

2.5.2 In the interest of transparency, an academy trust must publish on its website up-to-details of its governance arrangements in a readily accessible format.

As far as I can see the AFH does not specify what is meant by “readily accessible format”.

This has led to a great deal of discussion on Twitter. Shena Lewington has found very few examples of information about governance arrangements published as webpages (see her Hall of Fame). Many of us felt that publishing information as a PDF should be allowed as Adobe is a free programme and widely used, information can be easily downloaded and printed if people wanted to do that. If the thinking behind asking for this to be published as a web page was that data could be harvested, then it was pointed out that a standard format would be needed in order to do that.

Sean Harford clarified that Ofsted will not downgrade schools if they had the required information as a PDF.

I decided to ask Department For Education directly if PDF would be acceptable.

This morning they tweeted a reply which says

This has made me very happy. This makes it easy for clerks or website administrators to publish information easily. It also means that those who don’t have the information as a web page (which as Shena found are the majority) can breathe again.

I will end by thanking the Department for reducing the burden on governors and for replying to my query so promptly.

Update: The Department subsequently said that pdf is not an accessible format so information cannnot be uploaded as a pdf.