In this series of articles we have a look at Ofsted’s Inspections for the month of October 2018, where a school’s overall rating was “Requires Improvement”.

In this article, we have a look at the role of the governor and how Ofsted comments on this.

Let’s start with a positive. Some Ofsted inspectors commented on how well governors know the school:

Governors know the school well. They are highly skilled and contribute positively.

Governors have a sound grasp of the school’s key strengths and weaknesses.

The recent changes to the leadership of the school have meant that governors receive timely and transparent information.

Governors are insightful, well informed and realistic. They know the school and the community that it serves well. They are ambitious for the school. They are well led and constantly seeking to improve.

Governors are a united and highly committed team who play an important and very visible role in the life of the school.

Governors now meet with school leaders regularly, visit classrooms and talk to pupils. In this way, governors are more closely tracking how the areas in the school improvement plan are being implemented, for example to improve the achievement of disadvantaged pupils.

Data and challenging the data

Some inspectors commented that governors do not have the data they need to do their job:

Governors have not had the information they need to enable them to challenge leaders with sufficient rigour.

There is not yet enough meaningful and accurate assessment information. As a result, leaders at all levels, including governors, have not been able to hold teachers to account, identify their strengths and weaknesses, or address these through training.

Governors have insufficient information about progress and attendance to hold leaders to account.

It’s not sufficient to have that data – governors must also hold leadership to account. A constant thread through these “Requires Improvement” reports was the governing body was not sufficiently challenging leaders.

The governing body now has a more thorough understanding of the progress of pupils in the school. Governors are proud of the impact of some of the interventions. However, they do not monitor outcomes for all pupils with sufficient rigour. As a result, they cannot fully hold leaders to account for the progress that all pupils make.  

Governors have not been stringent enough in their challenge of the school’s leadership. They have not held leaders to account effectively.

Until recently, governors have been unable to provide effective challenge to the school’s leaders. They have accepted information about pupils’ outcomes and the impact of school improvement actions without effective challenge.

Some inspectors went further – not only did governors not have the data, they didn’t yet have a sufficiently robust skillset, and didn’t challenge the school sufficiently:

Governors accept that they were previously not able to hold leaders in the school to account because they lacked skills, knowledge and accurate assessment information.

Recommendation: governors develop their skills to challenge leaders more thoroughly 

How have these governors improved their skills?

They have sought and followed advice from the local authority. They have attended an extensive range of training courses, with many more planned. The impact of their work is beginning to increase, as the rise in standards shows. However, governors accept that there is still much work to be done. 

My question for your school, then, is: do your governors have the skills to do their job? For example, do at least some of them know how to read the ASP or IDSR? If not, can they be given training regarding the ASP/IDSR?

Pupil premium and SEN additional funding

“Key findings” from several inspections shows who Ofsted would like governors to particularly target:

ensuring that leaders are fully held to account by governors for the performance of all groups of pupils, but particularly those who receive extra funding, such as pupils who have SEN and/or disabilities and those who are disadvantaged.

Recommendation: governors fully evaluate the impact that additional funding is having on improving the outcomes of disadvantaged pupils. 

Governors have not effectively held leaders to account for the impact of additional funding.

Recommendation: governors hold leaders effectively to account for the impact of additional funding to improve the progress and attainment of disadvantaged pupils and pupils who have special educational needs (SEN) and/or disabilities  

Governors have not held the headteacher to account, particularly for the impact of the pupil premium grant.

This lack of governors sufficiently holding leaders to account for additional funding was a “key finding” in a third of October’s “Requires Improvement” inspections.

This is underlined by positive comments in other inspections:

Governors have responded to the suggestions made in a pupil premium review. They make checks to ensure that additional funding, such as the pupil premium, is used effectively to support the progress and well-being of disadvantaged pupils.

Governors’ challenge and allocation of resources have led to rapid improvements in the attendance of disadvantaged pupils.

The relationships with governors

Several inspectors comment on how the leadership supports governors, and vice versa:

Leaders now gather richer and more comprehensive information about how well pupils are performing. This is helpfully shared widely and regularly, including with staff and governors.

Governors receive comprehensive school performance information, an improvement since the last inspection. They interpret this well and, consequently, provide helpful challenge to school leaders.

Governors are determined to support the headteacher well, and in doing so set a positive tone to school improvement work. 

which in turn increases the challenging of the leadership:

It is clear from the minutes of governors’ meetings that they now have a tight grip on the work leaders are doing and the effect of this work. As a matter of routine, they ask challenging questions of leaders and hold them to account for the progress pupils are making. 

Governors are highly supportive of school leaders, and have started to ask more challenging questions.

A number of inspectors talked about the role of the local authority in helping governors:

Governors have been working with determination to improve their skills and knowledge. They have sought and followed advice from the local authority.

The local authority has provided leaders with effective support and challenge. It has provided leaders and governors with clear information about poor performance.

The new chair of governors is in the process of revitalising many aspects of governance. She has worked with local authority partners to develop the expertise of the governing body and to respond proactively to the decline in standards in recent years.

Leaders have a productive partnership with the local authority. … Another example is in offering human resources support to the governors. The local authority understands and acts on its role in supporting the school.

We hope you have enjoyed this article. If you have any comments, please let us know below.

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