There are many challenges faced by schools awaiting inspection and preparing governors to speak to inspectors is one that should not be ignored.
The section on evaluating leadership and management in Ofsted’sEducation Inspection Framework handbook(Ofsted, 2019) identifies the following as an important factor: “Whether leaders and those responsible for governance all understand their respective roles and perform these in a way that enhances the effectiveness of the school.”
This article provides 10 areas where we can support governors to prepare for inspection, with – where relevant – suggested examples of questions that might be asked.
Know the shared vision of the school. What is this and what does it look like? Do not simply rehearse the school’s mission intent statements but be prepared to articulate what this looks like in your school.
An example of a question that might be asked is: “What is the governors’ vision for the school?” Remember, your response needs to mirror what the headteacher and other members of the school leadership team say.
Clearly articulate that safeguarding is up-to-date. What training has been completed and when? Who is responsible for the recording and administration? Ensure the single central record has been signed as up-to-date and be clear that all governors know they have completed their safeguarding training because they have had reminders, updates and certificates.
An example of a question you could be asked is: “Are governors fully up-to-date with safeguarding training? How do you know? What training have you completed and when?"
Know your key headline data and the areas or pupil groups that are underperforming. How do you know they are underperforming? This should be because you ask questions in meetings and not just because you read and accept the information on the headteacher’s report.
This year, it is important to accept that there are the caveats in any external data and that comparison between schools is strongly discouraged. However, you might have used national data as a guide.
In any inspection, internal data will not be discussed or looked at by an inspector (so don’t waste time sitting up late the evening before learning the stats), and any inspection team will be trained on the caveats. Data is only ever a starting point for a bigger conversation.
It is important to note that if governors do not understand their school data, they must request an explanation. Also, if the school leadership is presenting a lot of internal data at each governor’s meeting that is not fully understood by everyone, then questions must be asked. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Don’t be embarrassed to say that you do not understand what the numbers are telling you. Do understand how this identifies where the strengths and weaknesses of the school might be.
4, IDSR and ASP
As a governor, make sure you know what is in the school’s latest Inspection Data Summary Report (IDSR) and how the school has acted on this information. If governors have not been trained on understanding this report, ask for this to be put in place and put a date on it.
Governors also need their own access to Analyse School Performance (ASP) and the relevant member of the school leadership team will need to set up an account for each governor. It is worth noting that governor access to ASP is different to the access school leaders will have, and names of pupils are removed for GDPR purposes, so governors cannot and should not be able to access any other version of ASP.
Know clearly what the strengths and weaknesses of the school are, including subsequent key actions and next steps and the impact of strategies. It is important governors know what has been put in place to support school improvement and outcomes.
Governors should be clear where strategies have not been working (as well as where they have been working). Remember that all evidence collected in an inspection process is triangulated. Inspectors want to know the strength of leadership, and this often means knowing where strategies are not working and why a change of direction or support was required.
Governors need to know about any important SEND and/or pupil support decisions, especially if this has involved a reduced timetable. Governors also need to know about school inclusion and decisions made to ensure disadvantaged pupils are supported.
7, Equalities agenda
Know the Equality Act 2010 and be familiar with the section in the Education Inspection Framework (2022) that states: “The framework is intended to be a force for improvement for all learners. The framework and remit-specific criteria are clear that the expectation is that all learners will receive a high-quality, ambitious education.”
It continues: “Inspectors will assess the extent to which the provider complies with the relevant legal duties as set out in the Equality Act 2010 including, where relevant, the Public Sector Equality Duty and the Human Rights Act 1998.”
Governors might be asked what this looks like in their school. Ensure you are able to talk about one or two recent examples of how the equalities agenda has been implemented. Remember that pupils will be asked about this too, so recent examples are important.
Know what the key curriculum decision-making has been in the school and reasons why. Be able to articulate this in examples.
Key questions to consider include: how do governors support leadership of the school and how do governors effectively support the headteacher in his/her role? Remember, this needs to be something the headteacher and governors agree on. It would be advisable to discuss this in advance of an inspection.
A question for consideration in preparation for a meeting with the lead inspector is:How does the governing body ensure workload is managed?
Be a little more strategic here, with clear examples of strategies that have been implemented to reduce workload and stress. You should also consider the extent to which each strategy has been successful and how you know. Do not just rely on information provided by the headteacher in their report to governors.
Governors need to show they know the school well and they need to be able to articulate this clearly in their meetings with inspectors. Inspectors will want to know what it feels like to be a pupil at your school, so is it important that governors have asked questions in meetings, supported the strategic vision of the school, visited the school and engaged with their role.
Don’t approach inspection preparation as a tick list – most governors will know their school well and be able to demonstrate good practice, so be clear and vocal about this. It is essential that governors can provide clear examples and speak with precision and clarity (and also be concise – you might only get 30 minutes in a meeting). Be proud to demonstrate how strong your governing body is but ensure that what you are describing is up-to-date and recent.
School governance is a crucial role. Headteachers need to remember that many governors will not come from a background in education, so they need to help newcomers with this and ensure they feel welcomed and able to speak up in meetings.
Most importantly, governors need to stay up-to-date and always ask for help over anything that is not completely understood. And if you are expecting an inspection soon, I wish you all the very best.
- Tiffnie Harris is policy specialist at the Association of School and College Leaders.
Further information & resources
- HM Government: Human Rights Act 1998: www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1998/42/contents
- HM Government: Equality Act 2010: www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2010/15/contents
- Ofsted: Guidance: School inspection handbook: Evaluating leadership and management (section 313), July 2022: https://bit.ly/3yGfFf4
- Ofsted: Guidance: Education inspection framework, last updated July 2022: https://bit.ly/3fYunHK