- The Ofsted handbook instructs inspectors to arrange a meeting with the chair of governors and as many governors as possible.
- There is a separate section on governance in the inspection report and this can help in preparing governors for the interview.
- It is important to prepare in advance what the governing body wants to say and to prepare samples of evidence in a file.
- Outcomes for pupils are the main focus for the inspection, grouped under academic achievement, behaviour and safety, and spiritual, moral, social and cultural development.
The Ofsted handbook instructs inspectors to arrange a meeting ‘with the Chair of Governors and as many governors as possible’. This can be stressful for governors since the great majority are employed outside of education and therefore are unfamiliar with, for example, some of the technical language. It is important to prepare in advance what the governing body wants to say and to prepare samples of evidence. This supportive evidence should be gathered during the normal course of the governing cycle, and the clerk should compile it into a file. This can be taken to the interview and given to the inspectors at the end.
Areas explored in the interview
There is a separate section on governance in the inspection report and, during the course of the interview, inspectors will have the following broad questions in mind.
- Does the governing body understand its role?
- Does it collectively have the expertise to carry out this role?
- Does the governing body set the strategic direction for the school?
- Do governors challenge and support senior leaders?
- Does the governing body have an accurate understanding of the school’s strengths and weaknesses?
- How does the governing body monitor and evaluate, and what evidence does it have to support its judgements?
- Does the school meet all statutory requirements, especially relating to safeguarding and promoting fundamental British values?
- Does the governing body manage resources effectively, particularly pupil premium funding?
Some of these questions may be addressed directly, for example, inspectors may ask whether the governing body has carried out a skills audit and whether governors attend external training. Mostly the answers will be determined by exploring aspects of the school’s work, as discussed in the rest of this article.
Outcomes for pupils
The outcomes for pupils are the main focus for the inspection. The outcomes are grouped under academic achievement, behaviour and safety, and spiritual, moral, social and cultural development.
Governors are not expected to be data analysts, but they should know enough to understand the analyses of the school’s performance presented by senior leaders, particularly the following:
- Data dashboard – particularly the results for disadvantaged pupils
- RAISEonline – note the pages marked with a large G at the top
- DfE performance tables – especially the information on comparisons with similar schools.
Inspectors will expect governors to understand:
- how overall attainment compares with national averages
- how the attainment of groups of pupils compares with the national averages for these groups
- the attainment gaps between groups in the school and national averages
- the attainment in subjects compared with national averages and major differences between subjects
- overall progress (value added) in comparison with the national median
- progress (value added) in subjects
- expected and better than expected progress figures in English and mathematics
- the progress of different groups
- trends in performance (attainment and progress) over the last three years; in particular, trends in the performance of pupil premium pupils linked to the use of the pupil premium grant.
Brief notes of all of these points can be prepared in advance and taken into the interview.
Behaviour and safety
It would be helpful if one of the governors is able to speak knowledgeably about safeguarding. Other areas for questioning might include attendance and the level of exclusions.
- Are the pupils safe in the school?
- Do they feel safe?
- How do you know?
Spiritual, moral, social and cultural development (SMSC)
SMSC is not a major focus because it is not a key area, but inspectors must reach an overall judgement. However, SMSC has become more important because of the emphasis on fundamental British values.
Analysis of outcomes is only the first stage in the process, since standards can only be raised through improvements in one or all of the aspects of educational provision, viz teaching, curriculum and care, guidance and support. The inspection focus will be very much on the quality of teaching, but note that curriculum is also one of the criteria for evaluating leadership and management and this has also increased in importance.
Governors evaluating teaching
Teaching is evaluated over time using a range of evidence, and this is the approach that should be adopted by the governing body. In general, therefore, if pupils’ achievement is good, i.e. if pupils make better than expected progress, then it is logical to conclude that this is the result of good teaching.
Governors should be able to explain their knowledge of the quality of teaching in three main areas.
They should understand the methods the school uses to evaluate teaching. These should include analysis of progress, scrutiny of planning and pupils’ work, learning walks, discussions with pupils, lesson observations and appraisal.
They should know the strengths in teaching and areas for improvement, especially any identified in the improvement plan.
They should know about differences between subjects and stages, and key governors should know about individuals about whom there are concerns.
Inspectors will explore how levels of pay are linked to the quality of teaching. Governors do not need to know the details of individual teacher’s appraisals, but they should be aware of outcomes, such as if some staff were not progressed to the upper pay spine.
The governing body has direct responsibility for the headteacher’s objectives and appraisal through the appointed governors. Inspectors will want to establish that the objectives are directly linked to improvements in outcomes for pupils. Since this is a confidential process, the chair of governors should agree with the headteacher what they can reveal to Ofsted.
Inspectors will give governors the opportunity to offer evidence not covered through the formal questions. This is the opportunity to consult your own list of points and explain them. The headteacher will give inspectors most of the evidence to illustrate leadership and management, such as the self-evaluation statement and school improvement plan. Inspectors will also ask for evidence to highlight the work of the governing body, so it is helpful to prepare this in advance, linking it to the main judgements inspectors have to make from the evaluation schedule.
Use the following items in the toolkit to help you to put the ideas in this article into practice (available online for Premium Plus subscribers only):
- Checklist for governors – Ofsted strengths and weaknesses79.5 KB
- Governors – Do we know the answers?68.5 KB
- Handout – Governing body and the inspection interview50.5 KB
About the author
Tony Powell is an experienced Additional Inspector and LA adviser. He writes extensively on education management, but his main work is supporting schools to develop systems for self-evaluation, school improvement and continuing professional development.