Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Engaging others

Engaging others

32. Governing bodies in the schools visited engaged extensively with parents and the wider community to promote the schools’ work.

A secondary school was looking to replace traditional homework with individual learning projects. Governors questioned how this proposal would contribute to maintaining or improving standards and ensure that pupils were challenged and supported to achieve well. The school leaders were asked to provide committee governors with more detailed information about the initiative, an explanation of what skills pupils would develop, and information about how the initiative was going to be monitored and evaluated by the school. The more detailed understanding of the proposal that they gained enabled them to respond to questions raised by parents they spoke to at the school or met in the community.

33. Governors communicated with parents in a variety of ways, both formally and informally, so that they could gather their views about the effectiveness of the school. Governors were then able to use this as one of the many sources of information through which they could provide leaders with challenge and support.

34. Typically, governors met parents at the start and end of the school day and when they attended school events such as assemblies, open evenings and award ceremonies. These informal opportunities to talk helped parents to know who governors were and something about their role. Governors gained a first- hand understanding of what parents felt that the school did well and what they felt could be improved. For example, in one special school governors attended the half-termly coffee afternoons for parents of each class to meet with them and hear their views.
In a special school, there was a governor section on the school website which explained the role of the governing body, who the governors were and what committees they served on. This contributed to the school’s ethos of transparent leadership and kept parents informed about the school’s governance arrangements. The website was designed and set up by an ex-parent governor who was a community governor and had particular skills in information and communication technology (ICT). In another secondary school, governors made presentations about their work on parents’ evenings and open days.

35. Questionnaires were commonly used to gather parents’ views. Governing bodies in the schools visited were either provided with an analysis of questionnaires that had been designed by the school’s senior leaders or developed their own questionnaire for parents. The governing body of one primary school, for example, wrote a letter to parents who responded to their questionnaires so that the parents knew that their views had been heard. If their views could not be acted on, an explanation was given. In a special school, governors compared the results of an annual survey with the results from previous years and saw this information from parents as a ‘barometer’. They looked closely at the parents’ comments rather than just adding up the numbers of positive and negative responses. They acted on the comments where possible and responded, either in writing or through discussion, to parents who wrote a comment individually.

36. All governors shared information with school leaders from the wider community.
Local shopkeepers had indicated to a governor of one secondary school that there were concerns about the behaviour of some pupils in the community. These concerns had not been raised with the school directly. The governor reported back to the headteacher who addressed the situation in several ways. For example, members of staff were sent to monitor the problem areas and there was a focus in assemblies on the importance of good behaviour beyond the school. As a consequence, behaviour improved and the school received thanks from local shops and the bus company. This response has strengthened relationships between the school and the local community.

37. These outstanding governors used their business and wider community links to support the learning experiences of staff and pupils, which included securing additional resources and arranging visits for pupils. For example, in one secondary school, an ICT company was one of the Trust partners. This company was able to provide bespoke training in ICT for pupils and staff. In a primary school there were good links with the local church. The vicar was a governor and had encouraged members of the congregation to become volunteers at the school.

38. There was evidence that governors promoted the work of the school by encouraging links with different organisations. For example, a governor of a special school was also a member of a local support group for parents of children with autistic spectrum disorder. The school ran training events on special educational needs for teachers in the locality. Some sessions were provided by specialist external experts. Free places on these courses were offered to members of the support group as a direct result of this link. As a consequence, the work of the school was held in high regard and local families and their children had been provided with additional support advice.

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