Friday, 27 May 2011

Governing body self-review

Governing body self-review

47. All the governing bodies visited challenged their own performance in addition to that of the schools. Robust debates about the effectiveness of governance were common. Where there were opposing views, issues were discussed fully and additional information sought, including from external experts.

48. The effectiveness of the governing body structures and committee membership was reviewed routinely. In one primary school, for example, the committee structure and individual governor responsibilities were reviewed annually.

In one secondary school, all governors attended a ‘leading together’ training event with the senior leadership team. The programme was run by the local authority and involved attending three joint sessions. As a result of this programme, governors identified that they needed to build stronger links with the staff and pupils by acknowledging more overtly what was working well. Subsequently, the nomination of members of staff and pupils for recognition of their achievements was discussed regularly. A personal letter from the chair of the governing body was sent to all those recognised in this way.

49. Half of the governing bodies visited had either been supported by local authority materials and/or training, or had used Ofsted’s grade descriptors for governance to guide their self-evaluation. Eleven governing bodies had sought advice from the local authority governor support services and school improvement partners to improve their practice. Two governing bodies had used their process of self-review to develop a specific action plan for their own development.

50. In just under half of the schools, the effectiveness of the governing body was reviewed regularly and included a clear evaluation of the effect of their decisions on the outcomes for pupils. One secondary school, for example, had identified a day to meet with another governing body of a similar school to compare and benchmark their practice. A question these governing bodies specifically reflected on was, ‘What difference have we made?’

51. In another secondary school, the expertise and skills brought by the Trust of tackling underperformance in other schools provided the governing body with a clear structure and framework for improvement. This framework helped the governing body to manage its work efficiently by keeping focused on its core business and not straying into operational and peripheral issues. Experienced governors modelled effective questioning which helped to build other governors’ skills and confidence. Governors described how they asked for advice and further information when needed and saw the value of sharing best practice and learning from others.

52. In a special school visited, governors had embedded arrangements for self-review of the effectiveness and impact of the governing body. At their annual ‘Away Day’, they formally reviewed progress since the last review meeting and set priorities for the long and short term. Governors reviewed the terms of reference and purpose of each of the committees and made changes if appropriate. At each meeting the chair of the governing body and chairs of the committees always asked two questions: ‘Why are we doing this?’ and ‘What are we trying to achieve?’

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