Sunday, 22 May 2011

Ofsted Effective Governance: Providing Challenge

Following on from the last two days this posting from the recent Ofsted report looks at Providing challenge

20. All of the outstanding governing bodies visited struck the right balance between supporting leaders and providing constructive challenge, which holds school leaders to account for the quality of the school’s provision and its impact on outcomes for pupils. There were three key elements to getting the balance right:

 understanding their role and how it complements but differs from that of the headteacher

 using the knowledge and experience they bring to enhance leadership

 asking pertinent questions based on the information and knowledge they have about the school.

21. A high level of challenge was particularly evident at committee level in the schools visited. Governors served on committees where their knowledge and expertise could be used to best effect. Their expertise, understanding of the school’s context, and the school performance information that they received enabled them to ask pertinent and insightful questions.
Following regular reports from heads of department in a secondary school, the governors asked a range of questions about each department, including:

 Is it a contradiction to say that leadership and management are strengths while reporting several areas of inconsistency in the subject?

 Would there be such inconsistencies if the leadership was stronger?

 What does the department consider to be the main factor for the improvement in results this year?

 Could we learn more about the direct impact of our specialism on the motivation and achievements of students?

 Are there any examples of the impact of this subject on the rest of the curriculum?
Governors skilfully used information from different sources to shape their questions and test out the accuracy of their understanding of the school’s performance. For example, the governing body of a primary school received reports on the outcomes of lesson observations and analyses of pupils’ work written by the school leaders and the school improvement partner. They considered these outcomes when looking at data on pupils’ performance and raised questions.

22. All the governing bodies in the schools visited systematically monitored the school’s progress towards meeting the agreed targets in the school development plan. An example in one primary school involved teams of staff and governors linked to each priority in the plan. Monitoring progress was commonly undertaken as a regular item at committee meetings. Although a wide range of evidence informed discussions at these meetings, governors asked for more information where it was needed, for example before agreeing to a proposal presented by senior leaders. The ultimate question governors came back to was, ‘What difference is this going to make for the pupils and how will we know?’

How governors’ questions challenge leaders and hold them to account was evident in a special school. The governors asked the subject leader what baseline evidence was available before an initiative to improve writing was introduced. They explained that this would be necessary to show impact and that pupils were making better progress.

23. There was evidence that governors in the schools visited also challenged each other. For example, if discussions strayed into operational matters then governors, often the chair of governors, chairs of committees or Trust governors, stepped in to steer the conversation back to a strategic focus.

The Full Ofsted Report on School Governance can be found at:

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