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Press release: Good governance essential to school improvement

18 May 2011

Ref: NR- 2011-21

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School governing bodies that clearly understand their roles and responsibilities, build productive relationships with school leaders, know their schools well and use the views of parents, pupils and the wider community are best equipped to drive improvement in their schools.

Inspectors visited 14 schools where governance was judged outstanding and the report School governance: Learning from the best identifies the key characteristics of those governing bodies.

School governors are one of the largest volunteer groups in the country with more than 300,000 governors in England. Over the past 20 years, school governing bodies have taken on more responsibility and their role has become more important as schools have gained increasing autonomy.

Inspection evidence tells us that there is a relationship between effective governance, the quality of leadership and management, and the quality of provision and pupil achievement.

Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector, Christine Gilbert said:

“Good governance at a school is of huge importance and can have a considerable impact on the success of a school. Governors play a critical role in guiding, supporting and challenging schools. Members of governing bodies give up their time to do the very best they can for their schools, pupils and local communities and it is important that their contribution adds real value.

“Governors who know their school well, and are able to take and support hard decisions in the interests of pupils, will be in the best position to drive improvement at their school. This report provides them with some examples of good practice in other schools that should be useful in helping them to think about their work in their own school.”

The governing bodies in the schools visited used a wide range of information from a variety of sources to monitor the progress being made by their schools. They engaged extensively with parents and the wider community to promote the schools’ work.

Governors communicated with parents in a variety of ways, both formally and informally, so that they could gather their views about the school. In one primary school, the governing body designed an annual questionnaire for parents, collated responses and provided parents with feedback. In addition, the governors consulted parents and pupils on a range of issues during the year if the need arose.

Governors also visited their schools to talk to staff and pupils, and to see the school in action. In eight of the 14 schools visited, governors routinely attended lessons to gather information about the pupils’ experience in the school.

Emma Knights, Chief Executive of the National Governors' Association said:

"We welcome Ofsted's report on school governance. School governance is a crucial component of ensuring school improvement in both maintained schools and Academies, and it is increasingly important as schools are given more autonomy. It is extremely useful to have these practical examples of how fourteen outstanding governing bodies are making a difference to the experiences of children."

All of the outstanding governing bodies visited struck the right balance between supporting leaders and providing constructive challenge. They used their business and wider community links to support the learning experiences of staff and pupils. This included securing additional resources and arranging visits for pupils.

As well as knowing their school well, providing challenge and engaging with others, governors supported school leaders by acting as champions for the school in the community and brought a wide range of skills and expertise. Problems were recognised and governors supported steps needed to address them.

In the schools visited, governance supported insightful, honest school self-evaluation. There was a clear focus on improvement and as a result, school leaders and governing bodies had a shared understanding about what was going well and what not so well.

They saw the value in attracting and retaining highly skilled staff and were committed to making sure that all school staff, including the headteachers, were provided with meaningful opportunities for relevant professional development.

Notes for Editors

1. The report School governance: Learning from the best can be found on the Ofsted website at www.ofsted.gov.uk.

2. The Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills (Ofsted) regulates and inspects to achieve excellence in the care of children and young people, and in education and skills for learners of all ages. It regulates and inspects childcare and children's social care, and inspects the Children and Family Court Advisory Support Service (Cafcass), schools, colleges, initial teacher training, work-based learning and skills training, adult and community learning, and education and training in prisons and other secure establishments. It assesses council children’s services, and inspects services for looked after children, safeguarding and child protection.

3. Media can contact the Ofsted Press Office through 020 7421 6899 or via Ofsted's enquiry line 0300 1231231 between 8.30am - 6.30pm Monday - Friday. Out of these hours, during evenings and weekends, the duty press officer can be reached on 07919 057359
 

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