Every school governor must always remember to ask “how?” if he or she is to effectively monitor the quality of teaching and ensure every student receives the best possible education

The role of the school governor has changed – and continues to change. Aside from juggling work and family commitments, we must know our school inside and out and meet the expectations set by the Department for Education and Ofsted. We need to take full responsibility for our school’s performance.

Do not be afraid to ask for information

It’s a big ask for a voluntary job, so how can we make sure we do it well? Here are a few things I have learnt.

The “now” is just as important as the “then”

Access to good data is essential, but you need to consider when the data was sampled. Reviewing last year’s exams results or RAISEonline data tells you a great deal, but just gives you a snapshot of how your school was performing last year, not how it is doing today. You need to access in-year data and details of teacher assessment to get fully to grips with what is happening in school now. Do not be afraid to request this information if it is not being provided.

Seek help

Take the time to ask all the questions you need. Governors need to understand what the measures are – what an average point score is, if relevant, or what is expected of that particular year group. If governors don’t know how student progress is measured now that levels are out or what each measurement figure stands for, how will they know if it is a good or a bad score? Greater understanding also gives you confidence to ask challenging questions.

Do not look at anything in isolation

If you are looking at RAISEonline, make sure you examine how your school is performing against schools with similar characteristics in other parts of the country. This will give you a much clearer indication of whether you could be achieving more. Talking to the head alone will not give you this sense of perspective.

Teachers are learners too

The quality of teaching is critical to helping pupils progress, so we must ensure all staff have access to effective career development. Governors can accurately measure the impact of teaching across the school using progress data, lesson observations and by reviewing lesson material alongside a helpful head of department. Not only will this help you to make decisions about staff pay rises, but also whether all staff are being given good professional development opportunities. A confident teaching profession will, in turn, nurture curious, confident and independent pupils.

Be brave in challenging the leadership of the school

You will need to take the time to ask questions of school leaders if you are to get an outstanding Ofsted judgment – not only at governors’ meetings, but before and after too.

We have had some very challenging meetings where we have sent headteachers away for more information because we haven’t been satisfied with their answers. You must be confident to do the same.

A good check that you have the information you need is to think about what would happen if Ofsted visited today. Would you know how you address the underperformance of pupil premium students? If not, it is time to go back to the head.

The role of the school’s governing body is to challenge the status quo and to ask “how will you do that?” With education changing apace, it is vital that “how?” becomes the mantra adopted by all governors to ensure the progress of students who we have been entrusted to care for.

Christine Homer has contributed to the Top Tips for Governors white paper available to download from www.capita-sims.co.uk/governors-top-tips