Ofsted launches inquiry into governor effectiveness – after 500 schools faced “urgent” reviews

Sir Michael Wilshaw has today announced that Ofsted will launch an inquiry into the effectiveness of governors.

In the second of his new monthly commentaries, the chief inspector revealed that Ofsted drafted in “outside experts” to carry out “urgent” external reviews of governance in over 500 schools last year.

He said: “The role is so important that amateurish governance will no longer do. Good will and good intentions will only go so far. Governing boards made up of people who are not properly trained and who do not understand the importance of their role are not fit for purpose in the modern and complex educational landscape.”

Ofsted inspectors have therefore been commissioned to carry out  an “in-depth and far-reaching survey into the effectiveness of governance in our schools”. Evidence from the public can also be submitted.

But National Governors’ Association chief executive Emma Knights questioned the suitability of the inspectorate to undertake the review.

“While we welcome Ofsted’s spotlight on governance, we do question whether Ofsted has the expertise in this area to conduct such a review; their own school reports suggest inspectors do not always understand the governance role and they invariably misunderstand the lines of accountability”.

Last week Schools Week also revealed that the Department for Education was planning a study to examine whether the quality of governance in schools could be monitored using performance metrics. Outside groups have been asked to bid for the project.

Sir Michael also spoke out on pay for governors, saying that it should not be “ruled out”.

Russell Hobby, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, welcomed the idea.

“The expectations placed on school governors are very high, so proper training is essential. Governors should be entitled to paid time off work to fulfill their duties and to attend training. This training should be mandatory and funded by the government,” he said.



The Commentary Speed-Read


Sir Michael said there were a number of themes apparent in weak governing bodies.


These include:

– A lack of professional knowledge or educational background to “sufficiently challenge senior leaders”

– Not receiving regular, relevant, high-quality training

– Lack of curiosity and “too willing to accept” what they are being told about pupils’ progress and the quality of teaching

– An overly optimistic view of the school

– Do not know the impact of pupil premium funding on improving outcomes for disadvantaged children

– Devote too much time and attention to “marginal issues”, such as school uniform, the lunch menu or “the peeling paintwork in the main hall”


The inquiry will focus on:

– Whether governing boards have the right mix of professional skills and experience

– Whether governors should be paid

– Whether local authorities, Regional School Commissioners and others intervene “early enough” when governance problems are identified

– If training and structure supports are adequate

– The level of guidance and support governors receive for headship appointments

– The extent governors are involved in succession planning for school leaders

– Whether external reviews of governance are an effective tool for improving standards

-The role performed by National Leaders of Governance and if there are enough of them to make a difference

– The specific challenges for governors of standalone academies

– The relationship between multi-academy trusts and their local governing boards



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  1. Sorry Wilshaw, in this matter it is Ofsted that is unfit for purpose. As a new governor at a ‘requires improvement’ TKAT academy chain primary school, I suggested to the other governors that the budget we were about to be asked to ‘ratify’ should be discussed at our meeting instead of merely rubber-stamping it; and updating the out-of-date safeguarding procedures should also be discussed . The Chain intervened and stated it these were not to be discussed by the Board. My email:” For clarification- is that right, the agenda for governors’ Board meetings will be determined by the chain and not by the governors themselves?” resulted in a reply email sacking me forthwith. Ofsted and DfE were informed but did not intervene. Further result seems to be SGOSS will not be putting me forward for governor vacancies as I am branded a non-cooperative malcontent. Paying governors will just be bribes to dissuade them from rocking the Corporate boat.