Ofsted: Schools must inform governors about inspections

Some schools are failing to inform all governors or trustees about an imminent Ofsted inspection, the inspectorate has warned, meaning inspectors could be left with an incomplete picture.

Sean Harford, national director of education at Ofsted, has told inspectors in his monthly update that they must tell headteachers that they expect all governors and trustees to be informed about an inspection and aim to meet “as many as possible” while carrying out an inspection.

The inspectorate has become aware via correspondence and social media that some schools are failing to keep governors up to speed.

During an inspection day, inspectors should meet not only the chair of governors or chair of the board of trustees, but also as many governors or trustees as possible. Additionally, they should also be invited to attend the final feedback meeting at the end of the day when Ofsted delivers its initial verdict.

The warning has been echoed by governance specialists, who said governors are less effective as a force for school improvement if they are not involved in inspections.

Gillian Allcroft, deputy chief executive of the National Governance Association, said schools shouldn’t put “all their eggs in one basket” by informing and inviting only the chair of a board.

“Governors and trustees are a corporate body; they must work together, not rely on one individual.

“If a headteacher hasn’t invited everyone to contribute, they are limiting their experience, and so limiting their effectiveness as a board, and school effectiveness overall.”

She said she’d be “gobsmacked” if a school had not notified any governors or trustees at all, but added that some heads might not ask all governors to drop their day jobs and attend an inspection at short notice. Schools are given one day’s notice of an Ofsted inspection.

If governors or trustees cannot attend in person, the school should encourage them to speak to Ofsted by telephone instead, she added.

Julie McCulloch, governance adviser at the Association of School and College Leaders, said that while some governors would not be able to attend, schools should make sure all were invited.

In the case of schools within a multi-academy trust, MAT-level trustees should be invited, in addition to those on local governing boards, she said.

“For us, it would be important to include a representative from the MAT board. It’s a reflection of the fact that in each trust, decisions are taken at that level too.

“Inspectors need to know how the trust is operating in that school.”

Ofsted inspectors could also end up with a “warped” view of the school by speaking to only one or two governors or trustees, as others might have a particular area of expertise, McCulloch added.

A spokesperson for the inspectorate said governors play an important role in setting the vision and strategic direction of schools, as well as holding heads to account and overseeing financial performance.

“Inspectors need to talk to them to understand how effective they are in carrying out these responsibilities.

“Inspectors also talk to governors to see if the school’s priorities and policies are clearly understood and appropriately applied.”