Questions to ask the headteacher about his / her report can be boiled down to three main ones:
- What has been the impact of xyz?
- What was the cost? (Was it worth it?)
- What is the evidence for this? (How do we know?) Read more here
“School Governing” provides a list of questions that Governors might ask their headteacher, such as, for example:
- Are the right priorities identified in the Improvement Plan or School Development Plan?
- What are the key actions/programmes/interventions planned to address these?
How will the impact of these actions/interventions be monitored, and by whom/when?
(Acknowledgements to Bristol City Council)
A Framework of Questions to do with Healthy Schools and Governors’ questions about Dedicated Headship Time are summarised in other School Governing posts.
eg: How can governors support Healthy Schools developments?
How can governors mobilise, motivate parents/carers and the wider community? Have we got partner health professionals involved?
What are your aims for providing Dedicated Headship Time? How are these related to your school, its context and the experience of your head teacher? Who do you work with during your Dedicated Headship Time? Do you work individually, with other head teachers, with staff from your school, with other agency staff, with Governors, with a coach or a mentor?
Another good place to look is Great Governance (Great-governance.org.uk) which is a “resource for learning, advice and communication for the School Governors of Greater Manchester”. On their site, they list a bank of useful questions that Governors might wish to ask …
They say: Governors are strategic leaders of the school and should be aware of the strengths and any areas of development for the school. Since September 2009, governing bodies are judged by Ofsted on their effectiveness in challenging and supporting the school, so that weaknesses are tackled decisively and statutory responsibilities are met.
They suggest that the questions below could be asked during a Governing Body meeting, or at a Resources, Finance or Staffing committee meeting:
- Leadership & Management
- Budget Monitoring
- Budget Planning
- Parental Engagement
- Community Cohesion
- Narrowing the Gap
- Special Educational Needs (SEN)
- Children in Care (Looked after Children)
Questions: (Also available as Word document: Questions to ask)
- What type of leadership do we have in our school? Is it ‘distributed’ … or centred around a small number of staff?
- How well do we know the strengths of our staff in school?
- How does the school show that achievements are recognised for all pupils?
- Is there a culture of achievement and high standards within the school? Where and how is this shown?
- How do our managers manage? Autocratic or democratic styles?
- Is our staff CPD programme linked to curriculum development priorities?
- Is there sufficient funding to ensure appropriate training can be undertaken?
- How can the impact of the CPD training be demonstrated?
- Is there a projected surplus or deficit this year and the next two years?
- What are the plans to meet the deficit or use the surplus?
- How much of the total budget is spent on improving outcomes for Looked After Children?
- How much is spent on improving outcomes for children with special educational needs (SEN)?
- What proportion of the total budget is spent on staffing costs? (It is recommended to be around 80%).
- How much funding has been delegated in the current budget under the headings: AEN (Additional Educational Needs), SEN and Personalised Learning? How is this funding being used in school? (It is expected to be used to support pupils with additional needs).
- What changes have been made to the budget, and can the Headteacher explain any virements between cost centres. This should be asked during every budget monitoring.
- Does the planned budget match the priorities in the School Improvement Plan?
- Are any changes to the staffing structure anticipated which would change the financial cost?
- If there is a projected shortfall in future years? What plans are in place to address this?
- If there is a surplus balance, what plans are there to make use of it?
Further guidance can be found in chapters eight and nine of A Guide to the Law for School Governors, “The School Budget” and “School Premises and Capital Investment”. Detailed procedural notes are also included at Appendix 4.2 of the Schools Financial Regulations.
Safeguarding is a limiting grade, which means that, during an inspection, should your school not meet the identified requirements for Safeguarding, it would fall into a category of ‘notice to improve’.
- Do our parents understand the safeguarding agenda?
- What measures do we take to help parents to understand the safeguarding agenda?
- Do we have the appropriate policies in place?
- Are these kept in accessible place for all staff?
- Do we have a single central record for our own employees and volunteers?
- Whose responsibility is it to keep these up to date?
- Have the appropriate number of staff and governors attended the NCSL accredited safer recruitment course?
- Are all new staff trained in child protection issues as part of their induction process?
- Do all our staff have access to Level 1 Basic Awareness training every 3 years?
- Who maintains up to date records of this training?
- Does your school have a Safeguarding Policy? If not this needs to be urgently addressed
- When was the policy last reviewed? (this should be done annually)
- Who is the designated staff member for safeguarding / child protection in school?
- When did the designated staff member last attend safeguarding training?
- What training have the rest of the school staff had, and is it up-to-date?
- Has the Headteacher and at least one governor completed the Safer Recruitment training?
- Is there a named governor with responsibility for safeguarding? Have they, and any other governors, attended safeguarding training?
- Is the Single Central Record kept up to date, and held securely in one place in school?
- Are any other organisations using the school premises, and have they appropriately vetted their staff?
- Does the governing body know that the site is safe and secure?
- Is our Single Central Record kept up to date and who is responsible for this?
- Do governors know where the SCR is located?
- Do we have a lead governor with responsibility for monitoring attendance?
- Does the governing body scrutinise half-termly attendance data at every meeting?
- What are the names of pupils who are persistently absent and what interventions are the school undertaking to tackle this?
Poor behaviour and attendance may be linked to personal challenges that pupils may be facing or, in some cases, influences from outside the school. Governors should be aware of any impact these may have for individuals/families or groups of pupils and of how to look at how these could be addressed. Behaviour and attendance could be addressed as part of a resources/finance/staffing and/or teaching and learning/curriculum committee meeting.
- What is your school’s agreed attendance target?
- What is the overall level of attendance?
- Does the school have an Attendance Policy and when was it updated?
- What is the level of persistent absence (children with attendance of 80% and below)?
- How many persistently absent (PA) pupils are there?
- Who are the PA pupils? i.e. SEN, CIC (LAC), Behavioural needs.
- What resources are in place to support them and how frequently are they monitored?
- What strategies/interventions does your school use to improve attendance?
- How is the impact of these interventions measured and how often are they reviewed?
- Are all staff aware of their responsibilities regarding attendance in school and is there a senior member of staff allocated to attendance?
- The governing body should be aware of the attendance levels and the level of persistent absence in school.
- Governors should be familiar with their school’s agreed attendance target and should monitor the progress the school is making towards it.
- The governing body should consider having a named governor with special responsibility for attendance.
- What is the number of exclusions in this year – both fixed term and permanent?
- What is the trend compared with previous years?
- What are the reasons for this?
- What is the school doing to reduce the number of exclusions?
- How do our school’s exclusions numbers compare to local and national averages?
- Which governors are named as members of the exclusions appeal panel and have they attended any training
Information about the school’s parental engagement and community cohesion should be discussed when completing/reviewing the SEF. It may be that schools have identified a link governor for these areas
- What strategies do we do have in place to engage with our parents?
- How effective is our engagement and how can this be evidenced?
- Do we keep a record of how we engage with parents?
- Are there any issues within our local community that concern or affect our parents?
- What links do we have to any other local providers?
- How can our parents access information regarding parental support?
- Do we have a Parent Support Adviser?
- Do we regularly consult with parents? – If so how and when? How does this information help with our School Development Plan?
- What impact do our strategies have for our parents?
- What ways do we go about communicating with our parents? – What about those parents who may not read well or do not have close contact with the school?
- How do we provide parents with ideas about how to help their children’s learning?
- Do we have a framework policy or focus (eg sustainability) to guide our approaches to community cohesion?
- How do we provide opportunities for our students to meet and interact with people from different backgrounds?
- How is this communicated to students and parents?
- Do we have any links with different schools and communities?
- How do we interact with the hard to reach groups?
- Are we aware of the languages spoken locally and how many of our parents do not have English as their first language?
- Do the appropriate teaching staff have access to this information – and how do we communicate with these parents regarding their children’s progress?
- How do we share our values with the wider school community?
- How do we ensure equality – do we have the appropriate policies in place?
- When are these policies reviewed and how do we measure how effective they are?
- What strategies do we have in place to support students from minority ethnic backgrounds/varying socio-economic backgrounds and abilities to help them achieve their full potential?
- How do we tackle discrimination and how can this be evidenced?
- How do we tell if these strategies are successful?
- How do we tell how well our action plans have on community cohesion?
- What evidence is there in school that pupils value the efforts of others and respect differences?
It would be appropriate to ask questions around provision, standards and narrowing the gap during any committee meeting which had teaching and learning or curriculum as its focus. Discussions around standards could be included in the Autumn term review of Summer results. Quality of Provision should be discussed as part of ongoing reviews.
- Does curriculum innovation fit into the school’s mission statement?
- How do we know all our learners are successful learners?
- How do we inform parents of their child’s progress?
- How do the findings influence classroom practice?
- What percentage of teaching and learning is good or better? How can this be evidenced?
- What strategies do we have in place to improve the quality of teaching and learning particularly where it is not consistently good?
- What evidence is there in the school that pupils work effectively with others?
- What evidence is there to show that pupils work is matched to their needs?
- Where can we evidence that pupil progress is the highest priority for teaching?
- Are we confident that pupils are well prepared for the next stage in their learning? How and where is this evidenced?
- What does tracking tell us?
- How well does pupil tracking support progress in class and how does this feed into the picture of progress across the whole school?
- How many pupils are reaching age-related expectations and above at the end of the year compared with the starting point at the beginning?
- How do our results compare locally, nationally and in our family within the Greater Manchester Challenge group of families?
Narrowing the gap (in outcomes) is a two year funded project that started in June 2007. The aim of the project is to make a significant difference, on a national scale, to the performance of Children’s Trust arrangements in ‘narrowing the gap’ in outcomes between vulnerable children and the rest of pupils, against a context of improving outcomes for all children. It is therefore appropriate that governors ask relevant questions around what the identification and provision for these vulnerable groups is within their school. There maybe overlap between where you may chose to ask these questions as there are issues around provision of teaching and learning and resources.
Narrowing the Gap
- Is the school identifying its vulnerable groups and pupils?
- Who are they and which group is most vulnerable?
- Is tracking of progress in place and how do you monitor this?
- How does the progress of your vulnerable groups compare to local and national?
- What is being done to improve/accelerate progress made by the vulnerable groups?
- How does the school evidence pupil progress?
- Who does the person responsible for assessment and monitoring report to?
- How is the evidence used to raise standards further?
- How does the school work with parents and carers to help them to support their children’s learning?
- How does the school celebrate achievement of all pupils including vulnerable groups
Whilst Narrowing the Gap is a specific project over a period of time, the quality of provision for pupils with SEN or who are CIC (Children in Care) will be on going and these questions could asked during an annual cycle of review.
- How many children are there in school with SEN?
- How do outcomes for children with SEN compare with those of children in school with no SEN?
- How much is spent on improving outcomes for children with SEN and does this provide value for money? How could this be improved?
- How is the effectiveness of this spend monitored?
- Is SEN an integral part of the School Improvement Plan?
- What is the need for provision in the forthcoming academic year and how does this differ from the current year?
- What is the planned investment in CPD for all school staff on SEN issues?
- Which member of staff is the Special Educational Needs Coordinator (SENCO)?
- Is there a named governor with responsibility for SEN?
Children in Care (Looked after Children)
- Does every Child in Care in our school have a Personal Education Plan (PEP), completed within the statutory timescale with clear relevant targets?
- Does our school’s admissions policy give number one priority to Children in Care?
- Do our school policies reflect the needs of Children in Care?
- What actions are being taken to improve outcomes for Children in Care in our school?
- What are the measurable effects of these actions?
- How many Children in Care are there currently enrolled at the school?
- How well do Children in Care achieve compared with their peers, and against local and national expectations?