Ofsted has criticised the level of support many schools are receiving from their governing bodies to help them implement the government’s programme for remodelling the school workforce.

Between September 2004 and July 2005 Ofsted visited 78 schools and 12 local authorities to assess the progress being made by schools in introducing the reforms and the effect they were having. In a report of its findings it concluded that few governing bodies are helping schools to manage the process of change effectively and that around half the schools visited had received little more than satisfactory support from their governing bodies or external agencies. Governors were criticised for not taking an active role in shaping, supporting or challenging the schools’ planning or implementation of the national agreement within the context of raising standards.

The survey team found an increased awareness of the potential link between remodelling and improvements to the quality of education and standards since its first survey on the implementation of phase 1 of the workforce agreement, which it reported on in December 2004. It found more schools including remodelling in their plans for school improvement, but cautioned that few schools are identifying the impact of the initiative because they are not formally evaluating the effect of the changes they have made.

Despite its criticism of the part played by many governing bodies, the report is largely positive about the progress schools have made in implementing the workload agreement. Ofsted found that changes made in response to the first and second year of the national agreement are now ‘firmly established in procedures and practice in all but a few schools’. Implementation of phase 1, which included the delegation of 24 non-teaching tasks, is said to be progressing well and one of the report’s key findings is that, ‘Following the reduction of bureaucracy and the delegation of clerical/administrative tasks, teachers have benefited from increased support in the classroom and are able to focus to a greater extent on improving the quality of teaching and learning.’

Nearly all the schools visited were also judged to have met the requirements of phase 2. Secondary schools in particular were found to be systematically monitoring staff absence and the time spent on cover. Secondary and special schools were also seen as well placed to implement the phase 3 requirement to provide teachers with time for planning, preparation and assessment (PPA), although primary schools were at very different stages in their planning and had made variable progress. Although the remodelling was seen as largely meeting its objectives in reducing the workload of classroom teachers, headteachers and senior managers were gaining less benefit. Progress in implementing the phase 1 objective for providing leadership and management time varied considerably in both quantity and quality, and was judged inadequate in a significant minority of the schools visited.

Similarly, the report concluded that the phase 3 objective of providing dedicated headship time for headteachers has had little impact: ‘The potential of remodelling to alleviate their workload is not being realised as few see it as a priority and there is considerable confusion over how to allocate it.’

Remodelling the school workforce (Ref No HMI 2596) can be downloaded from www.ofsted.gov.uk/publications.

Ofsted’s findings on the role of governors

‘Most of the schools visited receive little more than satisfactory support from their governors. Although many governing bodies are kept informed by headteachers, few take an active role in shaping, supporting or challenging the schools’ planning for remodelling. In schools where the governing body is effective, governors have been briefed at the onset of the initiative and remodelling is a regular and well discussed agenda item at whole governing body and committee meetings. The governing body, therefore, helps to support and challenge the school’s remodelling plans acting as a critical friend, encouraging action or suggesting restraint when required.’

Implementing the national workforce agreement

Phase 1 – 2003-04

  • promote reductions in overall excessive hours
  • establish new signatories group
  • establish new Implementation Review Unit
  • routine delegation of 24 non-teaching tasks
  • introduce new work/life balance clauses
  • introduce leadership and management time
  • undertake review of use of school closure days

Phase 2 – 2004-05

  • introduce new limits on covering for absent teachers

Phase 3 – 2005-06

  • introduce guaranteed professional time for planning, preparation and assessment
  • introduce dedicated headship time
  • introduce new invigilation arrangement

Recommendations from the report

Schools should:

  • consider how to provide dedicated headship time for headteachers, and leadership and management time for headteachers and senior managers
  • monitor and evaluate the effect of the changes they have made in order to assess the impact on raising standards
  • ensure that governing bodies take an active role in shaping, supporting and challenging the way schools are planning for and managing change
  • consider how they might use the support of external agencies more effectively

LAs should:

  • gather accurate information about the progress schools are making in order to target support and training for those who need it most
  • monitor and evaluate the impact of their actions on the quality of education and standards in schools