A committee of MPs has called on Ofsted to shine the spotlight more brightly on governance arrangements.

As part of a hard-hitting report on the role and performance of Ofsted, the Education Select Committee looked at the role of school governors in the inspection process and concluded that ‘the inspectorate should have a clear policy of engaging governors as much as possible’.

The MPs’ report drew heavily on written evidence given by the National Governors’ Association, which suggested that ‘there is some concern that inspectors do not fully understand governance or the role of governors’ and that governance is not given sufficient scrutiny under the existing framework. They agreed that ‘it would be beneficial for inspectors and schools to have a spotlight shone more brightly on governance arrangements’.

The committee also noted the NGA’s view that it is not entirely clear whether Ofsted reports to the headteacher or the governors following an inspection and its observation that, although the governing body is the accountable body in the school and is responsible for disseminating the inspection report, it is not currently compulsory for governors to be invited to the feedback session.

It said it agreed with the NGA that the attendance of chairs of governors (and preferably that of other governors as well) at post-inspection feedback sessions should be encouraged by inspectors. ‘This is particularly worthwhile in light of the changing responsibilities governors will have in schools,’ said the report, adding that: ‘Outside feedback sessions, the inspectorate should have a clear policy of engaging governors as much as possible throughout the inspection process.’

In its comments on the inspection of leadership and management, the report picked up on a suggestion by the NGA that ‘governance is not always adequately covered or more importantly understood by inspectors’ and went on to make its own suggestion that the leadership and management category ‘makes specific reference to the performance of governors in scrutinising a school as well as the effectiveness of performance within it’.

The committee also looked at how schools’ self-evaluation might continue to inform Ofsted now that the inspection framework no longer requires them to complete a self-evaluation form.

It was sceptical about Lord Sutherland’s assertion that ‘a decent governing body’ would hold a school to account for that information anyway, expressing concern that his view ‘presumes too much about the consistency of governors’ scrutiny of schools’ self-evaluation across the country’. The report acknowledged the NGA’s concerns that the abolition of the SEF will lead to a deterioration in the quality of school self-evaluation and its support for a generic self-evaluation form for schools.

It made the recommendation that the inspectorate ‘continues to publish a simplified self-evaluation form, albeit non-obligatory, and to make it – and guidance on good evaluation – easily available to heads and governors’.

Written evidence from the NGA
‘Anecdotal feedback from members leads us to believe that governance is not always adequately covered or more importantly understood by inspectors. The NGA does not feel that governance is given sufficient scrutiny by Ofsted. This is partly because the current shorter inspections mean that there is not enough time to scrutinise everything and although inspectors do speak to governors (usually the chair) they may give prominence to governing body minutes, which may say more about the minute taker than the governing body.’

The Role and Performance of Ofsted