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Ofsted's Improving Governace Survey

Ofsted's survey, Improving governance, draws on evidence from: 24 visits to improving primary, secondary and special schools in disadvantaged areas; routine inspections; and 2,632 responses to an invitation to comment.

The report notes that when inspectors judge leadership and management of a school to be less than good, a common underlying weakness is the failure of governors to hold a school to account.

In response to the report Russell Hobby said:

"The expectations on school governors and trustees have grown considerably over the last few years, as increasing levels of responsibility are delegated to school level.

"At the same time, the support that local authorities are to provide is diminishing and not all multi academy trusts have access to specialists, meaning governing boards receive variable support to prepare them for taking on these important responsibilities.

"Under these circumstances it is appropriate to insist that governors and trustees are provided with properly funded, high quality training. And that attendance in such training, for chairs at least, is mandatory."

The report contains the following key findings:

  • Many governors lack the expertise needed in an increasingly complex education system to hold school leaders to account.
  • Governors need better access to highly skilled people who have the educational expertise to help them meet the increased demands of their role.
  • Recruitment and retention of governors is a serious challenge, particularly in some of the poorest areas of the country.
  • Clarity about lines of accountability, roles and responsibilities is an essential part of effective governance.
  • Weak governance, including in some of the poorest areas of the country, is at risk of going undetected until the school is inspected by Ofsted.
  • Paying the chairs of governing bodies can act as a means to achieving a professional and open relationship between governors and school leaders.
  • Governors from within the community make an essential contribution, particularly in areas of deprivation.


The report made the following recommendations:

Governing boards of all schools should:

  • ensure clarity of roles, responsibilities and lines of accountability for governance, particularly where multi-level governance makes accountability complex;
  • publish information about governance on the school website in line with statutory requirements or the academy funding agreement to ensure transparency and clarity of roles and responsibilities;
  • ensure that they have a robust review method in place to assure themselves that the board is effective;
  • and secure professional support and governor training as needed to ensure effective governance.


Multi-academy trusts should:

  • review schemes of delegation annually and ensure that clear lines of accountability, back to trust board level, are understood and effective;
  • publish each academy's annually reviewed scheme of delegation on the website of the multi-academy trust and ensure that local governing boards, where they exist, fully understand their roles and responsibilities;
  • and ensure that local governing boards use support from experts across the trust and beyond to closely monitor the performance of schools where they have delegated responsibility for doing so.


The Department for Education should consider:

  • publishing national quality standards to encourage schools to continue to improve governance by undertaking robust self-assessment and making use of their findings;
  • expanding the number of effective national leaders of governance and the provision of professional clerks so that schools can access the right level of professional support for their needs;
  • ensuring greater coordination by the National College for Teaching and Leadership of national leaders of governance;
  • improving the effectiveness and the consistency in the quality of external reviews of governance.


Ofsted will:

  • report more robustly on the extent to which governors are committed to their own professional development in order to secure sustained improvements in governance practices.


Page Published: 16/12/2016