Formal visits should have a clear focus, ideally linked to priorities in the Federation’s Development Plan. Governors have limited time, therefore, time spent on governors’ visits should ‘add value’ both to the schools and to the effectiveness of the whole Governing Body.
Governors visit the schools as lay people, not as inspectors, even where they have personal professional expertise in the particular subject area. A visit will only ever provide a snapshot of school life. It may not always give a full and balanced picture of the real state of affairs. That is why it is always important that the information and impressions gained by individual governors during a visit are cross referenced and, if necessary, revised in consultation with the Headteacher, appropriate member of staff or relevant Subject Leader.
Governors’ visits should not be confined to the classroom.
Ideally governors should consider a series of different types of visits, some of which are focused on the classroom but others might include, for example:
- the school environment
- health and safety
- parents’/carers’ consultation evenings
- meetings with senior staff
- shadowing staff and/or students
- looking at a sample of students’ work in a particular subject area
- attending an assembly
- reporting on the school’s extracurricular activities
- joining departmental scrutiny of students’ workbooks
- Learning Walks with staff
- attend Student Council meetings.
Whatever focus is agreed, it is important that governors’ visits link with issues in the Development Plan.
Teaching and learning
Governors do not undertake formal visits to judge the quality of teaching and learning in the schools.
This is a specialist skill which non-specialists are not equipped to undertake. The Headteacher is responsible for ensuring the quality of teaching and has a duty under the School Teacher Appraisal Regulations to ensure governors receive appropriate information on this key issue.
At TLF the Headteacher will provide governors with:
- details of systems used to monitor the quality of teaching;
- the professional support available to teachers to help them teach more
- the timescale and likely outcome/s of this support;
- the Headteacher’s overall assessment of the quality of teaching in the school;
Governors will be entitled to have a clear view about the quality of teaching in the school, including the measures and timescales to address weaknesses.
If the Governing Body includes people from educational backgrounds i.e. retired Headteachers/advisers/inspectors a decision will be made about how best to employ such expertise on visits, especially to the classroom.
Observations will be for the Headteacher to decide. However, despite the expertise that such governors bring, they should not engage with staff about professional matters.
Governors should use their visits as occasions on which to collect information to report back to the Governing Body/ relevant committee on the progress of key priorities or initiatives in the federation’s development plan. Planned and focused governors’ visits contribute significantly to more informed decision making by the Governing Body.
Governors’ visit reports should, quite simply, give a layperson’s account of what was seen and learnt by the governor conducting the visit and whether there are issues for the Governing Body to consider. It is helpful if governors record what they see and do on a standard form, which has been discussed and agreed with all the staff. Draft reports by governors should be read first by the Headteacher and Subject Leader before they are circulated to other members of the Governing Body.
Written reports, like all other documents for the Governing Body, should be available for public scrutiny after the Governing Body has seen them. They should not name individuals but they will identify post holders by title. Reports should not contain any criticisms but they may raise important strategic issues, which the Governing Body needs to consider.
Governors on informal visits attend in a more personal capacity, much as a parent might do, but always with the knowledge and approval of the Headteacher. Such visits add to individual governors’ knowledge and understanding of the school and can strengthen relationships and foster trust and respect between governors and staff.
Informal visits can take many forms, for example, attending a play, concert or sports day; helping on school trips; listening to students reading or simply running a stall at a Parents’ Evening. On the whole informal visits are generally easier and less daunting than formal visits. They should be seen as a valuable complement to formal visits – not an alternative
A Protocol for Governors’ Visits
Governors are there to observe and inform themselves. They will intrude as little as possible on the teachers’ time.
Governors attached to a department or class should arrange an appointment, with the Subject Leader (where they exist), to discuss how to proceed with the link arrangement.
Governors can go into classes when invited to do so by the teacher.
Governors can talk to students in class only when invited to do so by the teacher.
Governors can attend departmental or staff meetings when invited to do so.
Members of staff invite governors into the staff room if they wish.
Governors will not go into the staff room unless they are invited.
Governors will always make an appointment when they want to come into the school, not just drop in; the Headteacher will always be fully informed
Members of staff are always free to say that it is not convenient for a governor to come in at any particular time.
These informal contacts should not be used to raise individual problems that should properly be resolved by the Senior Leadership Team.
If governors see something that worries them, they will discuss this first with the Headteacher.