Release date: 17/06/2022

The National Governance Association has written to Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector Amanda Spielman expressing concern over how Ofsted inspections approach governance and seeking improvements in inspection reports.   

The open letter sent this week (15 June) states NGA “grow increasingly concerned” that visibility of governance through the new Education Inspection Framework has declined and that while NGA support the principles that underpin the new framework, “the format of Ofsted reports are not fit for the improvement purposes to support Ofsted’s mission to raise standards”.

NGA raised these concerns with Ofsted ahead of the publication today (17 June) of a new study looking at the experiences of governors, trustees and school leaders questioned during Ofsted inspections between September 2021 and December 2021. ‘School inspection: a view from the board, two years on' takes it findings from 111 survey respondents and an analysis of a further 120 published Ofsted reports from the same time frame. It builds upon NGA’s findings published in 2020 on how the Education Inspection Framework (EIF) impacted school inspections, and in particular how governance is understood and reported on. 

The report found some improvements compared to 2020, including inspectors establishing a firmer understanding of the strategic role of governance and inspectors more accurately distinguishing between the roles and responsibilities of governance within multi academy trusts. However, it also places an emphasis on the declining visibility of governance and continued concerns over Ofsted inspection reports.

Among the key findings:

  • Only 36% of governing boards said that the Ofsted inspection helped governance.
  • Inspectors appear to understand the strategic role of school governance; however this is not consistently the case for every inspection.
  • The role and impact of governance continues to be diminished from the reports with 31% of analysed reports not mentioning governance.
  • Where schools are graded below ‘good’, often the published reports do not refer to governance at all and the ways governing boards carry out their core functions.
  • While over half (62%) of respondents reported positively about the feedback meeting and said that the feedback meeting was valuable to their governing board and school leadership, almost a fifth of respondents (19%) stated that their published Ofsted report was not an accurate reflection of what was heard in the feedback meeting.

NGA has called for a return to a more informative format of reports which in addition to the information for parents, would include information targeted at those responsible for school improvement, including school leaders and those governing.

Read the full letter

Download the report

Sam Henson, director of policy and communications at the National Governance Association said, “The inspection framework introduced in September 2019 is still finding its feet given the disruption caused by the pandemic, but a decisive picture has now emerged of the declining visibility of governance through the way inspections are reported. This study reveals an increasing trend towards Ofsted inspection reports more generally lacking sufficient depth. NGA is therefore calling on Ofsted to return to a format that works for everyone, including school leaders and those governing. We look forward to continuing to engage directly with Ofsted on this matter, and we hope that key details on the improvement needs of schools such as governance that are currently missing from so many reports, denying a schools wide group of stakeholders a fuller picture of where the school resides within its school improvement journey, will make a swift return.”

Nina Sharma, senior policy and research officer at the National Governance Association said, The findings from this study continue to display inconsistencies of how inspections focus on governance, from school to school. The crucial, strategic role of governing boards should be recognised through inspections and reported on adequately so parents and other stakeholders know about the role that the governing board has in the school.

In contrast to our 2020 report, it is reassuring to see that where inspectors are talking to members of the governing board, the questions that are being asked are largely of a  strategic nature,  not straying into the operational. As Ofsted aspire to reach their goal of inspecting all schools by 2025, we hope this report will place a renewed emphasis on recognize on the fundamental role that governing boards have in our schools.

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