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Ofsted inspection

How to build your board’s Ofsted confidence

Nina Sharma explains how boards build confidence through monitoring, supporting and challenging school leaders.

People taking notes during a meeting

Ofsted inspection has been the subject of public scrutiny like never before in recent months. And rightly so. NGA contributed to a government inquiry that recently announced plans to improve inspection. It is vital that we have a seat at the table and represent the views of NGA members in this debate – after all, governors and trustees have unique insight into the inspection process and the enormous strain it can cause school leaders.

But of course, Ofsted continue to inspect schools and while plans have been made to improve both inspection quality and support for school staff, it will take time to fully implement the changes.

In the meantime, governing boards want to feel confident going into inspection and ensure that the outcome reflects the hard work of school staff, particularly given the complex picture of post-pandemic issues that are impacting education. But we also recognise that governors and trustees are themselves subject to a range of pressures and increasing workload.

So, how can governing boards build confidence ahead of inspection? In principle, governing boards should not be doing any extra work solely in preparation for Ofsted. As boards monitor, support and challenge, they get to know their schools’ strengths and weaknesses very well. It is highly unlikely that in one visit the inspectorate can learn things boards and school leaders don’t already know. Governing boards need to have confidence in the decisions they collectively make, while convincing leaders who are working hard to deliver the strategy that there is no need to fear the consequences of an inspection.

Navigating Ofsted inspection

NGA has published a new tool to help boards build confidence ahead of inspection. Navigating Ofsted inspection: a tool for governing boards sets out how to demonstrate effective governance through the course of routine board business.

The six areas covered by the tool are:

  1. Governing board self-evaluation
  2. Vision and strategy
  3. Quality of education
  4. Stakeholder engagement
  5. Safeguarding
  6. Statutory duties

Each area includes a range of NGA resources that boards can use to review and – where opportunities are identified – improve practice. We’ve also included examples of questions inspectors may ask.

This new tool supplements our existing range of guidance, support and training on Ofsted inspection. I hope you’ll continue to refer to NGA resources to help you build confidence and ensure your board is fulfilling all the elements of effective governance.

If you would like support to review your practice and make plans to improve the quality, performance and impact of your board, consider an NGA external review of governance. We recommend that all boards undertake an external review every three years and more often during times of change.

NGA will continue to represent the views of those governing and offer support on inspection. If you’re anticipating a visit from Ofsted this term, of course you’ll recognise the challenges it brings, but I hope you can also embrace the opportunity to showcase your board's effectiveness, your collaboration with school staff and the impact it has on your school community.

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