Preparing for an OFSTED inspection

Our primary school is about to undergo an OFSTED inspection. I expect you've either had one recently or are expecting one soon, too. Under the new inspection procedure where self-evaluation is emphasized, two forms will be very important, the so-called S3 and S4 forms. Both of these forms need to be completed and sent off to the inspectors before their visit as part of the information gathering process. Quoting from the OFSTED web site:

"Form S3 is completed by or on behalf of the appropriate authority for the school to indicate the extent to which it meets the requirements placed on it by statute. If completed on paper, Form S3 is returned to the registered inspector.

Form S4 is completed by the headteacher and is used to summarise the school's self-evaluation. If completed on paper, Form S4 is returned to the registered inspector"

While it is vital that the governing body knows what is in S4 and is able to cite the school's strengths and weaknesses (or more correctly areas identified for improvement), it is form S3 that the governing body should be most familiar with. Governing bodies have a statutory requirement to ensure that certain policies and procedures are in place in school. For example a racial equality and sex education policies to name but two. A full list of responsibilities is set out in the Guide to the Law for School Governors. It is in form S3 that these responsibilities are accounted for.

Guidance notes on completing forms S3 and S4 are available on the OFSTED web site.

Why governor training is so important

As the chair of governors at our school I can't emphasize the importance of training. Becoming a school governor can be a daunting challenge and many people wonder what they've let themselves in for after the first couple of meetings. It's not just all the complexities of running a busy school, but also all the regulations, procedures and legislature. No school expects its governors to be experts in complex area such as finance but it does expect its governors to be accountable as governors are the representatives of parents and other stakeholders in the school. Training can help new governors quickly get up to speed on the details of running a school and can also help established governors keep up to date. More importantly training sessions are a great way of meeting other governors and finding out that everyone was as scared a you at their first meeting!

If you are a Sandwell governor the latest training programme should have been posted to you. If you've not yet received a copy there are details on the Sandwell governor's web site. Another good source of training information as well as a great place to meet other governors online is GovernorNet.

When to have the parent's AGM

For two years running our governing body had the AGM and produced a report for parents during the Autumn term. This never made much sense to me. Why? Because the Autumn term is when new governors are elected and often the chair can change. If this is the case, where is the sense of ownership in the annual report? The new governing body can often find itself justifying the outgoing governing body's report.

For the academic year that ended in July our governing body agreed to produce the report and hold the AGM during the last week of the summer term. That way the end of the academic year was drawn nicely to a close and governors felt a sense of ownership for their report. More importantly parents could ask questions of the present governing body. I think this worked well for us so we'll be sticking to it again this year.

Governor's Annual Meeting with Parents

Last night was our annual general meeting (AGM) with parents. Every year the governing body is expected to produce a report of its activities and present this report to parents. This is a key element of the three roles of a governing body:

  1. To provide a strategic view
  2. To act as a critical friend
  3. To ensure accountability

More about these roles in a later piece. But last night was out main accountability event.

The key to a successful AGM is to strike a balance been formality and informality. It's a necessarily formal affair because apart from being a constitutional responsibility of the governing body it's also the main opportunity to set out what the elected governors have done for the school on behalf of the parents. But past experience has shown that anything that's too formal tends to keep parents away. Not everyone likes attending committee meetings.

This year I thought I'd adopt an informal agenda that introduced what being a governor was all about (we're constantly on the look out for recruitment opportunities as it's vital to get parents engaged in the management of the school) as well as provide a forum for discussion around the report itself.

  1. Introduction to members of the Governing Body
  2. What does the Governing Body do for the School?
  3. About the Annual Parent’s Meeting
  4. The Governor’s Report to Parents
  5. Questions from Parents about the School, the Governing Body or the Annual Report to Parents

Clearly the success of the AGM is ultimately down to the engagement of parents but it pays to be well prepared. This year we combined the AGM with a viewing of the fabulous video that the year 6 children have been working on to promote the school. The video really was very good and some day I hope we can make it available through the web. This combined with wine and food ensured we had a reasonable turn out. Next year we'll definitely try to combine the AGM with another event that'll draw in the parents.

Whatever you do for your AGM I hope you find it rewarding and that everyone gets something out of it. I found the following web sites to be really useful when preparing for our AGM:

DFES = UK government's Department for Education and Skills

Let me know how your governor's AGM went.

On being a school governor

I am a school governor at Uplands Manor Primary School in Smethwick, Sandwell. I've been a governor for two years now and chair of governors for the last year. I think that even now I still have a lot to learn about being a governor so I have decided to create this weblog to chart my progress and relay what I've learnt so far. I hope that this weblog will give you an insight into what it's like to be a governor and maybe even if only in a small way, this site might help other governors who are just starting out.

If you are a governor, would like to become a governor, or would like to find out about what governors do then please get in touch.