Ofsted head launches inquiry into school governance

19 Nov 15

Ofsted chief Sir Michael Wilshaw has said “amateurish” governance in schools must be improved, highlighting concerns about arrangements in nearly 500 schools in the last academic year.

In a commentary released today, Wilshaw said “good will and good intentions” of school governors were no longer enough. Boards made up of people who were not properly trained were not fit for purpose in a modern and complex educational landscape, in which schools have additional freedoms and responsibilities through academy and free school status.

In the last academic year alone, inspectors raised serious concerns about the performance of the governing boards at nearly 500 schools and called in outside experts to carry out urgent external reviews.

Wilshaw said it was time to consider paying school board chairs and vice-chairs in order to recruit the most able people to schools in the most difficult circumstances.

Ofsted will now undertake an in-depth review of governance arrangements, and issued a call for evidence to inform its inquiry.
“When leadership and management of a school are judged to be ineffective, entrenched weak governance is invariably one of the underlying reasons,” he stated.

“Time and again in these cases, inspectors come across the same type of issues.”

These included governors who lack the professional knowledge or educational background to sufficiently challenge senior leaders, or those who have not received training to enable them to do their job effectively. There were also some who were too willing to accept what they are being told about pupils’ progress, while others focused on marginal issues such as school uniforms or dinner menus rather than the quality of teaching.

It was therefore time to review how governing boards are constituted and in particular the role played by what are known as representative governors, including parents, he said. Boards should not be determined on the basis of representing particular interest groups but on the level of knowledge and expertise.

CIPFA chief executive Rob Whiteman welcomed Ofsted’s inquiry and the call for evidence.

“The comments made by Sir Michael Wilshaw again demonstrate many of the significant concerns around governance and financial management within the education system that CIPFA and others have been raising for some time,” he stated.

“There have been massive changes to the way state education is delivered in recent years, most notably since 2010 with the increase in academies, the introduction of free schools and a fall in accountability. Schools today are complex institutions and we need to see far more effective governance and financial management to ensure public money is used to best effect.”

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