30th September 2005 at 01:00
I have studied the new inspection framework, and wonder if it will mean more sharing between head and governors. In the past, we have felt that the governors' involvement in the school's curriculum and standards was a formality. We shared all the anxiety of Ofsted's approach, but were never included in any planning and had no idea how the school was performing. We would have been totally at sea if we had gone into special measures, yet would have been blamed. What difference, if any, will the new system make?

I am sure you are not alone. I know what you mean from long contact with governing bodies which are not working well, and the approach of an inspection always seems to highlight any pretence.

First, the anxiety will at least not seem as endless any more because the notice period will be short. In a sense, schools will have to be in a permanent state of readiness - not only because of the short notice, but also because of the central importance of the school profile. This is meant to be a "living" record, adapting to circumstances and always up-to-date, and governors should share ownership of this document and the process, and be fully involved in its preparation.

Of course, I know this can't be guaranteed. Experience tells me that when you have a head who is determined to go it alone, there can be no guarantees. But it is quite clear in the framework that inspectors will expect input from governors during inspections, and will consult parents and governors about their perceptions of the school. Only unwise heads would not respond to this message.

One tragic feature of the old system was that governors who had not been much involved were shocked when the school was found wanting. If, say, your school went into special measures, you would find that LEA inspectors, advisory heads, "buddies" of all sorts, expected governors to be involved in non-stop discussions, staff appointments, and other unaccustomed hands-on activity. The fact that it is unaccustomed won't escape notice and could be a black mark for the head. I think the new system will make this much less common.

It is not too soon for frank discussion with the head, so that when the inspectors call you will be seen to be discussing school performance, studying your Panda reports which compare local schools in a meaningful way, and discussing some aspect of school improvement at every meeting.

Your question is timely because you will soon have the first full meeting of this school year.Use it to talk about how to improve your knowledge of the school and the way you work together. Don't go in for excessive delegation. You need to be doubly sure you hold to the responsibility now bestowed by Ofsted.

Questions for Joan Sallis should be sent to The TES, Admiral House, 66-68 East Smithfield, London E1W 1BX, fax 020 7782 3202, or see where answers will appear

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