The new inspection framework is putting governors' work in the spotlight, lay inspector Jane Prescott reports.
GOVERNORS are having to come to terms quickly with their part in the new rules for inspection, whether on the familiar long inspections or the new "light-touch" short versions.
Many governing bodies do not yet have copies of the new framework and some education authorities and support groups have yet to put in place advisory work. There are, however, important changes of emphasis that all governors need to be up to speed with.
The main section which affects governors' work covers how well the school is led and managed.
A key element is the need for governors to be able to demonstrate how they manage school performance in its widest sense - from academic achievement to teaching quality.
The roles of headteacher and governors have been separated out for scrutiny, with inspectors making discrete judgments on both.
Governors will have to take ownership of the measurable results of a school, develop their role as critical friend to the senior management team, and demonstrate sound financial planning.
Statutory roles are still directly assessed during the course of an inspection, as is the extent to which governors are not only nominated to, but carry out, specific roles.
For governors to account for the performance of their school, they will need more than ever to get accurate information on its strengths and weaknesses from the headteacher. This must include information on good and weaker teaching.
Standards must be monitored by governors, especially against the performance of similar schools, and this means governors understanding the points system in the annual autumn package of school data.
"The clear role for governors demands that communication between the headteacher and governing body be very open and honest. The board must have correct information from the headteacher in the first place to make a judgment about the school's standards and progress," says Clive Davies, registered inspector, who has hands-on experience of the new requirements.
"The framework asks about the strategic element in the management of governors' role and this has implicaions for governors everywhere. There are many governing bodies who are already extremely effective in their role, and there is an emphasis in inspection on good practice."
These practices may well be in place in many schools, but for some there will be a level of involvement which will take them by surprise.
John Adams, chairman of the National Association of Governors and Managers, says: "We are glad that governors' work is being given due weight. At the same time, governors are volunteers. Many are in full time jobs, and governing bodies have not yet had time to come to terms with the new framework."
He agrees that the words of the new framework are drawing out what is already happening in the most proactive governing bodies.
Similarly, John Hesketh, Bradford's manager of school governor services, believes that the new process is all about drawing the link between school self-review, which is already happening, and performance management.
"It's important for a governing body to quality assure its own processes to ensure the link between target-setting and what goes on in the classroom," he said.
Short inspections, which are carried out according to the same framework, have the much-heralded 'lighter touch'. There are fewer lessons observed and one result is that inspectors are finding that a wider range of governors can be seen. This side effect gives great opportunities for governors to show off their understanding of their school and how they shape its direction.
Some will undoubtedly judge performance management a tall order. Nevertheless, those who demonstrate best practice will also earn public plaudits in the new inspections.
THE FRAMEWORK LOOKS AT: Leadership and management, promoting high standards, effective teaching and learning
How governors fulfil legal responsibilities and account for school performance
How management monitors and evaluates school performance, diagnoses strengths and weaknesses, and secures improvements
How governors ensure use is being made of resources.
The existence of effective appraisal and performance management of staff
Whether governors have a good understanding of school strengths and weaknesses