Governing bodies are not always playing the part they should in improving educational standards, says Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Schools, Chris Woodhead. In his annual report, Standards and Quality in Education, he says: "Governing bodies are, on occasion and for a variety of reasons, deflected from discharging fully their key function of strategic direction. In plain language this means asking relatively simple questions: about standards of pupils' achievement; about behaviour and attendance; about homework, attitudes and expectations.
"Where such questions are asked, and answers sought, governing bodies are offering schools the informed support of the critical friend. Where they are not asked, governors will have only a limited impact on standards and quality.
"Conversely, some governors take too close an interest in the day-to-day work of schools. To become too involved in this way is to run the risk of undermining the management and leadership of the headteacher."
It is the leadership provided by the head which is the critical factor in improving the quality of teaching, says Mr Woodhead. "Inspection evidence shows that most headteachers are successful in developing a shared vision and a sense of purpose amongst staff. Relationships run for the most part smoothly and day-to-day administration is usually efficient.
"Relatively few headteachers, however, spend sufficient time evaluating the quality of teaching and learning. Many should play a stronger part in curriculum development and, in particular, should review the implementation of new initiatives to ensure that the original objectives are being achieved. It may be that headteachers do not at present see these tasks as key responsibilities. It may be that the responsibility is accepted, but thought, because of other pressures, impossible to discharge."