The Governance Handbook clearly states that governors must know their school if accountability is going to be robust and their vision for the school is to be achieved. A key way to ensure that this is the case is to undertake governor visits. Governors who undertake these visits are often called Link Governors.
It is a good idea to have an agreed visits policy supported by an agreed protocol shared with the staff. This should be shared with the staff. There are lots of good governance link report templates on the internet if you have a look at https://www.theschoolbus.net/home for example or https://thekeysupport.com/ Design one which works for your school; and keep it under review.
Policies don’t have to be complicated but should clearly set out the anticipated outcome(s) from the visits and the behaviours expected whilst the visit takes place. You should not just ‘drop in’ to school because you happen to be passing and think that you can do a visit. You are not there to carry out lesson observations in any way, shape or form even if your day job is a school improvement partner or headteacher in another school. Standing at the back of the classroom with a clip board is never a good idea! The sooner you can write up your report (long hand it is fine as reports can be scanned and circulated) the better.
Link governors should be conduits between the board and the area in and to which they are linking. There should always be two-way dialogue.
Governors should also be monitoring how well relevant policies adopted by the board are operating within the school and understand any specific barriers to their implementation where the solution is within the remit of the board. These could include, through observation, for example the behaviour policy, work load, well-being and marking. Subjective judgements or comments should be avoided – always stick to the factual. The best way for a governor to monitor the impact of a marking policy for example is by asking the pupils, not by looking at books in isolation. Some governors never look at books. This does not make them a less effective link governor.
It is not appropriate for staff governors to be link governors but there are other key roles that they can play, and staff are often link governors for training and CPD as this supports whole school CPD. It is never appropriate for the staff governor to be safeguarding link or SEND link.
Visits with a purpose are focused visits
Visits must be
Always remember you are a guest in school. You may well be a long-standing governor or the chair or the safeguarding governor, but you are still a guest.
Many boards will plan visits focussed on areas which relate to the school development or improvement plan. Other boards have a clear monitoring schedule provided by their trust or have one of their own. Link governor visits should be focused on areas which the governing board have determined collectively to look at and these should not necessarily be set by the headteacher or CEO, but it is always good practice to work together.
Some boards organise whole board learning walks. These minimise disruption and can be very focused.
During the visit
When in school
After the visit
At your next Board Meeting
Make sure that there is an opportunity to discuss the outcomes of your link visits. This will require a specific agenda item – under for example ‘knowing our school’ or link governor reports or committees. Try to make sure that copies of the link reports are circulated well in advance. The reports should also be kept on file for inspection purposes.
Suggested sources of information
3. Ofsted Inspection Framework (currently under consultation – spring term 2019)
4. Your latest Ofsted Report
5. Your School Development Plan and school data
7. Your previous Link Report
Don’t have an account? Register now to access training, peer-to-peer and mentor support, self-evaluation tools, useful resources and much more – all free of charge to you and your school!