Headteacher (or Senior Leader) Reports should provide governors with the information they need to make decisions or to formulate policy. Remember it is the governing board, not the headteacher, who should determine the scope and format of the report.
This article considers how governors can influence the content of the headteacher's report and how they can use the report more effectively in terms of challenge and support; thereby supporting wellbeing and reducing workload. This is part of the second core function of governance.
Some points for reflection;
1. Think about who the report is for? Take a moment to reflect on the balance between what the Headteacher needs to tell governors and what governors need to know. Remember that there is a difference between ‘need to know’ and ‘want to know’. A good report is mixture of the two perspectives. Have a look at a recent report and see where the balance is – is it in the right place for your school? How do you know?
2. Less is more. Remember workload and wellbeing at all times. Do not ask Heads and senior leaders to prepare information if you do not know what you want the information for or you do not have a clear question in mind. Whilst we want to make sure we get the full picture – warts and all – we do not want leaders to be spending time preparing reports which either tell us so much we have no opportunity for questions or are so detailed we cannot understand them.
3. Headteacher Reports are not newsletters and do not need to include narrative which governors and trustees can read elsewhere. It is great to celebrate sporting successes for example, but the Headteacher’s Report is not the place.
4. Stay strategic. Whilst there is no need for the Headteacher’s Report to cross reference to individual paragraphs in the Ofsted Framework many reports are set out in such as way as to support governors in terms of their knowledge for inspection. Reports should be structured in such as way that key areas such as school improvement, outcomes, strategic priorities, and leadership can be easily discerned.
5. Data. Data. Data. Too much can be confusing especially if it has no context or if there is no explanation (think trends not just RAG rating) and too little data is not helpful either. Governors sometimes need to be a little braver in saying that they do not understand the data presented to them. Ask if the data be summarised to make it clearer to understand – not all governors are data experts.
6. If the board is not receiving separate reports on safeguarding, finance, staffing and health and safety these can be included in the Headteacher's or Senior Leader's report.
7. The Report is not a storybook and does not need to be read verbatim to governors!
8. Verbal reports are acceptable but should not be the norm. During the COVID-19 pandemic many school and trust leaders presented their reports verbally as things were changing rapidly.
9. Be respectful - ask a question. Governors should always take the time to read the reports presented to them and ask thoughtful questions. These can sometimes be submitted in advance so that school leaders have time to prepare the answers. (If your board takes this approach, make sure that your clerk is included so that the question and answer can be captured in the minutes).
10. Ideally the report should identify the key issues and headlines and then suggest actions that need to be taken which governors can then discuss. This ensures that boards are proactive and not reactive.
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