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Last updated on 17 July 2020
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Though the 2019 Ofsted framework did away with 'teaching and learning' as part of a specific judgement, you'll still need to monitor these aspects as part of the new 'quality of education' judgement. Understand how to monitor what teachers teach and pupils learn, and find some questions you can ask school leaders.

Your role as a governor

It may look as if Ofsted's done away with the teaching and learning judgement in the 2019 inspection framework, but they've just repackaged it - together with curriculum - as 'quality of education'.

You should be familiar with the 3 i's of the curriculum: 

  1. Intent: what you want pupils to know, and be able to do, by the time they leave your school (in other words, curriculum planning)
  2. Implementation: how the curriculum is taught and assessed 
  3. Impact: how the curriculum is making a difference

Teaching and learning is implementation, and it's still very much your role to monitor it.

It's a fine line to walk as a governor – how do you satisfy yourself that the quality of teaching is sufficient without judging the actual teaching? How do you know that pupils are learning without marking their books – especially in those subjects that don't appear in league tables? 

The key is to ask the right questions of your school leaders, and offer appropriate support based on their answers.

Questions to ask about teaching and learning

Ask questions to determine how school leaders are:

1. Maintaining oversight of teaching and learning

What to ask What to look for in the answer
When and how often do you check teaching?

You want to be assured that school leaders are aware of the strengths and weaknesses across the school and have appropriate systems in place to:

  • Monitor weak spots more closely
  • Keep an eye on those areas with good progress to make sure they continue
How well does data match what you see in lessons? 

School leaders should be able to:

  • Identify areas where there's a mismatch (for example, teachers who produce good results but whose teaching is not as good during observation, or vice versa)
  • Describe steps they've taken to identify and address any problems
What do you do about improving the impact of teaching where it's not having the necessary effect on learning?

You want to know that school leaders are looking at the problem holistically and have addressed any issues with:

  • The teacher (e.g. a new teacher who needs more support)
  • The pupils (e.g. frequent absences, behaviour management problems or gaps in their learning)
  • The curriculum (e.g. the curriculum isn't sufficiently sequenced or engaging enough)
  • The school community (e.g. low engagement with parents leading to little support at home)
How often do you check pupils' books? What does that tell you about the teaching in the school? School leaders should be assessing books regularly to be sure that what they observe matches what they're told by classroom teachers. Where pupils' work suggests poor learning, school leaders should be able to identify it quickly and put corrective measures in place
How well is the marking policy being followed? What do you do when teachers aren't following the policy? Along with checking pupils' books for quality of learning, school leaders should also be quick to spot problems with teachers' assessments and take quick corrective measures so both the teacher and the pupils can get back on track
What responsibility do subject leaders have to improve the teaching in their areas? How good are they at identifying issues in teaching? School leaders should be able to describe a clear delegation of responsibility to subject leaders to monitor and correct teaching and learning in their areas. You also want to hear about how school leaders support subject leads and that subject leads get sufficient time on top of their own teaching responsibilities to monitor their subjects effectively and offer any necessary support
What do pupils say about teaching and learning?

School leaders should be in the habit of checking in with pupils regularly to discuss:

  • How pupils feel about their lessons
  • How pupils feel they're progressing
  • Whether they're developing the expected knowledge and skills in their subjects

2. Monitoring strengths and weaknesses

What to ask What to look for in the answer
How consistent is teaching across the school? School leaders should be able to answer this easily, and with some detail. You obviously want to hear that teaching is consistently good across the school! But where it isn't, school leaders should describe how they're monitoring and supporting weaker teachers
In which subjects and year groups are teaching the strongest?

The answer to this question should be supported by external data (where available). Where external data and school leaders' evaluations of teaching and learning don't match, you want to know why not and what steps school leaders are taking to address the discrepancy

You should also expect school leaders to explain how they triangulate lesson observations with book scrutinies and discussions with pupils to make their assessments

Are there any areas of the school – subjects, year groups or key stages where teaching is a concern?

Answers to this question should correspond to priorities on the school improvement plan and the self-evaluation form. If they don't, find out why not

Where school leaders have identified areas of concern, follow up by asking what monitoring and support are in place to drive improvements and how quickly they anticipate those improvements to become measurable

Where teaching is weaker, how do we ensure that the impact on pupils is minimised? Look for answers that show in-classroom support for weaker teachers, as well as how increased scrutiny catches small problems before they become big ones
How do you make sure that strong teachers can share their good practice?

There can be a range of answers. Look for ways in which strong teachers are recognised and used to support other teachers, like:

  • Mentoring
  • Phase/subject leadership
Are any teachers teaching outside of their specialist subject area? (secondary only) Where there are teachers teaching outside their specialism, you want to know why. School leaders should also be able to explain how these teachers are supported and what additional training they're undertaking to be proficient in these new subjects
What is behaviour like in lessons? How good are teachers at getting pupils to behave well so they can focus on teaching?

Poor behaviour management often goes along with poor teaching and learning. Where school leaders identify behaviour issues, ask them about how:

  • Classrooms with poor behaviour are supported (e.g. teaching assistants, more frequent observations)
  • The behaviour policy is monitored and implemented

3. Managing performance and continuing professional development (CPD)

What to ask What to look for in the answer
What do you do about any teacher who's not performing well? What support do they get? Even the most experienced teachers can have performance issues for a number of reasons. Make sure the school is tailoring their support in a way that takes each teacher's circumstances into account but still drives improvement
How long does it take to improve a teacher whose performance we are not happy with? Look for a clear and timely process for setting targets, monitoring and assessing
How do you link observations of teaching with the targets set for teachers in their performance management?

Along with any response you might get, ask for written evidence in the form of anonymised:

  • Observation sheets
  • Breakdown of how teachers are meeting performance targets
What impact is performance management having on improving teaching and learning?  School leaders should be able to tie their performance management efforts directly to quantifiable results. For example, if additional support was given to literacy in Year 5, there should be measurable results from that support in the form of better marks, stronger internal data, improved exam results, etc.
How does the CPD programme reflect what you observe in lessons, or the issues you see in teaching?

You want to know that the CPD programme is responsive to the school's needs, rather than planned out at the beginning of the year without any thought to issues that are specific to your school and context. For example, if your school has identified a problem with behaviour management, you should expect to see that in the CPD programme

A good CPD programme should also develop teachers' subject mastery

How do you ensure that teachers have good subject knowledge?

There could be a variety of answers, so look for evidence that school leaders regularly monitor subject knowledge through, for example:

  • Lesson observations
  • Book scrutinies
  • Teacher self-assessments and self-audits

4. Making sure teaching is accessible for all children

What to ask What to look for in the answer
How do teachers ensure that work is set at the right level for the most able pupils?

Your school should have provisions in place for more-able pupils, such as:

  • A system for identification
  • A designated teacher to co-ordinate teaching and monitor progress
  • A more-able pupil policy
  • Enrichment activities
  • Accelerated curriculum
Do teachers understand how to use data to help them pitch their teaching at the right level? You want to hear that school leaders know how teachers use data to differentiate lessons and that they're comfortable that this is being done properly
How do teachers make sure that pupils with special educational needs (SEN) are able to succeed in the classroom?

There will be a variety of answers, but look for:

  • The interventions and support being provided
  • How effective these interventions are proving to be
  • What evidence they're based on
What does the school do to help pupils with English as an additional language (EAL) integrate and learn English as quickly as possible?

This can vary as well, but look for things like:

  • In-class support (seating EAL pupils with very fluent children, assigning TAs)
  • Differentiated activities
  • Targeted interventions

Other sources of evidence to evaluate teaching and learning

There are also other places to look for evidence of effective teaching and learning in your school:

  • External data from national assessments and examination results, Analyse School Performance (ASP) or FFT
  • Internal data from half-termly or termly assessment of every pupil
  • Discussions with pupils to find out their opinion of teaching in the school and of their own learning
  • Visits to the school - not to judge lessons, but to observe things like:
    • How well policies, such as marking and behaviour, are implemented
    • Whether what you're told by school leaders is also evident in the classroom
  • Discussions with subject leaders through link governor visits
  • Reports from any internal or external reviews of teaching and learning
  • Results from parent, pupil and staff surveys

More resources for governors

The Key

You can find subject-specific questions to ask by using the 'search' function at the top of this page.

Questions for Governors

This site, run by the Wellcome Trust, offers a bank of questions for governors to ask. They're science and maths-focused, but would work for other subjects.

For governors in primary schools, you'll find questions on:

  • Teaching
  • Curriculum
  • Resources
  • Careers
  • Assessment

For those in secondary schools, there are questions on:

  • Teaching
  • Facilities
  • Careers
  • Choices
  • Enrichment
  • Results

Sources

Gulshan Kayembe is an independent consultant who has experience of inspecting schools. As a consultant, she provides mentoring for senior leaders and has worked as an external adviser on headteachers’ performance management. 

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