Parent and staff surveys: governors' and trustees' role

Surveys can be a great way to gather feedback from parents and staff if done effectively. Use this article to get the most from your surveys and see examples from schools and trusts.

Last reviewed on 7 June 2024See updates
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Contents
  1. Surveys can help parents and staff feel included in decision-making
  2. Is a survey the best option?
  3. Keep your involvement strategic
  4. Staff surveys are generally carried out by school or trust leaders
  5. Parent/carer survey examples
  6. Staff survey examples

Surveys can help parents and staff feel included in decision-making

As a board, you need to have a full understanding of the views and needs of all stakeholders, including:

  • Pupils
  • Staff
  • Parents and carers
  • Local communities

You're expected to have mechanisms that enable you to listen, understand and respond to the voices of your stakeholders. This is according to section 1.2 of the academy trust governance guide and section 2.3 of the maintained school governance guide.

Parent and staff surveys can be an effective way of getting feedback on a variety of subjects.

For more ideas on how to listen to and communicate with stakeholders, see our article on tips to boost engagement with parents and other stakeholders

Is a survey the best option?

Once you've decided you want feedback from parents/carers or staff on something, discuss whether a survey is the most appropriate format. You need to be clear why you’re doing it and what value it will add.

Consider:

  • Are you going to learn something you don’t already know?
  • Will the responses be meaningful?
  • How will the information be used to impact school or trust practices? 
  • Will the survey be manageable with people's workloads?

Keep your involvement strategic

If you've decided to carry out the survey, you should work with the senior leadership team (SLT) to:

  • Shape the questions, to make sure you get the information you need
  • Identify strategic priorities based on the results of the survey
  • Account for the success of any new plans or strategies put in place as a result of the survey

Leave the operational aspects to the SLT. This will include:

  • Carrying out the survey
  • Collating the results
  • Implementing actions or plans to address any issues raised by the survey
  • Reporting back to you on how the new initiatives have gone

Staff surveys are generally carried out by school or trust leaders

They will then relay the results to you.

The headteacher or CEO might also conduct their own staff surveys, such as a staff wellbeing questionnaire. It's still appropriate for your board to have access to the results - especially if your board has responsibility for any employment issues, or is the employer. 

The employer is:
  • The academy trust in academies and free schools
  • The governing board in voluntary aided and foundation schools
  • The local authority (LA) in community schools, voluntary controlled schools, community special schools, and maintained nursery schools

As employers, it's important that you know what employees are saying and think about:

  • Overall wellbeing
  • Morale
  • Motivation
  • Issues that may affect staff performance, retention and development

You won't normally have access to individual responses

Your board doesn't line-manage staff, so you won't need individual names. 

Typically, someone will collate and anonymise responses to the survey to compile an overall report. This data is useful, as it helps your board identify trends, patterns and concerns across the workforce.

Conducting staff surveys as a board

If you feel you need to do a staff survey yourselves due to concerns about leadership, you should still inform the headteacher beforehand. Otherwise, you'll be overstepping your role as governors and undermining the headteacher's authority (according to Vicky Redding, one of our associate education experts).

Parent/carer survey examples

Community primary school in Camden

The governing board of Eleanor Palmer Primary School conducts an annual parent questionnaire in the summer term (find previous surveys under the section 'Contacting the Governors').

The documents cover:

  • Highlights of the questionnaire results
  • A comparison with the previous 2 years of questionnaire results

Federation of 3 primary schools in Hackney

Viridis School Federation is a partnership of schools in East London. Its board published the results of its parent survey on the Hoxton Garden Primary School's website.

Trust with 32 academies

Leigh Academies Trust carried out a trust-wide survey of parents. Its schools published their own results on their websites, including a selection of parent comments and breakdowns of results.

Staff survey examples

Community primary school in Bolton

Oxford Grove Primary School published the results of its staff survey. The survey asks staff members to indicate to what extent they agree with statements about the school, including:

  • How well behaviour is managed
  • How workload is taken into account
  • How well school leaders are managing the school

Special school

Kemball School in Stoke-on-Trent has the results of its staff survey online. Survey questions cover topics such as:

  • Pupil behaviour
  • The role of leaders in improving teaching
  • Professional development

Trust of 19 schools

Bradford Diocesan Academies Trust surveyed its staff on wellbeing and inclusion. Some highlights and next steps are published on its website.

Sources

Derek Balaam is a school and children's centre governance consultant. He has extensive experience of governance issues, having been a school teacher, local authority governor support manager, and chair of the London Co-ordinators of Governor Services.

Vicky Redding is a governance trainer and consultant. She provides training, advice and support on effective school governance.

Article Updates

7 June 2024

We updated this article to include examples from trusts.

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