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Last updated on 5 August 2020
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Even though your school is opening to all pupils in autumn, it's not business as usual yet. Be clear on the areas you should focus on when monitoring your school, so you can make sure you're challenging and supporting school leaders and that things are working well.

Your role in holding school leaders to account is more important than ever

With routine Ofsted inspections suspended until at least January 2021, remember that your board is the only thing holding school leaders to account right now. 

That said, you should avoid playing inspector. Carry on your normal monitoring duties, balancing robust challenge with even more robust support.

This is a big responsibility, but it's an even bigger opportunity. If you haven't already, watch our webinar on setting your school on the road to recovery to understand how you can use your monitoring activities to help your school not only catch up, but excel, during this time.

Go back to your school improvement plan 

Schools will open to all pupils in September. Despite any assertions to the contrary, this won't be business as usual. If you've done the work of revising your school improvement plan (SIP) to focus on school recovery, then you've probably whittled down your areas of focus significantly based on the unique needs of your school.

Regardless of where your school is in terms of recovery, keep a sharp eye on the 'big picture' issues that require special consideration over the next year. We discuss these below:

  • Safeguarding
  • Health and safety
  • Headteacher and staff workload and wellbeing
  • Teaching and learning

You'll also go back to your usual monitoring for some of the things that you may have dropped during school closures and the partial reopening, such as:

Furthermore, you'll need to add a couple of new items to your monitoring schedule:

  • Coronavirus catch-up premium spending - we'll be publishing an article about how to monitor this soon and we'll link to it here. Click the 'save for later' star in the top right-hand corner to be notified when we've done that
  • Your school's contingency plan - this is the plan to immediately deliver remote education in the event that individuals or groups of pupils are self-isolating or the school has to close due to a localised coronavirus outbreak

Step up your monitoring frequency

You'll need to increase the frequency of your monitoring activities to be responsive to a rapidly evolving situation.

So spread the workload more evenly by reorganising your board to make sure you have the right eyes in the right places and no single school leader is bearing the brunt of governors’ focus. 

Plan to meet as a full board more frequently. Monthly wouldn’t be overdoing it, as long as you stay laser-focused on the most pressing issues for each meeting. 

If meeting monthly is too much for your board, then delegate decision-making power to your chair (and chairs of any relevant committees) so that your board is responsive to your school's needs in these early days of recovery.

You may be able to resume school visits

While school visits are possible, the Department for Education (DfE) says these should happen outside school hours where possible. Your governing board may also choose to continue to hold virtual governor meetings.

Schools will need to consider their risk assessments when considering how to organise governor/trustee visits.

Take your lead from your headteacher regarding when you can conduct in-person school visits again.

How to monitor safeguarding

First, you should be aware that there's been an update to Keeping Children Safe in Education that comes into effect from September. 

Who should do it?

A responsible committee or individual governors with responsibility for monitoring safeguarding (e.g. the link governor for safeguarding, SEND, or the pupil premium).

How to do it

School reopening poses some unique circumstances for safeguarding that you need to bear in mind when monitoring.

Take a look at our article on monitoring safeguarding from September so you're clear on what you need to consider and what questions you can ask. 

How to monitor health and safety

Who should do it?

Whoever has responsibility for it (e.g. your health and safety link governor).

How to do it

Continue to stay in regular contact with your headteacher or school business manager. In addition to your normal monitoring, you'll also need to talk to them about:

  • Your school's arrangements for safely reopening under the new government guidelines. This will include:
    • Understanding how your school plans to create and isolate larger 'bubbles'
    • Understanding how resources - sports equipment, lab equipment, etc. - will be safely shared between 'bubbles'
    • What measures the school has put in place to respond to infections
    • The continued safety of the school building, including any previously raised premises issues
    • Any support that staff need from you

How to monitor headteacher and staff wellbeing

Who should do it?

The chair.

How to do it

Talk to the headteacher about:

  • Any support they, or their staff, need
  • Any illness among staff
  • How staff who are continuing to work remotely are doing

Read our article to be clear on how to support headteacher wellbeing during coronavirus and beyond.

Key things to consider

In these exceptional circumstances, your headteacher will be on the receiving end of a lot of information and demands (from the local authority, the Department for Education, unions and anxious parents – to name a few!). The most important thing is to be their ally.

Recognise the incredible work staff have done so far, and ask about staff workload – the school shouldn’t overburden staff who are working remotely, and it should have plans in place to make sure teachers in school don’t have double the workload.

This is especially important in light of contingency planning. Expectations for remote education are much higher than they were at the beginning of the lockdown, and teachers shouldn't be expected to plan and deliver both in-class and remote learning if some of their pupils are self-isolating.

How to monitor teaching and learning

Who should do it?

The committees or link governors responsible for things like:

How to do it

The actual function of monitoring teaching and learning remains largely the same as before. 

Take a look at our resource hub for link governors to find how-to-monitor guides for various subjects and questions to ask.

Key things to consider

Your school will likely need to modify its curriculum substantially at the start of the academic year, but should aim to return to the normal curriculum for all pupils by summer term 2021.

You'll want to know early on:

  • How teachers will assess pupils' starting points and address gaps in their knowledge and skills, and
  • How they'll use this to inform changes to the curriculum

You can review changes to curriculum requirements across different phases in this article.

Share your findings with the whole governing board

Whoever carries out the monitoring activities above should report back to the full governing board regularly. If you're still having remote meetings, you can do this via email.

This will make sure all governors are up to date, or can step in to help monitor the school or support the headteacher if the chair or another governor isn't available. 

Sources

We wrote this article with advice from several experienced governors and chairs of governors who work at The Key.

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