Monitoring pupil progress

Find out how to go about monitoring pupil progress so you can make sure pupils are reaching their full potential.

Last reviewed on 28 September 2023
School types: AllSchool phases: PrimaryRef: 32229
  1. Look at the data
  2. Discuss pupil progress with teachers
  3. Ask questions
  4. What to consider post-pandemic

Our associate experts Harry James, Jane Owens and Brendan Hollyer helped us with this article.

Look at the data

Interrogate the data you get from senior leaders to monitor progress. 

You should have a basic understanding of what the data means, but senior leaders should have also analysed the data so you know exactly what you’re looking at.

Be clear on what ‘good progress’ looks like

Work with senior leaders so you know what ‘good progress’ looks like for your school – there’s no single definition.

This is so you have a clear idea of what to expect, and so you can monitor much more effectively.

One way you can do this is attend a pupil progress meeting (you might do this virtually) – this will give you a better understanding of how the school identifies progress and what they define as 'good progress'.

Look at progress made throughout the year

All classes will be set targets at the beginning of the year and your school will have a system in place to monitor progress against these targets.

Progress data should be reported to you at least once a term, either at a full governing board meeting or through a committee.

Your school will have its own "data drops", where assessment data is collected and collated, scheduled throughout the year. You should try to schedule your meetings shortly after the data drops so that you can analyse data in a timely and effective way.

Be cautious when looking at progress over time

Use end-of-year data such as Key Stage 4 data to look at progress over time. Use this data to identify struggling cohorts and any other long-term trends.

For most schools, attainment has dipped following the pandemic. When you look at the data you'll want to see that results are improving and that school leaders have a good idea of where the school's weaknesses are and what they're doing to improve this.

Discuss pupil progress with teachers

Talk to senior leaders to arrange a good time to do this – certain times of the year will be better for teachers than others.

Who’s involved?

  • Link governors – typically link governors for a particular subject will feed back to the rest of the board
  • Any other governor tasked with monitoring pupil progress
  • Class teachers, subject leaders and the senior leadership team 

This can enable you to see whether your school is implementing any policies or plans designed to improve pupil progress and how they are working in practice.

Remember, you shouldn't be using visits to assess the quality or method of teaching or extent of learning.

To get ideas of what to ask teachers during these conversations, take a look at our questions to ask subject leaders and subject-tailored link governor articles.

Conduct book monitoring – if it's practical to do so

Book monitoring isn't an essential part of monitoring progress and not all boards do it. 

If you do decide to look at books, remember you're not judging the quality of progress or quality of teaching.

Book monitoring can help you to see:

  • Evidence of pupils' progress
  • The impact of any new approaches or schemes of learning
  • If a marking policy is being followed

Before carrying this out, ask senior leaders or subject leaders what you should expect to see in books. For example, you may want to ask what progress in a particular subject would look like over time and ask them to show evidence of this in pupils' books.

Ask questions

Download our list of questions to ask senior leaders so you can confidently analyse your school's pupil progress data – you can use it when you receive data and/or if you visit the school.

What to consider post-pandemic

You’ll be monitoring both internal data and national data

This is because national data and exams were disrupted during the pandemic, so you'll need to bear this in mind when comparing with previous years. 

Primary schools: SATs have now been back to pre-pandemic arrangements for 2 years, so you can compare results from 2022 and 2023 to monitor progress, as well as comparing with pre-pandemic results.

Secondary schools: 2023 was the first year that exams returned to pre-pandemic arrangements as the 2022 exams were adapted and considered a 'transition period'. You'll need to compare results with this in mind. 

You’ll need to look at a mix of data to get a good idea of the progress made across the years that were disrupted. Look at data from before the pandemic and from internal sources – like classwork and assessments – as well as recent results.

Continue to focus on closing learning gaps

Ask your school leaders about how they’re supporting pupils to catch up and close learning gaps.

For example, ask:

  • Are all of our pupils getting the support they need to fulfil their potential?
  • How are you using funded tutoring programmes to help close learning gaps? 
    • What impact have the tutoring programmes had in previous years?


Harry James is a national leader of governance. He is currently chair of governors of a primary school in London, and is part of the steering group for an academic research project looking at school accountability and stakeholder education.

Jane Owens is a chair of governors at primary, secondary and special schools, and chairs a multi-academy trust board. She is a national leader of governance and conducts external reviews of governance across all sectors.

Brendan Hollyer is the chair of governors at 2 primary academies. He's also a trustee at another MAT which covers all phases of primary and secondary education. He's a former national leader of governance (NLG) and is a founding member of Independent Governor Services (IGovS). Formerly, Brendan worked as the director of conversions and governance for a multi-academy trust.

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