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Last reviewed on 30 October 2020
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Find out what Ofsted inspectors might ask you during inspection, and what evidence you can use to support your answers.

Questions Ofsted might ask

These questions are based on the 2019 Ofsted framework. Use them to prepare for an inspection and get ideas about what evidence you can provide to justify your answers.

They cover: 

  • Your understanding of your role and school
  • Quality of education/curriculum 
  • Use of funding
  • Safeguarding
  • Personal development, behaviour and attitudes

We developed this list based on:

  • The inspection experiences of 3 governing boards under the 2019 framework
  • Recommendations from our associate education experts
  • blog post by Sean Harford, Ofsted's national director of education

Talk to your headteacher and school improvement adviser about what Ofsted will ask

They'll be able to predict Ofsted's key lines of enquiry based on your school's end-of-Key Stage data, historical performance, your last inspection report, and the initial inspection phone call with the lead inspector.

Remember that each inspection is unique. Inspectors don't have a single list of questions they must work through each time, and they'll adapt their questions to your school's circumstances.

Know your role and your school

Inspectors want to make sure that you understand your role as a governor and your statutory duties

More specifically, they want to know how well you fulfil your role and how well you know your school. They'll likely ask you about:

  • Your vision for the school
  • Your school's culture
  • What issues your school faces
  • Its strengths and weaknesses
  • How the governing board responds to challenges
  • Why certain statutory requirements aren't being met, if that's the case. For example they might ask you if you're aware that the school website doesn't meet requirements 

The 'strengths' and 'weaknesses' of your school

Even ‘outstanding’ schools will have 'weaknesses', or areas for improvement.

You should be familiar with your school's last Ofsted report and Ofsted's inspection data summary report. These will tell you:

  • Which areas Ofsted has flagged for investigation
  • Whether there are particular subjects that aren't performing as strongly as others
  • Whether there are particular pupil groups that aren't performing as strongly as others
  • If pupils with special education needs (SEN) are not making at least as good progress as other pupils with SEN nationally
  • Where Ofsted was critical of your school in the past, and where they'll be looking to see improvement this time

As a governor, you should be aware of the strategies your school is using to address any issues, because these should be included in your school's self-evaluation form or school improvement plan (SIP). 

For example, attendance may be an issue at your school. You should be able to say whether there's a particular pupil group for which attendance is a problem (e.g. boys, girls, disadvantaged pupils), and explain how your school is handling it.  

Inspectors are also likely to look for evidence in the governing board’s minutes or documentation that the board is monitoring any such issues.

How money flows in and out of your school 

Managing the budget is one of the governing board's key duties. Even if you aren't on the finance committee, you should have a basic understanding of:

  • How finances are managed (scheme of delegation)
  • How pupil premium and SEN funding are monitored
  • The impact of targeted funding like PE and sports premium or year 7 catch-up premium
  • How the governing board has held the school to account for its spending

Safeguarding and welfare is a significant focus for any inspection

As a governor, you're expected to be familiar with all the statutory requirements related to safeguarding and know how to show you're compliant. You're likely to be asked:

  • How you keep policies up-to-date and compliant
  • How you ensure policies are implemented
  • How effectively your school addresses not just general risks to children but also those risks that might be specific to the communities you serve (e.g. risk of female genital mutilation or radicalisation)
  • How safe the children feel and how you know

'Quality of education' under the new framework

Under the 2019 Ofsted inspection framework, there's more of a focus on the quality of your school's curriculum.

Inspectors will look at your curriculum's:

  • Intent: the extent to which your school's curriculum sets out the knowledge and skills pupils will gain at each stage
  • Implementation: the way your school staff teach and assess your selected curriculum, to support pupils to build their knowledge and to apply that knowledge as skills
  • Impact: the outcomes pupils achieve as a result of the education they’ve received

Don't worry though, you don't suddenly need to know the granular details on how you school delivers the curriculum. For governors, questions in this area will be general and focus on policy and results. 

The role of data in an inspection

Even though the new framework does step away from data as a key factor in grading schools, data still plays a role in inspection. You should have an understanding of your school's performance and know:

  • How pupils’ attainment and progress compares to other schools nationally, especially if the school is in the top or bottom 20% in the country
  • Trends in your school’s performance over time
  • The performance of pupils eligible for pupil premium funding compared with their peers

You should also be aware of the messages in the Analyse School Performance (ASP) report. See how to analyse your data using ASP if you're a primary or a secondary school. 

Holding the headteacher and senior leaders to account

You might be asked how you verify the accuracy of what the headteacher tells you.

To evidence this, be sure that governors' questions in holding the senior leadership team to account are accurately recorded in the minutes of governing board meetings. The responses should also be reflected in the SIP, as they're likely to be the school's priorities for improvement.

The SIP should be further evidence of the governing board's response to challenges and how you're using success criteria to monitor progress and impact.

'Personal development' and 'behaviour and attitudes' under the new framework

Another change to the inspection framework is that 'behaviour and attitudes' will now be judged separately from 'personal development'.

Behaviour and attitudes

This focuses on the school environment. For example, be prepared to describe your school's strategies for:

  • Behaviour management
  • Attendance
  • Bullying

Personal development

Inspectors want to know how effectively the governing board is guiding and monitoring pupils' development into effective adults and good citizens. They might ask you how your school promotes:

  • British values such as mutual tolerance and respect and the value of democracy
  • Healthy lifestyle choices


David Driscoll is an independent consultant and a senior partner with an education consultancy. He has considerable experience of supporting schools to analyse their data to improve achievement, teaching and leadership.

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.

John Dunne has extensive experience of school leadership in secondary schools. He is also a former inspector.

Marilyn Nathan is an education consultant who specialises in leadership and management development. She has experience of inspecting both primary and secondary schools, and has acted as an external adviser for headteacher reviews.

Jeremy Bird has extensive experience of primary headship. He has also worked with local authorities and published guidance for new and aspiring headteachers and senior leaders.

Alvin Jeffs has worked in special education for more than 40 years. His experience includes class teaching, assessment work, and developing and implementing programmes of work for students. He is also a former school inspector.

David New, an education consultant, was the headteacher of a large secondary school for nine years. He has particular expertise in lettings, staffing, academy conversion and the secondary curriculum.

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