Questions Ofsted might ask governors

Find out what Ofsted inspectors might ask you during inspection and what evidence you can use to support your answers.

Last reviewed on 22 September 2022
School types: All · School phases: All
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  1. Your role during an inspection
  2. The impact of COVID-19
  3. Questions Ofsted might ask
  4. Know your role and your school
  5. 'Quality of education'
  6. 'Personal development' and 'behaviour and attitudes'

Your role during an inspection

This article covers questions that Ofsted inspectors might ask you about your school and your role.

As a governing board, you'll be inspected under Ofsted's 'leadership and management' judgement. For more information on this area, take a look at our articles on:

The impact of COVID-19

Since Ofsted restarted its routine inspections in September 2021, it has continued to recognise the disruption that the pandemic has had on schools. This is reflected in its School Inspection Handbook.

Read our article on routine Ofsted inspections after September 2021 for information on how inspectors will consider the impact of the pandemic.

Questions Ofsted might ask

Use these questions to prepare for an inspection and see suggestions of evidence you can provide to support 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

They'll be able to offer guidance as to what Ofsted's key lines of enquiry might be based on your school's:

  • End-of-Key Stage data
  • Historical performance
  • Last inspection report, and
  • Initial inspection phone call with the lead inspector

Remember, 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 you understand your role as a governor and your statutory duties

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

If certain statutory requirements aren't being met, they'll want to know why. For example, they might ask if you're aware that the school website doesn't meet requirements. 

'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 educational needs (SEN) are not progressing as well 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

You should be aware of your school's strategies to address any issues, as they should be included in your school's self-evaluation form (SEF) or school improvement plan (SIP). 

If attendance is an issue, for example, you should be able to say whether this affects a particular pupil group (e.g. boys, girls, disadvantaged pupils), and explain how your school is handling it.  

Inspectors will check you're monitoring issues by looking for evidence in the governing board's minutes or other documentation.

Finance considerations

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 such as PE and sport premium
  • How the governing board has held the school to account for its spending

If you're unsure about your role in finance, our article on monitoring school finance: an overview is a good place to start. 

Safeguarding and welfare is always a focus for inspection

You're expected to be familiar with all the statutory requirements related to safeguarding and know how to show you're compliant. Inspectors will likely ask: 

  • How you keep policies up to date and compliant
  • How you make sure policies are implemented
  • How effectively your school addresses general risks to children and 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'

The 2019 Ofsted inspection framework focuses on the quality of education 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

You don't need to know the granular details about how your school delivers the curriculum. For governors, questions will be general and focus on policy and results. 

Role of data in an inspection

Even though data is not a key factor in grading schools, it 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 your 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 data in the Analyse School Performance (ASP) report. See how to analyse your school's performance data.

Holding the headteacher and senior leaders to account

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

Make sure governors' questions in holding senior leaders 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 2019 framework these are judged separately.

'Behaviour and attitudes'

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

  • Creating a safe, calm, orderly and positive environment
  • Behaviour management
  • Attendance
  • Bullying, discrimination and sexual harassment

Read more about how Ofsted inspects 'behaviour and attitudes'.

'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
  • Creates an inclusive environment that meets the needs of all pupils 
  • Enables pupils to maintain their wellbeing, online and offline
  • Develops pupils' understanding of healthy relationships 
  • Uses curriculum subjects such as citizenship, religious education and relationships and sex education (RSE) to contribute to pupils' personal development 

We have an article on how Ofsted inspects 'personal development' that goes into further detail.


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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