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What should you look for on school visits?

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Last updated on 3 October 2016
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In-depth article
What should I look for when visiting the school? We link to advice from the Department for Education on how governors could use school visits. We also link to guidance from local authorities and schools on what governors could particularly look for during such a visit.

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  1. 1 School visits: guidance from the Governance Handbook
  2. 2 What to look for: LA guidance
  3. 3 What to look for in a classroom: school guidance

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  • 6 external links

School visits: guidance from the Governance Handbook

The Department for Education (DfE)'s Governance Handbook says that many governors find visits a helpful way to learn more about their school. 

... a visit allows governors to see for themselves how the school is implementing policies and procedures

It points out that a visit allows governors to see for themselves:

  • How the school is implementing policies and procedures
  • The effect that these are having in practice

It also gives governors an opportunity to speak to pupils, staff and parents to gather their views.

The Handbook also points out that any governor visit to the school should have a clear focus, and if governors wish to spend time in classrooms there should be a clear rationale for that. 

In another article from The Key, we provide further guidance on school visits for governors. This article includes guidance on arranging a school visit, as well as case studies from schools and a KeyDoc report template for governors:

What to look for: LA guidance

This section outlines local authority guidance on what governors may look for when visiting a school.

Gov article answers

What shouldn't governors do?

The DfE's Governance Handbook stresses that governors are not inspectors, and should not use a school visit to assess the quality of teaching and learning. 

The guidance from Doncaster Metropolitan Borough Council also emphasises this point, saying that a visit should not be used as an opportunity to form a professional judgement about individual members of staff. 

It also points out the governors should not use a visit to:

  • Check on the progress of their own, or other known, children
  • Monopolise staff time
  • Pursue a personal agenda or issue

Brent Council

Brent Council suggests that governors can:

  • Carry out checks on aspects such as financial procedures, special educational needs provision, health and safety, and child protection
  • Visit classrooms to observe the impact of recent school improvement projects
  • Spend time with a representative group to gather information and opinions from members of the school community. For example, meetings could focus on the impact of development training on staff

Doncaster Metropolitan Borough Council

Doncaster Metropolitan Borough Council has published a model policy for governor visits to schools. Pages 8 to 10 of the policy outlines possible areas of focus for the visit, along with things that governors could particularly look for as part of those focus areas. 

For example, governors might focus on the practical aspect of how the school operates. During this kind of visit, they may like to look at:

  • The condition and management of the premises

... governors might focus on the practical aspect of how the school operates

  • Security on site
  • Pupil behaviour around the school

The model policy also suggests things that governors could look out for during a visit that focuses on:

  • Classroom procedures
  • School improvement


Bristol City Council

... it is useful for [governors] to visit classrooms to appreciate the work of the teachers and support staff

Bristol City Council have published a governors' monitoring and evaluation programme, which outlines areas for governors to consider when planning and carrying out school visits. 

It says that visits to the school should be 'focused on gathering evidence to support school self-evaluation'. 

Page 3 of the document then lists activities which governing bodies might like to include as part of their yearly programme of visits, which include:

  • Focused discussions with children about their learning
  • Directed observations of school life, such as behaviour
  • Learning walks, with an agreed focus

Page 5 of the policy contains a template for a governor to report back on a classroom visit. It suggests questions that governors might ask on the walk, to help them reflect on its impact and report back to the governing body. It prompts governors to consider areas such as:

  • The learning environment
  • The role of support staff
Gov article answers

Visiting your school: further reading from The Key 

We have a number of articles from The Key that might help you plan and carry out a successful visit to your school. For example:

What to look for in a classroom: school guidance

Large maintained secondary school, North Yorkshire

Selby High School has a governor visits policy. Page 4 of the policy says that while governors are not qualified to assess standards, it is useful for them to visit classrooms to:

  • Appreciate the work of the teachers and support staff
  • Improve their awareness of students' responses 
  • Find out about any resource issues
  • Improve their understanding of the meaning of monitoring results that are reported to them

St Joseph’s Catholic Primary School, Hertfordshire

In its governor visits policy and guidelines, St Joseph’s cites possible areas governors may focus on when visiting a classroom, such as:

  • How friendly and relaxed the pupils are
  • How interested pupils are in their work
  • Ways in which the school provides a varied and interesting environment
  • Whether the needs of all pupils are met equally

The policy also has a section on feeding back to the governing body. It says that a written feedback report will form part of the governor’s monitoring role, and that it "should contain statements of fact on what was observed or what was not observed".

Such a report would contain "information to assist decision-making and evaluation by the whole governing body". For example, the report could evaluate the impact of a particular policy.

It may also be appropriate for a governor to give some recommendations in the feedback report.

Another article from The Key looks at reporting back to the governing body after a school visit.

This article was written in response to a question from a governor at a medium size primary school in London.

The Key has taken great care in publishing this article. However, some of the article's content and information may come from or link to third party sources whose quality, relevance, accuracy, completeness, currency and reliability we do not guarantee. Accordingly, we will not be held liable for any use of or reliance placed on this article's content or the links or downloads it provides. This article may contain information sourced from public sector bodies and licensed under the Open Government Licence.