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Curriculum: role of the link governor
Understand your role as a curriculum link governor and questions you can ask subject leaders to challenge and support them.
This article is for you if your role involves looking at your school's cross-curricular, topic-based or theme-based curriculum. This approach is more common in primary schools than secondary.
If your role is linked to a specific subject, take a look at more specific guidance here.
The link governor role is only one piece of the puzzle - read our article about the governing board's role in monitoring the curriculum.
We worked with our associate education experts Jane Owens, Lorraine Petersen and Keith Clover to write this article.
Work closely with the appropriate lead
Depending on how your school sets up its leadership structure, this might mean working with:
- Leads for multiple subjects
- A single leader responsible for specific groups of subjects or themes
- Phase or Key Stage leaders
You're not expected to be a curriculum expert, to judge the subject the same way an inspector would, or to know as much as the headteacher.
You need to work closely with school leaders to get the insights you need to help the board hold staff to account and drive improvement.
Be the board's specialist
Your job is to act as the link between governors and staff and to report to the board on things like:
- Subject/curriculum delivery
- The impact of interventions
- Use of resources
- Attainment and progress
You can help other governors understand what aspects of teaching and learning look like in practice.
Bring your more detailed knowledge of the curriculum to important decisions (for instance, about school improvement priorities or policy approval).
How to monitor the curriculum
Establish a focus for each visit
These should be linked to any curriculum priorities on your school improvement plan (SIP).
If you don't have the curriculum (or specific topics/themes) on your SIP, work with school leaders to decide a focus for the visit based on their action plans or the curriculum map.
What you should focus on
Key things to monitor might include:
- Attainment and progress, especially
- At the end of a key stage
- For key groups within your school (including pupils with SEN, pupil premium-eligible pupils, and pupils with English as an additional language)
- Teacher workload and development
- Subject improvement plans
- The quality of resources
- Pupil and parent engagement with the subject
- The curriculum (what you teach, why you teach it, and how you teach it)
Ways to monitor
You might do this through:
- Regular meetings with the subject lead
- Visits to the school to see the curriculum in action
- Talking to pupils, parents and staff (or conducting a survey)
- Reports from the subject lead
We recommend you either meet your subject lead, or visit your school, at least once a term.
Questions to ask curriculum leaders
You don't need to, and shouldn't, ask all these questions in one meeting. Ask these questions in meetings and visits throughout the year.
Curriculum/topic strategy questions:
- Tell me about the curriculum plan for these topics/subjects
- How do the subjects fit together in the wider curriculum?
- Are different members of staff responsible for different parts of the curriculum plan?
- How will these topics develop across the school? What are the plans and how will you do this?
- How are you monitoring these topics/subjects across the school? How often do you do this? What's the impact of monitoring?
- A lead should have time to monitor their subject. If the lead says they don’t have time, bring this up in your feedback to the board
- Are there any barriers to meeting the improvements/objectives/targets?
Other questions to consider:
- Have you changed classroom displays to reflect what our focus is? How do displays support learning?
- What resources are we using? Are they effective?
- How are we working with parents to support these subjects? Do they know what our focus is?
- How are we helping children take responsibility for their own learning?
- Do staff have the right knowledge and skills to deliver the curriculum really well? Are there any gaps where we need to provide additional training?
- How are we supporting the staff who work with the weakest readers?
- Do you feel supported by senior leaders?
Teaching and learning
- How are we supporting children who aren't on track with our curriculum? Do we know this support is working?
- How do we assess in this subject? How do we know pupils are making good progress?
- How well are the skills taught through these subjects taught across the whole curriculum?
- How do the progress and attainment of different groups of pupils compare – for example, girls compared with boys, children on free school meals (FSM) compared with others?
- How are our children with special educational needs (SEN) challenged and supported to reach their individual potential?
- How might the experience of a pupil with SEN differ from one without?
- How are high-attaining children challenged to reach their individual potential?
Ofsted and the curriculum
The 2019 Ofsted framework places a big emphasis on the curriculum.
As a link governor, you should know how Ofsted will inspect your curriculum.
Inspectors don't expect you to know every detail of your curriculum, but they look for evidence that link roles are performed effectively.
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.
Lorraine Petersen is an education consultant. She was previously the chief executive officer of nasen (which promotes the education of young people with special educational needs), and a primary school headteacher. She is also a governor at a special school in the West Midlands.
Keith Clover is a national leader of governance. He chairs two governing bodies within a multi-academy trust and is an academy consultant for a diocese.
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