Governor school visits: questions to ask pupils

Get more out of your monitoring visits and learning walks. Use our questions and advice to talk to pupils with confidence and get the insights you need.

Last reviewed on 4 September 2023
School types: AllSchool phases: AllRef: 35344
  1. Listen to 'pupil voice' on your visits
  2. How to talk to pupils during learning walks
  3. How to arrange pupil panels for a monitoring visit
  4. Questions to ask pupil panels 

Thanks to Jackie Beard, Gulshan Kayembe, Vicky Redding, and Fred Birkett, our associate education experts, for their help writing this article. 

Listen to 'pupil voice' on your visits

School visits are an important part of your monitoring role. They give you an opportunity to shine a light on the 'pupil voice' and find out about their school experiences.  

Broadly, there are 2 types of visits you might make:

  • Formal monitoring visits are where you discuss the progress of the school in a particular area with the relevant staff member
  • Learning walks are where you'll go around the school with the relevant staff member to get a feel for a particular area. You're likely to talk to a range of staff members and pupils

Use the questions below to help you ask the right questions during monitoring visits and learning walks. 

Together with staff feedback and parents' feedback, you'll get a 360-degree view of your school.

For more on making your visit as effective as possible, read our how-to guide and download our report template. Or, if you're the chair, read our chair’s guide.

How to talk to pupils during learning walks

Talking to children at their desks can be a lot of fun and give you a snapshot of what's happening in that moment.


  • Keep it short and sweet so as not to create a distraction
  • Keep it focused on the current lesson – the children are in the middle of their learning
  • Be discreet, you don't want to disrupt other pupils, who will naturally be curious about what you're up to 

Do ask pupils:

  • What are you learning in this lesson?
  • What do you like most/least about this subject?
  • Can you show me some feedback you've been given in your book?
  • Are you learning anything new in this lesson?
  • How hard are you working right now?
  • What do you do if you need help?

Don't ask for their:

  • Views on a teacher
  • Personal information

Check out our tips on when and how to look at pupils' work if you're planning to do this as part of a visit, too.

How to arrange pupil panels for a monitoring visit

If you need to take a deep dive into pupil attitudes about specific topics, ask the the relevant staff member to arrange for you to meet with a small groups of pupils. 4 or 5 is ideal, as it gives everyone the chance to speak and be heard. Meet with older and younger pupils separately.

When planning

  • Be clear with the teacher about what it is you're monitoring
  • Discuss and agree with them what you'll be asking pupils (use the questions below to help you)
  • Ask the teacher to choose the right group for you. For example:
    • If accessibility is a concern or a target for improvement, make sure you're meeting with the pupils who are affected by accessibility issues
    • Pupils who won't be too shy to express themselves 
  • Don't do this during playtime or lunchtime, as they'll be less focused
  • Choose a comfortable setting, like in the library
  • Allow 20 to 30 minutes per group
  • Arrange to have a member of staff available to take notes for you if taking notes yourself will be too distracting
  • Be prepared to share feedback with the teacher and headteacher before reporting back to the governing board

Lay down the ground rules with the pupils

Explain who you are, what the discussion is about, and why you're interested in their input. Reassure pupils that the purpose of this isn't to report back to the headteacher on what teachers they don't like or what lessons they find boring.

Use the pupils' names to build rapport and explain that they:

  • Should be honest, because their feedback can help the school get better
  • Should put their hands up if they wish to speak and listen to each other without interrupting
  • Shouldn't mention anyone by name – neither teachers nor other pupils

Questions to ask pupil panels 

  • The questions below aren't exhaustive, nor are they meant to be used as a checklist
  • Think carefully about what you're trying to find out and only ask those questions that will get you the answers you need
  • Adapt the questions to the age of the pupils you're speaking to and the context of your school
  • Keep in mind that you're not looking for any specific answers, you're out there to get a sense of how pupils experience your school
Primary concernQuestions to ask
School environment
  • What's your favourite thing to do at school? Why?
  • Do you like your school building? Why or why not?
  • What about your classroom? Is it comfortable?
  • Is there anything you don't like doing at school?
  • Do you have any trouble getting around your classroom?
  • Do you have any trouble getting around the school?
  • Is there anything about the playground that makes things difficult for you?
  • Where do you keep your things during the day? Are you able to get to your things easily?
  • Is there anything your friends can do easily that you have trouble with?
  • If a pupil appears to be having a problem with accessibility ask: can you think of something that might help you with this?
Teaching and learning
  • What's your favourite subject?
  • What do you think you're really good at?
  • Is there anything about lesson time or any particular lessons that you like or don't like?
  • Are your lessons interesting and fun?
  • What do you find difficult to do/a bit tricky? 
  • What do you do if you find something hard to do?
  • Can you think of anything that used to be really hard but is much easier now? Why is it easier now?
  • How do you know what your targets are?
  • What do you do with the feedback you get from your teacher?
  • Does your school work challenge you?
  • Do the other children behave well?
  • Can you explain to me what happens if a pupil is behaving badly?
  • What rewards do you get for good behaviour?


  • How safe do you feel on a scale of 1 to 10? (where pupils give a low score, ask what could be done to make them feel safer)
  • How safe do you feel in the classroom?
  • How safe do you feel in the playground?
  • Are the other children friendly?
  • How do pupils treat others who might be different because of their race, gender, religion etc.?
  • How does pupil behaviour affect how safe you feel?
  • Is bullying a problem in this school?
  • How well is bullying dealt with in the school?
  • How do other pupils help to make the school a safe place?
  • Do the adults in your school listen to you?
  • Do you know who to go to if you're worried about something?
  • Do you ever worry about coming to school? What makes you worry?
  • What have you learnt about to help keep you safe?
  • What dangers are you aware of on the internet?
  • How do you keep safe on the road?
The school day
  • How do you get to school and back home again?
  • Where do you go to play at playtime?
  • What's your favourite thing to do at playtime?
  • What do you like/dislike about assembly?
  • Do you have a school dinner or bring your lunch to school? Are school dinners good? What's your favourite school dinner?
  • What was the last school trip you did? Did you like it?
  • Do you have any special days, like concerts or charity days? What do you like or dislike about them?
Exam preparation (secondary)
  • Are you happy with progress for your GCSEs?
  • How are lessons helping?
  • Which subjects are you most/least confident in?
  • What support have you received for areas that you’re least confident in?
  • What support are you receiving for your revision?
  • Do you have the tools to deal with exam stress?
  • What have you learnt/are you hoping to learn from mock exams?
  • What support did you receive in choosing your GCSE subjects?
  • Are you aware of your options post-GCSE?
  • Do you know which subjects you need to take post-GCSE for a chosen career?


Jackie Beard is a governance consultant and former national leader of governance. She also sits on an independent appeal panel for exclusions and admissions for a local authority. 

Vicky Redding is a governance trainer and consultant. She provides training, advice and support on effective school governance.

Fred Birkett is an experienced teacher and education consultant. He has been a governor for 20 years in primary and secondary schools and a chair of governors for half that time.

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.

What did you think?

Rate this

Why did you give this rating?

Your feedback helps us to ensure our content is helpful to all members.

Our researchers read every comment.

Can't find what you need? Try searching, or .

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 v3.0.