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Top tips to get your governors on school visits
Find out how you, as the chair, can kick-start your board and encourage all of your governors to be active in school life.
- Set school visits as an expectation
- Have a visit schedule
- Give each governor a responsibility
- Equip your governors with our resources
- Use a mentor/buddy system for newer governors
- Organise a governor day each year
- Include informal visits and events in your schedule
- My governors still aren’t participating in school visits
Our associate education experts Keith Clover, Jackie Beard and Jane Owens helped us to write this article.
Set school visits as an expectation
Visits are the bread and butter of a governor's role.
Get new and current governors excited about visiting the school. Explain how valuable visits are for your work as a board, and for supporting school improvement.
Include it as part of recruiting
Have school visits as an expectation in all role descriptions when you recruit a new governor. Use our templates to help you do this.
Make it clear as part of induction
Be upfront about what you expect from the start. Explain that visits allow you to develop a meaningful understanding of the day-to-day running of your school, which allows you to ask better questions and to monitor effectively.
Find out more in our article about how to induct new governors effectively.
Get all governors on board
Consider having a school visits policy to keep your governors on track during visits.
Have a visit schedule
Plan this with the headteacher, ideally in the last 6 weeks of the school year for next year’s dates, or at the start of the school year. This will give your governors plenty of time to plan their visits.
Link visits to the school improvement plan (SIP)
That way visits have a clear purpose and governors are directly supporting the school's plans for improvement. See our guidance for help with this, including a template you can use.
When creating your schedule:
- Have a designated appointment week: set a week where governors are expected to make appointments to come in to liaise with relevant members of staff (e.g. subject/faculty heads). This gives governors some control over how to schedule their visits
- Explain to governors that not all visits have to be during the day. If coming into school during the day is a problem on occasion, explain that initial meetings with subject leads can be arranged for before/after the school day
Give each governor a responsibility
This will give your governors a distinct role, empowering them to take ownership for monitoring and visiting their area.
Do this by linking each governor, either to:
- A specific subject, faculty or area (such as behaviour); or
- Directly to an objective/action in the school improvement plan (see the section 'How do I monitor it')
Equip your governors with our resources
Share our 'how-to guide' with your governors so they:
- Get up-to-speed with different types of school visit
- Feel ready with questions they can ask
- Understand how to report back to the board
Use a mentor/buddy system for newer governors
Pair up newer/less confident governors, with those who are more experienced to act as a mentor.
This is a good way to encourage them to take part so they’re comfortable with school visits and all the interactions they entail.
Organise a governor day each year
Do this mid-academic year around the spring term, but check with senior leaders to see when’s best.
The day can include:
- A tour of the school. All governors, new and experienced, should go on the tour, as schools change all the time and it will give governors a chance to meet different staff. Depending on the size of your school you may visit every class, every year group, or in a secondary every faculty
- Staff room coffee break. This is so your governors can chat with staff and get a feel for what school life is like
- Lunch with the students. Governors can queue with the children and sit with them at lunch time. This gives them the chance to chat with pupils
- Lunchtime duty. Pair up a governor to a member of staff to go on lunchtime duty. This is so they can see what lunchtime supervision is like
- Bus duty. Pair up a governor to a member of staff to go on bus duty. This tends to be a source of complaints from the local community/parents so it’s a good idea to see how your school’s system is managed
Half day: invite a wide-range of staff/pupils into a board meeting for a broad discussion. The group can then go on a tour of the school, and lunch together at the end.
Examples of governor visit days
St Mary’s Church of England primary school in Cumbria has a governor day to monitor the school improvement plan. The day also includes governors meeting parents on playground duty in the morning.
Bernards Heath Infant and Nursery school in St Albans sets aside a whole day for governors to get involved with the school’s everyday routines.
Include informal visits and events in your schedule
Explain to your governors that informal visits are a great way to get known and involved in the school community, with no formal admin. It’s at these events that governors are a much-needed extra pair of hands and source of support.
Include the following as part of your visit schedule so governors can plan to attend:
- Listening to pupils read (primary)
- Attending whole-school assemblies e.g. awards assemblies or, if for a link governor, subject-specific assemblies
- Attending school productions. Make sure governors are available beforehand for opportunities to chat with students and the leadership team
- Festive events e.g. the Christmas fair
- Inset days/focus weeks, e.g. anti-bullying week or art week. This might include helping children with projects in the classroom
- Parents evening, ask governors at the beginning of the year to sign up to one:
- Governors can walk around and talk to parents and staff
- If you’re in a secondary school, you might want a governors' table where parents can come and chat about any concerns. Ask senior leaders to include a governor appointment slip in pupil’s appointment forms, so that governors can be another point of contact for parents
My governors still aren’t participating in school visits
Have a conversation with the governor to find out if there’s a reason they can’t visit the school.
Lack of confidence? Consider:
- Using the buddy system so the governor doesn’t visit on their own. This is so that they can get confident with what school visits entail
- Printing off our how-to guide so they’ll have all the information they need
Lack of time? Consider:
- Making sure governors are aware of their right to time off work
- Changing their link governor role if they can’t get in to monitor their subject so they can observe something else
I’ve tried everything
Have a 1:1 meeting about whether being a governor is right for them. Explain how important visits are as part of the role, and that without visits the board can’t do its job properly.
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.
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.
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.
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