Nick Seaton of the Campaign for Real Education with 13 questions school governors should ask the Head. Unlucky for some.

Most readers of this blog are probably school governors.  In any event, it is always worth remembering that a school’s governing body is the equivalent of a company’s board of directors.  The head teacher is equivalent to the chief executive.  So the former decide the school’s policies and the latter is responsible for carrying them out.

Questions governors may like to ask include:

1.Is your curriculum specified by subjects and is it content-based or project-based?  (If the latter, how is it structured?)

2. Are parents properly informed each term about the progress their child is making?

3. Is competition encouraged, both between pupils and between schools in the area?

4. What proportion of the pupils has Special Educational Needs?  (If
much more than 5%, are they genuine, or fabricated to increase the
school’s budget?)

5. How much lesson-time is spent on computers?  (Is this a reasonable proportion?)

6. In a primary school, are governors given
termly lists of the chronological ages of pupils alongside their
‘reading ages’,  as measured by simple tests?  (This is an easy method
of measuring the effectiveness of the methods used to teach reading.)

7. In a secondary school, do the staff  test the ‘reading ages’ of all
new pupils when they first join the school to ensure that their reading
abilities are acceptable?  (If standards are inadequate, someone should
talk to your feeder primary schools.)

8. Are your national test results up to acceptable standards?  (Forget
‘contextual value-added’ scores – what matters to pupils is their
individual results.)

9. If a secondary school, are your GCSE results up to scratch?  (At
least 60% of pupils should be achieving 5 or more grade A*-C GCSEs
including English and maths.)

10. Does  your school obey the law by having a genuine daily act of
worship?  (If so, is there provision for different faiths to worship in
their own faith? And for parents to withdraw their child if they do not
approve of the worship provided?)

11. Does your school have a school clinic or visits from a school
nurse? (If so, are you condoning law-breaking by issuing contraception
to pupils who are below the legal age of consent?)

12. Are you supplied each year with a copy of your local authority’s
Section 52 budget statement?  (This contains spending per school and
spending per pupil. Also, useful information about local authority
central costs, which governors should monitor.)

13. Is your school oversubscribed or are there too many spare places
with consequent loss of funding?  (If the latter, why are parents not
attracted to your school?)

If you are not already a school governor, perhaps you should consider
becoming one?  Most schools have vacancies, so contact any nearby
school and ask.  Even two or three conscientious governors, working
together, can make a huge difference to a school that may, or may not,
be operating effectively. And don’t allow yourself to be sidetracked –
good teachers appreciate the voice of common sense in an otherwise
nonsensical world.

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