Thinking Governance and Ofsted

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From the outset, Thinking Governance was built to deal with foundational issues of governance.

That meant the issues of strategic direction, strategic focus and role and staying out of management. It meant encouraging governors to raise their eyes to the horizon, and set a course for where they want the school to go.

But no school can strategise in a vacuum, sitting blissfully unaware of the pressures brought by an inspection framework, especially if they’re struggling.

It’s much too easy, though, to dismiss Thinking Governance as being only for ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ schools. For those schools, having a great strategic vision almost certainly helped them get where they are – but, as Mercedes Benz once noted in training their sales teams, ‘what gets you there doesn’t keep you there’.

Even in the best schools, the challenge of maintaining high standards and great governance is never a one-off fix.

Good governance is tough to get to when your school is struggling – when you’re using trying to get results improved, to sort the safeguarding crisis, to manage the deficit down or even to recruit a few more governors. These are important, and governors must get to grips with that kind of knowledge. Every school can – and should – call on the local authority, the diocese or the MAT for those kind of school improvement aspects.

However, Thinking Governance is intentionally more foundational than that.

At the heart of every improving school is improving leadership and management, and that includes governance.

For many years, Ofsted grade descriptors for leadership and management have referred strongly to concepts of culture, expectations, creating a climate, ethos, promoting opportunity and working with external partners.

These are all aspects of an aspiration for the school community as a whole. These aspects are the stuff of good governance, and their absence is often noted by inspectors when a school is failing. Equally, their presence is regularly noted by inspectors when a school excels.

So Thinking Governance isn’t easy to make time and space for in schools which are struggling.

But, used well, even just in part, it can help governing bodies to see out to the horizon, where there is potentially a better day and there can be a good future for the school.

Thinking Governance encourages governors to embrace great strategic thinking and use that sense of vision to deliver good education.