External reviews of governance: a guide for schools
How to arrange an external review of governance for your school and improve the performance of your governing body.
An external review of governance looks at how well your school’s governing body is working. An external system leader or governance professional works with the governing body, headteacher and clerk to improve the performance of your governing body.
If you’re a reviewer or want to conduct a review please read the external reviews of governance: what’s involved guidance.
Ofsted will sometimes recommend that a school has a review. In this case, the purpose of the review is to enable a school to move from a rating of ‘requires improvement’ or ‘inadequate’ to at least ‘good’.
The review is offered as support to improve and develop governance, and not as an additional inspection. It will help your governing body identify priorities for improvement, and provide support on what steps to take.
It aims to help your governing body to:
- be more skilled, focused and effective
- be more aware of the freedoms that it has to work in different ways
- be clear in its vision for the school or academy and how, together with the school leadership team, it can achieve this
- be confident that it has a clear delineation of roles and responsibilities
- have the right number of skilled and committed governors to meet the needs of the school or academy
- hold school leaders to account for improving outcomes for all pupils, including those who are disadvantaged
- be clear about how it ensures that its young people are well prepared to be responsible citizens in Britain
For more information read reviews of governance: what’s involved
Find a reviewer
You can choose whoever you want to conduct an external review of governance. You should ensure that the reviewer has:
- experience of what outstanding governance is
- a good understanding of governance, including different contexts and governance structures
- a clear understanding of Ofsted expectations
- successful experience of leading governors and school improvement
- excellent inter-personal skills
Trained national leaders of governance (NLGs) and national leaders of education (NLEs) ran the early reviews of governance. NLEs had to be able to demonstrate their experience and impact as a governor in a school other than their own.
You do not have to use NLGs and NLEs. But, we recommend you choose someone with recent successful experience of leading governance and school improvement.
The NLGs and NLEs on this list have been trained in undertaking reviews.
Other organisations may also be able to offer reviews, including:
- local providers of school improvement and governor services
- local authority governor services, including members of the National Coordinators of Governor Services Group
- the National Governors’ Association
- organisations licensed to provide the Chairs of Governors’ Leadership Development Programme
- Freedom and Autonomy for Schools National Association
When to request a review
You do not need to wait for an Ofsted inspection recommendation to seek a review. You can arrange an external review of governance at any time to improve the effectiveness of the work of your governing body.
You will usually receive a recommendation for an external review of governance if an Ofsted section 5 inspection finds:
- governance is weak in a school judged to require improvement
- leadership and management is graded 3
The issues Ofsted identify in governing bodies include:
- governors not being ambitious about expectations
- lack of challenge and failing to hold headteachers to account
- over reliance on information from the headteacher
- lack of systematic visits to school
- lack of engagement with school development planning
- limited role in monitoring, and none of it independent
- limited understanding of data and school quality
If an Ofsted inspection report recommends the review, the monitoring inspector will expect it to be undertaken in a timely way. Ofsted will also assess the impact of the review in the next monitoring visit.
Further information on external reviews of governance, national leaders of governance and leadership development opportunities for governors.