Governors and the Curriculum

Having just run a few sessions with boards of governors about their role and familiarity with the inspection framework and number of common areas have been evident, especially regarding the curriculum.

In the past the emphasis from inspection (and therefore from any other scrutiny such as local authorities or within Trusts), had been so heavily weighted towards published outcomes in reading, writing and maths that governors had spent nearly all their time focusing on understanding dashboards, RAISE online and the myriad of LA generated data packs that were circulated for governors’ attention.

If there were individual governors attached to non-core subjects, they tended to visit the school to see events linked to that subject.  For example, the history governor would visit on the same day as the ‘real’ Roman soldier was visiting a KS2 year group, or accompany the children on a trip to a museum, reporting back briefly to the curriculum group that the children loved the day and behaved really well, but with no real focus on the underlying purpose of the event or how it enhanced learning.  There was little rigour to the process and some subjects might have had no visit at all. This sounds harsh and is not a criticism of this practice; it reflected the narrowness of accountability structures.

Governors I have worked with are often very pleased to develop the breadth of their curriculum oversight above and beyond maths and English and associated data sets. As one governor said, ‘It’s great to look at the full curriculum and the interesting stuff. I get that the data’s important, but what are the kids actually learning and why?”

So, a number of schools are taking steps to work with their board of governors to support this. Ideas include:

Align Governor’s meeting agenda

Aligning governor meeting agenda items, and/or those of a curriculum committee, with the school’s monitoring timetable for all subjects. It sounds obvious, but many schools do not do this.

Enable meetings between subject leaders and subject governors

This is planned carefully to ensure it is not seen by the subject leader as a governor passing judgment’, especially if they are new to the role.

It is organized and might have a brief agenda which could include the subject leader explaining how the school meets the requirements of the NC programme of study and how the subject is taught. In essence it’s the subject leader giving a beginners’ guide to a layperson, but it’s a useful experience for the subject leader to be able to articulate rationale and explain their subject.

This meeting can then be followed up later in the year with the governor bringing questions, shared in advance, or perhaps them both carrying out a learning walk or book scrutiny. The governor then gives feedback to the full board, with the different subject visits planned over the year or even two years to avoid overload in any one term.

Subject leaders and the Curriculum committee

Subject leaders meet the curriculum committee to talk through their subject and answer questions. Again, this is carefully planned to ensure the correct level of challenge and support, but it can be a good experience for subject leaders.

Subject leaders to summarize

Subject leaders provide a paragraph (summarizing their work and its impact, subject strengths, areas for development etc) within the headteacher’s report to governors. This is cyclical so all subjects get covered over a year or 18 months.


To conclude…

I am sure there are plenty of other ideas out there, but if governors have not already put plans in place, then it could be worth suggesting they consider doing so. Finding out the whys and wherefores of the art, geography or PE curriculum has to be more interesting than comparing maths outcomes data with national averages. And if we are all about providing a genuinely broad and balanced curriculum for the children, it is just as useful.





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