Your role in shaping the educational landscape is as crucial as it is rewarding. It’s not just about setting strategic direction and holding headteachers to account, it’s also about having a finger on the pulse of the day-to-day school activities. One of the best ways to achieve this is through regular school visits. But how do you get the most out of these visits?
In this blog post, we’ll guide you through a comprehensive ‘how-to’ to ensure your school visits are effective, engaging, and beneficial for both you and your school. Whether you’re a new governor or an experienced one looking to refresh your approach, this guide is for you.
Steps to Take Before the Visit
Purpose: Clearly define the purpose of your visit. Are you there to understand more about a specific aspect of the school’s operation, such as the implementation of a new curriculum, or the school’s SEN provision? Or is it a general visit to gain a broad understanding of the school environment?
Arrange: Contact the headteacher or school administrator to schedule your visit. Discuss your aims for the visit and any particular areas or activities you’d like to observe.
Prepare: Do your homework before the visit. Review relevant policies, past meeting minutes, or data that might be relevant to your visit. Preparation will help you to understand the context and make the most of your time in the school.
Questions to Ask
About Learning: How is the curriculum delivered in the school? What strategies are used to engage students with different learning styles or needs?
About Environment: How is the school environment promoting positive behaviour and learning? What steps are taken to ensure student wellbeing?
About Staff: What professional development opportunities are available for the staff? How is staff performance evaluated and managed?
Remember, the aim is not to catch anyone out, but to gain a deeper understanding of the school.
Dos and Don’ts During the Visit
Do Listen and Observe: This is your chance to see the school in action. Observe the interaction between students and teachers, the learning environment, and the school culture.
Do Respect Boundaries: You are not there to inspect or judge. Avoid stepping into the role of the headteacher or any of the school staff.
Do Show Appreciation: Acknowledge the hard work of the staff and students you meet. A small thank you can go a long way.
Don’t Disrupt: Your visit should not disrupt the daily routine of the school. Follow the plan agreed upon before the visit.
Don’t Jump to Conclusions: It’s important to remember that you’re observing a snapshot in time. Avoid making hasty judgements based on a single observation.
Don’t Offer Personal Opinions: Your role is to collect information, not to offer personal opinions or suggestions during the visit.
Reporting Back to the Board
Prepare a Report: Summarize your observations, discussions, and insights. Be as objective as possible and link your findings back to your visit’s original purpose.
Present to the Board: Share your report in the next governors’ meeting. This is a valuable opportunity to provide first-hand insight into the school’s operations.
Recommend Actions: If necessary, recommend further actions. Remember, the aim of your visit and report is to support school improvement.
School visits are a fundamental aspect of your role as a school governor. They offer a powerful opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of your school’s inner workings, ethos, and daily challenges. As you navigate these visits, remember, the objective is not to inspect but to connect, to gain insights, and to observe.
Your school visits contribute significantly to your governing board’s knowledge of the school and thus its ability to make informed strategic decisions. Follow the steps in this guide, and you’ll be well on your way to conducting effective, beneficial school visits that can shape your school’s future positively.
So, don your governor’s hat, embrace the rewarding journey of school visits, and make a difference in your school community. Happy visiting!
If you’re looking for advice or want to brush up on your governance knowledge, why not ask G-Bot our helpful governance chatbot? Try G-Bot here