Chapter 6 education standards of guide for school governorsThis chapter describes the role and responsibilities of the Board of Governors in relation to educational standards in the school. It also explains the role of the ETI and DE in relation to raising education standards across all schools.
In this chapter:
- Monitoring school performance and addressing underperformance
- Promoting the effective use of data to support target setting and assessment for learning
- Promoting regular and robust self-evaluation to sustain school improvement
- School development planning
- Role of ETI
- Role of DE
- The law
Role of the Board of Governors
|The strategic role of the Board of Governors of a grant-aided school is to fulfil its functions in relation to the school with a view to promoting the achievement of high standards of educational attainment. The vision and aims set for the school, the school ethos, and the plans and policies agreed for the school all have the potential to contribute to the raising of education standards. In addition, the Board of Governors should work with the school principal in monitoring and evaluating the school’s performance and to promote self evaluation as a means to achieve school improvement.|
6.1. The role of the Board of Governors is to help the school principal and staff, provide the best possible education for all the pupils. It requires strong and effective governance within schools to help maintain and improve standards.
6.2. In terms of the specific role for the Board of Governors in relation to school improvement, it has the responsibility for ensuring that the principal and the staff put in place all the necessary arrangements and mechanisms to help pupils succeed and to achieve their full potential. While DE (and, it is proposed in the future, ESA) will be accountable for overall standards, it will be the school and its Board of Governors that will be accountable for the standards achieved by its own registered pupils. These are some of the measures which governors can take in fulfilling this role:
- acquire an in-depth knowledge of the school, its principal and senior management team, its staff and standards achieved by the pupils;
- become part of a strong and effective leadership team of the school (chapter 3 paragraphs 13 and 14 refer);
- promote strong links with parents, families and the community (chapter 3 paragraphs 16 to 18 and chapter 21 paragraphs 13 to 20 refer);
- ensure the school provides effective teaching and learning in the context of the revised curriculum (chapter 7 refers);
- monitor the school’s performance and address under performance at the earliest opportunity (see paragraphs 3 to 5 below);
- promote the effective use of data to support target setting (at pupil, class and whole-school level) and assessment for learning (see paragraphs 6 to 9 below);
- promote regular and robust self-evaluation (see paragraphs 10 to 11 below); and
- promote school development planning (see paragraphs 12 to 18 below).
6.3. There are many useful ways of measuring performance which take account of the school’s circumstances and seek to measure the value added dimension. The governors, working with the principal, must decide which key indicators they wish to monitor and make arrangements for the principal to provide the appropriate data at suitable times.
6.4. The following indicators can be used in determining school performance and highlighting areas for improvement:
- curriculum assessments, including end of key stage assessments, tests and/or public examination results;
- breadth and coherence of curriculum offer (at post-primary);
- pupil attendance;
- suspensions and expulsions;
- pupil involvement in extra-curricular activities;
- number of applications for admission;
- destination of school leavers; and
- staff attendance.
ETI Inspection Reports should also be taken into account. Indicators which are harder to quantify, but which may be assessed through judgemental evidence or small surveys/questionnaires include
- pupil behaviour and attitudes;
- staff morale and commitment; and
- the views and involvement of parents and the community.
6.5. In addition to monitoring the effectiveness of the school as a whole, the Board of Governors should satisfy itself that all parts of the school are contributing to its overall effectiveness. It may also find it helpful, on the basis of available information, to compare aspects of the performance of its own school against those of other schools in similar circumstances. Having monitored the school’s performance, the Board of Governors should liaise with the principal and staff in developing appropriate actions to move the school forward towards improvement. This process of evaluation and planning for improvement is central to school development planning.
6.6. The effective use of data, for the purpose of monitoring and evaluating performance and setting targets for future development, is an important element in determining whether a school is doing well, or not doing well enough. The Board of Governors, again, has an important role in this area.
6.7. The effective use of data enables schools to
- track progress of individual pupils, classes and year groups;
- identify where gaps in performance exist (socio-economic background, boys and girls, between and within classes);
- monitor and evaluate to inform development planning – from identifying priorities to demonstrating success of actions taken, to target-setting and benchmarking;
- hold teachers and departments accountable for performance; and
- inform more effective allocation of staff and resources.
All schools are provided annually with benchmarking data to enable them to compare their performance in assessments and in public examinations with schools with similar characteristics, for example, the socio-economic background of their pupils, as measured by entitlement to free school meals. This is one element of the range of data available to schools, including through the eSchools system, to support planning for improvement at pupil, class, year group, key stage and whole-school level.
6.8. This data should be interrogated effectively by the Board of Governors and the principal and senior management should be held to account for the school’s performance. The Board of Governors need to be pro-active in seeking this information from the school management, along with a range of analyses that enable them to understand how the school is performing. The targets for improvement identified in the school development plan, for which the Board of Governors also has responsibility, should be based firmly on the analysis of this data.
6.9. Schools are required by legislation to set their own targets for improvement, including targets for literacy and numeracy, and include these in the School Development Plan. It is up to individual schools to set their own realistic but challenging targets, based on their current performance trends and plans for improvement. When setting targets, schools will wish to take into account a range of factors, including
- trends in performance by the school over previous years;
- the prior attainment of each year group;
- the context within which the school is operating and how it compares to schools in similar circumstances; and
- the priorities set in the School Development Plan.
6.10. School improvement is most likely to be sustained when a school establishes a positive culture, an ethos of aspiration and a commitment to professional growth. Self-evaluation is a process through which an individual teacher, groups of staff, the staff as a whole and senior management reflect on their current practice, identify and celebrate the strengths of the school and identify and address areas for improvement in their work.
6.11. The process involves monitoring and evaluating the effectiveness of existing education provision and the pupils’ achievements as described above. It recognises the need for the staff and governors to have a clear and agreed view of the school’s current stage of development. Through school development planning, it helps to identify priorities which will have a positive effect on learning. It informs and influences classroom practice and the quality of learning and teaching, and promotes development and improvement. It requires the staff to evaluate their work critically, reflect on the extent to which expectations are being realised in the work of the school, and to establish a clear vision and future direction for the school.
6.12. The School Development Plan provides the strategic framework within which the governors, the principal and the staff can monitor, evaluate and improve the nature of the school’s curricular and other provision and the standards achieved by pupils, making effective use of all the school’s available resources.
6.13. The Board of Governors of each grant-aided school is required to
- prepare, maintain and from time to time revise a three year School Development Plan in consultation with the principal and having regard to guidance given by the Department and the education and library board. The plan has to be revised no later than three years from the date of the last plan and no later than six months from the date of publication of the report of an inspection of the school;
- ensure that each governor, the principal and each staff member has a copy of the plan;
- submit a copy of the plan to the education and library board and to CCMS in the case of Catholic Maintained schools; and
- ensure that a copy of the plan is available on request and free of charge at all reasonable times to any person.
6.14. The preparation of the plan or a draft of the plan may be delegated to the principal, but the plan must be formally approved by the school Board of Governors. Boards of Governors can take a much more active role in formulating the plan and are encouraged to do so. It is the responsibility of the governors to ensure that all the necessary arrangements and mechanisms are in place to help pupils succeed and to achieve their full potential.
6.15. The School Development Plan is a document for use by the school. It is essentially a tool to help the staff to promote school effectiveness; improve the quality of learning and teaching; improve the educational experience of the pupils; and to raise the standards which pupils attain. It is based on the school’s analysis of current levels of performance and its assessment of how current trends and future factors may impact on the school. It should set out priorities and targets for improvement for the period ahead.
6.16. The matters to be included in a School Development Plan are set out in the schedule to The Education (School Development Plans) Regulations (NI) 2010. These regulations came into operation on 24 January 2011. The new 2010 regulations aim to ensure a greater emphasis on raising standards and minimising the burden for schools. School Development Plans prepared or revised before the new regulations came into operation will still have effect. Further information is provided in DE Circular 2010/22 PDF 86 KB.
6.17. The overall aim of the new regulations is to continue to promote effective development planning to bring about improvement in standards. The Department wants to ensure that:
- the focus of school development planning is on raising standards;
- planning for improvement is supported by planning for the effective use of financial and other resources; and
- the process of self-evaluation and development planning is manageable and provides flexibility for schools to determine their own priorities.
6.18. Guidance is listed at the end of this chapter to assist school Boards of Governors to take forward the process of school development planning and target setting in primary and post primary schools. Guidance includes the DE publication ‘Every School a Good School – School Development Planning' 2010. Advice and training for governors on school development planning is available from the ELB School Support Services. Boards of Governors will find it useful to draw on the wider experience of officers from the school support services and to attend forthcoming conference events related to education standards.
6.19. The Education and Training Inspectorate (ETI) is a professional organisation within the Department of Education that provides independent professional advice on education standards in schools. It also inspects and visits all schools regularly.
6.20. Although we have many good schools, we have a significant level of underachievement in standards of literacy and numeracy. We also know from inspection evidence that there is significant room for improvement. In his report for the period 2006-2008, the Education and Training Inspectorate’s Chief Inspector commented that "there remains too significant a variation in the standards of literacy and numeracy attained by children across primary schools". His report also observes that there are, "aspects of provision which are simply not good enough" and calls for all involved in education to "have higher expectations of ourselves and of our children and young people". His report for the period 2008-2010 states "At GCSE level, over 70 percent of learners in year 12 achieved at least 5 subjects at grades A* to C; this figure decreased to 57 percent when English and mathematics were included." and "While there have been slight improvements in school-aged learners in literacy and numeracy in recent years, overall improvement in the standards of literacy and numeracy remains a priority for all phases".
6.21. Underachievement at primary school often carries through to secondary level education. Five or more GCSEs (or equivalent) at grades A* to C (including English and maths) is recognised as the minimum level of qualification which puts an individual on the employment/further education ladder. Without this level of qualification, young people are left at a disadvantage in both the education and labour markets. Far too many of our young people who leave school at age 16 fail to achieve this level. A further concern is the number of young people who leave school without a single GCSE or equivalent qualification.
6.22. While some progress had been made in both the quality and implementation of School Development Plans, the Chief Inspector’s Report 2006-08 has identified the need for more effective use of school development plans to improve learning and teaching and raising standards in primary schools. It also found that approximately one-third of post-primary schools need to improve the quality of their school development planning. The Education and Training Inspectorate has published an ‘Evaluation of School Development Planning 2007-08’ that identifies the following areas for improvement in both primary and post-primary schools:
- a more proactive role for governors;
- improved monitoring and evaluation, by the principal, leadership team and staff;
- better consultation arrangements with pupils and parents;
- a stronger focus on teaching and learning outcomes and pupils’ attainment;
- improved target-setting in literacy and numeracy; and
- areas for improvement to be prioritised over the three-year period of the plan.
6.23. The School Inspection Process is an external evaluation by the ETI of the quality of the education or training provided for registered pupils in individual schools and the outcomes that they achieve. All schools are scheduled for inspection on a regular basis. Also, the ETI will consider a request from a Board of Governors for an inspection to assist the governors to take forward school improvement.
6.24. The Reporting Inspector will arrange to meet the Board of Governors during the inspection. This meeting provides the opportunity for the ETI to hear the views of the Board of Governors about the school. The procedure for these meetings is set out in the school’s scheme of management.
6.25. In making evaluations during the inspection process, the Inspection Team considers the circumstances of the school, the age and needs of the pupils set against published criteria. The criteria focus on
- Achievements and Standards;
- the Quality of Provision for Learning;
- Leadership and Management.
An inspection will tell the Board of Governors and others how well
- the children are progressing in their learning;
- the school is helping them to learn and develop;
- the school is attending to the children’s care, welfare and safety.
A Leaflet 'Information for Governors' about the school inspection process can be accessed on the ETI website http://www.etini.gov.uk/index/support-material/support-material-primary/information-for-board-of-governors-primary.htm
6.26. The Reporting Inspector will report back the findings of the inspection team at a meeting with representatives of the school. At this meeting the ETI will indicate the extent of improvement required. The Board of Governors will receive a copy of the final inspection report and if there are important areas for improvement, the governors will be required to prepare a response within specific deadlines and a follow-up inspection will take place. Additional information is available in the ETI publication below:
6.27. The Board of Governors is required to ensure that parents of its registered pupils are provided with the opportunity to read the report of the latest inspection of the school. The school and its governors will be notified by ETI when a report of a recent inspection is placed on the ETI website. On receipt of this notification, the governors should ensure that parents receive details of the web-link to the report, which will be included in the letter of notification to the school. In addition, information should be on the school notice board of when and where parents will have the opportunity to read a paper copy of the ETI report, should they wish to do so.
6.28. The role of DE is to set strategic aims for the education service and to develop policies and proposals for legislation that will make provision for these aims to be achieved. The overall aim of the Department is to
"educate and develop our young people to the highest possible standards, providing equality of access for all."
(see NI Executive Budget Document Building a Better Future - Budget 2008-11)
When formulating education policies, the DE has regard to ETI reports, national and international education standards, national and international legislation on human rights and equality as well as the needs and expectation of employers and local, national and international economic considerations.
International comparisons through the OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), have shown that the education system here has one of the most significant gaps between the highest and lowest performing pupils of all the participating countries. The Department’s policy on ‘Transfer from Primary to Post Primary Education’ is a key reform to improving education outcomes for all children at school.
6.29. ‘Every School a Good School (ESaGS) – a policy for school improvement’ is based on the premise that every school is capable of improvement. The vision of the policy is "of schools as vibrant, self improving, well governed and effectively led communities of good practice, focusing not on institutions but on meeting the needs and aspirations of all pupils through high quality learning, recognising the centrality of the teacher". The policy clearly recognises the importance of strong and effective governance and leadership within schools in helping to maintain and improve standards. The policy is centred on the following six key areas:
- effective leadership and an ethos of aspiration and high achievement;
- high quality teaching and learning;
- tackling the barriers to learning that many young people face;
- embedding a culture of self-evaluation and self-assessment and of using performance and other information to effect improvement;
- focusing clearly on support to help schools improve – with clarity too about the place of more formal interventions where there is a risk that the quality of education offered in a school is not as high as it should be; and
- increasing engagement between schools, parents and families, recognising the powerful influence they and local communities exercise on educational outcomes.
6.30. There will be a clear focus on high-quality support to help schools improve. In cases where there is evidence that pupils are not receiving a high-quality education there will be a need for more formal intervention (set out on pages 28-29 and Annex C of the ESaGS policy document). This is expected to be rare, but is an important aspect of the School Improvement Policy.
6.31. In advance of the proposed establishment of ESA, DE is working with the education support bodies as they support schools to implement this policy. The ESaGS policy document is available via the Department’s website. Schools and their Boards of Governors should reflect on the policy, and consider how, with support from the education support bodies, they might give effect to its vision as they plan for improvement.
6.32. Children who leave school with inadequate literacy and numeracy skills face a lifetime of difficulty and disadvantage. That is why raising standards in literacy and numeracy, and tackling underachievement, is a key priority. DE has developed a revised literacy and numeracy strategy, which supports the emphasis on literacy and numeracy in the revised curriculum.
6.33. This strategy aims to ensure that all young people leave school having achieved the appropriate standards in literacy and numeracy, by focusing on raising standards of achievement for all pupils and narrowing the gaps between the highest and lowest achievers and the most and least disadvantaged.
6.34. The strategy is based on existing good practice in schools and the starting point is high quality classroom teaching of literacy and numeracy for all pupils. Key elements include early identification and support if a child is having difficulties with literacy and/or numeracy; encouraging greater parental involvement in their child’s education and a greater emphasis on the effective use of data in supporting teaching and learning. The Department is also working with the Irish-Medium sector to develop a literacy and numeracy strategy that best meets the particular needs of the sector. The new strategy is available on the Department's website:
6.35. The Education and Training Inspectorate recently published, ‘An Evaluation of Literacy and Numeracy in Primary and Post Primary Schools: Characteristics that Determine Effective Provision’ which identifies whole-school factors relating to literacy and numeracy which are effective in raising standards. The evidence identified by the inspectorate indicates that there are important characteristics which are common to successful schools and that these factors can contribute greatly to overcoming the barriers to learning that the children and pupils have experienced. This publication can be accessed at: http://www.etini.gov.uk/index/surveys-evaluations/surveys-evaluations-primary/surveys-evaluations-primary-2008/an-evaluation-of-literacy-and-numeracy-in-primary-and-post-primary-schools-characteristics-that-determine-effective-provision-primary.htm
Education Order 1998 - Articles 11(1) and 13(3)
The Education (School Development Plans) Regulations (NI) 2005 No. 303
(shall continue to apply to school development plans prepared or last revised before 1 August 2010)
The Education (School Development Plans) Regulations (NI) 2010
(came into operation on 24 January 2011)
The Education (Target-Setting in Schools) Regulations (NI) 1998
Chief Inspector’s Annual Report
(published by ETI)
DE Circular 2010/22 School Development Planning Regulations and Guidance
http://www.deni.gov.uk/sdp_circular_22_of_2010_english_version.pdf PDF 86 KB
DE Circular 2011/03 School Development Planning and Target Setting
http://www.deni.gov.uk/sdp_and_target_setting_circular_march_2011.pdf PDF 81 KB
Evaluation of School Development Planning 2007-08 (ETI publication)
Evaluating Pre-School Education (published by ETI)
http://www.etini.gov.uk/evaluating-pre-school-education-2000.pdf PDF 366 KB
Evaluating Pastoral Care 2008
http://www.etini.gov.uk/evaluating-pastoral-care.pdf PDF 568 KB
Evaluating Religious Education (published by ETI)
http://www.etini.gov.uk/evaluating-religious-education.pdf PDF 382 KB
Evolutionary School Improvement Framework BELB 2007
Improvement through Self-Evaluation - Interactive DVD ROM 2005/6 (published by ETI)
Information for Governors (ETI publication about the school inspection process)
Primary Schools Benchmarking Data 2009/10
http://www.deni.gov.uk/primary_schools_benchmarking_2009_to_2010.pdf PDF 98 KB
Post-primary Schools Benchmarking Data 2009/10
http://www.deni.gov.uk/post_primary_schools_benchmarking_2009_to_2010.pdf PDF 118 KB
Target Setting: Guidance for Primary Schools
(published as part of the School Improvement series)
http://www.deni.gov.uk/six_pack__target_setting_guidance_for_ps-2.pdf PDF 851 KB
Target Setting: Guidance for Post Primary Schools
(published as part of the School Improvement series)
http://www.deni.gov.uk/six_pack__target_setting_guidance_for_post_prim_schs-2.pdf PDF 1.05 MB
The Inspection Process – Information for Governors
(published by the ETI)
The Reflective Teacher 2005
http://www.etini.gov.uk/index/support-material/support-material-general-documents-non-phase-related/support-material-general-documents-documents-relating-to-inspection/the-reflective-teacher.pdf PDF 239 KB
Together towards Improvement – A process for Self Evaluation (TTI) 2003
http://www.etini.gov.uk/case-studies-for-together-towards-improvement.pdf PDF 361 KB
Plus a series of DVDs
(published by ETI)
Other Models for Self-Evaluation
Investors in People (IiP)
EFQM Excellence Model
Self Evaluation through Attitude Questionnaire (SETAQ)
Schoolcentre.net on line