Conducting an Effective Governor Visit Training: Key Takeaways

Read ahead to find out what we learned during our last training session, as we explore all the essential steps you need to follow for an effective governor visit. 
collette and alex walking down corridor one education staff
Share Post:

One Education Governor Support has developed a programme of training, networks and CPD to meet the growing expectations of school governors and trustees to effectively fulfil their role. Read ahead to find out what we learned during our last training session, as we explore all the essential steps you need to follow for an effective governor visit. 

School Governor Visits: What do you need to know?

According to the Department for Education the purpose of governance is to provide confident, strategic leadership and to create robust accountability, oversight and assurance for educational and financial performance. There is also an increasing emphasis on the role of the governing body to understand the needs of pupils, families, and the community and ultimately ensure that stakeholder voices are heard. 

Visiting schools is a key activity to develop knowledge of your settings and ensure robust accountability of executive leaders. It allows you to witness first-hand how policies and actions work in practice, whether it’s the curriculum, safeguarding strategy, or priorities within the School Development Plan. And, importantly, visiting school gives you the unique opportunity to engage directly with pupils, staff, and other members of the school community. Their perspectives can help governors to evaluate the impact of their leadership and inform future decision-making. But more than that, visiting school is a great way to connect with the community and spark a sense of joy and meaning in your role as a governor. 

To make the most out of your visits as a school governor, our training has been created to help you:

  • Understand your remit as a Governor Working Group member, or an individual visitor, and the contribution that governor visits make to effective governance monitoring
  • Plan for a governance visit
  • Discover ‘top tips’ for effective visits
  • Report back to the governance board

What did we learn?

  • Preparing for a governor visit

If you have not been on a visit before, it may be useful to talk to an experienced governor beforehand, or take your lead from experienced governors on the walk. Make sure you understand the purpose and scope of the visit – these should be agreed in consultation with the board and the relevant school staff ahead of time. If you have any particular areas of interest, remember to share these in advance to confirm their relevance and allow school leaders to prepare. 

Before the visit, it’s also worthwhile to carry out some prior research. Take a look at the relevant school documents, such as the School Development Plan, Self-Evaluation Form (SEF), quality assurance reports, internal management documents and data, as well as reports from other governors. This will help you to review the information, objectives, and priority areas that are relevant to your visit. Don’t forget to ask senior leaders if there is anything that they would recommend reading in advance. Education policy and exemplar best practice are also available from various websites, including One Education, The Key and National Governance Association. 

  • Maximising the impact of a governor visit

Many schools will have a Governor Visits Policy that sets out the protocols for arranging and conducting governor visits. This ensures that both governors and school staff know what to expect during a visit and can make the most out of this opportunity. With this in mind, make sure you are familiar with the policy and always act in line with the agreed protocols. 

During the visit, it’s important to build strong and effective relationships with school staff, especially when developing long-term relationships as a link governor. Show staff that you value their time, knowledge and experience. Whilst governors often have their own set of qualifications and expertise, it’s important to remain objective and keep an open mind. Take the time to listen and hear first-hand what staff and their pupils have to say. This is essential in order to enter into a collaborative relationship that is built on mutual trust and respect. Remember, some staff may not be fully aware of what your role entails as a school governor. Indeed, a governor visit may feel slightly intimidating to some. Governors are not there to undertake an assessment of the quality of teaching – professionals will do this. Take this opportunity to raise awareness and be a positive ambassador for your board. 

When asking questions, try to keep them open-ended; invite an explanation, instead of ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answers. Focus on the strategic aspects of school life, rather than the day-to-day running of the school. For example, how do we monitor ____ activities? Or, how does our ____ offer contribute to the school’s overall aims and ethos? Senior leaders should be able to explain how they know, not just what they know. Look out for the evidence they refer to, whether it’s exam results, parent surveys, or school policies. If you need to, don’t be afraid to ask follow-up questions for further clarification. It’s important to develop an in-depth understanding of the rationale and context of an issue, rather than making assumptions. 

  • Reporting back to the committee or board

Reporting on your visit is an essential part of effective governance, helping other governors learn from your experience and make informed decisions. Governors are often very busy outside of their role on the governing board, so don’t worry about writing a long, overcomplicated report. Instead, make it concise and focus on the essentials. This should include which monitoring activities you undertook and the questions you asked; the information that was shared with you as part of the visit; and the insights you have gained as a result of the visit to help the board hold staff to account and drive improvement.

When writing the report, use neutral language at all times and do not name individuals. Remember to remain observational and describe only what you have seen. Whilst it’s encouraged to share the successes that stood out on your visit, you should avoid being too critical – instead, consider any follow-up questions for school leaders that will inspire dialogue and potentially new ways of thinking. If you’re still new to the role as a governor, it can be helpful to take a look at existing reports for inspiration, or seek advice from a mentor. Once you have completed a draft, it is good practice to share this with the headteacher and relevant staff member, both as a courtesy and to check for accuracy. Then, submit the final report for information at the next governor meeting. 

Visiting school is often one of the most rewarding aspects of your role as school governor, serving as an important reminder of the incredible work you do to improve outcomes for children and young people. 

Explore our training and professional development opportunities for further advice and guidance.

Enquiry Form

Please complete the form below and we will get in contact as soon as we can to help you with your query.

Login to your account

Search our website

Request a brochure

Please fill in your details below to receive our free brochure.

Sign up to our Newsletter

Please fill in your details below to sign up to our newsletter.

Request a call back

Please fill in your details below to receive a call back from a member of our team.