External Review of Governance

Why is External Validation important?

External validation allows for a judgement to be made following a scrutiny of the systems and practices in place drawn from evidence presented to a reviewer or assessor. Through self-evaluation, governing boards and academy trusts can make a judgement of their own or their school’s performance; however, an external perspective is also useful and can be seen as having ‘fresh eyes’ on a particular situation or task in hand.

Having somebody external from the board to assess their own practices or performance can highlight strengths and also potential areas for improvement which may have been missed. Validation can also back up statements made by the school and board and can reassure governors or trustees that they are on the right path for improvement

What is an External Review of Governance?

An external review of governance looks at how well a governing or trust board is operating within its strategic core functions. An external reviewer works with the chair, head teacher/principal and a selection of governors or trustees to improve the performance of the board.

The review is offered as support to improve and develop governance and should not be seen as an additional inspection. It is seen as good practice to engage external validation on a regular basis to ensure improvement and stability. The review will help the board identify strengths and weaknesses together with priorities for improvement and development, and provide support on what steps to take.

The review will also provide advice and guidance in order to assist to move governance from an Ofsted inspection rating of ‘requires improvement’ to at least ‘good’.

A review of governance will help the governing board 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 senior 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 or trustees to meet the needs of the school or academy.

Why request a Review of Governance?

Governing and trust boards do not need to wait for an Ofsted inspection recommendation to seek a review. A school or academy can arrange a review of governance at any time to improve the effectiveness of the work of the board.

A board will receive a recommendation for a review of governance if an Ofsted Inspection finds that governance is weak in a school judged to require improvement, or that leadership and management is graded as ‘requires improvement’. In some cases, where a school or academy  has been judged as ‘requires improvement’, later monitoring visits may also result in a recommendation for a review of governance. The issues that Ofsted have identified in governing and trust boards include:

  • Governors or trustees not ambitious about expectations;
  • Lack of a ‘critical friend’ approach;
  • Over reliance on information from the head teacher;
  • 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 a review of governance, the monitoring inspector will expect it to be undertaken in a timely manner.

Why choose the Bolton External Review Package?

It is important to bear in mind that a governing or trust board can choose whoever they want to conduct a review of governance; however, it is highly recommended that they ensure that the reviewer has a good understanding of governance and has successful experience of leading governors and school improvement.

The Bolton Governor Services Team provide experienced officers who have a proven record and wealth of experience of working with governing and trust boards on matters of school and academy governance. The Service keeps abreast of all developments affecting governance and works with external partners such as Ofsted, The Department for Education, The National Governors’ Association and The National Co-ordinators of Governor Services, in order to provide the most relevant and up to date advice and support.

The External Review of Governance provided by the Bolton Governor Services Team is a comprehensive package of support that includes a choice of three models depending on the needs of the board. It can be undertaken by maintained governing boards as well as academy trusts as the same principles apply. The models available are as follows:

Model A  –  Core Review

  • Collation and gathering of key documentation about the school and board by the reviewer
  • A copy of the External Review Folder which includes self-review material and helpful resources.
  • Meetings with governors or trustees to review the capacity of the board
  • A facilitated full board self-review session
  • The production of a concise report outlining the board’s strengths and areas for development, including actions required to address these.

Model B  –  Core Review, plus 2 additional elements

  • Meeting with other governors or trustees, which could include chairs of committees or local governing boards, to discuss how the board functions and help it to be more effective. This could include a development session for the full board based on the recommendations within the review.
  • Observation at a full board meeting or a committee or local board meeting to support the chair in exploring ways in which the board could work more effectively.

Model C  –  Enhanced Review

  • Core Review as detailed in Model A
  • The additional elements listed in Model B
  • A three or six month monitoring meeting with the chair, head teacher/principal and/or other governors or trustees to evaluate the implementation and effectiveness of the board’s action plan, in terms of overall improvement of the board.
  • A concise evaluation letter will be provided by the reviewer as evidence of the progress made by the board and any further recommendations as part of the action plan.

If you are interested in undertaking the Bolton External Review of Governance package or would like further information about the process or charges please contact our Governance Development Officer on 01204 338603 or via email at