All schools will be at a different point on their journey to address gaps in attainment – that includes those that are historic, and those that have been exacerbated by COVID-related disruption. They will be at different points in implementing strategies and interventions to address the various needs of all pupils.

It’s useful for any governor or board wanting to address these concerns to think ahead about the questions they should be asking. It’s not the governors’ role to involve themselves operationally, but to address the issue from their strategic position to support school leadership.

The following questions are a suggestion of what governors can bring up in discussion with senior leadership at their school. By asking these questions, they can begin to understand what the school is doing now and what the potential areas for improvement are:

Policy and Structure 

  • What is the current strategy for addressing attainment gaps at the school? How has this been updated in light of the pandemic? What has informed its evolution?
  • How are you monitoring whether the interventions and support put in place are having the impact you desire?
  • Is there currently a curriculum lead on the board? How are they monitoring this area and how are you ensuring all board members have understanding and oversight of this area?
  • How has the SEND strategy been developed? How are you ensuring that every pupil’s additional needs are met? What were the lessons learnt from conversations between your SEND link governor and the SENCO?
  • How does the vision and strategy set by the governing board support and nurture a culture of improving attainment for all pupils?
  • How is technology being included and addressed in the school improvement plan?
  • How is the school working with parents and carers to continue to support pupils’ education?

Culture and Practice 

  • What support is given to staff to reduce their administrative workload?
  • Do pupils have the requisite access to technology, including bandwidth, to participate fully in all aspects of learning?
  • What do we do now to help staff make the most of technology?
  • How do we praise and recognise staff performance regarding pupil performance?
  • How do staff members communicate around innovation and new ideas in all aspects of the school?
  • How are we ensuring staff and pupil wellbeing are not adversely affected by pressures related to COVID repercussions?


  • How are the school leadership team ensuring they are driving innovation and the adoption of better ways of working in the school?
  • How can governors support this?
  • Do senior leaders model positive working practices and the reduction of administrative workload?
  • How do SLT identify gaps in attainment? How do they plan and measure the efficacy of interventions?


  • How are Recovery Premium and Pupil Premium funds being spent? What is the impact of this spending? How is this being measured?
  • Is the school continuing to engage with parents and families still affected by the pandemic?

This list is by no means exhaustive, but by asking questions appropriate to their school, governors can develop a clear sense of the current approach and what might need to be implemented or improved. It’s crucial to bear in mind that school leadership and their staff are already under immense pressure. Concerned boards eager to improve classroom performance can exacerbate matters if they do not approach the issue sympathetically and without making additional demands of school leadership.

This article used information from the Sutton TrustEducation Support, the NFER, and Dr Tony Breslin.

Ever wondered what a good question looks like? … or even a good answer?

The Key for School Governors have produced a short film which shows you how to ask good questions and what to look for in a reply.

Follow this link to sign up and receive a free copy of the video.


This article, as with all of this term’s campaign resources, was made possible through the support of GovernorHub. GovernorHub is the leading governor collaboration tool in the country and provides 100,000 school governors, trustees and clerks with tools to communicate, share documents and access the information they need to support schools. Designed by governors, it’s a simple and easy-to-use platform that saves time, improves processes and allows boards to evidence their efforts, all in one place. Contact [email protected] to see how they can help your school or trust.