Clerk to the Governors #2 – Gearing up for the job

As the Clerk to a school Governing Body, my job is to provide the volunteer Governors at the school with professional advice and support on school governance. It is serious work because effective governance is vital for the school, but dry, or dull? Definitely not.

Firstly, how to get in to the role? There are two main routes:

1. You can work directly for a school, either as an employee, or self-employed.

2. Alternatively, like me, you can be employed by KCC’s Clerking Service. The schools I work with buy the Service SLA (and me) from their school’s budget. 

There are also a small number of school support consultancies which provide the service.

Although I work for the Clerking Service, at the school my “boss” as far as the Governing Body is concerned is the Chair of Governors. They are the person I work with on the organisation and management of the Governing Body’s activities. The best Governing Bodies work very closely with the school’s Headteacher and their leadership team, so it is equally important for the Clerk to have a good working relationship with the Head. We are all in it together.

Secondly, what skills do you need to do the job well?

• Like any professional role there are technical skills to learn. These are around education management and strategy, so you understand the school working environment. You can learn these on the job, with support from KCC, and a variety of on line resources.

• People skills are essential - you must be a good listener, and also able to intervene gently on occasions to keep meetings on track.

• Writing minutes is a key part of the role, so more listening, and literacy skills to capture the essence of a meeting.  

• Accuracy of reporting, and attention to detail. Your reports are the official record of the governors’ activity, and will be scrutinised at compliance audits or an Ofsted inspection. 

• Finally, you must be well organised. As many as a dozen people will be relying on you to enable them to be in the right place at the right time, armed with the right information for their meeting. 

As with any new role, the biggest learning curve is the jargon. It’s no barrier, it just means quickly distinguishing your Academic Year from your Financial Year, your SIP (School Improvement Plan) from your, er, SIP (School Improvement Partner), your HAPs from your LAPs, your High Needs from your Special Needs, and many more.  

All this for a two hour meeting once every couple of months! There’s a bit more to it than that as well.

Don’t worry, it all makes sense when you work with it, and when you start with the Clerking Service there is an experienced mentor to help you along. The Academic Year follows a well-trodden path, and the Governing Body meetings follow suit. You will be following a calendar of requirements and activities for each term which is one of your key guides from KCC, and I’ll move on to introduce those next time.

The next article in our Clerk to the Governors series discusses all things record keeping and administration, so if you have an interview coming up or are in the process of applying for a clerk role then this is a must read!

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