Clerk to the Governors #3 – For the record...

Having decided that being a Clerk to Governors of a school looks like something that fits with your skills and personal circumstances, here’s some more detail about the role itself.

There’s no doubt that setting up and taking minutes of the Governing Body meetings is the core activity of the role, in terms of visibility and time spent. However, there’s plenty more going on around this, which define the Clerk’s position as the professional support to the volunteers on the Governing Body.

The Clerk is responsible for record keeping for the Governing Body, and when you start at your school, you need to ensure that certain things are in place, so that it is functioning correctly.

This includes having a record of the personal details of all of the Governors, and ensuring that this information is consistent and up to date across the various platforms where it is held.

These platforms should include:

  • Your own records, so that you can contact governors as required
  • The school Governing Body Terms of Reference, which detail the specific activities of how the Governors are involved in oversight of the school
  • The school website, so that parents and other relevant parties know who the governors are
  • Local Authority records (for maintained schools), or Academy Trust records, so that Governors can be kept up to date with information such as legal developments and training opportunities
  • The Department of Education’s “Get information about schools” database, where details of all Governors are held nationally

You have to be aware of the different types of Governor, depending on the agreed constitution of your Governing Body, such as:

  • Co-opted Governor
  • Parent Governor
  • Staff Governor
  • Local Authority Governor
  • Foundation Governor

The constitution will detail how many of each type of Governor should be in office, and as Clerk you need to ensure that when vacancies arise, they are filled with Governors of the appropriate type.

Vacancies will arise for two reasons. Firstly, because Governors are appointed for set periods of time, usually four years, and their re-appointments or replacements should be overseen by the Clerk, and secondly because Governors may resign during their terms of office. The replacement for a vacancy should not only be the correct type of Governor, but should also bring appropriate skills to the Governing Body, to help them provide the best possible guidance and support to the school.

These skills should be identified by the Governing Body carrying out a periodic “skills audit” to ensure that they know where their strengths lie, and where there may be any skill gaps. This is an example of one of the annual tasks where the Clerk should work with the Chair of Governors, to ensure that they are carried out from an annual calendar of activities – more of this in later chapters.

The Clerk also has oversight of the election of the Chair of Governors, and other posts, such as the Vice Chair of Governors, and Chairs of any committees, to ensure that they are all in place and elected at the times determined by the constitution.

The other key piece of record keeping for the Clerk is to ensure that paper and/or electronic records of Governing Body activities are kept up to date. These will be inspected by Ofsted, so need to be readily available at all times. These may be in filing cabinets, or online, such as Kent’s “KLZ” platform.

Some are directly within the Clerk’s control, for example copies of Governing Body meeting agendas, minutes and documents referred to at the meetings. Others may include records of Governor Monitoring Visits to the School, and Governor Training, which are high on the list of Ofsted priorities for Governors. The Clerk also needs to keep a record of Governors attendance at meetings, which is posted on the school website.

Finally, I must also mention the sometimes thorny issue of school policies, which must be kept up to date and reviewed at defined annual intervals. 

Why are policies sometimes a thorny issue?

  • Because they are the operational policies for the day to day running of the school, not the Governing Body’s policies for strategic oversight of the school. 

Clerks (and Governors) are often asked to be involved in their management, which is not correct. Governors should approve policies set by the school, not be involved in their drafting. Similarly, the Clerk should restrict themselves to keeping an overall list of policies and the timetable for review, so they can be added to meeting agendas, and step back from any more involvement in this day to day activity

That concludes a brief overview of how the Clerk supports the Governing Bodies’ record keeping. Next time, is your school and E-type or an Egg Lorry?

Have you missed the rest of this blog series? Find out what a Clerk to the Governors of a school is, and then you can even find out about how to gear up for the role itself.

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