Clerk to the Governors #5 - Meeting Planning; It’s All About Routines

Re-reading this instalment to myself, it comes across as a bit of a “to-do list”, but sometimes having something to check yourself against is no bad thing, so here goes!

Meetings are the nuts and bolts of the Clerk’s termly activities even though, as described in earlier posts, there are plenty of other things to do as well. In reality, much of this other activity is not visible to most people - what they generally see is the outputs of recording the Governing Body Meetings.

Successful meetings are the product of good planning, using consistent set-up routines, so that Governors can make most effective use of their meeting time by getting straight to the point, and this is what is outlined in this blog.

It all starts at the end of an Academic Year in June/July, when meeting dates and times should be set for the whole of the next Academic Year. This allows everyone to coordinate their diaries to maximise attendance at the meetings. Forward planning also allows the Clerk, Chair and Headteacher to map out a timeline for preparation of reports, documents, etc., which are required for the meetings throughout the year.

Then the first step in planning individual meetings is to draw up the meeting Agenda. 

The Clerk draws up a draft Agenda based on:

  • The outputs of the last meeting, checking the minutes for items such as action points to be followed up by individuals or the whole group
  • Live updates from the school, such as data on pupil progress and the Headteacher’s Report
  • Items which need to be included at particular times of the year such as the School Budget in the Spring, and 
  • Standing items for every meeting such as Safeguarding and Health & Safety, and School Policy updates

It is also worth looking back at the agenda and minutes of the same meeting one year previously, as this can provide prompts for items which may otherwise be overlooked, especially if they do not arise frequently.

The Clerk sends the draft to the Chair and Head to ensure that it covers the topics they require for the meeting. They may wish to add or change items depending on current priorities. This should be sent to the Chair and Head two weeks before the meeting, allowing them a week to review and return it to the Clerk, to then be issued to the meeting attendees.

The final draft returned to the Clerk should be accompanied by documents to be referred to at the meeting. This may include a variety of information for the Governors, such as:

  • The Headteacher’s Report
  • An updated version of the School Plan
  • School performance data updates 
  • Policies for review
  • Governor monitoring feedback, and more

The minutes of the last meeting must also be attached, not only for reference, but also so they can be approved and signed off by the Chair as an accurate record of that meeting.

This is all essential information for Governors to carry out their key task - to debate and challenge what the school is telling them, for evidence and accuracy.

  • The early provision of these documents is the reason why the final Agenda and attachments must be sent to the Governors at least a week in advance of the meeting, so these busy volunteers have time to read and understand everything they have been sent.

Delays in providing these supporting documents can become a bone of contention for Governors. They don’t want to be printing and reading lengthy documents at the last minute, or worst of all at the meeting itself, so it is a crucial part of the Clerk’s role to work with the Chair and Head to make these available at the right time. 

Email has made communication to Governors much simpler than copying and posting large wads of paper, as in the past. Schools also increasingly make use online systems such as Kent’s “KLZ” database, or other bespoke governor records platforms. All the information is uploaded by the Clerk to the site, for the governors to download and read at their convenience. It is also the most secure way to store and access this confidential information.

If hard copies are required, the printing and circulation of the meeting papers to Governors is not generally the responsibility of the Clerk. Indeed if the Clerk requires a printed document pack for the meeting and for filing afterwards, the school should provide it.

Once the agenda has been issued, with all the attachments, that should be all you need to do before the meeting itself, but don’t be surprised if there are a few stragglers with the attachments, so it is worth checking in with your emails again prior to the meeting, just in case.

You are now good to go for your first meeting, more of which next time.

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