Advice for the Chair of Governors
Governing bodies are having to adapt rapidly to a new way of working. Understand what’s expected of you as chair, and how the wider board can support, during this period of closure.
School leaders are needing to run things quite differently for the foreseeable future, and your role as Chair and that of your board will evolve too.
Here are some top tips on how to move forward in the days and weeks ahead:
|Support your headteacher||What your headteacher considers to be supportive and how much of that they need from you will depend on the individual. Take your lead from them
The most important thing is to let your headteacher know that you’re there for them. Ask them how frequently they need to communicate with you and in what form.
Stick to that – there’s a lot going on right now, and there’s going to be a fine line between support and simply getting in the way.
|Be the link between the school and the board||
Let your governors know that any and all communication with the school should be managed through you. Though well-meaning, a flurry of emails will simply burden school leaders, so head this off at the pass. Headteachers are drowning in communications from a variety of sources.
Let governors know how you’ll be communicating back to them. It might be a weekly or even fortnightly email – whatever seems reasonable to you.
|Be a sounding board||
Operational decisions. Give your headteacher the opportunity to run these by you, but keep in mind that your role is to help them clarify their thinking.
So if they ask you what they should do in a specific instance, offer your thoughts and then be prepared to step back. Remember that the actual decision sits with them.
|Show your Headteacher some love||A letter of support from the whole board, or other gesture you know they’ll appreciate, can go a long way to making your headteacher feel supported and valued. Remember they and their staff are putting themselves in harm’s way every day and will be anxious themselves.|
|Prepare to hold meetings remotely||Use video or teleconferencing, instead of face-to-face meetings via Microsoft TEAMS. The Education Governance Service will be delivering services as usual and have contacted Heads and Chairs to confirm arrangements for the summer term.|
|Prepare for absences||
Plan for what to do if you/ vice chair aren’t available for a meeting or to support your headteacher and maintain contact with the school. This is an agenda item for meetings in the summer term.
Review your succession plan and make sure each governor knows when they’re expected to step up.
Clerks will be available for all meetings from governor services.
|Be pragmatic about what you cover in meetings||
Meetings should focus on urgent, time-bound decisions. The Education Governance Service has produced a draft agenda based on DfE guidance.
Some examples of what to focus on might include:
· Submitting the schools financial value standard to your LA (maintained schools) –in Nottingham the LA has extended the deadline.
· Approving the budget
· Approving pay recommendations
· Recruiting a headteacher or other staff (if relevant)
· Staff restructures (if relevant)
|What to delay||
· Reviewing most policies
· Analysing school performance data
· Monitoring progress on the school improvement plan (SIP)
|When to use Chair’s or Vice Chairs emergency action||
If you need to deal with something urgent and it’s not possible for the board to meet, you might be able to use ‘chair’s or vice chair’s emergency action’. For example, to:
· Update a vital document, e.g. changes to your child protection policy
· Handle an urgent press response although these would be referred to the LA for NST schools.
|Decide how to handle statutory procedures||
There’ll be some time-bound matters that can be delayed, given the extraordinary circumstances.
· Grievances and disciplinary appeals
You can continue these remotely if all parties agree to do so and if it’s practicable (e.g. all witnesses can attend remotely, evidence can still be gathered, etc). Otherwise, you can defer these until your school re-opens.
If your school receives a complaint during the closure, suggest to your headteacher that they could write an initial response to:
· Outline the school’s position (e.g. if it’s about a child not getting a place because the school determined the parent wasn’t a ‘critical worker’, the head would explain how the decision was made), and
· Explain that they can follow up if they wish but that the current situation means the school can’t follow its usual complaints procedures until it’s re-opened
|Streamline monitoring||Monitoring should focus on essential areas during this period.|
|Keep details on GIAS up to date||
Make sure you know who to get in touch with to keep contact information updated on Get information about schools.
The government will use this to communicate with governors, and some of that information may require quick and decisive action.
|If parents approach you||
Now, perhaps more than ever, it’s important to avoid mixed messages. Should parents approach you directly with questions or complaints about the school, refer them:
· Directly to the Headteacher, or
· To your school’s complaints procedures – but note our earlier advice about the fact that formal complaints are likely to be deferred until schools re-open
The Education Governance Service will be delivering the following virtual sessions/training during the Summer term:-
· Monthly Governors Café and Chat room
· SEN Forum for governors
· Training and development programme to support governors in the current climate:-
o Virtual monitoring and evaluation – COVID 19
o Staff and child welfare
o Health and safety – COVID 19
o Looked after children
o Measuring impact
o Governor induction
Details and access to booking is available on Governor Hub.
Template for a weekly / fortnightly report to Governors
A template is available for you to use here: Template for weekly or fortnightly report to Chair of Governors