Good practice matters for governing bodies

Recently I was asked to write a governing body good practice guide. This is what I’ve come up with as a starter for ten. What would you add/remove/change?

If you are a member of a local governing body/council, ten please have a look at your scheme of delegation as some of the things covered below may not apply to you.

BEST PRACTICE

GOVERNING BODY PROCEDURES:

Election of Chair and Vice Chair:

Governing Bodies (and committees) elect must elect chair and vice chairs. Governing bodies usually decide the process for election. It is good practice for the nominated persons (even if there is only one candidate) to withdraw from the meeting so that free and frank discussions can be had.

Chairing:

The Chair should ensure that the meeting runs smoothly, the work of the GB/committee is not hampered in any way. The Chair should remember that the board is a corporate body, all governors are “equal” and that everyone must be treated with professionalism and respect.

Clerking:

The board should endeavour to appoint a professional and independent clerk, one who is more than just a minute taker. The clerk must be able to advise on matters of governance and should try and keep up to date and try to keep governors up to date as well.

Agendas and minutes:

Agendas and minutes are public documents and are a permanent record of the way the governors conduct their business.

Agendas:

An agenda is a “To do” list. The Agenda should be drawn up by the Chair with inout from the clerk and the head. The Agenda can mention how many governors need to be present for the meeting to be quorate. The purpose of each item should be clear. Place important items at the top of the agenda. Governors should be aware that AOB should be Any Other URGENT Business. Consider a timed agenda. If there are any papers which need to be circulated with the agenda then, these should state the purpose clearly. It should be evident if the paper is for information only or for discussion. The agenda and the papers should be circulated in advance.

Minutes:

Minutes are permanent record of business. Attendance, apologies and business/pecuniary interests must be recorded. They should be written in such a manner that they make sense to people who were not present at the meeting. The minutes are not a verbatim record of everything which is discussed at the meeting. Instead they should record salient points of the discussion. Action points should be noted. Minutes should record evidence of governors fulfilling their functions. Any challenge by governors should be clearly recorded. Draft Minutes should be sent to the Chair and Head and then circulated to all governors. Minutes should be approved at the next meeting. Approved minutes are public documents. Governors should consider publishing approved minutes on the school website. This will aid transparency and community engagement.

Appointment and election of governors:

The number and categories of governors will be specified in the Articles of Association. Governors should be appointed on the basis of skills. Before appointment the Chair/Vice Chair and the Head should try and meet the proposed candidate. This will allow governors and the head to inform the prospective governor about the expectations of the role. The Articles will also specify the number of elected governors (parents and staff). Again, it would be useful to invite prospective candidates to meet the Chair, Vice Chair and Head so that they are clear about the role and responsibilities. However, this cannot be a compulsory part of the process.

Understanding the role:

Governors should develop a clear undestanding of theor role. They should know what are strategic matters (which they should be involved with) and what are operational matters (which should be left to the school staff). Elected governors should undertand that they do not represent an electorate but are supposed to govern i the best interests of ALL the children.

Induction:

Governing bodies should have procedures for induction for new governors. These should include meeting with the Chair, Vice Chair, Head and clerk. Thought should be given to putting together an induction pack which can be given to new governors. This pack should contain

  • Committees and their terms of reference
  • Committee membership
  • Contac details of the clerk, Chair and other governors
  • Minutes of previous few meetings
  • Acronyms
  • Meeting dates
  • Useful websites etc
  • Details of how to access LA traianing courses (if the GB subscribes to it)
  • Details of how to gain access to the members’ are on the NGA website (if the GB is a member)

Schemes of delegation:

The MAT trustess should ensure that there is a clear scheme of delegation (SoD) in place. Members of the local governing body should ensure they are fmiliar with and understand what has been delegated to them. If there are committees then each committee should have Terms of Reference which the committee members will use to understand their roles and responsibilities.

Skill Audits:

Skill audits are a very good way to ascertain the skills which the governing body has available to it. NGA has published a good audit for this purpose. Skill audits will help the governing body to

  • Help inform the training needs of governors
  • Help recruit governors so that skills which are lacking can be recruited for
  • Help appointment of governors to committees which can best use their skills

Self evaluation:

Self evaluation is important for the whole governing body so that governors can evaluate how effective they have been. There are various tools available for this such as the 20 Key Questions and 21 Key Questions for MAT boards.

Evaluation of governor effectiveness:

It is a good idea to evaluate governor performance. One way to do this is for the Chair to meet governors individually and have a discussion on what contribution the governor feels he/she has made during the year. This will be especially useful if the governor’s term of office is coming to an end. This will let both the individual governor and the governing body to decide if the governor should be re-appointed.

Chair’s 360o review:

Like individual governor evaluation, it is also a good idea for the chair to arrange for a 360o review of his/her own performance. Ideally this should be done by an online, anonymous survey which the head, vice chair, other governors and clerk are requested to fill out.

Clerk Appraisal:

The Chair should arrange an annual appraisal of the clerk. The chair and the clerk should meet and discuss the clerk’s performance during the past year.

Continued Professional Development:

It is essential that governors keep their CPD up to date. They should ensure that they know of the latest developments etc. This can be done by attending courses offered by Governor Services, attending conferences, networking, engaging with governors via social media (for example @UKGovChat on Twitter, School Governors  UK on Facebook), reading blogs (for example Governing Matters)etc. The governing body should invest in governor CPD by buying into the LA training package, taking out NGA membership, etc. Governors who attend these sessions should try and feedback to the rest of the governing body. Training is especially important so that governors are aware of

  • Safeguarding responsibilities (including Prevent)
  • Head’s appraisal
  • Governors’ responsibilities when dealing with Exclusion
  • Governors’ responsibilities when dealing with Complaints
  • Performance management
  • Data
  • Finance, budgeting, benchmarking

Clerking:

Governors should ensure that they have access to services of a good, professional clerk. Clerking is now much more than mere minute taking. Clerks should be able to advise governors on matters of law and governance.

Code of Practice:

It is best practice for governors to have a code of practice in place. The code will spell out the expectations and describe appropriate relationships between individual governors and between governors and the school leadership. NGA has published a code of practice which is available to non-members too.

Governors’ monitoring visits:

Monitoring visits are an essential part of triangulating evidence. Governors should not go into school without the knowledge of the head. Best practice is for the governing body to agree a procedure which will detail how these visits are carried out and reported back.

Exit interviews:

Governing bodies may find it helpful to conduct exit interviews when staff leave. This gives them a chance to thank the staff and will also allow the staff member to bring any concerns to the attention of governors.

Parental engagement:

Governors may want to investigate how they can best engage with parents and the community. This can be done by

  • A termly newsletter
  • Governors’ blog on the website
  • Attendance at parents’ evenings
  • Parental questionnaires

Succession planning:

Governing bodies should pay particular attention to succession planning for school leaders as well as for governing body chairs. The body responsible for headteacher appointment will be detailed in the Articles and Scheme of Delegation.

Succession planning for chairs is equally important. The Governing Body should try and nurture Vice Chairs so that they are able to step into the role of the chair when needed. The Chair Development Course offere3d by NCTL is very good not only for chairs but also for vice chairs and other aspiring chairs.

Complaints procedure:

All academies are required to have a Complaints Procedure. The Complaints procedure must meet the standards set out in the Education (Independent School Standards (England) Regulations 2014 Schedule 1, Part 7.

The following tips and suggestions (from EFA) are intended to ensure their complaints procedures are robust and effective.

  • Publish the complaints procedure online.
  • Make clear how the academy will deal with complaints from people who are not parents of attending pupils. You may wish to use the same procedure you use for complaints from parents, or you may wish to develop a different one.
  • If the complaint does proceed to a panel stage, ensure parents are given reasonable notice of the panel hearing date.
  • Be clear what behaviour will be considered as unacceptable from complainants and the action you will take if a complainant behaves unacceptably.
  • Consider if staff likely to be involved in handling a complaint are suitably equipped to do so.
  • Provide complainants with written responses where appropriate and if requested. This is particularly worth doing for correspondence with MPs as they often use the correspondence they have received to brief or inform their constituents.
  • Clearly signpost parents that are not satisfied about the handling of their complaint to the EFA via the schools complaints form.

Prevent

Protecting students from the risk of radicalisation should be seen as part of the school’s wider safeguarding responsibilities.  See Appendix 2.

Useful website:

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3 thoughts on “Good practice matters for governing bodies

  1. Pingback: Fourth Anniversary Matters | Governing Matters

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