It’s a challenging and uncertain time for schools and staff, and the children and parents they serve.
The decision to close schools, either individually or on a national basis, is out of the hands of governing boards. But governors still have an important part to play, supporting senior leaders and helping to ensure the school is prepared for what will be a disruptive few months due to the coronavirus.
Already, routine Ofsted inspections have been postponed and an announcement on summer exams and assessments is likely soon. It’s increasingly apparent that for the foreseeable future, the way governors meet will need to change, as will many of their primary considerations.
Holding meetings remotely
Continuing to hold your scheduled meetings on a fully remote basis is the best option for boards.
If your board has approved procedures for holding meetings by telephone or conference call, then you should go ahead and use these. Boards that haven’t will need to approve arrangements for doing so.
Ask your clerk to send around a proposal to hold the next meeting remotely along with procedures for doing so – this can then be voted on as the first item at your meeting. Local governing boards may need to check with the trustees what is permissible.
If your board does not have a meeting scheduled in the near future, you may determine it’s in the best interests to call an extraordinary meeting to discuss the school’s response to Covid-19. This should be taken only with the agreement of the headteacher.
Alternatively, the chair could take the lead in a conversation with the headteacher, and report back to governors outside of a meeting.
Meetings should go ahead even if some members are unable to attend remotely. Meetings will offer a useful opportunity to discuss the school’s preparation for the coming months. If meetings are not quorate, key decision making, including the appointment of new governors, will have to be put on hold until a later date.
Remember, the chair has the power to act unilaterally in cases of emergency. It’s a good idea for governors to discuss how this power may be used as the situation develops.
Focusing on the school’s priorities
At the moment, the school’s main priority will be the health and wellbeing of staff and pupils, and managing the educational fallout of the pandemic. Decisions about what ‘normal’ business to include on any agenda should be taken by the headteacher in consultation with the clerk and chair.
The board may want to prioritise discussions on the following:
- Staff and pupils’ health and wellbeing
- Steps the school is taking to slow the spread of the virus
- Different scenarios for school closure
- How education will be continued remotely throughout any school closures
- How children will be kept safe, and fed, during any closure
If you have gaps on your governing board, you can continue to register your vacancies with us as usual. We’re still receiving applications and are in regular contact with volunteers. Even if your school isn’t able to appoint governors in the coming weeks, we can help make sure your vacancies are ready to be filled with skilled volunteers when schools are back up and running in less uncertain circumstances.
For more help and guidance regarding the coronavirus, visit the UK government website for advice.