School Governance - life under lockdown (and emerging the other side)

    Published: 10 May 2020

    Whatever happens by way of easing the current lock down, as school governors and clerks, we are unlikely to be back in our schools in the foreseeable future, so how are we adapting to new ways of supporting and offering appropriate challenge in our role as governors?

    Doing things differently is the new normal and, as this term unfolds, we have seen the theory of how we planned to manage our role turn into practice as GB meetings have been held and important decisions and approvals carried out remotely using a variety of platforms.

    This blog explores how the planning and support put in place has realised itself in the field, as school governance has continued throughout the lockdown challenges. It also includes some pointers of how governors can access further support:

    School clerks

    HfL clerks have been trained and equipped to deliver remote meetings, this is a huge change of practice they have embraced, trial meetings have been tested and they are now better equipped to manage and support the vital work of your Governing Board meetings.

    Remote meeting platforms

    To Zoom or not to Zoom has quite literally been the question! With a wide number of choices Zoom and MS Teams have been the platforms of choice. Governor Hub is also a tried and tested platform for holding meetings remotely. Support and advice is available via the Governance helpline governance@hertsforlearning.co.uk and on the newly launched Knowledge Tab.

    Remote meeting tips

    At your first meeting it would be wise to set the ground rules at the top of the agenda, experience to date suggests some of the following may help; mute all microphones except for the Chair, Head and Clerk which enables the business to be conducted without the worry of trying to manage too many people talking over each other, enable the ‘chat’ function to allow those ‘muted’ colleagues to comment and pose questions which can be answered at the end of each item, if approval is being sought microphones could be un-muted in turn to allow for comment or again the chat function would allow governors to vote or signal their approval.

    New innovations are in the pipeline for MS Teams and Zoom so keep your platform of choice under review. You may also be quite surprised how quickly you get through the business of the meeting which then allows time for a bit of social catch up at the end where everyone is free to talk!

    Governor elections

    A lot of Governing Boards will be finding governor’s terms of office ending during lock down, for both parent and staff governors. The advice we have received from the NGA/ DfE is that to reduce the pressures on what remains of the school office it would be best to temporarily extend these governors terms (subject to their agreement) to when schools reopen and then run the elections.

    Training

    Governor CPD has now been simplified with the migration of Modern Governor (online courses) and face to face bookings (previously booked through CPD Hub) into Governor Hub, to access simply log on to Governor Hub, click on HfL logo on your ‘washing line’ and click the training tab to access your training. When you complete an online course, your record will be automatically updated, what better time than now to expand or refresh your knowledge! Equally the training history for face to face (currently remote) will be updated once attendance has been logged.

    Our HfL trainers have also adapted to delivering training remotely and almost 100% of Hertfordshire schools have re-booked their postponed in-house sessions and are receiving the training remotely.

    Governor link roles

    Even with schools closed your link role continues and although you cannot go into school this link can be maintained albeit with a light touch approach. Email your school link to offer your support and ask for a brief update on your linked subject or role. Once you have received this you could summarise the contact and email to your clerk for reporting at the next GB meeting.

    Emerging ‘the other side’

    Governors will want to be mindful of the school reopening plans the Head is considering but be aware there may be many versions of these! I think it is fair to say that we hope the DfE will come up with some very clear guidance (with plenty of notice) to help Heads formulate a plan[AB1] 

    In the meantime, some things to be considering whilst we are locked down and awaiting the next steps:

    • Vulnerable students – how are they being reached if they are not attending school?
    • Transition – how will this vital experience look for our Year 2 and Year 6 students?
    • Sixth Forms – how will Yr11 students keep up the momentum of their studies?
    • Site Security – how is your school site being managed during lock down?
    • Budget setting and approval 2020/21 – how will this be considered and achieved?

    A campaign was launched earlier this year called Visible Governance and despite our inability to get into schools never has it been more important to be visible to our school community.

    Once schools reopen our role as a school governor or clerk will have never been so vital as we support our schools to continue the education of our students. We will emerge from this period with a stronger sense of purpose and unity as we have adapted to new ways of working and supporting schools remotely, all this will be vital as we approach the known, and unknown, challenges ahead. 

    Our team are always available to support you, please use the following to contact us::

    Governance Helpline: 01438 843082

    Governance support email: governance@hertsforlearning.co.uk

    If you’d like to find out more about how Modern Governor or Governor Hub can help you, please also contact a member of our team

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