The school year for maintained schools is broken down into three terms within the academic year; autumn, spring and summer. The governing board must meet at least three times in one academic year; however the frequency is up to the governing board and additional meetings may be held as appropriate. The usual practice is for meetings to be held once a term. This may differ for academies and free schools.
Over the course of the academic year there are various matters of business which need to be addressed and accordingly, it’s good practice for the governing board to have an annual business planner, a model of which may be downloaded below. The planner may assist the governing board to work strategically in fulfilling both their legal and statutory responsibilities by spreading tasks and responsibilities throughout the academic year.
All business of the governing board must be conducted through formal meetings.
In order to spread the work of the governing board proportionally and to ensure that full governing board meetings do not become too burdensome, a committee system may be established. Committees are formed from the membership of the governing board and may be given delegated powers to conduct specific tasks. Further information on committee working can be found under the ‘Guidance and Support’ section of the website.
Who can attend a Governing Board meetings?
All governors, the head teacher (if not a governor), the clerk to governors and associate members are entitled to attend meetings of the governing board. The governing board may also invite any other persons to attend a meeting that they deem appropriate. Associate members may be excluded from any part of the meeting which they are otherwise entitled to attend. Governors may also be asked to leave part of the meeting should they have a direct or indirect pecuniary or business interest in a matter being discussed.
How are meetings convened?
Meetings of the governing board should be convened by the clerk to governors with direction by either the governing board or the chair of governors. Any three individual governors may also request an additional meeting at any time by submitting a request to the clerk to governors.
The clerk to governors should work with the chair of governors and head teacher to establish the agenda for the meeting. Once the agenda has been agreed by the chair of governors, for maintained schools, it must be circulated at least 7 clear days before the meeting along with any associated paperwork to be considered. Academies usually require 14 clear days notice, unless a shorter timescale has been agreed as per their articles of association.
The chair of governors may direct a shorter period of notice for a governing board meeting but only for matters requiring urgent consideration. Guidance from your clerk to governors should be sought on this as there are specific matters when this does not apply.
Academy governing boards may hold ‘virtual meetings’; however, currently regulation does not permit this for maintained schools.
How are meetings conducted?
All governors are expected to attend all meetings of the governing board, but of course there are circumstances when this may not be possible. In the event that a governor is unable to attend a meeting, they should contact the clerk to governors and chair of governors as soon as possible after receiving notification of the meeting to submit their apologies. It is important to note that there are procedures in place to remove governors from office for those members who do not attend a meeting for a period of six months without the consent of the governing board.
The governing board may only make decisions if the required number of governors are present at the meeting, this is called the quorum. The quorum of a meeting of a maintained school is half of those governors in post rounded up, for academies this will be different and will be stipulated within their articles of association.
The chair of governors will lead the meeting and matters may be directed through the chair. The formality of the meeting may differ from each governing board. It is important for new governors to be made to feel welcome and all governors should be encouraged to take a full and active part in the meeting. New governors may find that it takes a couple of meetings before they feel confident to join in the proceedings. It’s important to note that ‘no question is a silly question’ as there may be others around the table who may not understand what is being said, especially when acronyms or educational terms are used.
Every decision taken at a meeting should be determined by a majority of votes of those governors present. Associate members are not permitted to vote at full governing board meetings. The clerk to governors can advise further on voting procedure.
The agenda for the meeting should include a number of standard items but also additional items that require consideration at particular points throughout the academic year. Some matters have to be considered by the full governing board; however, some may be delegated to committees. An example governing board meeting planner may be downloaded below to assist governing boards in the agenda planning process.
Minutes must be taken at all meetings of the governing board. This is usually done by the clerk to governors; however, in the unlikely event that the clerk fails to attend a meeting, a governor may act as clerk for the purposes of the meeting but this may not include the head teacher.
The clerk to governors should provide support and guidance on governance law and procedure throughout the meeting.
What happens after the meeting?
Following the meeting the clerk to governors will draft the minutes and forward them to the chair of governors for approval. Once approved, the minutes should be circulated to all governors in advance of the next meeting.
The minutes should clearly identify all resolutions, delegations and action points. Once approved by the governing board at the next meeting, the minutes should be made available for inspection by any member of the public. The exception to this is any matters that have been deemed confidential at the meeting. Any such matters should be removed from the public inspection copy of the minutes but retained in the full confidential minutes.
The clerk to governors will conduct any follow up action on behalf of the governing board as appropriate.