Virtual governor meetings: are you ready for coronavirus?

Companies all over the world have been busy putting emergency incident plans into place in order to be able to react to a situation where someone in the building tests positive for coronavirus. Schools are no exception to this.

With the very real possibility that schools may soon be asked to close in order to contain the spread of coronavirus, closure plans are being put into place in schools across the country. So what does this mean for governor meetings? If schools are closed, should meetings be cancelled? There is an argument that board meetings will be required more often in such a situation as decisions for ongoing provision may need to be made. This means looking at the provision of virtual meetings.

There are two areas to consider for the provision of virtual meetings: ensuring that these meetings are legally able to take place, and using technology that allows them to take place successfully. Ensuring that any virtual meeting is legal requires academies and trusts to look at their articles of association. In the DfE’s current model articles, clause 126 lays out how trustees can attend meetings remotely. Trusts should check their own articles if they differ from the model. For maintained schools, you should turn to your standing orders or terms of reference, which should detail whether you have agreed the terms for remote meeting attendance and decision-making. If you haven’t, then this could be added and agreed at an extraordinary meeting or by Chair’s action in an extenuating circumstance such as emergency school closure.

In terms of using the right technology, video conferencing is best. Using a software that allows for the Chair to control who is muted and for people to raise their hands to speak is our recommendation – this will help the meeting to run smoothly and stop people from speaking at the same time. We recommend looking at an online videoconferencing software like Zoom. It can be more challenging to chair and to clerk a virtual meeting, so think about slimming down your agendas to cover only key topics and make pressing decisions. Virtual meetings are becoming more popular with busy governors and this could well be the first step to making them work for your school.