Focus on Business-Critical Decisions

Governance cannot be suspended during these uncertain times; our schools remain open and as governors, we must ensure that we are supporting our Headteachers and CEOs.

Priorities have changed over the past six weeks and we are advising Governing Boards and Trust Boards to refocus on business-critical decisions, and ultimately on planning for the re-opening of their schools.

The Department for Education has published a list of statutory reporting deadlines including which ones have been postponed, cancelled, or remain.

Postpone or Cancel Items That are not Currently Relevant

There are some items that are usually on agendas for this term that can be postponed or may not be relevant in the current situation. It will not have been possible for headteachers to continue to deliver their SDP during this time and so it would not be wise to try to hold them to account against the targets set. There has been no attendance data recorded, no assessments carried out and no clear curriculum delivered. It would therefore not be supportive to continue to monitor the delivery of the school or trust development plan this term.

It may be relevant to begin to discuss revising school development plans, adjusting targets, and putting in curriculum ‘catch-up’ plans ready for a return to school, but the chair of governors should discuss with the headteacher when the right time for this is in order to ensure they are considering the wellbeing of staff.

Add new Items That are Current: Health and Safety, Assessment, Safeguarding

There will be new items arising that governors should be monitoring instead; for example, support provided to vulnerable students and safeguarding procedures during this period. The government’s guidance has been clear that schools should continue to provide support for students who are vulnerable, whether they are categorised as so or whether they are students that staff know to be in this category. Governors should be asking questions about whether plans for keeping vulnerable students safe have been drawn up and how the headteacher is assured that they are being carried out. Schools are also still being asked to provide free school meal provision for those that need it. Governors can ask for monitoring data on this area: how many FSM children have been provided with a meal each day.

Schools are not required by the government to provide home learning during this time and so governors should be careful when thinking about monitoring this. The best method would be to understand the school’s individual approach to home learning and whether they need any support or input for governors on it. If virtual lessons are taking place, it is important to be assured that safeguarding procedures for virtual learning environments are in included in an updated safeguarding policy.

Governors may also want to monitor health and safety on site during this period. You may wish to approve a revised policy with items added for additional cleaning and deep cleaning schedules, social distancing measures, and security. This will be especially important when preparing for a fuller return to the school site in the future.

Suggested Agenda Items for This Term

There are a number of items that would usually be on agendas for this term. We have produced a revised version of our termly task planner which you can use to help shape your upcoming meetings.

Here are some of our suggestions for your agendas this term:

  • Safeguarding and tracking vulnerable pupils with specific mention to your response to COVID-19.
  • Monitoring the wellbeing of your staff.
  • What support and resources are being provided to parents and carers that are providing home education to their children.
  • Understanding the plans for return to school including the strategy for ensuring all children are able to access the curriculum that is in place on return to school.
  • Receiving monthly financial data and understanding any financial issues arising around additional provisions that are having to be provided at this time.
  • Approving and submitting budgets for the next academic year (academies).
  • Monitoring health, safety, and site maintenance issues where premises are not in use or being used less than normal.
  • Ensuring robust procedures are in place for awarding national results this term with no external examinations being taken.
  • Understanding the impact of staffing issues arising from not being able to interview in the usual way this term.
  • Annual Governance Statement for Local Authority Maintained Schools and annual accounts governance statement for academies.
  • Planning for how and when school or trust development plans can be revised
  • How any admissions appeals are going to take place and how many appeals have been lodged.
  • Which statutory reporting deadlines have been cancelled, postponed, or remain and what this means for your school or trust.
Penny Levack

Penny Levack

Penny has more than ten years’ experience in the classroom, in assessment design, and in leadership roles in both schools and universities. Her most recent role before joining Juniper Education was in governance, compliance, and communications in a multi-academy trust in South London. Penny is a governor herself and is passionate about school governance and the impact that it can have on school improvement. She has a degree in Education Studies from the University of Cambridge.