June 2020 - The Department for Education (DfE) have released important news and communications relating to governance in maintained schools and academy trusts in England during coronavirus (COVID-19).
BASG Update – 21st May (also sent in a letter to all Chairs of Governors)
As an Association we thought it would be prudent to touch base with you all again following on from the government’s announcement that schools can begin to reopen to more pupils from the 1 June 2020.
BASG are aware from several communications this week that school leaders and governors are working hard to process the vast amount of information that is out there and for them to work through as they consider their options for possible reopening and how challenging in can be in ensuring you stay up to date with the latest information.
We therefore wanted to highlight the clear advice provided by the NGA and signpost their Coronavirus information for governing boards, which also has a FAQ section on the board’s role in the re-opening of schools.
It is also important to note the NGA advice on responsibilities of completing a risk assessment, the headteacher (or possibly another executive within a multi academy trust) will need to undertake a full risk assessment before making a decision, and it would be wise for them to bring that assessment to their governing board. Governing boards, while trusting their professional leaders to carry out that assessment, should test its robustness. The assessment will need to be kept under review. Governing boards should also note that each school context will be different when the risk assessments are being completed.
Other links that you might find supportive are:
- The Key schools reopening what we know so far
- GOV.UK, Coronavirus (COVID-19): guidance for schools and other educational settings
- BASG website Covid information page
BASG will continue to post any new advice and supporting information as it comes out, including updates to suggested agendas for your FGB meetings. Sign up to our newsletter here for further updates.
One final item that I wanted to highlight with you is from Joanne Cassey Service Director for Education who said this to me recently.
The commitment of all governors is genuinely appreciated in these uncertain times and I hope that the flow of info, regularly updated FAQs on Schools Web and liaison with officers is enabling governors to feel supported and orientated.
Please pass on our thanks to all governing bodies who are going above and beyond in responding to the current situation.
Chair of Buckinghamshire Association of School Governors
The below FAQ have been kindly provided by the Buckinghamshire Association of School Governance (BASG).
What are the expectations on Governing Board meetings at the moment?
The National Governance Association has provided the following advice regarding this:
Focus meetings on urgent business only. Governing boards are acutely aware of the enormous task that schools and their staff have in ensuring continuity of education and making the reduced provision work on the ground. It is therefore appropriate for all non-urgent business to be delayed and governing board meetings to be restricted to the following:
- Business critical decisions (e.g. budget approval, ratifying school leadership appointments etc.)
- Monitoring how the school is continuing to provide care for children who are vulnerable children with ECHP plans the children of key workers, associated risks, issues etc.
- Any issues arising from how the building is currently being used and remote working for staff
- Support being given to parents and carers to help them educate their children at home
- Monitoring the wellbeing and welfare of pupils, staff and stakeholders
It follows that boards will take a pragmatic and considerate approach to the reporting of these matters, relying on oral feedback and scaled down paperwork. It might also require governing boards to review and amend their levels of delegation to enable fewer governors/trustees to make business critical decisions and thereby minimising the risk of being unable to take these decisions
More information can be found on the NGA website, where details on business continuity and holding virtual meetings, this link will also take to a webinar recently held on ‘virtual governance’
It would be sensible that if you have planned a normal agenda for your next Governing Board meeting that you consider deferring all normal governance matters until a later date, with suggested wording for your meetings being, ‘Deferral of usual Spring Term Agenda, approval of minutes and matters arising original FGB spring term to later into the academic year.’ Then move onto the above items as your agenda, listed 1 to 5. Please remember to ensure you still allow for declaration of interests and any other business as part of your agendas and pay particular attention to point 5 Monitoring the wellbeing and welfare of pupils, staff and stakeholders
Full Governing Body Summer Term Agenda
Buckinghamshire Council and Buckinghamshire Association of School Governors have worked in partnership to create a suggested FGB summer term agenda.
There are areas that should be covered following the clear advice provided by the NGA, The Key and the DfE. All of these bodies are asking Governing Boards to keep monitoring to a minimum, not to overburden Headteachers, to focus on urgent business only and to be pragmatic in what Governing Boards cover in meetings during this time. Whilst these documents support holding your FGB meeting this term, it is understood in some contexts you might need to hold separate Finance, Personnel and Premises committee meetings.
The Key has issued some new guidance on agenda items looking forward to next September which is here The Key: summer term 2020 agenda items
Buckinghamshire Council and Bucks Association of School Governors will continue to work in partnership and will update the attached documents over the coming weeks and post details here on SchoolsWeb and BASG: Coronavirus update.
How do we conduct virtual meetings?
There is a lot on information online on how to do this and ensure you are meeting regulations.The Key has just updated their information page on this, this informs you on how to ensure you have a virtual governance policy and gives examples of policies if you do not have one already. It also provides details on how to run virtual meetings and ensure they run as smoothly as possible.
Where can Governing Boards find updated information to support them?
The Buckinghamshire Governors Association has set up its own information page, pulling together relevant details from various sources so the information is in one place. We will continue to signpost Governors to relevant webinars and supporting information. Updates will be added when they become available.
We would recommend that all Governing Boards are aware of the information being provided by Buckinghamshire Council and to also check back regularly to this schoolsweb link as information is updated whenever there is new advice.
The National Governance Association (NGA) has made its GOLD line Advice Service available to all governing boards that have questions about maintaining their business in the current circumstances. You can contact GOLD line by emailing them firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 0121 237 3782. NGA GOLD members are asked to make a request through the usual route.
The NGA also has an area dedicated to support Governance.
The Key - For school governors and Senior leaders is an up to date information service summarising the most important DFE and governor information and providing policy advice.
This is an easily accessible service which in the current situation has its COVID pages accessible to all Governors (currently without payment).
Any additional information available on the Key site can be accessed by signing up for a 30 day free trial – (follow their links)
BEP – Bucks Education Partnership have dedicated an area on their website to support Governance on Covid 19