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Last updated on 17 March 2020
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Be clear on whether it's useful to hold a meeting, possible agenda points and the questions you should ask your headteacher, so you're equipped to make sure your school is ready in case it has to close.

Keep on top of the latest guidance and advice in our coronavirus resource hub.

Our associate education experts, Richard Jewell and Brendan Hollyer, helped us to write this article.

Should we call an extraordinary meeting?

An 'extraordinary meeting' is a meeting convened outside the normal schedule. You should only hold one if all of the following 3 statements are true:

  • You haven't met as a full governing board to discuss the impact of coronavirus
  • There's no scheduled meeting before the Easter break
  • The chair and the headteacher both agree that a meeting will be beneficial to the headteacher and senior leadership team (SLT)

If you decide that it's not in the school’s interests to hold an extraordinary meeting before Easter, then the chair should use the agenda and questions below as a guide for a structured phone call with the headteacher.

Use the meeting to plan for different scenarios

An extraordinary meeting is an opportunity to support the SLT to plan for different scenarios – it's not a decision-making forum for school closure. 

Any decision to close the school will be taken by the headteacher, in close consultation with the local health protection team, the local authority or trust leadership, as well as the governing board. Your school should remain open unless you're advised otherwise or have such extenuating circumstances that it is impossible to stay open. 

There are 3 scenarios in which your school might be forced to close:

  • If you have a confirmed case, your local health protection team will be in touch to help make a decision about school closure, but it won't be necessary in most cases
  • In the event of national direction from Public Health England or the DfE
  • If you don't have enough staff or senior leadership cover to keep your school open, then the headteacher can decide to close the school

How to call this meeting

To convene it:

  • The board (or the chair on behalf of the board) can tell the clerk to convene a meeting; OR
  • Any 3 members of the governing board may direct the clerk to convene a meeting "as soon as is reasonably practicable" by giving written notice to the clerk

This is set out in regulation 13 of The School Governance (Roles, Procedures and Allowances) (England) Regulations 2013 (maintained schools) and in articles 109 to 111 of the Department for Education's model articles of association (academies). 

In cases of emergency, the chair can call a meeting with fewer than 7 days' notice (in normal circumstances the clerk must give each governor/trustee written notice of a meeting and distribute an agenda at least 7 clear days in advance).

The clerk will then convene the meeting.

Holding this meeting remotely

If your board wants to hold this meeting remotely, then we suggest that you do.

Ask your clerk to email round the proposal to hold the meeting remotely in advance of the meeting itself. You can then use the first agenda item to vote on this proposal. We advise this because the board has to formally approve 'alternative arrangements' so you can attend meetings remotely - and in the current circumstances, this is likely to be the only practical means of doing this.

Approval of 'alternative arrangements' is set out for:

What to put on the agenda

The clerk will produce the agenda. Here's a list of what it might cover and what you can suggest the clerk include:

  • Apologies for absence
  • Approving 'alternative arrangements' for remote meetings
  • Update from headteacher on the current situation and the well-being of pupils, staff, SLT and wider school community
  • Update from the chair on recent discussions with the headteacher
  • Contingency planning:
    • In the event of a confirmed case
    • For significant teaching / SLT absence
    • In the event of enforced closure – this might include discussing a governing board action plan covering how the board will continue its work if your school needs to shut
  • 'Chair’s action' – decide whether to allow the chair to quickly make decisions and approve some policies without needing full governing board approval

Suggested questions

Continuing education on site

  • Do we have an updated business continuity plan to review / approve?
  • What practical steps have been taken to reduce the threat of coronavirus?
  • What are the thresholds for minimal cover of support staff, teachers and key members of the SLT?
  • Have we considered the possibility of partial closure, to continue provision for:
    • The children of key workers
    • Pupils/students at critical stages of education (years 6, 11 and 13)?
  • Do we have clear protocols on requirements to self-isolate?
  • What is our policy on whole-school events, clubs, domestic school trips and visits?

Continuing education remotely

  • What plans have been put in place to continue to provide education if the school closes?
  • Are we striking the right balance between day-to-day provision and preparation for a potential closure?
  • Are we able to test information channels and remote platforms ahead of the Easter holidays?
  • How will we deploy staff to optimise learning for all pupils?
  • What steps are we taking to ensure equal access to online resources for disadvantaged pupils (such as access to a reliable device and connection) and pupils with special educational needs?
  • What support can we put in place for parents to create the right environment for home learning?

Keeping children safe

  • Have we taken steps to assess children most at risk from a prolonged period of remote education?
  • Is there a strategy in place for teachers to have regular contact with vulnerable pupils?
  • Have we spoken to the LA social worker / key worker about any new or heightened risks?
  • Have we made provision for children on free school meals?
  • Do we have an up-to-date list of parents' contact details in a safe, accessible place?
  • What support will be made available to parents to make sure that devices are restricted and pupils are safe online?

Questions for the governing board

  • Are we prepared to conduct governing board business online? 
  • How will we continue our monitoring activities if the school closes?
  • Do we have a clear action plan of what everyone's role will be in the event of a closure?

After the meeting

The clerk should write up the minutes as soon as possible, and send them to the chair and the headteacher.

If you're on a local governing board (LGB), your chair should get in touch with the board of trustees. Your chair should let trustees know that an LGB meeting was called, and the chair should share the draft minutes with trustees after the headteacher and chair have reviewed them. 


Richard Jewell is the chair of governors at a maintained primary school, with experience across three governing boards in London and the South East. He also has 6 years' executive board experience, sitting on the board at The Key.

Brendan Hollyer is the vice-chair of governors at a primary school and an all-through special school. He has been a national leader of governance since 2014 and provides training and support to schools in the south east. Brendan has also worked as the director of conversions and governance for a multi-academy trust.

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