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Last updated on 30 January 2020
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Be clear on what to do before, during and after a finance committee meeting to make sure it runs smoothly.

Make sure you work closely with the school business manager (SBM) or equivalent

You should sit down at the beginning of the school year with the SBM to plan for the year ahead and go through all the key dates related to finance. This is to make sure the finance committee has enough time to do all the important things (e.g. scrutinise the budget) well ahead of given deadlines (e.g. for passing the budget).

Use our planners for maintained schools and academies to help you and the SBM keep on top of important deadlines.

Don’t worry, your job isn’t to suddenly know all the details about finance. Lean on your SBM as they’re the expert. 

Prepare for the meeting

Brush up on unfamiliar terms and documents

Finance can seem a bit like alphabet soup with so many acronyms and unusual phrases, e.g. 'virement' and the 'GAG'.

While you don't need to understand all the detail, you should know what key terms mean so you can interpret them correctly in your minutes. 

Download our handy glossary of financial terms to get up to speed. 

You should also know the purpose of any unfamiliar finance documents and how they support effective governance – this'll make it easier for you to keep up. Read our model role description to be clear what you're expected to know.

Liaise with the SBM and send out papers

About 3 weeks before the meeting, contact the SBM to clarify any agenda items you're not clear about. This should give you time to understand what papers you need to get together. Read our clerk's guide to producing the agenda to remind yourself what a good agenda looks like.

Send out the relevant papers, such as the budget monitoring report from the SBM, 7 clear days before the meeting. Make sure the papers match up with the agenda items. 

Check the committee's terms of reference

Double-check the finance committee's terms of reference so you’re clear on its remit and what its meant to discuss and do.

The terms of references will explain:

  • Which items and documents the committee can approve during its meetings
  • Which items will need to be sent to the full governing board afterwards

During the meeting: recording information

Taking the minutes for the finance committee isn’t any different from doing it for other meetings. Here are the key things to bear in mind:

Quorum

You must make sure meetings a quorate, particularly when financial decisions are being made. Read our article to be clear on what counts as a quorum for different types of schools.

Attendees and roles

Clearly record who's attended and in what role they're asking/answering a question – e.g. if the SBM is a staff governor, note down that they answered a question in their capacity as SBM.

Conflicts of interest

Be mindful of financial (also known as pecuniary) conflicts of interest, as well as personal relationships. These will be listed in your register of interests for maintained schools and academies.

Include these interests in the minutes, and whether a governor has withdrawn from part of a meeting because of it. For example, if a governor has an IT business which has a contract with the school, record that this governor withdrew from discussions about the IT budget.

Questions and challenges 

Record all questions, answers and challenges in the minutes.

Distinguish between questions asking for clarification and questions challenging why a decision was made. Highlight both in the minutes.

Funding impact

Pay particular attention to statutory grants (e.g. pupil premium), but also other forms of income. Make sure you record the impact of funding, and any related decisions and challenges. 

This is so governors outside the finance committee can see what scrutiny has taken place, and if there are any other questions they should ask in a full board meeting.

Confidential information

You still need to apply the same principles as in other meetings when distinguishing between public and confidential information.

To recap, confidential information is anything related to:

  • A named person who works at the school, or who is a candidate for a job at the school
  • A named pupil at, or candidate for admission to, the school
  • Any other matter the governing board thinks should remain confidential, e.g. because it's sensitive

Sensitive, finance-specific topics that should be recorded as ‘confidential part 2 items’ include:

  • Restructuring
  • Redundancies
  • Staffing issues related to HR
  • Pay decisions
  • Academies: decisions about trust growth if they relate to finance

You should withdraw from the meeting when the committee discusses your own pay. It should be minuted by someone else. 

Summarise the actions

Clearly summarise any actions the committee has agreed to carry out.

Review these actions at the next meeting as part of your 'matters arising'. This'll help you to keep track, and help governors to follow up on actions and make sure they happen.

After the meeting: send out the minutes

Proofread and sense-check the minutes. When they're ready, send the draft minutes to the chair of the committee and headteacher for approval.

Try to send the approved minutes to committee members within 2 weeks of the meeting. Being timely will help them carry out the agreed actions.

Send these minutes as part of the papers for the next full governing board meeting. 

For more tips on minuting, see the final section of this article.

Sources

Vicky Redding is a governance trainer and consultant. She provides training, advice and support on effective school governance.

Fiona Stagg is a national leader of governance and an independent clerk. She is also an experienced chair of governors, conducts external reviews of governance, and supports and mentors chairs and clerks. She is a facilitator for the Department for Education's governance leadership programme.

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