Governor meetings: attendance and absence

The governing board can't function without good attendance. Be clear on who can attend meetings, why proxies aren't allowed, and how absences are dealt with.

Last reviewed on 19 October 2023
School types: AllSchool phases: AllRef: 3904
  1. Who can attend meetings
  2. Proxies aren't allowed
  3. Use GovernorHub to track attendance
  4. What to expect when governors are absent from a meeting
  5. What happens when governors are regularly absent 
  6. Governors are disqualified for consistent absence

Our associate education experts Jackie Beard, Fred Birkett, Bill Dennison, Ray Gold, Hayley James and David Roche helped us to write this article.

This article is aimed at clerks, but if you're a chair or governor it'll also help you if you need clarity on the rules around attendance.

Who can attend meetings

Maintained schools


Proxies aren't allowed

Governors can’t send someone to a board meeting in their place. This is because:

Maintained schools


Use GovernorHub to track attendance

Governors are expected to have good attendance.

You can record attendance electronically and download the board's attendance register using GovernorHub. Find out how to do this with our help article.

Setting out your attendance information clearly will help you when the information comes to be published (and as clerk, you might be responsible for updating information on the school's website). Find out exactly what information must be published, and how, in this article.

Alternatively, download our attendance register

You can also print off our attendance register to help you keep track:

Download: template attendance register for governors DOCX, 522.1 KB

What to expect when governors are absent from a meeting

You should expect the chair to read the governor’s reason for not attending aloud, and ask all governors present whether to consent to the absence or not.

The board should consider this on a case-by-case basis depending on:

  • The reasons given by the governor
  • The governor’s previous attendance record
  • The governor's commitment to the governing board

It’s not necessarily a problem if the governor doesn’t give a reason, but if it becomes a habit, the chair should talk to the governor about the reasons for their absence.

Note that the board can consent to an absence with or without an apology from the governor. An apology is a courtesy, but the regulations just refer to the board's consent, not the acceptance of an apology, when talking about the consequences of non-attendance (more on that below). See schedule 4, section 9 of The School Governance (Constitution) (England) Regulations 2012.

Recording reasons for absences

It’s not compulsory to record the reason for a governor’s absence, but it can:

  • Provide context for governors' attendance records
  • Ensure transparency in governing board procedures
  • Help you track absences and address any concerns that may arise over a particular individual's pattern of attendance
  • Highlight difficulties that could be addressed - for example governors could attend virtually if transport is an issue, or the time of the meeting could be changed if they're struggling with work commitments

Record reasons for non-attendance in the minutes for the board’s reference, but don’t publish them on the school website.

If the governor is not comfortable with the reason being recorded, they should discuss it privately with the chair, who can make a personal note of the absence and the reason for it.

Recording consent for absences

Check whether your local authority expects you to record in the minutes whether the board has accepted an apology/consented to an absence. For example, Essex Clerks’ Association has a guide to writing governing board minutes, which includes recording governors' acceptance of apologies. 

If you’re an academy, check your own documentation for any expectations here.

Even if there's no expectation, recording this can help the board track absences and address concerns early, as consistent absence can result in disqualification (as explained in the final section of this article).

Valid basis for an absence

The governing board might accept absence once or twice for the following reasons: 

  • Work commitments
  • No childcare available
  • Train/bus being late
  • Illness

But, if these reasons are used repeatedly, or if it’s suspected that the reason isn’t supported by sufficient evidence, the board may not consent to the absence. If so, this should be made clear to the governor.

Apologies in advance aren’t normally accepted

It’s not normally appropriate to accept a governor’s apologies weeks or months in advance for absences such as an extended holiday or work placement. However, the governing board might give consent, considering the individual’s long-standing commitment and value to the governing board.

Withdrawing consent to an absence before the next meeting

The board can retrospectively withdraw consent to an absence before the next meeting if it turns out that the governor’s reasons for absence were false or invalid.

Add a note to the draft minutes such as: "The minutes are only approved with the following amendment..." – then make sure the minutes explain that the governor's absence wasn't accepted.

These changes must then be approved by the board, and the governor should be informed that their absence wasn't consented to.

What happens when governors are regularly absent 

Expect the chair to meet with the governor and ask why they’ve failed to attend meetings.

If the governor is struggling to rearrange work commitments or find childcare, you and the chair could support them by:

  • Considering altering the timing of meetings
  • Arranging payment of childcare expenses, or making arrangements for governors' children to be looked after during meetings
  • Asking the school to speak to the governor's employer about time off for governing board meetings

The chair should give the governor a warning and set a time period in which to improve attendance. 

Absences over a period of time

It’s up to the board whether to allow a governor to absent themselves from meetings for a period of time, for example, due to personal reasons.

The board should consider:

  • The number of meetings the governor has missed
  • Whether the governor has been able to contribute in ways other than attending meetings during the period of absence
  • Whether the governor is new or long-standing
  • The extent to which the governor has kept up to date with the board's proceedings and events at the school

If the absence is continuing after 6 months, you should expect the chair to meet with the governor and discuss whether they can still fulfil their duties. This is a way of offering them a chance to resign from the governing board.

Governors are disqualified for consistent absence

Maintained schools


Only full governing board meetings count 

Even if a governor attends committee meetings, they can still be disqualified if they've been absent from full governing board meetings without consent/permission for 6 months. A representative from the DfE told us this. 

Find out more about removing a governor or trustee.


Jackie Beard is a national leader of governance, advising governing bodies in all aspects of their role. She also sits on an independent appeal panel for exclusions and admissions for a local authority.

Fred Birkett is an experienced teacher and education consultant. He's been a governor for 20 years in primary and secondary schools and a chair of governors for half that time.

Bill Dennison is a national leader of governance. He's currently chair of governors at a large secondary school and a governor of a large sponsor-led secondary academy. He was previously head of the education department at a Russell Group university.

Ray Gold provides training, advice and support on effective school governance. He's an experienced chair of governors.

Hayley James is a governance consultant who works with governing bodies in maintained schools and academies. She's also a governor trainer for a local authority, a governor on an IEB, and has experience as a freelance clerk to governors.

David Roche, a former headteacher, works as an education consultant and school improvement partner.


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