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How to prepare for your next governing board meeting
Prepare fully for your governing board meetings to make sure you add value and can hold the school to account effectively. Download our pre-meeting checklist to stay on top of the agenda, get to grips with the critical information in the headteacher's report, and plan questions to ask.
The steps and supporting guidance below will help you prepare for your next meeting. You can also download the steps as a quick-reference checklist:
If you're looking for possible agenda items for your upcoming summer meeting, this article will tell you what most governing boards will be talking about this term.
Address action points from previous meeting
You should have made a note of any action points that were assigned to you in the last meeting and acted on them. If you haven't already done so, read the previous meeting's minutes and follow up on any points relevant to you as soon as possible.
You can expect to see actions such as:
- Carry out, and report back from, a monitoring visit
- Report back from a committee meeting
- Read and ratify a policy
- Attend a training session
If you have an action to contribute information and documents ahead of the meeting, get these to your clerk at least 2 weeks in advance. This will allow the clerk to send out agenda papers at least 7 days ahead of the meeting, as they are required to do.
Reporting back from a monitoring visit
If you have carried out a monitoring visit since your last meeting, you'll need to feed back to the rest of your governing board. Use our school visit proforma to help you structure your findings. Download this template and take it with you to each school visit, so you can capture what you're learning and any relating evidence in the moment:
Ask for agenda items to be added, if appropriate
Developing the agenda is usually delegated to the chair(s), headteacher and clerk, but is a responsibility of the whole governing board and so you have a right to ask for an item to be added.
Contact your clerk to find out how far in advance the agenda is drafted, and what the correct process is for asking for an item to be added. Usually, you will need to ask your clerk to add the agenda item for you, and ideally around 3 weeks in advance.
Tips for reading your meeting pack at pace and with a critical eye
You'll get the agenda and any supplementary papers at least 7 clear days in advance of the meeting. Here's how to go about digesting them:
- It's always best to devote some proper time to getting through these papers; we recommend putting aside at least a couple of hours for this
- If you're pushed for time, and need to prioritise what you read, start with the headteacher's report. This will contain a detailed overview of the school's activity related to the agenda points, and will help you to identify any priorities for improvement
- Read these papers with a critical eye. Your job is to challenge and scrutinise how your school is improving outcomes for all pupils, and to push for clarity on whether it has the resources to make this happen. Bearing these objectives in mind as you read will help you to focus on offering support and challenge during your next meeting, and to prepare suitable questions to ask, rather than merely being informed about what is going on
- Keep a note of any questions you have (see the following section for examples) and make sure you bring them up in the meeting. Don't leave the meeting until you're confident your queries have been addressed – it is your job to probe, so never be afraid of appearing ignorant or annoying. If you don't understand a data point, for example, or you aren't convinced by the explanation you have been given, always ask. If you don't, you can't guarantee someone else will
Our QuickReads can help you quickly to get to grips with concepts that you are unfamiliar with in advance, such as:
How to ask the right questions, plus example question stems
Think of specific questions to ask the headteacher in order to provide support and challenge.
Your questions should:
- Seek to clarify points, address any errors and ask for further information, as appropriate – e.g. 'How many pupils are ....?'
- Relate to the school's priorities and values – e.g. 'How does ... relate to our school improvement objectives?'
- Explore how a situation has occurred – e.g. 'What led ... to happen? What did you do to encourage/prevent it?'
- Draw out the consequences and significance of a situation occurring – e.g. 'What will be the impact of ... on the school?'
- Encourage the board and senior leaders to consider next steps – e.g. 'What are we going to do to improve ...? How will this be put into action?'
- Not encourage discussions about the day-to-day running of the school
Preparing questions in advance will make contributing to the meeting easier. If your board allows it, consider submitting some questions in advance where senior leaders will need to prepare their answer.
Use our examples of questions you can ask to challenge and support the school to help you formulate probing questions on a range of discussion points. For quick-reference now, here are some specific questions on common agenda items that you'll come across:
On school performance data
- How does our attainment and progress compare to the national averages?
- Are there any gaps in specific groups of pupils?
- Are these results what you were expecting?
- If not, why not? How are you addressing this?
You'll find further examples of questions and advice on how you use data in another article.
- What are our persistent absence figures?
- How much of our absence is authorised?
- What are we doing to promote attendance?
- What impact are these strategies having?
- How do our attendance figures compare to national figures?
See more examples of questions to help you evaluate attendance.
On teaching and learning
- When and how often do you check teaching?
- Are there any areas of the school – subjects, year groups or Key Stages – where teaching is a concern?
- Where teaching is weaker, how do we minimise the impact on pupils?
- What do you do about any teacher who is not performing well? What support do they get?
- How do you link observations of teaching with the targets set for teachers in their performance management?
Read more examples of questions to ask about teaching and learning.
Review policies that need to be ratified
If any policies are up for approval by the full governing board, you'll have been sent these in your meeting pack.
When reading a policy, consider:
- Why is it being reviewed/written?
- How has it changed?
- What is the intended impact of the policy?
- What will the impact be on workload?
- How does it reflect the values/vision/ethos of the school?
- How does it feed into the school development plan?
- Has it been written in plain English? Is it easy to understand?
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