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Last updated on 21 April 2020
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Your summer term agenda won't be business as usual. Find out what headline areas to cover, so you can keep your remote meeting focused on urgent, time-bound decisions.

State of play

This meeting will be held remotely.

Usually you'd use the summer term agenda to look at things like pupil achievement, attendance, and reviewing your progress towards school improvement plan (SIP) objectives.

But due to coronavirus, you'll need to use this year's agenda differently - this is because you're likely to be working without data and your remote meetings will be shorter than normal meetings.

This agenda is a general guideline - your board might do things differently.

Our associate education experts, Keith Clover and Fiona Stagg, helped us to write this article.

Update from the headteacher on the current situation

If you want a report from your headteacher, tell them what you want to see ahead of the meeting.

But, don't ask for a report for the sake of it - if the chair's been keeping everyone updated on the situation, you might be sufficiently updated already.

What you can ask for the report to cover:

  • Attendance
  • Skeleton staff
  • Remote learning
  • Safeguarding
  • Vulnerable children 
  • Pupils with special educational needs (SEN)
  • Children of critical workers
  • Pupils receiving free school meals
  • Finance and premises
  • Health and safety
  • Recruitment
  • Parental engagement
  • Staff wellbeing and continuing professional development (CPD)
  • Additional support your headteacher needs from the governing board

Signpost your headteacher to our unlocked article on The Key for School Leaders for a template report they can use.

Performance data for 2020 won't be published

Usually the headteacher's report would include pupil progress data, but it's unlikely you'll be given any data to look at this summer, given the circumstances.

The Department for Education (DfE) has also announced that it won't be publishing school or multi-academy trust (MAT) level performance data or accountability measures based on summer 2020 tests and assessments.

Where students are awarded grades, this data will not be used to hold schools to account, or used by others organisations, such as Ofsted and local authorities - they'll use data from previous years to assess school performance.

Report on any monitoring

The chair will most likely be updating the board here.

If you're the chair, limit your monitoring update strictly to the priority areas we've recommended you focus on during this period:

  • Safeguarding
  • Health and safety
  • Headteacher and staff wellbeing
  • Continuing education

Find out more about how to monitor these areas

Questions you can ask the headteacher

The questions below are just to give you a flavour of what to ask. Only ask them if your headteacher or chair of governors hasn't covered them already in their updates.

Parents and carers:

  • What support are you giving to parents and carers to help pupils learn at home?

You'll want to hear how the school's keeping parents connected.

Pupil progress: while you're not likely to see any data, ask:

  • How are you monitoring pupils' progress and interaction with remote learning?
  • How are pupils with no internet access managing?
  • How have teachers been giving pupils feedback on any work they've completed?

Don't ask for statistics, but you'll want to hear how the school's monitoring the number of children engaging with remote learning and how they're supporting families who don't seem to be engaging. This'll help them plan who'll need accelerated learning/support when schools return. 

Staff and finance:

  • How is the school paying for regular external staff who aren't furloughed? (e.g. music/P.E. teachers)
  • How is the school covering coronavirus-related costs?

You'll want to hear what arrangements are in place to carry on paying staff as normal (as is expected if your school directly employs them). A representative from the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) told us this. 

You'll also want to hear that the school plans to claim for other coronavirus-related costs under the government's scheme. Take a look at our unlocked article on The Key for School Leaders for more information. 

Pupils and safeguarding:

  • How are you providing care for vulnerable pupils/pupils with SEND/children of critical workers?
  • How are you monitoring the safety and wellbeing of these pupils who aren't in school?
  • How do you make sure your skeleton staffing rota always means that pupils in school can be cared for safely? 
  • How is the designated safeguarding lead (DSL) coping?
  • What support has the DSL received from the local authority?

You'll want to hear that there are systems in place to monitor these children at home and in the classroom (this might include phoning the parents of at-risk children).

You'll also want to hear that the DSL has received support and is always contactable.

Approve the budget

You'll still need to approve your 2020/21 budget in time.

Maintained schools: check your LA's deadline (it'll be between May and June).

Academies: your budget (part of the budget forecast return three year – BFR3Y) must be submitted to the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) by July. But do check your funding agreement in case your deadline's different.

21 April 2020 update: The DfE has cancelled or paused some data collections this year due to coronavirus. It'll make a decision on the BFR3Y later in 2020. For now, we recommend you continue the budget approval process as normal (but holding meetings remotely) until we get further information.

Check arrangements for relationships and sex education 

Your school will have to teach relationships and sex education (RSE) from September 2020.

You'll want to check where senior leaders are with preparing for the new requirements. There's no set timeline for the consultation and curriculum/policy review process, and schools will do it differently. Your school's plans may also have been disrupted by coronavirus. If you haven't already, ask:

  • Has the school completed consultations with parents over any changes? 
  • If not, can any consultations be completed virtually?
  • Have you finalised the curriculum offer for RSE to start in September?
  • Is the new RSE policy ready for approval? If not, when can we expect it?

You'll want to hear that senior leaders are on track, or if they aren't, that they've got a plan in place to make sure everything is ready for September.

Approve urgent policy updates

Below are examples of some urgent policies. You may have different/additional policies to approve.

Safeguarding

Approve the addendum to your child protection policy – the DfE has said it's important for schools to review and revise their child protection policy to reflect new arrangements in response to coronavirus.

Relationships and sex education 

Use our checklist and model policy to help you approve your school's RSE policy, so it's ready for September (if it's ready for approval).

Remote learning

This isn't a statutory policy but your school leaders may have developed one in light of the current situation. Read up on how to approve this policy

Check arrangements for panel meetings

Admissions appeals

Appeal panels don't need to be held in person. There are new regulations set to come into force on 24 April 2020 until 31 January 2021.

These regulations will:

  • Give flexibility to hold panel hearings by telephone, video conference or in writing
  • Provide for appeal panels to proceed with 2 members should the 3rd withdraw
  • Amend the deadlines relating to appeals

Where an appellant can't take part in the hearing and you can't offer an alternative date, the appeal can be decided on written submissions.

You'll want to check that arrangements are in place to facilitate these changes.

Exclusions panels

Exclusion timeframes still apply, but the DfE recognises they might not be met. 

You need to decide on a case-by-case basis whether the meeting should be delayed (and held as soon as practicable), or held remotely by telephone or video-conferencing.

You'll want to ask whether you're due to hold any exclusion panels, and whether remote panels can be facilitated if this is practical.

Consider staffing arrangements for 2020/21

Reorganise your staffing structure if necessary

Even with the current challenges of dealing with coronavirus, there may be reasons why your leadership team wants to reorganise the school’s staffing structure. This might be where: 

  • Your budget-setting process has shown that you need to make savings
  • Staff have resigned and you need to think about what this means for the staffing structure as a whole 
  • You're thinking about changing how your school delivers education and want to try something new in September 

Recruit a headteacher if yours has resigned

If your headteacher's resigned, you'll want to kick-start the recruitment process. 

Be clear on the process for recruiting a headteacher remotely.

Less-urgent items

Discuss these items in focus groups or if you've got time as a board after you've completed your urgent tasks.

Set the strategy for 2020/21

It might be a good idea to set up a working party for strategy development. 

Short term: we don't know yet when school's will re-open, but you'll likely focus on a strategy for the transition back into school (with a particular focus on vulnerable pupils).

Make sure your strategy is flexible to allow for different solutions. Remember, while you'll be involved with the strategy, the actual implementation of this approach and how it'll work in practice, is down to senior leaders.

Medium term: this'll likely focus on closing the learning gap between pupils. You might also look at wellbeing and staying healthy too.

Reflect on your board's skills and effectiveness

While you're reflecting, consider how your board has performed over the year. Discuss:

  • How well you've worked together. This may cover:
    • How your chair and board has responded to the coronavirus situation, and if there are any areas for improvement you can implement going forward
    • How remote meetings have worked, including if they're effective and everyone can contribute
  • Whether you have all the skills you need on your board, and what extra skills you would like
  • Whether you need to make any changes to work more effectively over the next year

Carry out a skills audit to help with this and discuss the results in a meeting. Discuss your training needs, and what you can do about them as a board. 

Sources

Keith Clover is a national leader of governance. He chairs two governing bodies within a multi-academy trust and is an academy consultant for a diocese.

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 also a facilitator for the DfE's governance leadership programme.

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