You are here:

Last updated on 23 April 2020
Ref: 4234
School types: All · School phases: All

Your board should be meeting remotely while schools are closed due to coronavirus. Find out how to run your virtual meetings effectively with our one-stop shop for chairs and clerks.

1. Prepare for the meeting

Use this section at least a week before the meeting.

Chair or clerk (practical bits one of you will take care of)

The points in this section will be handled by either the chair or the clerk – check to see if it's you.
Make sure everyone can attend remotely and use the platform
Ensure all governors:
  • Have access to a decent internet connection (if they don’t, you can give them the option to dial in by phone, or ask them if there’s anything you can do to help)
  • Test their connection and access to the platform by doing a quick test run with you

Keep your meetings secure: enable any security features

Make sure you’ve enabled security features for the platform you're using – ask an IT member of staff for support on how to do this if you're unsure.

You should also read the privacy terms and conditions of your platform. The Department for Education (DfE) recommends this here.

Set the ground rules

Below are some recommended ground rules you’ll probably want to agree with governors to help keep the meeting on track.

All governors should agree to:

  Why?
Attend the whole meeting You don’t want governors logging off and on during the meeting as this affects the quorum, security and flow of the meeting.
Attend the meeting with the webcam/video switched on This'll make the meeting easier to moderate and minute – if this really isn’t possible then the governor can attend via audio only.
Focus on the meeting in the same way as if they’re attending in person With important topics being covered, and possibly decisions or votes being taken, governors need to give their full attention to the business under discussion.
Remain on mute unless they’re speaking This improves the call quality for everyone.
Say their name before they start speaking To help the clerk know who's speaking.
Use headphones  To help keep the meeting private.
Be mindful of their surroundings  Governors need to be aware of who or what is visible or audible in the background. They should also avoid others overhearing their contributions to the meeting, particularly if discussing confidential information.
Follow a set procedure for asking questions

Ideally set out a procedure which allows governors to ask questions without lots of people jumping in at the same time. You could:

  • Ask them to raise their hand, and/or
  • Ask them to send questions in via a live messaging board on your platform, or email

But, there'll still be times when governors will jump in and ask a question – this is fine as long as it's managed.


Check conflicts of interest

Like any other meeting, governors need to review the agenda items and alert you as soon as possible if they have a conflict of interest.

Clerk

Send out the papers in time
Send them out the same way you usually do – you don't need to reinvent the wheel.
Make sure you know:
  1. The date that papers need to be sent out on
  2. Which papers need to go out with the meeting pack, who is providing them, and which papers link to which agenda item
Remember, you need at least '7 clear days' to send out the papers (this applies whether you're in a maintained school or an academy – see article 109 of the DfE's model articles, but double check your own).
Read the papers yourself
Familiarise yourself with what’s going to be covered, so you'll be less likely to need clarification during the meeting. This'll help keep the meeting short.
Make sure you know if there's going to be a vote and how you'll arrange it 
Double check if your local authority (LA) or trust has any rules on how they want governors to vote in these circumstances. If they don’t, governors could:
  • Share the vote privately with the chair/clerk via email or in a private phone call
  • Vote publicly or abstain where you can’t arrange a secret ballot
Email governors and tell them how they can vote in the meeting.
Ask governors if you can record the meeting
Many video conferencing platforms have an option to record. You'll want to check in advance that everyone's happy with this, and make sure it's covered by your data protection or records retention policy. Be clear about what'll happen to the recordings after you've used them.
Make sure you have any necessary permissions on the platform you're using, to enable you to record.
If you record anything referring to named individuals, this counts as personal data, and must be treated in line with the GDPR – there's more about this in the section 'After the meeting'.

Prepare the minutes as usual

Write the minutes how you would normally – your LA or academy trust may have guidance or rules on how they want the minutes to look. If they have a standard template, pre-populate it as far as you can. Be sure to note that the meeting is being held virtually.

If they don’t have a template, use ours:

 

2. At the start of the meeting

Clerk

Circulate the meeting link
Send governors the exact link and any passwords they need to join the meeting.
Make sure the email is encrypted to keep this secure.
Record who's present
Note down in the minutes who’s present in the meeting – ask each governor in turn to state their name (this is particularly important if you can't see them).
Check the meeting is quorate
Record the quorum in the minutes.
Remember, governors attending virtually count towards the quorum. But, if a governor loses connection during the meeting, they no longer count.
The meeting can continue if it becomes inquorate, but you can't hold any votes (if you're in an academy, check your articles of association in case they don't allow you to continue).
Make sure the minutes reflect any of these changes during the meeting.
Check governors are still happy for you to record the meeting
Let them know that only you are permitted to record it.

Chair

Once the clerk has started the meeting and made a note of attendance and quorum:
Remind governors of the ground rules
Give a quick re-cap at the start of the meeting of how it will run.
Check conflicts of interest
Allow governors to declare any conflicts of interest at the start of the meeting.

3. During the meeting

Clerk

Summarise as you go along

This'll help everyone understand what's been decided. Both you and the chair can do this. It'll also help keep your minutes concise.

Protect confidentiality

  • In the minutes – record confidential matters as you usually would (separately as ‘confidential part 2’ items)
  • In the meeting – check that governors are adhering to the protocols to keep the meeting private and protect confidentiality, and check who's in attendance before moving on to the next item (especially if it's sensitive) to keep track of who's involved in the discussions

Handle conflicts of interest

Where a governor declares a conflict of interest prior to or during the meeting, they must withdraw from the relevant part of the meeting by leaving the call.

Once the governing board is ready for the governor to re-join, you can notify them e.g. by email, text or phone call.

Record any decisions made

Make sure you write down and clearly highlight any decisions the governing board makes, including any votes.

If there's a vote, include the numbers for and against, and then state the decision.

If the board needs to ratify a decision at a later date, for example if there was a loss of connection, write this down too.

Chair

Run a tight ship
Virtual meetings are harder to manage, so shorter is better.
Plus, during the coronavirus situation the DfE expects boards to focus on urgent, time-bound decisions.
Make sure everyone can contribute
Time delays and laggy connections are going to happen.
So, just make sure everyone can contribute if they need to – take a look at possible methods you can try for governors to ask questions in the very first section above.
Check in with the clerk
Don't forget your clerk is having to adjust to a slightly different way of clerking. Before moving on to the next item, double check they've recorded everything they needed to.

4. After the meeting

Clerk

Write up the minutes
Do this as you would normally, keeping in mind the order of the information and remembering to proofread.
When you send the minutes for approval, set a clear deadline for when you want comments back. Keep the draft minutes until they've been approved at the next meeting in case you need to refer back to them.
Evaluate the meeting

Points to think about:

  • If anyone had technical issues during the meeting, see if there's anything that can be done to alleviate the issue next time
  • If the meeting didn't run smoothly, chat to the chair about what you could do differently, e.g. you might need to revise the meeting protocols

Get the chair to sign the minutes

Once you’ve sent out the draft minutes, applied any amendments and they've been approved by the full governing board, the chair needs to sign them remotely.

Write in the minutes how the chair's going to do this. They could:

  • Sign them electronically directly on the document (for example if the minutes are a PDF)
  • Print off, sign, and scan/take a photo of the signed page(s), and send them back to you

If they can’t do either of the above, ask the chair to email you to say they agree with the minutes so you have on record that they’re approved, awaiting signature. When schools return, ask the chair to sign the minutes by hand.

Delete any recordings of the meeting

Once the full governing board has approved the minutes and they've been signed by the chair, delete any recordings of the meeting.

Under the GDPR you must delete personal data when you no longer need it, and you won't need to refer to the recordings once the board has approved the minutes.

Chair

Once the clerk's sent you and the headteacher the draft minutes to read through, send back any amendments the clerk needs to make. The minutes then need to be approved by the full governing board at the next meeting.
After the governing board has approved them, you need to sign the minutes. You can: 
  • Sign them electronically directly on the document (for example if the minutes are a PDF)
  • Print off, sign, and scan/take a photo of the signed page(s), and send them back to the clerk

If you can’t do either of the above, email the clerk to say you agree with the minutes so you have on record that they’re approved, awaiting signature. When schools return, you'll need to sign the minutes by hand.

Sources

Our associate education expert Fiona Stagg helped us with this article. Fiona 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.

More from The Key

The Key has taken great care in publishing this article. However, some of the article's content and information may come from or link to third party sources whose quality, relevance, accuracy, completeness, currency and reliability we do not guarantee. Accordingly, we will not be held liable for any use of or reliance placed on this article's content or the links or downloads it provides. This article may contain information sourced from public sector bodies and licensed under the Open Government Licence v3.0.