Last reviewed on 8 February 2022
School types: All · School phases: All
Ref: 40402

Learn how to run your virtual meetings effectively with our one-stop shop for chairs and clerks.

8 February 2022: Government guidance on when boards can resume in-person meetings hasn't changed. Your chair of governors should work with your headteacher to decide whether your meetings can be in person. 

Your meetings should comply with the latest government guidance on living safely with respiratory viruses including the coronavirus, and you can consider if a blended approach of face-to-face and virtual meetings will work for your board (as per the April 2021 governance update).

1. Prepare for the meeting

Send out the papers in time
 
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 (either a paper or electronic version), who is providing them, and which papers link to which agenda item
Remember, attendees must receive any papers at least '7 clear days' before a scheduled meeting (this applies whether you're in a maintained school or an academy – see article 111 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 will 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 virtually. 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 will 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 UK GDPR – there's more about this in the section 'After the meeting'.
 
Prepare the minutes as usual
 
Write the minutes how you would normally. Check whether your LA or academy trust has guidance 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:

Practical bits either you or the chair will take care of before the meeting

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
Make sure all governors:
  • Have access to a decent internet connection (if they don’t, give them the option to dial in by phone, or ask 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 by enabling 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.

Be sure to read the privacy terms and conditions of your platform. 

Set some 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 will 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 that 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.

 

2. At the start of the meeting

Circulate the meeting link
 
Send governors the exact link and any passwords they need to join the meeting. If you send this via email, make sure it's encrypted to keep information safe.
 
If the board uses GovernorHub (free with your Key membership), you can add your virtual meeting link to the meeting invitation. Find out more here.
 
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).
 
Find out more about attendance and absence in meetings, and use our attendance register here.
 
Check the meeting is quorate
 
Record the quorum in the minutes. 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.

3. During the meeting

Summarise as you go along

This will 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 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

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, write this down too - for example, if there was a loss of connection.

4. After the meeting

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.

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

  • Mark the document as signed on The Key's GovernorHub, if the board uses this
  • Sign them electronically directly on the document, for example, using a web-based e-signing platform or the cloud
  • Print off, sign and scan/take a photo of the signed page(s), and send them back to you

If they can’t do any 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 you're able to, get 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 UK 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.
 

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.

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