Chair of governors: meetings with the headteacher
Make meetings with the headteacher more productive with advice on why you should meet and what you should focus on.
Fred Birkett and Celia Grace, two governance consultants, helped write this article.
Purpose of regular meetings
Regular meetings with the headteacher can:
- Help you maintain a good level of communication between governing board meetings
- Give you an opportunity to talk in confidence with someone who is engaged in the day-to-day operation of the school
- Help you to reflect on some of the more difficult issues that may have arisen between board meetings
Your meetings with the headteacher should also inform, and set the agenda for, governing board meetings. Some issues may remain confidential, but give careful thought to what is shared with the board to ensure governors don't feel that decisions have been made behind their backs.
Determine the frequency
It's down to you both to determine how often you meet.
The frequency will differ depending on:
- The issues your school faces
- Both of your time commitments
- Whether you and/or the headteacher are newly appointed
Establish a focus
Work with the headteacher to prepare a brief agenda for each meeting to make sure it's focused. Having an agenda also creates a degree of formality which will help you provide the correct level of support, and where appropriate, challenge and scrutiny.
When determining the focus of the meeting, consider:
- What are our priorities as set out in the school improvement plan? Which of these priorities need to be discussed now, if any?
- Have any other issues arisen, either internally (headteacher, staff, pupils, governors, parents) or externally (local authority, other schools, central government)? Do these need to be discussed?
You should consider how you can support the headteacher in these areas, and where you need to provide scrutiny.
Topics you might cover
The topics that you discuss at each meeting will vary, so you're unlikely to have a standing agenda.
Topics could include:
- Attendance and punctuality
- Behaviour (including exclusions)
- Pupils (recruitment, transition, safeguarding, SEND, student voice, inclusion)
- Teaching and learning (including curriculum)
- Progress and attainment targets
- Self-evaluation and the school improvement plan
- Finance (budget preparation and monitoring, income generation)
- Governance (meeting preparation, recruitment/retention/development of governors)
- Their performance objectives and progress towards achieving them (if you're a member of the headteacher performance review panel)
- Their wellbeing and work-life balance
- Staffing issues (performance management, continuing professional development, starters and leavers, discipline/grievances, restructuring)
- Confidential matters (not dealt with elsewhere)
- External partnerships (e.g. other schools, the local authority)
- Community issues
- Parents (engagement, complaints, communication, the parent teacher association)
- Premises and physical resources (buildings maintenance and development, ICT, playgrounds)
In practice, there may be little or nothing to discuss on some matters, while others require more in-depth and ongoing discussion.
Follow up your meetings with short notes on each topic recording the key issues and action points. Feed these points into discussions at the next governing board meeting.
Celia Grace is a primary and secondary school governor. She is also a consultant who provides training, advice and support on effective school governance.
Fred Birkett is an experienced teacher and education consultant. He has been a governor for 20 years in primary and secondary schools and a chair of governors for half that time.