Latest DfE governance guidance – Friday 27 March 2020

This week I highlight the latest DfE Governance advice, a new publication from the NGA on business continuity and holding virtual governing body meetings and a new texting service to support teacher wellbeing.

Latest DfE Governance advice
As you are all aware the DfE published updated governance advice yesterday and its key advice for governing bodies was:

  • Boards can agree to hold meetings via telephone or video-conferencing without having to meet first. The chair or clerk can contact governors directly to agree to alternative meeting arrangements during this lockdown period.
  • Please note: the department will not be making any changes to the statutory governance functions in any upcoming regulations related to COVID-19. The School Governance (Roles, Procedures and Allowances) (England) Regulations 2013 (regulation 14) allows for governing bodies in maintained schools to approve alternative arrangements for governors to participate or vote at meetings of the governing body, including by telephone or video conference. The model articles of association for academy trusts state that trustees can attend meetings remotely subject to certain stipulations set out in article 126.
  • The department urges governing boards to be pragmatic in what they cover in meetings during this time, and to be proportionate in the decisions that they are planning to take. We expect governors to focus on urgent, time-bound decisions. We understand that you are likely to want to defer non-urgent decisions/agenda items until future meetings.
  • Boards should prioritise providing support to their school leaders and staff where needed, to allow them to get on with operational matters. School leaders should stay in touch with the governing board in a proportionate way, including providing information on the welfare of staff and pupils, so that they can retain a strategic overview of the situation and the school.
  • We urge schools’ Get Information About Schools (GIAS) gatekeepers and individuals who have their details on GIAS to keep email addresses up to date. Important information being communicated from the department may require quick and effective action.
  • We also recommend governing boards have in place contingency plans in case the chair and/or vice chair become unavailable, so that there is clarity about who will be the conduit of information for the board.

I have already taken part in a successful virtual governing body meeting this week using Zoom (a videoconferencing app) and will liaise with Chairs and Headteachers to ensure that we can move forwards in the Summer term with virtual governing body arrangements. Bearing in mind the advice from the DfE agendas will be modified to ensure key information is provided from the school and urgent decisions are prioritised.

NGA Governing in challenging circumstances – Business continuity and holding virtual meetings
This week the NGA published new guidance on how the work of governing bodies can continue during these uncertain times. It provides helpful information on business priorities, how governing bodies can meet virtually and the work of panels.  It also includes a sample protocol governing bodies can follow when using alternative arrangements to participate and vote in meetings.

New text messaging service launched to help teacher wellbeing
A free text messaging service is being launched to support the wellbeing of teachers during the coronavirus crisis. The TeachTogether service will send weekly text messages to teachers including supportive quotes from other professionals, advice and links to useful activities during school closures and beyond.

It is being launched by The Chartered College of Teaching and the Behavioural Insights Team following a pilot of a similar service in the United States and Canada for teachers and emergency service call handlers.

To join the messaging service, teachers will need a UK mobile number or email. To sign up visit chartered.college/teachtogether