Category Archives: Friday Updates

Each week School Clerk UK publishes an update for member governors on key issues affecting Governing Bodies. They are published here for easy browsing and future access.

Guidance published on a full return to school in September – Friday 3 July 2020

This week I report on the publication of guidance helping schools to plan for the return of all pupils in September, as well as a consultation launched by Ofqual on the 2021 exams series reflecting the impact of Covid-19 on teaching time.

DfE guidance on a full return in September
Yesterday the DfE published guidance to help schools to plan for the return of all pupils in September including separate guidance for Special schools. Whilst Covid-secure measures will remain in place to reduce the risk of transmission, schools will be expected to deliver a full curriculum. Schools have been asked to keep pupils in class bubbles or year group bubbles with staff able to work across bubbles.

Schools will also be expected to have plans in place to offer remote education for pupils who are self-isolating. Mandatory attendance will be reintroduced, and routine Ofsted inspections won’t resume until January 2021.

Primary tests will also go ahead as planned next year and these include the phonics screening check, Key stage 1 and Key stage 2 SATs and Year 4 times tables test.

School Senior Leadership Teams will be working on their risk assessments and control measures for a full return of pupils in September and the NGA held an informative webinar yesterday on issues governing bodies need to consider ahead of the Autumn term.

Consultation on the 2021 examination series
Yesterday Ofqual launched a consultation on the 2021 exams and assessments with a range of proposals for general qualifications including:

  • Adaptations to free up teaching time – to give teachers more time to cover the full content in some subjects and help relieve the pressure on students.
  • Adaptations to allow for future public health safeguards – identifying those subjects that could be particularly affected if public health safeguards were needed and suggestions on how these might be addressed.
  • Sampling of subject content – exploring the use of content sampling in question papers and increasing the use of optional questions – but not for English literature, maths and the sciences.
  • Changes to the exam timetable – whether GCSE exams could start after half term, on 7 June 2021 and whether it would be appropriate for the AS/A level exam timetable, and the impact of any delay in issuing results.

The consultation is open until Thursday 16 July, with final decisions announced in August.  Ofqual has indicated that learners taking vocational and technical qualifications have also experienced lost teaching time and appropriate arrangements need to be put in place to mitigate the impact of this disruption, with plans to be published in more details in the coming weeks.

 

Delay to the introduction of Reception baseline assessment and Behaviour Hubs – Friday 26 June 2020

This week I report on the delay of the introduction of Reception baseline assessments and Behaviour Hubs, the launch of a consultation on amendments to the School Admissions Code, the publication of DfE guidance on the COVID Summer Food Fund and plans to consult on delaying next year’s GCSE and A Level examinations.

Delay to the introduction of the Reception baseline assessment and Behaviour Hubs
This week it was confirmed that primary and first schools will not have to set the new Reception baseline assessment this autumn after the Government delayed its statutory introduction as a result of the coronavirus. Schools will have the opportunity to sign up to the Reception Baseline Assessment early adopter year to familiarise themselves with the content and administration, with the reassurance that this year’s data will not be used for accountability purposes.

Also, roll out of the Government’s £10 million behaviour hubs programme has been pushed back due to the coronavirus pandemic. The project, led by behaviour tsar Tom Bennett, will support 500 schools across England to develop policies such as detention systems and sanctions for misbehaving pupils. Originally the DfE had planned to recruit up to 20 lead schools to become behaviour hubs and work with advisers to support struggling schools from September this year. However due to the disruption caused by the coronavirus outbreak, the DfE has said it is now expecting to appoint and induct lead schools in the Spring next year.

Consultation on changes to the School Admissions Code
The DfE has launched a consultation on a revised version of the statutory School Admissions Code today. The revised Code seeks to clarify and improve the process in which often the most vulnerable children are admitted to school outside of the normal admissions round in light of a number of Government reviews. The revised Code will also provide additional information and details that will support admission authorities in discharging their duties effectively.

In addition, the DfE has published an updated statement on admission of summer-born children. In 2015 the DfE committed to amending the School Admissions Code so that summer born children could automatically be admitted to a Reception class at the age of five where that is what their parents wanted, and could remain with that cohort throughout their education. The DfE could not consult on this at the same time as the proposed changes detailed above, because a provision to enable children to remain in a particular cohort goes beyond the remit of the Code and requires primary legislation.

COVID Summer Food Fund guidance
Guidance for schools and LAs on providing vouchers to support pupils eligible for free school meals over this year’s summer holiday period has now been issued.

Plans to consult on the delaying of exam season 2021
At the start of the week the Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson, told MPs that the Government would be “consulting with Ofqual about how we can move those exams [in 2021] back” to maximise teaching time.  The news comes amid growing pressure on Ministers to reveal their plans to make next year’s exams run smoothly, following the cancellation of this year’s series as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.

An Ofqual spokesperson said: “We recognise students expecting to take exams next year, and their parents and teachers, are concerned about the disruption to teaching and learning caused by the coronavirus pandemic.  We are working closely with the DfE, exam boards and groups representing teachers, schools, colleges and students, to carefully consider a range of possible measures. We are planning to publish for consultation, before the end of term, our proposals for 2021.”

 

Catch-up plan announced – Friday 19 June 2020

This week I report on the Government’s announcement of a £1 billion catch up plan for next academic year and the publication of the updated Keeping Children Safe in Education statutory guidance that will come into force on 1 September 2020.

£1 billion ‘Covid catch-up plan’ announced
Today Number 10 and the DfE announced a £1 billion package to help to tackle the impact of teaching time lost owing to the coronavirus crisis. The “Covid catch-up plan” will include £350m to pay for a national tutoring scheme for the most disadvantaged pupils as well as £650m to be shared across primary and secondary schools during next academic year for all pupils who need it.

However, the details aren’t yet clear. The DfE has said heads will have discretion on how to spend the £650 million, which is equivalent to just over £91 per pupil. But the department also said it expects them to spend the cash “on small group tuition for whoever needs it”. The DfE has said schools can spend the money on other initiatives, such as summer schools, but has not yet explained how that fits with their demand that schools use it for tutoring and the funding will be for the 2020/21 academic year, so its not clear whether schools will receive it in time to pay for activities this summer.

The Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) is due to publish a guide later today to help school leaders decide how to use their £650 million in additional funding. Suggestions highlighted by the DfE include “intervention programmes, extra teaching capacity, access to technology and summer schools”.

The £350 million National Tutoring Programme will be run by the EEF, Sutton Trust, Impetus and Nesta, and will be split into two strands.

  • NTP Partners – schools will get access to “heavily subsidised” tuition sessions for their pupils from an approved list of organisations. The sessions will be subsidised by as much as 75% meaning they will cost £12 per session.
  • NTP Coaches – recent graduates will be trained up and then employed by schools to provide “intensive catch-up support” to pupils, with their salaries paid for by the programme.

In both cases, it will be up to schools to decide how to deploy the tutoring, and whether to use it for individual pupils or small groups. Schools will be able to decide whether to use tuition sessions in addition to their pupils’ normal school day, or during their timetabled day. The Government hasn’t said how many children will benefit from the tutoring programme, just that it will be for those eligible for pupil premium.

Keeping Children Safe in Education (September 2020)
On Wednesday, the DfE published the updated statutory guidance which will come into force from 1 September 2020. Changes have been made in three circumstances:

  1. where legislation has required it e.g. reflecting mandatory Relationship Education, Relationship and Sex Education and Health Education from September 2020;
  2. where  helpful additional information has been provided that will support schools and colleges to protect their children e.g. mental health, domestic abuse, child criminal and sexual exploitation and county lines;
  3. important clarifications which will help the sector better understand and/or follow the guidance.

Annex H of the document is a table of the substantive changes that have been made from the current version, which schools must continue to follow until 1 September.

Catch-up programme for pupils to be announced – Friday 12 June 2020

This week I report on the announcement of a ‘catch-up’ programme for pupils to help with missed education due to the pandemic, the publication of some new guidance for schools to help identify gaps in understanding, planning a curriculum to teach at school and home and curriculum planning for a phased return; as well as information on two Schools NorthEast webinars and the announcement of extra mental health support for pupils and staff.

Catch-up operation for pupils to be announced
This week the Prime Minister promised catch-up activities over the summer for pupils who have missed education because of the coronavirus and the Education Secretary will provide information on this catch-up programme next week. The Prime Minister also suggested the programme would run after summer to help children with the work they had missed and would be an “educational catch up and economic bounce back at the same time”.

The DfE hasn’t yet confirmed if schools will be open during the summer break and if teachers will be expected to provide activities as part of the catch-up programme. The Prime Minister is under increasing pressure to publish a plan to get all pupils back to school in September.

Today the DfE has published some new guidance for schools on identifying and addressing gaps in pupils’ understanding, planning a curriculum to teach at school and at home and supporting staff in curriculum planning for a phased return, which you might find useful.

Schools NorthEast webinars
There are two free webinars for school staff (including governors) being offered by Schools NorthEast as follows:

  • Live Q&A with Ward Hadaway Law Firm on the wider opening of schools – Monday 15 June at 3.00pm: Graham Vials from Ward Hadaway will be delivering this webinar and will answer questions on topics including Risk Assessment, Staffing, Governance, PPE and Liability.  Register using this link.
  • Recruiting staff in schools through COVID-19 Lockdown and beyond – Wednesday 17 June at 2.00pm: Sarah Louise France-Gorton, Head of Resourcing Solutions at NYES will discuss how other schools have carried on with recruitment where possible, considering innovative and dynamic ways to recruit talent including virtual interview methods, platforms to use, task and assessment ideas, the future of recruitment and recruitment tips.  Register using this link.

Both webinars are free for school staff and £50+VAT for non-school delegates.

Extra mental health support for pupils and teachers
The DfE has announced new online resources designed by health and education experts will be provided to schools and colleges to boost mental health support for staff and pupils, encouraging them to talk more confidently about the anxieties and concerns they feel as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

The DfE has confirmed grants worth more than £750,000 have been awarded to the Diana Award, the Anti-Bullying Alliance and the Anne Frank Trust to help build relationships between pupils, boost their resilience, and continue to tackle bullying both in person and online. As well as announcing a new £95,000 pilot project in partnership with the Education Support Partnership focusing on teachers’ and leaders’ mental health, providing online peer-support and telephone supervision from experts to around 250 school leaders.

The School Standards Minister has also written to members of the DfE’s Expert Advisory Group on education staff wellbeing, accepting its recommendations including a commitment to develop a wellbeing charter for the teaching sector. The charter will help create an open culture around wellbeing and mental health, breaking down stigma, and will include commitments from the Government to regularly measure staff wellbeing, and to embed this into training, guidance and policy making.

Latest DfE school governance update – Friday 5 June 2020

This week I report on the latest DfE school governance update as well as updated guidance on actions for schools during this pandemic, young carer awareness sessions for education professionals being offered by the North Tyneside Carers’ Centre and additional funding for a coalition of charities to provide targeted help to vulnerable children and young people affected by the pandemic.

DfE school governance update and updated guidance on actions for schools
Yesterday the DfE published its latest school governance update which aims to share practical planning advice as well as further detailed guidance, including frequently asked questions for governors and trustees. A further update was made to the guidance on actions for schools and the DfE has now helpfully started to list what these changes/additions are at the beginning of the document.

Carers Week activities for professionals
The North Tyneside Carers’ Centre is an independent charity and the only generic carer support service in North Tyneside supporting both young and adult carers. This year’s Carers Week takes place from 8-14 June and the Centre is offering Young Carers Awareness sessions for education professionals as follows:

  • Monday 8th June at 11am (Primary Schools session)
  • Wednesday 10th June at 11am (all schools)
  • Friday 12th June at 11am (Secondary Schools session)

They are also hosting two Q&A webinars (via Microsoft Teams) to discuss the impact caring has on young carers during COVID-19 and how professionals can help identify those young people who may have caring responsibilities. These will be held on Tuesday 9th and Thursday 11th June 2020 and you should contact the Centre on tel: 0191 643 2298 for further details.

£7 million for new coalition of vulnerable children’s charities
The DfE has pledged more than £7 million to a coalition of charities to help vulnerable children most impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. The See, Hear, Respond Service will provide targeted help to vulnerable children, young people and their families affected by the virus and the measures put in place to stop its spread. Led by Barnardo’s, it will work alongside local authorities, schools and colleges, police forces, healthcare professionals and other vital services involved in protecting these children. The funding will provide:

  • Access to an online support package to children and families ensuring they have readily available, accessible and interactive information
  • Online and telephone referral service by trained professionals who can source further help and support from charity workers within the partnership
  • Online counselling or therapy for those experiencing high levels of anxiety, trauma or other mental health issues that can be safely addressed through digital means
  • Youth interventions and face-to-face crisis support, particularly for those at risk of or experiencing various forms of exploitation, including criminal exploitation

Updated guidance to support schools reopening from 1 June – Friday 22 May 2020

This week I report on updated guidance from the DfE supporting the Government’s continued desire for a phased reopening of schools from 1 June, the recording of a free webinar for governors on safeguarding during this pandemic, funding for a project to place social workers in schools to work with teaching staff and the announcement of an emergency fund to support home education for pupils with SEND.

Updated DfE guidance to support schools reopening from 1 June and scientific evidence underpinning this decision
Amid much media speculation on whether the Government will be able to meet its five key tests by 28 May, the day it makes its final decision on whether to reopen schools from 1 June, the DfE continues to update some of its guidance to help schools as they plan for more children to return. In particular, safeguarding guidance and procedures for planning remote education strategies and teaching remotely have been updated, as well as new guidance on writing end of year reports following the cancellation of this year’s summer exam series and primary assessments.

It has also published information for parents and carers on how they can support their children’s home learning whether they are in primary or secondary school.

The scientific evidence underpinning the Government’s decision to reopen schools to more pupils from 1 June is expected to be published today. However, some schools and academy trusts have already indicated they are taking a cautious approach and will only reopen when they believe it is safe to do so.

Recording of a free webinar on safeguarding during the coronavirus pandemic
As reported in last week’s Update, Governors for Schools in conjunction with Better Governor hosted a free webinar yesterday on safeguarding during the current pandemic. You can use this link to view the recording of the webinar.

Social workers to work with teachers in schools
At yesterday’s Hidden Harms Summit in Downing Street the Education Secretary announced nearly £10 million for projects aimed at boosting the educational outcomes of vulnerable children, and to keep them safe from harm.

This included £6.5 million to involve more than 150 schools in a project that will place social workers in schools to work with teaching staff, reflecting that the second largest source of referrals to children’s social services is schools (18%).

£10 million fund launched to support home education for pupils with SEND
The Government has set up an emergency £10 million fund to help around 19,000 children with special education needs with home education to spend on a variety of equipment including computers and educational toys. The announcement comes alongside confirmation the £26 million Family Fund (providing grants to low income families with seriously ill or disabled children to help with the cost of equipment, good or services) will continue next academic year. 

 

Plans to be announced on schools re-opening – Friday 1 May 2020

This week I report on the Prime Minister’s pledge to set out a plan on how schools can re-open, the publication of new guidance on temporary changes to the law on EHC needs assessments and a review of the first Northern Governance Conference webinar that took place earlier this week.

Plan to be announced on schools re-opening
At yesterday’s daily briefing the Prime Minister promised to set out a comprehensive plan next week to explain how children can get back to school. It comes as the Education Secretary has said pupils are expected to return to school “in phases”.  Earlier this week the Government’s top medical expert warned that re-opening schools too early could increase the spread of infection and the teaching unions have said schools must not reopen until it is safe to do so.

A research review carried out by academics at the University of Exeter and London School of Economics found school closures could leave disadvantaged children with a “learning loss” of up to six months. The Northern Powerhouse Partnership, backed by 55 MPs and peers, has called for a “catch-up premium” for disadvantaged pupils once the lockdown lifts.

Changes to the law on education, health and care needs assessments and plans due to coronavirus
Some aspects of the law on education, health and care (EHC) needs assessments and plans are changing temporarily to give local authorities, health commissioning bodies, education settings and other bodies who contribute to these processes more flexibility in responding to the demands placed on them by Covid-19. Given that the changes to the legislation are temporary, the statutory guidance, the SEND code of practice: 0 to 25 years will not be updated.

However, the DfE had issued new guidance confirming which key elements of the processes over EHC needs assessments and plans are unchanged. Notably this includes that a local authority must still consider requests for a new EHC needs assessment, must still secure all of the required advice and information in order to be able to issue a plan, and must have regard to the views and wishes of a child, the child’s parent or a young person when carrying out its SEND functions under the Children and Families Act 2014.

Review of the first Schools NorthEast Northern Governance Conference webinar
This year’s conference from Schools NorthEast has been split into 3 webinars and the first session took place earlier this week. We heard from 3 keynote speakers as follows:

  • Emma Knights, CEO of the National Governance Association: “What does good governance look like?” – Emma kicked off by talking about why governance is so important in making a difference for pupils and that with no performance league tables next year and Ofsted currently paused, governing body accountability is particularly important. She explained that good governance = ethical governance + accountable governance + effective governance. She discussed ethical governance in terms of governing bodies being the guardians of a school’s vision, ethos and values. In terms of accountability governing bodies should hold themselves and their school to account and they are answerable to other stakeholders. In Governing body meetings, we often talk about how we can engage stakeholders and Emma provided some great examples of strategies that can be used. She also discussed the 8 elements of effective governance and touched on how governing bodies are governing in these challenging times.
  • Kaley Foran, Lead Content Editor of The Key: “Reopening schools after coronavirus – pastoral challenges and how governors can help” – Kaley suggested the re-opening of schools was likely to be phased and highlighted the pastoral challenges that schools were likely to face including pupils having to reintegrate into school routines and expectations; behaviour; anxiety and other mental health concerns, bereavement; safeguarding; staff workload and well-being and pupils missing key transition points.  With the long break from school Kaley suggested pupils would be keen to be with their friends and socialising was likely to be their priority, staff would need to rebuild relationships with pupils and in practice learning might not necessarily be the key focus in the early part of the return to school.  She surmised that governing bodies might need to reconsider their budgets to respond to some of these issues as they could become the school’s new priorities.
  • Graham Vials, Partner at Ward Hadaway Law Firm: “Exclusions and Independent Review Hearings” – Graham took participants through a whistle stop tour of exclusions, advising that the DfE guidance on exclusions should be a starting point as it provided in plain English the legislation on exclusions. He outlined the basic process and the do’s and don’ts.

The next webinar takes place on Wednesday next week when the keynote speakers will consider governing in the ‘next normal’ phase of school development and what 5 questions governors will need to ask themselves, the changing roles of the governing body and understanding disadvantage.

New and updated guidance in relation to COVID-19 – Friday 24 April 2020

This week I highlight some of the new and updated guidance published by the DfE for schools and parents in relation to COVID-19 and information from Schools NorthEast on its Northern Governance Conference which is now being delivered as a series of webinars.

New and updated guidance from DfE in relation to COVID-19
The DfE continues to provide new and updated guidance for schools and parents on a range of issues including:

  • Complaints – confirmation it doesn’t expect schools to handle new or existing complaints while they are closed but should engage with parents where they can.
  • Online learning support package – children “in the most vital stages of their education” will be given free laptops and tablets to make remote learning easier. These devices will be available for disadvantaged pupils in Year 10, pupils who receive support from a social worker, and care leavers, with schools able to keep the devices once they have reopened.  The Government will provide 4G routers to vulnerable pupils who do not have access to the internet and major telecommunications providers. The Education Secretary has also backed a national online academy providing a “comprehensive” virtual curriculum for schools to use during the pandemic. Oak National Academy provides a “sequenced” plan of hour-long lessons and curriculum resources, compiled by 40 teachers from schools across the country.
  • Furlough guidance – state schools that have private income streams, such as catering, sports facilities lettings or boarding provision, can furlough staff in these areas. However, the Government doesn’t “in general, expect state schools to furlough staff”.
  • Managing school premises – guidance on maintaining the school premises with reduced occupancy.
  • Halting of ‘all but essential’ data collections – this aims to “help reduce the burden” on schools and councils amid the coronavirus outbreak.
  • Proper notice regarding schools re-opening – the Education Secretary has pledged that schools, parents and children will be given proper notice of when schools will reopen. He is unable to give an exact date yet because the Government needs to be confident it can meet five tests which are: confidence that the NHS can continue to be protected, a fall in daily death rates, confidence in testing, appropriate PPE capacity, and confidence that changes to the Government’s approach won’t risk a second peak of coronavirus infections.
  • Calculated GCSE and A Level grades – it has been confirmed calculated grades will be published on the dates originally planned for this year’s results days: 13 August for A-levels and 20 August for GCSEs.
  • Admissions appeals – in order to protect parents’ right to appeal to any school which has refused their child a place, new regulations will relax some of the rules surrounding appeal panels. They provide Admission authorities with scope to convene panels remotely in line with advice on social distancing. Also amended are the rules in relation to deadlines, with the DfE recommending that appellants be given at least 28 days written notice of a new appeal deadline.

Schools NorthEast Northern Governance Conference 2020
Due to COVID-19 the Northern Governance Conference has been transformed into a series of online events. The event will be held via webinar every Wednesday for three weeks on 29 April, 6 May and 13 May from approximately 10.30 am to 12.30 pm.

The full programme includes keynote speeches from Sir David Carter, Executive Director of System Leadership at Ambition Leadership and ex National Schools Commissioner, Emma Knights, CEO of The National Governance Association and Emma Ing, Regional Director North East, Yorkshire and Humber, Ofsted.

The cost is £60 per delegate or £100 for your whole Governing body. All delegate and school bookings will receive a recording of all three webinars along with a CPD certificate.

Latest guidance in relation to COVID-19 – Friday 3 April 2020

In my final update this term I report on the latest DfE guidance produced in light of the current coronavirus situation as well as support provided by the NGA and Governors for Schools to assist governing bodies during this time.

DfE guidance
Safeguarding in relation to COVID-19
This week the DfE published new guidance on safeguarding for schools during the coronavirus outbreak, advising them to review and revise policies as the epidemic evolves.

It states that while schools will have an effective child protection policy in place for use during normal operations, it is likely that the policy will not accurately reflect new arrangements in response to COVID-19.

The policies should reflect any arrangements to support children the school is concerned about who do not meet the ‘vulnerable’ definition. Schools should also consider what arrangements are in place to keep children safe while they are not physically attending school, as well as how victims of peer-on-peer abuse might be supported given the very different circumstances schools are now operating in.

COVID-19 Free school meals guidance
This week the DfE also published guidance on providing free school meals whilst schools are closed. Schools can continue to provide meals for collection or delivery themselves, but where this is not possible, a new national scheme will allow schools to provide £15 weekly vouchers electronically or as a gift card for those without internet access.

The vouchers can be spent on food at a range of shops including Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Asda, Morrisons, Waitrose and M&S, with the DfE working to get more shops to join the scheme as soon as possible.

Changes to induction for newly qualified teachers
The DfE has recognised that the current coronavirus outbreak will likely have a profound impact on the number of absences newly qualified teachers (NQTs) take this academic year.

Current arrangements state that ad-hoc absences totalling 30 days or more automatically extends induction by the aggregate number of days absent. However, Government intends to amend the regulations to ensure that any absence related to the current coronavirus outbreak, including school closures, sickness or self-isolation, will not count towards this limit. This means that NQTs who are currently undertaking statutory induction can complete their induction this academic year as expected, provided they meet the Teachers’ Standards.

KCSIE consultation suspended
Given the current circumstances the DfE has suspended the 2020 consultation on revisions to Keeping Children Safe in Education statutory guidance.

Governance support
NGA webinar on virtual governance
On Friday last week the NGA delivered a webinar on virtual governance and also made its GOLDline advice service available to all governing bodies that have questions about maintaining their business in the current circumstances. You can contact GOLDline by emailing gold@nga.org.uk or by calling 0121 237 3782.

Governors for Schools
School governance during the coronavirus pandemic
Yesterday a webinar was held to provide governing bodies with an understanding of key, relevant Government advice and to secure governors confidence in holding schools to account during the coming months.

Microsoft Teams for school governing bodies
A webinar in conjunction with Microsoft will be held on Tuesday 7 April 2020 from 11:30 am to 12:30 pm to help schools get the best out of working remotely using online communication and collaboration platform Microsoft Teams.

The webinar will look at how the platform can support schools to hold productive governing board meetings online and deliver remote learning for pupils effectively. Microsoft Teams is currently free for all schools and educational institutions.

You can sign up to the webinar using this link.

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