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An effective clerk’s responsibilities to the governing board

4 Jan

I           The governing board’s tripod

The effectiveness of a governing board is dependent on a range of factors.  It is difficult to put these factors in a pecking order of importance.   However, every person on the governing board should operate with conscientious and probity by

(i)         discharging her/his responsibilities responsibly and

(ii)        acting in concert with the other governors to make the whole greater than that of the sum of the parts.

Three important people stand out with their noses just ahead of the rest of the members of the governing board. They are the chair, the headteacher and the clerk. The legislation prescribes that every school/academy must have a headteacher and chair on and a clerk serving the governing board. However, the headteacher may opt not to be a governor, though her/his attendance at the meetings is imperative.

  • The chair holds the reins of operations. S/he invests more time and effort than the rank and file of governors and is the port of call in emergencies.
  • The headteacher acts as the point of contact between the governing board and the school’s community, i.e. the pupils, staff and parents. S/he operates as a conduit for communication or (to mix my metaphors) a gatekeeper – ensuring that governors keep their noses out of issues of management.  However, the headteacher in the latter role – the management supremo – could also be obstructive – a definite no-no – and block governors from discharging their responsibilities.
  • Last, but by no means the least, every governing board has a clerk. In the halcyon days, the clerk operated as a glorified cleric (in a non-religious way).   Not so any more.

Much has been written about the role of the chair and the headteacher, vis-à-vis governors’ efficiency and effectiveness; much less about the role of the clerk.  The National Governors’ Association has spearheaded training for clerks so that they can understand governance, develop knowledge, secure the skills necessary to service the needs of governors and governing boards and act as the governing board’s trusted adviser.  It is a vital role for governors to discharge their responsibilities responsibly if the governing board is to act efficiently and effectively, adding value to the school/academy.

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Clerking Governing Bodies Professionally

18 Aug

I        The Clerk Competency Framework and how it can be used

Not so long ago, the National Governors’ Association proposed that the clerk to the governing board should be renamed the “director of governance”.   This is unsurprising, as the responsibilities of the clerk have grown in proportion to those of the governors she/he serves.

In April 2017, the Department for Education (DfE) published a competency framework for clerking.  It provides non-statutory guidance on what it takes to make clerks effective in maintained schools, academies and multi-academy trusts.

How can the framework be used?

Governing boards can use the framework in several ways.

(i)         The first is to understand the role of professional clerking and how it can improve governance.

(ii)        They can treat the competencies as a template for a person specification when recruiting clerks.

(iii)       The framework may be used to set clerks their objectives and for performance appraisals.

(iv)       Finally, the document may be used to identify where improvements may be required in the service they receive from their clerk.

In turn, professional clerks can use the framework to assess their own practice and identify their training needs.

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