Productive relationships with Clerks: Top Tips for Headteachers
As an experienced headteacher of over 20 years and a governor for the same amount of time in a variety of settings I have found my working relationships with clerks very productive providing there is a climate for the relationship to flourish.
Once this relationship is established it contributes to overall good governance. I realised early on that clerks do more than just send out paperwork and take minutes of meetings; an efficient clerk supports great governance and is an asset for the headteacher and the chair of governors.
These are some of the things I have learnt over the years.
1. Develop mutual trust and confidence and if possible have termly catch up meetings to plan the term’s work.
2. Be accessible and sensitive to each-others’ work life balance and needs. Remember that nobody is perfect and that mistakes will be made.
3. Work out the most effective method to contact each other and the best time of the day e.g. by text/email/telephone. Check contact information such as emails addresses are current.
4. Agree working parameters/times when you and the clerk prefer not to work e.g. certain evenings but remain flexible particularly at peak times of high workload.
5. Put aside some time to evaluate the worth of your clerk and discuss together what skills they can bring to your GB, then provide time for training to enhance those skills. Reward as appropriate in line with school policy on pay and renumeration.
6. Develop a programme of meetings with the clerk the headteacher and the chair of governors (COG), and work through the main agenda items to be included for the year- this ensures you are all well prepared.
7. Time Management – Stick to a consistent system for agenda planning and papers circulating in advance of meeting, if the timescale is not met, ensure a polite email is sent asking if everything is okay. Circulating papers in plenty of time before the meetings allows all to have time to read and analyse the content to support questions.
8. Support a new clerk with a ‘To Do’ list and the school induction pack, if appropriate with timescales for completion clearly stated.
9. Ask your clerk to turn minutes around as quick as possible whilst the detail is fresh in everyone’s mind and that these are sent to the COG and the headteacher for verifying. Set clear timescales/deadlines.
10. Have a tracking system for minutes from draft stage to approval and circulation, this could be through headers and footers or tracked changes.
11. Work with your clerk and COG to ensure you have an up to date schedule of all statutory policies, so that they are submitted to meetings on the due review dates.
12. Have a consistent system for tracking governor apologies in advance of meetings to help your clerk, so that everyone knows the protocol and adheres to it.
13. Make sure your clerk understands that minutes are a powerful evidence tool – make challenge explicit- perhaps through highlighting or using a different colour font, this is particularly pertinent with regard to financial decisions where reference can be made to the scheme of delegation highlighting that the GB have adhered to their delegated powers. This supports future audit and any other external verification.
14. Encourage your clerk to provide an action sheet which is sent to all governors as soon as possible after the meeting so that all governors understand their role and that they are accountable for their actions. This should include timescales and who is responsible for what.
15. Support your clerk in recording the follow up on actions from previous meetings. Think about the best way to record this so that this is clear e.g. further to minute xxxx of the FGB/committee meeting held on xxxxx, the following actions/ decisions were carried out.
16. Remember, your clerk is human, just like you! Thank them and praise them for a job well done.
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