In our Schools we talk a lot about triangulation – making sure that what we are being told matches what we are seeing and what we are reading. This underpins effective governance practice and has been around for many years now. But what about that other form of triangulation – the relationship between the Chair, Headteacher and Clerk?
This relationship is vital to the successful running of the Governing Board. Our Clerks are a vital element within effective governance practice to ensure all of our practices and procedures are compliant and remain legal. Where the relationship breaks down, inevitably governance becomes ineffective.
In my role as a National Leader of Governance, I attend many Governing Board Meetings. Often I see the Clerk perched at the end of the meeting table away from the Chair and the Headteacher. I have even seen Clerks sitting at a completely different table, as though they were simply the hired help!
We talk about Governors being the Critical Friend for the Headteacher and the Clerk should be the Critical Friend for the Chair. There should be continual conversations between the Chair, Headteacher and Clerk throughout the meetings to ensure the meeting stays on track, remains strategic in the way the business is conducted and ensuring decisions are legally compliant. All aspects of governance should be conducted in a manner where everybody can speak up and respectfully challenge, and that includes the Clerk.
Whilst it is the responsibility of the Clerk to ensure they are appropriately trained and skilled in effective governance, Chairs share that collective responsibility. Your Clerk is not there to simply jot down notes of key conversations, they are there to work with you, to be alongside you and be your trusted colleague.
If our School was a business, the Clerk would be the Company Secretary, an extremely important position and integral to the Senior Management Team. They would be suitably qualified and trained to carry out their duties of ensuring the Company fulfils all legal obligations. It follows then that our Clerks need to be an integral part of the Governing Board, not somebody who simply rocks up once per term to record the conversations. There needs to be a close bond and a trusting relationship between the Chair, Headteacher and the Clerk, true triangulation in the way the meetings are conducted. And yes, this does mean that all three need to sit next to each other!
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