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The Importance of a Good Agenda

What is an agenda?

An agenda is basically a list. Anyone can write a list but not everyone can write an agenda. This is because you need to know what exactly to put on the agenda and when, the order in which to put them to make the meeting flow properly and which bits the meeting needs to spend the most time on. In order to know what you need to put on the agenda you need to know what has gone before, what is happening now and what needs to be done in future.

Every meeting needs a purpose eg something which cannot be met by other ways of communication eg an email or phone call.

Back to Basics

Good agendas are like a nice, well-crafted line of ‘coat hooks’ on which you can hang:

These items should all focus on:

Who gets a copy of the agenda?

Everyone invited to the meeting including any associate members and staff who may be giving a presentation.

The Formalities

Every agenda should have:

·         The date, time and location - an indication of how long the meeting should last is always useful.

·         Name of the meeting e.g. Local Governing Board, Trust Board, Audit Committee etc.

Apologies – these need to be noted clearly in the minutes and whether they have been accepted or not. This is really important as attendance needs to be published on the school’s website. Some clerks keep a register as the go along which saves times at the end of the year.

Declarations of Interest i.e. in matters on the agenda. This is also really important and there should always be the opportunity to declare an interest.

Register and declarations of business and other interests. This register must be kept updated and governors and trustees must appraise the meeting of any changes. This register needs to be published on the school website and should be as up to date as possible.

Sometimes the clerk has a business or governance interest (e.g. they are a governor in another school in a Multi Academy Trust). Remember this also needs to be declared in the minutes but not necessarily on the website.

Confidentiality. There are two parts to this;

(i) matters which need to be considered confidential and which need to form a confidential appendix (often called a Part 2), and to

(ii) remind those present that the matters discussed at the meeting are to remain confidential until minutes are ratified or unless the meeting agrees the matter can be shared.

(Remember minutes do not become public documents until they are ratified. They must be made available for public inspection; sometimes they are published on the website and sometimes they are kept in a file in the reception area. The public inspection files do not include confidential minutes).

Minutes of the Previous Meeting and Matters Arising. These are important but should not dominate the agenda planning or the meeting. Key matters arising could form key items on the substantive agenda. We must presume that everyone has read the minutes before they turn up at the meeting as they will have gone out at least 7 days before the meeting accompanied by the agenda. You should not spend too long going through the minutes of the last meeting. Nothing more unnecessary than spending three quarters of an hour ploughing through item 23 bullet point 6 just to tell your clerk there’s a full stop missing. Use your pen and put one in.  

Other items on the agenda ‘coat hooks’

These could include the following and the order is dependent on your chair;

There are some matters which have to go on to an agenda at certain times of the year e.g.

The Formalities

Maintained schools

The School Governance (Roles, Procedures and Allowances) (England) Regulations 2013 states that the clerk of the governing body must give written notice of the meeting and a copy of the agenda for the meeting at least seven clear days in advance to—

a) each governor;

b) the head teacher (whether or not that person is a governor);

c) any associate member; and

d) the local authority, where an agenda item for the meeting involves consideration of a change of school category.

Academies

In an academy the DfE model Articles of Association states each Trustee shall be given at least seven clear days before the date of a meeting:

a) notice in writing thereof, signed by the Clerk, and sent to each Trustee at the address provided by each Trustee from time to time; and

b) a copy of the agenda for the meeting;

Who agrees the agenda?

It is important that the agenda is agreed by the chair of the meeting and does not include just what the head, CEO or clerk thinks needs to go on the agenda. If you have a pre-set agenda from your Trust then make sure you have an opportunity to discuss your school. If you follow an agenda from the Local Authority remember this is a recommended or suggested agenda and you can delete items which are not applicable.

If you are not the chair, head or clerk you need to ask to get items on the agenda; you cannot assume you will always get permission.

Top tip

Supporting documents

If you consider that each item is being discussed and considered for a purpose then backing this up with clear reference to any background documents may be worth considering.

Questions

Some agendas include phrases like governors or trustees may like to consider the following questions. This is not leading the meeting but framing the discussion. All too often boards stray into the operational and by pointing governors in the right direction meetings can stay focused and be over before midnight.

And finally…

You do not have to reinvent the wheel for each meeting. If you are going to use the same template for each meeting though do check that you have

* Maintained schools only but there are some good questions in there so worth a look if you are an academy.

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