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A Stitch in Time – quick tips for clerks for quality assuring minutes

At the time of writing, we are in a third national lockdown; schools remain open, mass testing is being planned, and governors and trustees are continuing to hold meetings virtually. Our meeting agendas are back to ‘normal’ and no longer ‘collapsed’ and although governors and trustees are not holding face to face meetings or undertaking their school visits in person governance is very much active, ongoing and working hard to support school leaders, pupils, and school communities. In the midst of all this, we find the clerk and governance professionals - often in the background undertaking the day to day governance admin work which keeps you all ‘legal’ but sometimes we all overlook the obvious. This think piece is a gentle reminder of the need to double check.

Proof reading

Check for spelling and typographical mistakes – don’t overly rely on autocorrect (start at the end of the document and work up – that way you are looking at words individually and not in context). If you use a dictation tool double check that it has heard you correctly!

If you create a new agenda using ‘save as’ the agenda from last term make sure you change the date, time, location, and term. This is easy to overlook; the same applies to any information you might put in headers or footers.

Keep the format consistent

If you are standing in for another clerk try to follow their format, but make sure that you cover all the required items in a set of minutes such as confirmation of quorum and confidentiality (even if the last set of minutes did not refer to these matters).

Each agenda item needs an individual number, an outline of the discussion or debate, some actions if there are any, and a decision. If there is no clear decision ‘governors or trustees noted’  is a useful phrase.

If governors change the order of the meeting agenda don’t worry, but minute the meeting in the order of the discussion – often the meeting order makes sense only when the meeting starts and what looks like the right order on an agenda turns out not to be appropriate in reality.

Some clerks pre-populate their meeting templates with information that they know will not change – this can save a lot of time.

Naming names

Using just first names in minutes is too informal for board minutes.

Use initials for actions as this helps hold people accountable. Remember governance is a collective activity so you don’t have to attribute questions asked to individual governors or trustees unless they specifically ask.

Version control

Governor Hub is an ideal way to share your governance documents (as a clerk check you have access in time for the meeting) and it is straightforward to upload the latest version of the minutes or reports. Double-check you have uploaded everything you have been sent and that there is no duplication.

Check that the minutes of the last meeting, the agenda, any action logs, and supporting papers are uploaded by the 7-day deadline (unless otherwise pre-agreed by the board).

Keep your draft meeting notes in a safe place until minutes are approved – there may be times when you need them!

 

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