Amy is NGA’s Clerking Development Manager and a clerk with over 20 years experience in various schools and trusts.
Drawing on my own experience as well as the advice of our finalist clerks in the Outstanding Governance Awards 2021, these tips aim to help new clerks make the best start as a governance professional.
“Your role is not just to take minutes of a meeting and provide advice when it is requested, it is about thinking about how you can further support each governing board to execute their role and to focus on outcomes for children.”
Be highly organised
“As clerk you must be aware of the difference between day-to-day management of the school and strategic decisions that need to be made by the governing board. Therefore, proactive and focused agenda setting is important.”
You will benefit from having timelines in place for tasks like the organisation of meetings. Working back from the date of the meeting, the agenda and accompanying documents need to be sent seven days prior. You will need to meet with the chair and senior executive leader (headteacher or CEO) to formulate the agenda and request any relevant reports, information or other documents which need to be sent with it.
“This ensures that there are no surprises at the meeting as a common understanding exists of the business to be discussed.”
You should then schedule in time to write the minutes, send them to the chair and senior executive leader before they are then circulated to the full governing board within 14 days. To help you get started, NGA has template agenda and minute documents.
“Strive for excellence in record keeping and documenting. This includes facilitating communication, compliant document filing and archiving, and most importantly: taking and writing minutes that accurately reflect the meeting discussions, and clearly identify any actions to be taken.”
You will also benefit from agreeing an annual planner for meetings and procedures for electing, appointing and inducting new governors or trustees. For the election of governors or trustees, NGA has produced a guide for governance professionals on their role.
Build and manage good relationships
“Having empathy, being able to understand different points of view and how these may be reflected in a meeting.”
As clerk you will be working with the chair of the board, the senior executive leader as well as the other governors or trustees on the board. Creating a rapport and strong relationships with them is essential to the success of your role. A professional clerk can strengthen the team dynamic by instilling confidence and modelling professional behaviour to the governing board. Listen to our podcast where four clerks share their insight on effective relationship building. Relationship skills extend to areas like negotiating, influencing and conflict management. See how a good relationship between the chair and clerk can support effective governance in this blog.
Keep governance knowledge up to date
“It’s very important to always be aware of new legislation and government directives. I am signed up to updates from Gov.uk and from the National Governance Association (NGA).”
There is a lot of information, guidance and regulation relating to governance. You are not expected to know it all, but you should know which sources will provide you and your governing board with reliable, current legislation, guidance and advice. You also need to be able to access the sources in a timely manner. It is helpful to sign-up to receive email updates from the Department for Education and the NGA’s weekly newsletter.
Prioritise your professional development
“Constant CPD helps me keep up to date with the ever-changing role of governance and enables me to pass this knowledge onto the board.”
It is vital that you access not only induction training to get you started in your role but ongoing training either online, via your trust, diocese or local authority, or through a training provider.
There are numerous modules on NGA’s Learning Link specifically aimed at the clerking role and the ‘introduction to clerking’ suite covers all the essential elements such as arranging and minuting meetings, how to find key regulations and guidance and managing information.
You will also find many of the training modules aimed at governors and trustees useful to gain a wider understanding of governance, how your role contributes to the overall success of the school or trust and ultimately ensures the best outcomes for the children.
When you have gained more experience, there are also qualifications you can undertake such as the Leading Governance Development for Clerks level three qualification or the Chartered Governance Institute’s Certificate in Academy Governance.
“It is important that as a clerk, you are able to talk to other clerks… try to make regular contact with other clerks in your area and attend local briefings that are offered. I also regularly attend NGA’s networks and annual conferences which are excellent for sharing best practice.”
The governance professional role, particularly in a single academy trust or maintained school, can be a lonely one and you will really benefit from connecting with other governance professionals to share working practices, ideas and experiences. There are clerking groups on social media sites, NGA’s clerking network and you may find that you have a group of governance professionals who meet locally (either virtually or face to face).