Steve Edmonds

Author: Steve Edmonds

01/03/2021 10:50:19

NGA’s Visible Governance in Schools campaign has gained much attention among the governance community. We have been humbled by your positive stories celebrating the role of those who volunteer for the good of children and young people and their communities. This month we are focusing the campaign on the professionals who support governing boards, traditionally referred to as clerks but who now have a multitude of other titles, which reflect varying roles and governance structures.

Clerking has always been a varied profession with practitioners who are school employees (often with another role in the school), employees of traded clerking services and as independent service providers, doing slightly different versions of broadly the same job for a single school governing board. As governance in trusts has grown and matured, the clerking profession has evolved too. In medium-sized and larger trusts, there will likely be a senior level governance professional coordinating the delivery and ongoing improvement of governance support across the trust and overseeing the additional support below trust board level in the form of academy committee clerks. There may also be additional members of a central governance team in a trust who perform clerking functions but are known as governance leads, governance officers, governance managers etc.

All clerking roles are fundamental to ensuring good governance and should be afforded the recognition they deserve in the schools system. However, the way the profession has evolved does lead us to ask the question what is the best collective term for those working in it? Perhaps now is the right time for the sector to adopt 'governance professional' as the collective term for who are paid to provide professional support to a governing board, regardless of what the individual job title might be. This could well provide a catalyst for raising the status of the profession and attracting people to work in it.

Those in the profession (many of whom also govern themselves) alongside their governing boards, are best placed to highlight the contribution it makes towards ensuring that decisions are made and recorded correctly, that legal and compliance duties are met and generally to making governance the force for good that it is. We want this month to be a platform for sharing views and experiences of the impact clerks and other governance professionals have on governance in all types of school structure. You can share your thoughts on social media using #VisibleGovernance or email us at visible@nga.org.uk. We know that the profession is about much more than taking minutes, so we should do all we can to ensure that this is understood and appreciated. This was one our aims when we launched the Clerking Matters Campaign in 2013 and remains the case despite the campaign’s strapline having dated a little.

We have a range of content and activities throughout the month linked to professionals who support governing boards. We recently launched a survey aimed at building a picture of the career landscape and identify opportunities and solutions to support career progression and CPD.

We want to celebrate those clerks and other governance professionals that go above and beyond and provide an outstanding service to their boards and so have included two categories for clerking in our Outstanding Governance Awards 2021: Outstanding clerk to a governing board and Outstanding lead governance professional. Nominations are still open, so please think about nominating someone you think deserves recognition.  

On the 30 and 31 March NGA is holding its annual conference for clerks and other governance professionals. The conference is an established event in NGA’s calendar. Although it’s not being held face to face this year, it still has a range of expert contributors providing insight alongside legal and practice updates. 

We know that members who regularly attend the conference value the CPD it provides. It is vital that those paid to provide professional support to a governing board receive timely access to CPD they require to maintain knowledge, develop skills and support their professional growth. Regrettably the DfE’s funding of national development programmes for clerks has ended. However, NGA continues to make the case for further investment as well as maintaining its commitment to its leading governance level 3 accredited qualification continues for schools/trusts/employers wishing to self-fund.

We are extremely proud of this programme and heartened by the feedback we receive from participants who tell us that it has made them more confident and effective in their roles.

Finally, we would like to thank clerks and other governance professionals for the immense contribution you have made to the continuity and resilience of school governing boards during the pandemic. You are truly valued by all at NGA.

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