Clerking for governing bodies
In this article, we look briefly at the role of the clerk, and what resources are available to schools to make sure that their clerk is supported.
Clerking for governing bodies
It has recently been suggested that the governing bodies of a number of schools and academies may not be meeting their obligations in relation to clerking. In this article, we look briefly at the role of the clerk, and what resources are available to schools to make sure that their clerk is supported.
Boards can run the risk of relegating their clerk to an organisational or administrative role. Whilst these are important elements of a clerk's job description, the clerk should have the specialist knowledge to be able to guide the board as to its statutory, legal and ethical obligations and responsibilities.
The Governance Handbook suggests that boards should employ a "professional clerk". In the Clerking Competency Framework, this is to be taken to mean high-quality, tailored delivery of advice on regulatory and procedural governance matters. Rather more than a volunteer or the coerced minute taker. The risk of using a volunteer is that they may well lack the independence, knowledge and ability to speak up required of a clerk.
All maintained schools and academies are required to have a clerk to their governing body (in school regulations or the academy's articles of association). However this falls short of a requirement to have a professional clerk. It is the Clerk's role to provide efficient and effective:
- administrative and organisational support;
- guidance to ensure that the governing body/board works in compliance with the appropriate legal and regulatory framework, and understands the potential consequences for non-compliance; and
- advice on procedural matters relating to the operation of the governing body/board.
A key objective of a clerk is to provide an additional resource to help the governing body remain on mission, avoiding sinking into operational matters which can so easily divert energy and attention. The voluntary nature of governance makes it all the more important that schools and academies make the best possible use of everyone’s time.
There are numerous resources available to schools and governing boards to support their clerk, or to assist in training someone new to the role. Whilst there is no standard qualification, there are programmes and certificates available, some of which include financial support. Useful starting points might be:
- National Governance Association – certificate of clerking of school governing boards
- DfE - Governance clerking development programme
- ICSA: The Governance Institute
Chris Billington, Head of Education at Wrigleys comments: "The role of a clerk is often underestimated or unappreciated. However, it is vital - not only to comply with the governance framework, but as a matter of good governance generally. It is important that the board as a whole recognises and appreciates the key role of the clerk and ensures that it is adequately resourced."
In the absence of a professional clerk the key functions as outlined above will largely fall onto the chair of the governing body or will be directed by the Headteacher, Principal or CEO. This can only increase the demands on their time and denies the school or academy the benefit of the independent advice and guidance the professional clerk should bring. This should be of concern to all schools and academies at a time when governance failings are in the national press and very much a focus of Ofsted and ESFA inspections and reviews.
If you would like to discuss any aspect of this article further, please contact Hayley Marsden or any other member of the Education team on 0113 244 6100.
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The information in this article is necessarily of a general nature. Specific advice should be sought for specific situations. If you have any queries or need any legal advice please feel free to contact Wrigleys Solicitors