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Courting your clerks

Jane Martin takes her monthly look at issues affecting governors.

IT'S TIME to check your clerking arrangements - new regulations came into force last month.

Neither the headteacher nor a serving member of the governing body may now act as clerk for full meetings of the governing body.

The restriction also covers meetings of statutory committees dealing with staff dismissal, pupil discipline, and - for foundation and voluntary schools - admissions. Each governing body needs to have a named clerk who calls all the statutory meetings and ensures that the business is conducted properly.

Where a clerk fails to attend, a governor can stand in for that occasion only.

The new restrictions do not apply to other governing body committees or working groups, where acting as clerk often gives governors an opportunity to develop their knowledge, become more involved in the work of the committee, and develop a purposeful partnership with staff.

When there is a vacancy in community and voluntary-controlled schools, the local education authority must appoint the person selected by the governing body s clerk. In foundation and voluntary-aided schools, the governing body appoints a clerk directly.

The education authority must also dismiss the clerk if the governing body gives notice in writing including its reasons. In foundation and voluntary-aided schools, the governing body may dismiss the clerk.

Many education authorities run a clerking service, and can either offer governing bodies a clerk or train school-based clerks.

Practice varies a great deal but clerks should produce the minutes and be able to give procedural advice at the meeting.

Handbooks such as those provided by Information for School and College Governors (tel 0207 229 0200), the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (tel 0207 930 6441) and some education authorities are extremely helpful.

Under the code of practice on school-LEA relationships, officers should be able to respond to invitations to attend statutory committees or governors' main meetings to offer professional advice.

Jane Martin is an education officer with responsibility for school governance and development at Dudley education authority.

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