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Spring clean the agenda

Is your governing body bogged down in bad practice? Jane Martin suggests some ideas for a seasonal spruce-up.

The most effective governing bodies take time to have a look at how they are doing the business - and make some changes when needed. Is it time for you to clear out the cupboard?

Setting the agenda

How do you put together agendas for meetings? A pre-meeting between head and chair with the clerk? How do other governors raise matters? Are there always so many items that you run out of time?

Have you tried a timed agenda with most time allocated to the most significant items? Is it clear where decisions are required to be made? Would you benefit from some independent advice at the meeting?

Make sure these people are invited in good time. Is "any other business" really a good idea? Could some of these items be delegated to a committee?

Handling information

Are the papers for meetings always out in good time? Is everybody receiving everything they need? Tabling long reports - particularly the head's report - is not good practice, even if you give people reading time.

Does the head's report cover items you need to know about? If not request that it does. When seeking special reports or extra information make sure requests are reasonable and allow sufficient time for research and preparation.

Does the chair always report any action between meetings? How do you collate and present information in the annual report? This is best handled as a collaborative effort among governors and staff - always trying to be as reader friendly as possible.

Organising meetings

Do they always start and finish on time? Is the meeting room suitable with appropriate seating? Is the chair firm but sympathetic?

All governors should have the chance to contribute to debate but everyone should be clear when decisions are being taken.

Is there an open and transparent meetings culture where everyone is encouraged to speak? Is there too much jargon? Don't be afraid to ask. Can you handle disagreement and conflict? Everyone should be treated with mutual respect - governors should be willing to learn from each other.

Is the governing body a "them and us" team or one willing to take collective responsibility for decisions taken? Some governing bodies have a meetings charter setting out mutual expectations. This might be the time to try one out.

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