Is it illegal not to have a professional clerk for your Governor meetings?
A few weeks ago, we shared an article from Schools’ Week with the headline “Schools without professional Clerks are breaking government rules”. Although we clarified on Twitter that this headline wasn’t quite accurate we felt that, with the new GDPR legislation, a fuller explanation may be helpful.
The wording in the Governance Handbook may seem a little ambiguous as, although it doesn’t say anywhere that you MUST employ a professional clerk, it does say that to have one is 'crucial' and that the 'clerk should be the board’s ‘governance professional’.
So, the article is not quite correct in saying you would be breaking rules by not having a professional clerk but would you fall foul of government guidelines (or the new GDPR regulations) if you don’t?
There is no doubt that a professional clerk is much more likely to be able to fulfil all the elements of the role identified in the handbook than the head’s PA, or another member of school staff, who may have many other tasks to focus on. To begin with, the clerk should be an independent person; this is to ensure that they feel able to voice any suggestions or concerns without the worry that doing so may affect working relationships (or lead to a perceived difference in how they are treated). But also, clerks need to support ‘the chair to enable and facilitate strategic debate and decision making.’ To do this effectively, it is essential for them to have a broader knowledge of the education landscape through regular updates and training and through working in a range of settings.
The Governance Handbook also makes it clear that the clerk’s role goes far beyond mere minute taking. It is also about helping the board understand its role, functions and legal duties. It is also vital that the clerk ensures due process is followed to keep governance aligned to the Nolan principles and the myriad of regulations and advice. Our clerks, for example, have access to the full range of the expertise of the governor services team to support them in their work and to ensure they are always up to date with the latest educational and legislative developments. They also have access to the NGA clerks’ development programme and ongoing training and briefings. For example, governors must ensure their own compliance with GDPR and our clerks are able to advise on this or point you in the right direction for further guidance.
In conclusion, although you are breaking no rules if you do not hire a professional clerk, it is advisable to do so as, having one, could prevent you falling foul of guidelines whilst supporting you in fulfilling the core functions of governance.
If you would like more information on our Governor Clerking service, please click here.