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Support for Surrey governors and trustees

Schools Alliance for Excellence is working with Surrey County Council and Phase Councils to provide support for all schools and academies in Surrey as  we move through this term and towards greater reopening of schools and settings. We are in regular contact with the DfE and Regional Schools Commissioner.

We have established this section of our website in order to provide specific support and guidance for governors. We will be providing you with links to useful guidance that is especially relevant to governors and a section containing FAQs. These FAQs are being updated regularly as we receive questions from our community. 

If you have a question you would like answered or require support, please email r.murton@schoolsallexcel.com. 

Over time we will be adding further content to this page, including access to upcoming webinars for governors organised by SAfE. We appreciate your patience as we develop this space.

 

IMPORTANT LINKS FOR GOVERNORS

School Governance Update (June 4th)

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/school-governance-update/governance-update-april-2020

Guidance on Vulnerable Children and Young People:

www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-guidance-on-vulnerable-children-and-young-people

Guidance on Isolation for Residential Education Settings:

www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-guidance-on-isolation-for-residential-educational-settings

Guidance for Schools about Temporarily Closing:

www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-school-closures

Q&A for Parents and Carers (updated):

www.gov.uk/government/publications/closure-of-educational-settings-information-for-parents-and-carers

Cancellation of GCSEs, AS and A levels in 2020 Q&A:

www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-cancellation-of-gcses-as-and-a-levels-in-2020

Free School Meals Guidance (updated):

www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-free-school-meals-guidance

FAQ FOR GOVERNORS

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  1. What would you say are the minimum statutory requirements on GBs during the crisis?

At present, there has been no changing in the law and so statutory requirements remain in place.  Draft legislation is in the pipeline which it is intended will excuse many of the ordinary functions and requirements of the GB during the period of closure.  

  1. Over how long a period is it acceptable (constitutionally) to continue to cancel Governor meetings in the wake of the ongoing covid-19 outbreak if alternative remote means (i.e. Skype) are not feasible?

What is reasonable will reflect the particular circumstances of the school; for example, whether or not the majority of governors are infected, self-isolating due to contact or vulnerability or otherwise fit and healthy.  The latter two, and to some extent infection, do not mean that skype (or similar) and telephone conference meetings cannot be held. Required decisions can still take place so long as the meeting (however it is convened or conducted) is properly quorate.

  1. LA maintained School Governors whilst having delegated authority from the LA are not the employers. Could a maintained GB decide to close without LA specific direction? 

A temporary or permanent closure is either a legal requirement or an operational decision (to be taken by the head teacher and school leadership team).  It is of course important that there are clear communications with the LA and with other local schools which will be impacted by any closure. Headteachers have been provided with information on who to contact. Whilst the government has already ordered the closure of schools, to most pupils, there is enabling legislation in the pipeline to confirm the statutory authority to affect that closure.  The new laws will apply to LAs. As such there is no requirement for LA specific direction for a maintained school to close.

  1. Just prior to the School closing, our Headteacher issued a Fixed Period exclusion that took a child over 15 days exclusion for the Academic Year. Do we need to convene a Governors Disciplinary Committee?

Although schools will be providing care for a limited number of children (children who are vulnerable and children whose parents are critical to the Covid-19 response and cannot be safely cared for at home), schools are effectively closed from Friday the 20 March 2020 until further notice. This means that the work undertaken by most panels is technically on hold as it would be during a school holiday period.

  1. The week before the school shutdown the Headteacher had to Permanently Exclude a child from my school. Do we need to hold a Governors Disciplinary Committee 15 days of the exclusion?

Where the opportunity exists to complete the process during the period that the school is closed, and there is the unanimous agreement between all concerned that the process should be completed, then it may be possible to do so by holding virtual meetings.   However, this requires careful consideration, co-ordination and full co-operation. In all likelihood it is not something that governing boards and school leaders will be considering at this time.

If you have any enquiries please contact your Area Inclusion Manager

  1. How will our responsibilities change where parents choose to take children out of school e.g absence, safeguarding issues? 

The statutory rules and responsibilities of governing bodies have not changed, as yet.  However, consideration will need to be given to the relevant circumstances if you should be looking at any formal enforcement action. Once again, pipeline legislation will excuse many of the ordinary functions and requirements of the GB during the period of closure, and will extent to excusing the requirement on parents to secure attendance. Pre-closure absences may still be challenged. One of the features of the current school closure order is that schools will actually remain open for key worker and vulnerable children.   The school's safeguarding responsibilities will continue for those actually attending and for those who the school may feel are vulnerable but are being kept home by parents.

  1. In certain circumstances the Chair is asked to agree for the school to close (i.e. adverse weather), should this also be the policy for this instance? 

This may be covered under any school continuity (or disaster recovery) plan.  The adverse weather policy may, on its terms, cover similar circumstances.  However, closure is either a statutory or an operational decision; that does not mean that the Chair should not be consulted.  Is it likely that the Chair would act against the professional advice of the headteacher and school leadership? 

In terms of the government's planned closure of schools, this is to be authorised under legislation, so again the Chair's consent is not a requirement.

  1. What is the role of school governor in this Coronavirus pandemic?

Covered above.  The role of governor is not affected by Coronavirus and governors should not be drawn into seeking to revise their role.

  1. What are the essential things governors need to focus on at this time e.g. budgets and safeguarding? 

The health and wellbeing of its pupils and staff. Government directions will make clear any release of the ordinary functions and requirements of the GB during the period of closure.

  1. There has been very little guidance for Special schools. Many students fall into high risk categories and closing school could have huge implications for their ‘normal’ care. What should special schools do about this? 

Special schools are being asked to remain open where possible and to make case by case basis assessments of the health and safeguarding considerations of those with EHC plans. In some cases, the safest option will be for provision to continue in school. Others may be more safely cared for at home. Local authorities should be co-ordinating provision for vulnerable pupils and those with EHC plans where particular schools are not able to cater for pupils.

  1. Will we still have OFSTED inspections?

OFSTED have temporarily suspended all routine inspections of schools, further education, early years and social care providers. Urgent inspections where specific concerns have been raised will still go ahead. This will allow OFSTED to prioritise the immediate safety of children where necessary.

  1.  How will we sign off our end of year balances?

Statutory financial deadlines remain unchanged and the Local Authority would ask all schools to do their best to continue to meet these.  If school business managers cannot gain remote access to their accounting systems, or the ability to continue to work from the school building would not be deemed appropriate (for example meeting the Government’s advice on self-isolation), the LA would ask that these schools contact the School Finance & Monitoring Team (sfmt@surreycc.gov.uk) to discuss alternative options to managing the final closure of accounts routine. 

  1.   What actions should Governors be taking in respect of their budget plan submission for 2020/21?

The LA is currently communicating with schools to revise its requirements on the submission of a 3-year budget plan by 1 May 2020.  Instead, schools are being asked to concentrate on completing their 2020/21 budget plans as accurately as possible.  The submission deadline remains as 1 May.

The measures announced by Central Government to help combat the spread of Coronavirus will clearly have a significant impact on the economy for the foreseeable future. It is not possible to gauge the effect this could have on schools but it would be prudent for Governors to re-consider the level of reserves held and whether any non-essential expenditure planned for 2020/21 should be reduced, cancelled or deferred.  This will be especially relevant for schools already forecasting a low balance at March 2021. While the LA is not asking schools to submit multi-year budget plans, Governing Bodies will want to make forward projections (possibly based on a number of scenarios) for their own management purposes.

In a period of financial uncertainty regular monitoring and review of the budget is important to ensure that early corrective action can be taken if required.  Governors should ensure that oversight of financial monitoring reports is maintained.

 

Our Latest VLOG: Governors and Trustees on Working with Headtachers & CEOs throughout COVID-19

Working with Headteachers & CEOs from Schools Alliance for Excellence on Vimeo.

SAfE's Governance Consultant Ruth Murton speaks with Chairs and Vice-Chairs of Governors and Trustees about how they have been working with school leaders during the COVID crisis.

Our Latest Webinar: Support for Governors - June 30th, 2020

SAfE webinar for Surrey Governors 30 06 2020 from Schools Alliance for Excellence on Vimeo.

Please find the slides and resources from this webinar to download using the buttons below.

To view previous webinars and vlogs for governors and trustees, visit our Video Library page. Or, visit our Upcoming Events page to browse and book future webinars.

 

Do you have a question that's not included in our FAQ? Let us know:

SAfE WEBINAR: Supporting Governors During COVID-19

 

A webinar hosted by SAfE and Surrey County Council for governors and trustees

Following our two successful webinars in April and May we are hosting another webinar on Tuesday 30th June at 7.00pm especially for Surrey governors/trustees to provide an update on the current situation and to allow you to pose questions.

The panel will be made up of Maria Dawes (SAfE) and Jane Winterbone (Surrey County Council). During the webinar we will be exploring:

• Continuity planning for September 2020

• Ameliorating the COVID gap

• Headteacher well-being

This webinar will be hosted by Ruth Murton, a National Leader of Governance and Special Adviser on governance to the Department of Education.

 

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