What we've all been waiting for – the New Procedures Regulations

Well, OK, I am using the word *all* in the title of this post with my tongue firmly in my cheek. I know I’m a bit of a geek when it comes to school governance legislation. And if you’re reading this maybe you are too. But perhaps I’m saving you from wading through the regulations yourselves by highlighting the salient changes below.

I have mentioned to the DfE that they have a reputation for publishing things at the ends of terms and over the summer, so I suppose we should be thankful that we got the final wording of the regulations a whole week and a half before the end of this term. But there is something I’m a bit gutted about. Along with the regulations they’ve published an explanatory memorandum, and this outlines the consultation response. Para 8.2 says this: “Twenty five responses (of which twelve were substantive) were received to the targeted consultation.”. Twelve. TWELVE!!! And one of those was mine, so call it eleven. Do you know how many hits I’ve had on my blog about that consultation? 1,298.

Well done to the less-than-1% that actually responded. So – did we change anything?

Yes, that’s the good news. Just in case the DfE solicitors didn’t read my blog on the loss of the Terms of Reference Regulations I did put a consultation response in outlining why the loss of the role descriptions was unhelpful, and guess what? They’ve renamed the regulations specially. Ladies and Gentlemen, please allow me to present The School Governance (Roles, Procedures and Allowances) (England) Regulations 2013.

The explanatory memo says:

We accepted concerns that in the draft regulations the section on the
role of the governing body and head teacher had been slimmed down too far.
Part 2 of the Regulations now gives a clearer statement of the strategic role of
the governing body, including their core functions, and re-instates provisions
to set the general principles that headteachers are accountable to the governing
body for the exercise of all their functions and that the headteacher should
comply with any reasonable direction of the governing body.

Yay! That’s what I say about that. I don’t believe in unnecessary bureaucracy but I do believe a basic statement of the accountability structure is helpful – even necessary, for any organisation.

So, what else is new?

Regulation 6 says: “The governing body must appoint a clerk with a view to ensuring their efficient functioning and must have regard to advice from the clerk as to the nature of the governing body’s functions.”. This is the first time there’s been any requirement to ‘have regard to  advice from the clerk’ and it’s in line with the current government thinking about raising the status of this important role. It does put a greater responsibility onto the clerk to make sure that advice is good!

Regulation 7 introduces a change around the term of office of chair and vice chair so that now: “Prior to the election of the chair and vice-chair, the governing body must determine the date on which the term of office of the chair and vice-chair will end” – which can now be less than one year or more than four years hence, if that’s what the governing body decides. (Please don’t go for more than four years!).

Regulation 13 brings in a new requirement to send the meeting agenda to the local authority seven days in advance ‘where an agenda item for the meeting involves consideration of a change of school category’. As an LA officer I can only say hurrah to this!

Regulation 13 also states that ‘at the discretion of the chair, any item of business may be discussed at a meeting irrespective of whether the matter is specified as an item of business on the agenda for the meeting’ which is a helpful clarification I think.

Regulation 14 includes the most substantive change – but I think it merits a blog to itself so I won’t say much now, other than to say that it allows the governing body to: ‘approve alternative arrangements for governors to participate or vote at meetings of the governing body including but not limited to by telephone or video conference’. Do note though this doesn’t apply automatically – ‘the governing body may approve’ is the wording, so there will have to be proper consideration and decision before attendance via Skype becomes a possibility.

I must mention one final concern, that I won’t dwell on because I believe it must be a genuine mistake. The explanatory memo states: ‘We accepted concerns about the removal of the regulation which required papers for governing body meetings to be issued 7 days in advance and have reinstated the provision.’

‘Great’, I thought. Except now I’ve read the regs in detail I can’t see that they have. They still state that the only requirement is that the clerk must give notice of the meeting and a copy of the agenda ‘at least seven clear days in advance’. No mention of the papers for the meeting. To add insult to injury the requirement to circulate papers for committees in advance had been left in the draft regs and it now seems to have been removed. (Thanks to @carolinewilding for pointing this out). As I say I think this must be a genuine mistake so I’m going to raise it with the DfE before I say any more. Watch this space.

AUGUST UPDATE: Of course I can’t* take credit for this, but I’m delighted to hear that the DfE has acknowledged that it was a mistake not to include the requirement for papers to be circulated a week in advance for all governing body meetings and is going to amend the regulations to include this requirement during the course of September 2013.

*I do 😉


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