COVID19 - GUIDANCE FOR GOVERNORS

Introduction

How this crisis is managed at school is an operational matter and boards must be mindful of the need to allow leaders to lead. All governors should however, remain up to date with the latest guidance and work to:

  • support their leaders,
  • understand their school’s unique response to the situation,
  • monitor impact on outcomes, well-being and budget,
  • focus on ongoing strategic direction.

Ensure leaders are balancing proportionate protective measures for children and staff with the provision of high quality full time education (incl. full educational and care support for SEND pupils).

  • Ensure risk assessments (H&S and wider) have been reviewed. It is key that governors can probe the robustness of the assessment and keep it under review. Whilst governors should trust leaders to undertake the assessment, sight of the assessment will support governors in having a strategic function of challenge and support, and furthermore support your understanding of how the operational decision was reached. Do note, if schools follow the DfE and LA guidance, governors can be confident they are managing risk effectively.
  • Has the unique context of the school has been considered in plans?
  • Did plans involve views of staff, pupils and parents? Does the RA identify further improvements?

Regularly monitor that controls are effective, working as planned and updated appropriately

  • Are guidelines embedded in school culture and supported by behaviour expectations?
  • Have policies been reviewed as necessary? Do they reflect practice in school?
  • Are parent/staff worries heard and addressed?
  • Is training on Test and Trace process comprehensive (staff, parents/carers)?
  • Safeguarding reports may include school contact with the local health protection team

Monitor the implementation of curriculum for all pupils

  • Scrutinise remote learning strategy
  • Understand how the school is identifying pupils at risk of disengagement and developing plans for re-engaging (e.g. disadvantaged and vulnerable, those persistently absent prior or who have not engaged during the pandemic)
  • Understand the use of additional catch-up funding schools, existing pastoral and support services, attendance staff and pupil premium funding measures used to secure pupils’ regular attendance.
  • Headteachers will decide how the money is spent but governors should scrutinise decisions.Is the curriculum broad and ambitious?

Have regard to staff work-life balance and wellbeing.

  • DfE providing additional support for both pupil and staff wellbeing in the current situation.
  • Information about the extra mental health support for pupils and teachers is available.
  • The Education Support Partnership provides a free helpline for school staff and targeted support for mental health and well-being
 

March 8th Reopening of schools (again!)

The Prime Minister’s announcement on 22 February 2021 confirmed that:

  • Schools and settings will reopen to all pupils from 8 March 2021
  • Attendance will be mandatory
  • with the exception of pupils who are clinically extremely vulnerable or need to self-isolate in line with government guidance
  • Essential control measures must be in place to minimise Covid-19 transmission
  • including asymptomatic testing for staff and secondary school pupils
  • the recommendation for use of face-coverings in secondary schools is extended to all indoor environments, including classrooms, where social distancing cannot be maintained
  • staggered start and finish times can be considered to keep groups apart, provided these do not reduce overall teaching time
  • Secondary schools are able to phase the return of pupils during w/c 8 March to facilitate the testing programme
  • Schools must provide remote education for any pupils who need to continue to learn from home
  • Extra-curricular activities and wrap-around care can resume from 8 March 2021
 
Until 8 March 2021, and line with the Prime Minister’s announcements on 4 January 2021:
  • Colleges, Primary (reception onwards) and Secondary schools
  • remain open for vulnerable children and the children of critical workers (this can be one or both parents/carers)
  • all other children must learn remotely
  • Early Years settings (including nurseries and childminders) remain open
  • Special Schools remain open
 

Decisions and plans for implementation are operational and for Headteachers to make BUT evidence should be sought by boards to ensure they are based on robust risk assessment, safety measures and staff availability.

  • Chairs of Governors should remain (remotely) in touch with Headteachers
    • circulating revised risk assessments to the board
      • considering safeguarding and health & safety issues
      • considering wellbeing of headteacher and staff
    • supporting outgoing communications to parents/carers
    • keeping the full governing board in the loop
      • we recommend brief written reports circulated via GovernorHub after each meeting (or evidenced via chat on the noticeboard)
      • ensuring board members are able to comment and ask questions
      • these should be answered in the next report
  • Some boards may prefer to hold Extraordinary Full Governing Board meetings instead of the Chair/Head meetings but this will depend on capacity/relationships/infrastructure. Any meetings should support, not add pressure, to senior leaders and chairs.
  • Next FGB:
    • any actions taken under chair’s action since the last meeting should be minuted
    • the board must ratify decisions made during this period
    • the board should scrutinise remote education strategy ongoing, in line with government recommendations
  • Rolling Governor Roles:
    • As in the first lockdown, carry out all ‘visits’ remotely.
      • remote visits must focus on Safeguarding and Health and Safety
      • other governor roles can continue remotely IF school counterparts (in agreement with the Head) are able.

We will continue our training programme as planned and ensure we include relevant areas of the latest guidance in all sessions. All ‘live’ sessions will be carried out via webinar (as last term) to allow us to keep you and our trainers safe.

For those buying into our Advice package, we have revised our Headteacher Report to use this term. This can be found on the Knowledge Tab here. This term’s FGB agenda model is also available here.

We will, of course, send out further updates as they come and are available to talk through any questions or concerns (please call 01494 924713 or email support@buckseducationpartnership.co.uk).

For those that are NGA members, the NGA have guidance for this period (published January 4th). Do be aware that some of this has been superceded by last night’s announcements but it has been made available on the BASG website here should you find it of use.

At the Chairs’ Strategic briefing on 13th November 2020, David Windridge, Head of HR and Recruitment Services at HfL provided updates in light of COVID 19 and the second national lockdown (a recording is available here).  Here are a couple of links to documents leaders may find useful.

Other Considerations and Support

Risk Assessment

This is a live operational document which schools will be using on a daily basis. It will be subject to regular updates and changes to reflect the developing situation and practices in schools.
Governing Boards should have had sight of the original document and an opportunity to feed into it. They should be made aware of any material changes and keep the document under review to reassure themselves that the risk assessment is; effective, working as planned and updated appropriately.
The risk assessment should be published on the school website.
More information can be found here.
 

Curriculum and Contingency Plans

 Although the curriculum will likely be modified to help children recover lost learning, it should remain broad and ambitious. Schools should aim to return to their normal curriculum in all subjects by summer term 2021.
 
Schools should have contingency plans in place. These should include the remote provision of a sequenced curriculum which can be implemented with immediate effect, including varying levels of challenge. The remote provision should be high quality, safe and closely aligned with the in school provision. Governors should be involved in the development of the remote learning strategy. They should seek to ensure that the provision put in place is adequate and aligned with the school development priorities and the board’s strategic aims.

IT strategy

Many schools will need to consider their IT strategy, in light of the remote learning requirements. Governors should be involved in discussions and consider medium term goals as well as financial implications.

Safeguarding

The Safeguarding Governor should keep in touch with the Headteacher / DSL during the term to ensure the school is fulfilling its obligations and understand any issues or concerns.
The DSL should be allowed more time to support staff and pupils with new safeguarding concerns.
The Safeguarding Governor will need to reassure themselves, and the Governing Board, that arrangements are in place for monitoring of the welfare of vulnerable children during the current period.
 

Pupil Progress

Schools will want to give staff and pupils an opportunity to settle into remote learning before assessment and monitoring resume with any significant degree of formality.
Governors will need to work with the Headteacher to ensure that they have a solid understanding of what progress would normally look like so that they can use this as a baseline. In the absence of external data at an appropriate moment, governors will need to look carefully at internal data and understand fully how it was created.
Governors should keep in close contact with their linked class teachers and subject leaders to understand specific areas of impact.
Governors should ensure that the school development plan has been adapted to include the identification and reduction of learning gaps.

Covid catch up support

Governors will need to understand how gaps are being identified and strategies for addressing these in the coming months, including the use of the Covid-19 catch-up premium.
The EEF has published guidance on effective interventions to help schools decide how best to use the funding.
 

Exclusions

For exclusions occurring between 25 September 2020 and 24 March 2021 statutory timescales should be followed (with an extended deadline of 25 days for applications for an Independent Review) but that Governing Boards should consider whether hearings can be held remotely subject to access conditions being met and the agreement of all parties.

Complaints

Schools should take a pragmatic approach to complaints and engage with parents and pupils as best as possible. DfE guidance from 15th January contains:
1) clarification that schools should continue to handle complaints during this time but there is an acknowledgement that the circumstances might impact timescales and procedures
2) clarification that if parents / others have complaints about the provision of remote education they are expected to go through the schools complaints procedures first before complaining to Ofsted.
 

Virtual/blended Governor meetings

Governor meetings should be held online in line with lockdown guidance..
 

Governor Visits

Governor visits should be avoided in line with lockdown guidance.
 

Governor Elections

The approach to governor elections should be pragmatic and inclusive. Maintained schools cannot extend governor terms. Schools should consider any upcoming vacancies and that there will be enough governors in place for the board to function effectively.
For parent governor elections, there is prescribed process but the election must be fair, transparent and accessible to all. Some schools have moved away from paper based voting systems in order to limit the risk of contact contamination but where this is the case, there should always be the opportunity to vote by post.
Where elections are due to take place in remote meetings, nominations should be sent in advance to the clerk.
 

Attendance

Schools are open to vulnerable children and children of critical workers. However, critical workers should only send their children to school, if it is absolutely necessary.
 

Policy renewals

Policies should be updated to reflect new challenges and practices in school. Schools should consider how to communicate rules/policies clearly and consistently to staff, pupils and parents.
 
Child Protection
Schools may need to update their Child Protection Policy further to reflect most children being away from school. Schools must have regard to the statutory safeguarding guidance, Keeping Children Safe in Education and should refer to the DfE Coronavirus (COVID-19) guidance.
 
Behaviour Policy
The Behaviour Policy should set clear and reasonable expectations of pupil behaviour.
 
Home/Remote learning Policy
A Remote Learning Policy should be drafted to reflect the processes and strategies which will be used.
 
Virtual meetings
It is advised that a virtual meeting policy is approved and appended to the Standing Orders.
 
Where model policies are used it is essential that these are tailored to reflect practice in school.
 

Parental Engagement

If governors are approached by parents/carers / members of the community or press they should direct them to the school office and not offer advice or comment. Parental support is however an aspect of operations that should be monitored. The British Psychological Society (BPS) and Division of Educational and Child Psychology (DECP) have produced the following advice for schools and parents/carers.
 

National Guidance

 

Local Guidance

Bucks Governors
  • The Bucks Association of School Governors is signposting advice which may be useful, you can access the BASG website here.
  • Bucks Council Schoolsweb
HR
  • At the BEP Chairs’ Strategic Briefing on 13th November, Dave Windridge, Head of HR and Recruitment services at HfL provided HR updates in light of Covid 19 (a recording of the session is available). Here are links to a couple of documents which leaders may find useful:
 
 

National Guidance

Local Guidance