Governance and coronavirus (COVID-19) preparing for the future

Whilst schools have been endeavouring to deal with the immediate impact of government policy as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and what this means for staffing, suppliers, key workers children and the like, the developing issue will be about how to effectively govern a school or an academy trust during lockdown.

The effect of the need for social distancing and the clear message from government not to travel means conventional meeting methods cannot be used. Whilst we are all familiar with video conferencing, this is an unusual medium for meetings in most educational settings, with a traditional onus on face-to-face meetings. There is an anxiety about the effectiveness of the technology for proper debate and discussion, let alone voting etc.

However, the reality of our current context has led the Department for Education to issue guidance to schools on meetings and a clear direction to use telephone or video conferencing tools in light of its guidance on reducing the spread of the pandemic.

Alongside this is an acknowledgment of the need to be pragmatic and proportionate in the decisions governing bodies or academy trusts are planning to take. The focus should be on urgent decisions with other matters being deferred and the need to support school leaders and staff.

This prioritisation is understandable but could store up issues for the future, particularly if the lockdown extends beyond the current timeframe and we move into dealing with questions of admission appeals and budgetary matters as the new academic year approaches.

The law and practice referred to in this article or webinar has been paraphrased or summarised. It might not be up-to-date with changes in the law and we do not guarantee the accuracy of any information provided at the time of reading. It should not be construed or relied upon as legal advice in relation to a specific set of circumstances.

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