The Governing Body can choose to allow anyone to attend a meeting as an Observer, apart from when confidential business is being discussed. Their presence would be recorded in the minutes, so it might be useful for visitors to sign in so that names are accurate.
The Guide to the Law says that the Headteacher, Governors, Associate Members and the Clerk have the right to attend meetings. Some local authorities take the view that such meetings should be open to the public but it is down to each Governing Body to make the decision as to who is admitted. I have found just one or two schools who mention on their websites that their meetings are open to the public, and invite anyone interested in being an Observer to contact the Clerk. However, some other LAs stipulate that “no one who is not a Governor can attend Governing Body meetings without the permission of the Governing Body.”
Guidance from the 2012 GttL (Sect 4, para 49) as to who has the right to attend a meeting says: Governors, associate members, the headteacher and the clerk have the right to attend governing body meetings. In addition, the governing body can allow any other person to attend its meetings. Associate members may be excluded from any part of a meeting when the item of business concerns an individual pupil or member of staff. (Guide to the Law)
Modern Governor: Should Governors’ meetings be open?
This set of standing orders (pdf) may be worth looking at, as it includes a protocol for observers. This is reproduced at the end of the post. (NB The standing orders are from a University, rather than a School Governing Body but could be a useful starting point.)
For a flavour of the discussion around this question, here are some of the entries from a TES Forum. Who can attend a governors’ meeting?
- I ought to know the answer to this as I used to be a teacher governor, but I would like to know if any teacher (or possibly even a parent or member of the public) can attend a governors meeting as a silent observer. I haven’t found an answer online yet, but TES forums usually provide useful guidance. Can anyone enlighten me please?
- There is no rule in law about this and it’s up to each GB to decide its own rules about whether observers can attend their meetings. Best practice would be to record this in standing orders but few GBs do this. The DfE Guide to the Law for School Governors unhelpfully says nothing at all about this. In my opinion GBs should facilitate observers at meetings, as long as the subject isn’t genuinely confidential, on general principles that GBs are public bodies spending public money and shouldn’t operate in secret, but I suspect that some GBs would take that view that observers shouldn’t be there unless the GB invites them. If a GB takes that view, there may not be a lot you can do about it.
- Re: “on general principles that GBs are public bodies spending public money and shouldn’t operate in secret” – I fancy attending a Cabinet meeting – do you think I could use this argument on the prime minister? There is no obligation on any GB to allow observers to attend meetings and they can determine their own ‘rules’ on such matters.
- To anyone gaining permission to attend a GB meeting – I suggest copious amounts of Pro Plus. I guarantee you won’t want to repeat the experience.
- Staff and members of the public can ask to attend a meeting but it is up to the governing body to decide whether or not they wish to allow this. Head teachers can choose to attend a meeting even if they have decided not to become a governor. Officers or advisors from the local council may be invited by the governing body to attend a meeting
- The head is entitled to attend GB meetings even if they have decided not to be a governor. The GB cannot prevent them attending. [Procedures Regulations, para 10 (1) (b) ]
- The GB can require the head to “provide the governing body …. with such reports in connection with the discharge of his functions as the governing body ….may require (either on a regular basis or from time to time) ….” [Education Act 2002, para 30 (4) ] but I doubt this can be construed to mean that a head who is not a governor can be required to attend a GB meeting to report in person.
- “…but I doubt this can be construed to mean that a head who is not a governor can be required to attend a GB meeting to report in person.” My local authority take a contrary view. They read it that a HT can be required to attend to report on specific issues. I tend to agree.
- A HT can’t be summoned to a meeting, but is required to submit reports if requested. Your local authority is wrong. (There then followed discussion about whether the LA was correct, and what evidence was available to back up the claim)
- Rather than focus on the X Factor results show, I had a quick trawl through the Governors Guide to the Law.
1) A headteacher is a governor by virtue of holding the office. If a Head does not want to be a governor he/she has to inform the clerk in writing, but his/her seat on the GB cannot be given to anyone else.
2) The Head has a duty to report to the GB on a number of issues, listed in GGTTL. Whether this is in person or in writing does not appear to be clear.
Observers protocol for Leeds University
Standing Orders (pdf)
53 Observers will normally be required to withdraw from a meeting during discussion of confidential or reserved business.
54 The Chair, on the advice of the Secretary, is responsible for determining which items are to be declared confidential or reserved. Confidential and reserved documents should be clearly marked as such. Reserved business will be identified on the agenda.
Attendance of Observers
56 Our University is committed to openness and transparency in its decision making. Students and staff of our University may normally attend and observe meetings of the Board of Governors, Academic Board, and their committees. Anyone wishing to attend a meeting should contact the Secretary at least three working days in advance of a meeting.
57 Subject to practicalities, every effort will be made to accommodate observers at meetings. The Chair, on the advice of the Secretary, has the power to limit the maximum number of observers at any meeting.
58 The right to observe meetings does not confer on observers any entitlement to speak, vote, or otherwise participate in meetings.
59 The Chair may, on the advice of the Secretary, require an observer or observers to withdraw from a meeting in the interest of the proper conduct of the meeting. Observers will normally be required to withdraw from a meeting during discussion of confidential or reserved business.
60 The Board of Governors or Academic Board may from time to time resolve that all meetings of a committee of which it is the parent body should be held in private. Such a resolution may only be made on the grounds that the attendance of observers would be prejudicial to effective decision making and / or the proper conduct of business and must be reviewed annually.