The Role of the Clerk in Maintained Schools, Academies and Multi Academy Trusts
We are often asked about the role of the Clerk in schools and academies, which is not perhaps surprising given the key role that Clerks play. Indeed, guidance published by the National College for Teaching and Leadership (“NCTL”) states that “high-quality clerking is key to governing body effectiveness”.
This briefing note is intended to summarise the legal position and available guidance in this respect.
The Legal Position
The School Governance (Roles, Procedures and Allowances) (England) Regulations 2013 (“the Regulations”) set out the legal position on the role of the Clerk in maintained schools, however these do not apply to academies and multi academy trusts (“MATs”). Instead, the role of the Clerk is included within their articles of association, which are based on the Department for Education (“DfE”)’s model.
The DfE’s Governance Handbook published in January 2017 (which applies to maintained schools and academies) refers to the “professional clerk” and states:
“High quality professional clerking is crucial to the effective functioning of the board. The clerk should be the boards’ ‘governance professional’. Their role is not only about good and effective organisation and administration, but also, and more importantly, about helping the board understand its role, functions and legal duties and supporting the chair to enable and facilitate strategic debate and decision making. This is crucial in helping the board exercise its functions expediently and confidently, so that it can stay focused on its core functions.
Boards should set demanding standards for the service they expect from their professional clerk and assure themselves that they are employing a clerk with suitable skills, training and knowledge. Consequently, they should expect to pay an appropriate amount commensurate to the professional service they expect their professional clerk to deliver.”
Regulation 6(3) of the Regulations states “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.”.
Regulation 10 provides that the Clerk must not be a Governor or the Headteacher, but that where the Clerk is absent at a meeting, the Governing Body may appoint one of their number (except the Headteacher) to act as the Clerk at that meeting. Accordingly, there is nothing to prevent the Clerk being an employee of the school.
The Regulations provide that the Clerk must convene and attend Governing Body meetings and draw up minutes for signature by the Chair at the next meeting, maintain a register of members of the Governing Body and of associate members and report any vacancies to the Governing Body, and perform other tasks at the request of the Governing Body.
Regulation 16 provides that the Clerk is not required to withdraw from a meeting due to a conflict of interests (unless their appointment, remuneration or disciplinary action against them is to be considered) however the Clerk must take care not act in any capacity other than that of a Clerk during the meeting.
A Clerk must be appointed to each committee of the Governing Body in the same way, and subject to the same rules set out above. In most cases, this will be the same person as the Clerk to the Governing Body.
To read the complete briefing by Winckworth Sherwood click here