Remote Meetings – A Guide For Schools

During school closures, it might be necessary to arrange virtual meetings with staff and governors.  For many staff in the school, this might be the first time they have hosted or participated in a virtual meeting and just like in face-to-face meetings there are a few points to consider beforehand to help things go smoothly.

N.B. For governor meetings, there are already provisions made in ‘The School Governance (England) (Roles, Procedures, and Allowances) Regulations 2013’ to allow for alternative arrangements for governors to participate or vote at meetings including by telephone or video conferencing. 

 

Choose the right tools for the job: 

When planning your meeting think ‘what is the key reason for this meeting?’  Is it to discuss an action point, to review/approve a new policy or to receive update reports?  The answer to the question will determine which type of system is right. 

For example, if the meeting is a discussion point where it would be helpful to see reactions as well as hear responses as you would in a face-to-face meeting, then in this instance, a video call option would work well.  If you are reviewing policies, then an application that allows collaborative working may be best.  Whereas if you need to review reports and documents then a screen sharing solution is a better option.  

There are lots of free and paid-for options available in the market, a few examples are zoom, skype, governorhub, senso and google tools (sheets, docs, slides, and drive).  I have made a note of the main features each of these systems offer in the table below. 

 

Prepare for the meeting 

The main take-away here would be to test the system before the meeting starts and if you are the organizer familiarise yourself with some of the features. 

Most systems allow invitations to be sent that simply require attendees to click a link to join the meeting.  However, if attendees do require a password or an account creating ensure this has been done well in advance and everyone has had a chance to check they go login okay.   

Alongside the invitation function, many systems also send automatic reminders and include an ‘add to calendar’ function.  However, I find a quick email on the morning of the meeting can be helpful to confirm attendance and also share any other useful information, document or links that might be needed during the session. 

N.B virtual governor meetings have to be quorate for any official votes or decisions to take place.

It is also recommended that an agenda is circulated before the meeting starts, this will help ensure that all attendees know the purpose of the meeting and what they will be talking about.  It would also be good to share the below information with attendees prior to the meeting starting. 

  • Meeting structure e.g. who will be delivering each section and approximately how long each point will be discussed. 
  • Who will be attending the meeting
  • Any relevant documents, links or files 

During the meetings 

Just like in face-to-face meetings some general rules of etiquette apply to the virtual world too. 

  • Be on time, make sure you have tested the system and are ready for the meeting in advance of the start time, this includes reviewing any papers you may have been sent in advance.  
  • Don’t stare at your phone, check emails or perform other tasks while the meeting is on (it is especially obvious during video calls!).
  • Don’t interrupt or talk over other people in the meeting 
  • If possible, try and be in a quiet place during the meeting or use the mute microphone button to minimise any background noise. 

Some systems also include a meeting recording feature, using the this will help attendees focus on the meeting rather than note-taking.

 

After the meeting 

Once your meeting has ended there are a few activities that you can do to help ensure the meeting was effective.  Key things people need to know are

  • Any actions or deliverables that they are responsible for
  • When those actions are due  
  • When the next meeting or follow up will take place 

It is also important to ask if any attendees have any questions following the meeting, it might be helpful to ask how they felt the meeting went and if there is anything that can be done to improve future meetings. 

Oh, and don’t forget to end the meeting session on your device!  

 

How we are able to support you to report to governors remotely  

Our easy to digest Headteacher’s Report can be accessed from anywhere and is easy to share remotely with governors, trustees, and central MAT teams.  All information is clear, understandable and presented in a professional format.  

All reports are pre-populated with benchmarking data which is managed remotely, this includes synchronising current MIS data and all DfE sets.  We link with all major platforms including SIMS, RM, Arbor, and ScholorPack.

Our Headteacher’s Report has been updated to include an optional COVID-19 update section which can be used to update on the current arrangements, measures, and plan within your school. 

To view a sample of the report – click here  

 

 

 

Summary of virtual meeting platforms available

These are many more systems available in the market, below are a few systems that I have had experience with.

Name Video & Audio Call Options Screen Recording & Sharing Supports Collaborative Working  Document Storage Solution Specific Education Features 
Zoom Yes Yes No No No
Google  Yes (Hangouts) Yes (Hangouts) Yes (Sheets, Docs and Slides)  Yes (Drive) No
Skype Yes Yes No No No
Governor-Hub No No No X X

 

 

Tips for writing a Headteacher’s report that your governors will love to receive!

The Headteacher’s report is the single most important document when it comes to supporting your board in fulfilling the three core functions of governance (see Governor Handbook);

Your Headteacher’s report should provide a strategic overview of the whole school, covering everything from staffing performance to school improvement priorities.  Given the potential scope of the report, many Headteachers find it a challenge to strike the right balance between too much and not enough information.  A quick search will bring up examples of Headteacher’s reports that vary in size from a few pages to over 60.

Over the years, we have reviewed hundreds of Headteacher’s reports and have come across the good, the bad and the ugly! 

These are our tips on how to produce a report that your governors will love to receive!

Remember the purpose of the report 

The single purpose of your Headteacher’s report is to keep your board focused on its strategic function and to not get distracted by activities of secondary importance.

Keep the content of your report focused and at a high-level to promote active discussion across the board.  Adding too much detail in your report can lead the conversation down a more operational route.  

As a rule of thumb, any information that does not help serve one of the 3 core functions should be omitted from the main report and included as appendices or communicated separately.

Remember who the report is for

Given the name, you would be forgiven for thinking it is your report, however, both the Governor Handbook and Education Act state that the content and scope of the report should be determined by the board and include information it needs to do its job well.

Asking your board for a number of key performance indicators (KPIs) that you can produce regularly in a consistent format is a simple but effective way that the board can monitor school progress and improvement over a period of time.   

We would recommend that KPIs are reviewed and agreed upfront at the start of each reporting cycle, this will ensure they are aligned with the current strategic priorities while also avoiding you being asked to produce information at the last minute.

To include graphs or not to include graphs

While the wrong graph can cause confusion and take more time to explain than it would just to write out the findings, the right graph can present your data in a clear and easy to digest format that encourages strategic conversion to take place.

For example, graphs are perfect to summarise data heavy sections such as pupil outcomes or for making comparisons between two reporting periods.  The use of high-level management commentary can provide further context to the data if required.

Investigate different ways of presenting data in your report but make sure they are understood by your board.

Leave the comic sans (and pictures) behind

The Headteacher’s report is akin to a board report within a commercial environment and should be presented as a professional document.  You may wish to consider the following when formatting your report;

>> Is your report as brief as possible while still providing the information that your board needs?

>> Can data heavy areas be effectively summarised in a chart or table?

>> Is it well structured?  We find mirroring the Ofsted framework is a good way of structuring your report 

>> Does your report include an explanation of any acronyms that have been used?

>> Are reports in a consistent format to help board members find the data they are looking for?

Don’t forget the good news!

A bit controversial and against the grain of other guides but personally we like to read about the good news, pupil achievements and the regular on-goings of school life.

Agreed it shouldn’t be front and centre of your report, but rather an appendix. This will help to re-enforce the positive impact the board is having on school life.