Governing board minutes are a window into the work of governors and demonstrate that the board is adequately covering its three core functions:
- Ensuring clarity of vision, ethos and strategic direction.
- Holding executive leaders to account for the educational performance of the school and its pupils, and for the performance management of staff.
- Overseeing the financial performance of the school and making sure its money is well spent.
You may want to include the three core functions in the footer of minutes/agendas to act as a reminder to governors.
The purpose of writing minutes
Minutes are taken to:
- Create an official record of the governing board’s meetings.
- Record options considered by the governing board.
- Record decisions agreed by the governing board.
- Identify and record any action points agreed, including by whom, and associated time-scales.
How to write effective minutes
What to include
Good-quality minutes should include the following:
- Important facts and discussions
- Key questions and challenges from governors, particularly related to pupils’ progress and attainment and school improvement plans
- Responses to governors’ questions
- Feedback from governors’ monitoring visits
- Agreed actions and decisions
- Dates and timescales for decisions made
- A record of thanks and congratulations
Draft minutes should be sent to the chair of governors (chair) and headteacher for initial review. Once agreed, minutes should be signed on every page by the chair of governors or the committee chair and sent alongside the agenda for the next meeting. Governors should never accept a poor set of minutes.
What not to include
When writing minutes, you should avoid including the following:
- A verbatim record of everything said
- Inflammatory or personal observations
- Anything that could identify a pupil, parent or member of staff
- The content of additional documents
- An individual governor’s personal views and opinions
- Educational jargon
Minutes are meant to provide an outline of what happened in the meeting, not a record of who said what. Focus on understanding what’s being discussed and on recording what’s been assigned and decided.
If you need to refer to other documents, attach them in an appendix or indicate where they may be found – don’t rewrite their intent or try to summarise them.
Good practice advice for taking minutes
Here are our top tips for effective minute taking:
- Set out your minutes in an agreed, easy-to-read format. They should clearly state the date, time and venue, of the meeting and the type of meeting (e.g. committee or full board).
- Make sure that your minutes follow the order of discussions which took place at the meeting – in some cases, this may not follow the order as originally set out on the agenda for the meeting.
- Number items in the minutes in accordance with the corresponding item on the agenda.
- Clearly record who is attending the meeting.
- Make sure that it is impossible to determine any person’s view/opinion from the minutes, e.g. state “a governor commented…”, rather than naming the governor.
- Accurately record governors’ questions – it may be useful to highlight these to enable ease of identification.
- Where appropriate, record and highlight the impact of challenge and/or the work of governors.
- Clearly record and highlight any decisions made by the board.
- Clearly detail any actions for governors. Every action must be associated with a person by including their name/initials. Where possible, attach a timescale to actions to enable the clerk to follow up as appropriate.
- Make sure that minutes are approved and signed as a true record at the next meeting.
- Record late arrivals and early leavers in the main body of the minutes, e.g. “KS left the meeting at this point”.
Writing confidential minutes
Minutes are confidential if:
- Names of staff or children are included.
- Staff pay or conditions were discussed.
- A person could be easily identified from the minutes.
- The subject is deemed confidential by the board due to their nature.
Confidential minutes should still include the details of who was present at the meeting and any declarations of interest made by the governors in respect of the agenda. You may find it beneficial to have a section towards the end of each agenda where the board determines which items from the meeting should be recorded as confidential minutes.
Confidential minutes will be deemed confidential indefinitely unless there is a timescale agreed by the board whereby the information will no longer be considered confidential.
For electronic copies of minutes, it is important to make it obvious which minutes are confidential – you can use a watermark, state “confidential” in the file name, or colour the header.
Paper copies of confidential minutes must be approved and signed by the chair, but these must be stored in a separate folder to the non-confidential minutes, to avoid them being shared inappropriately. Consider printing confidential minutes on different coloured paper to standard minutes.
It is good practice to refer to confidential items in the main minutes so that people are aware that there is further information on this discussion point.
Ofsted and other agencies are privy to confidential minutes, but they cannot be copied or taken off the school premises.
How to publish minutes
Draft minutes should be sent within an agreed timescale to the headteacher (to check factual accuracy) and the chair of governors or chair of committee (for initial approval). They should remain in draft form until they are officially approved and signed at the next board meeting – the draft version must be sent to all governors.
It is strongly recommended that minutes are shared with other governors via school-specific email addresses or via an online portal. Personal and/or work email addresses may not be covered under data protection laws. If documents are stored on an online portal, find out where the servers are based – depending on location, you may need to check that you are in compliance with upcoming changes to data protection law.
Once the minutes have been approved by the board and signed by the chair, they become public documents and requests to see them can be granted. Some governing boards will make minutes available on their website, but it is not a statutory requirement.
Signed paper copies of the minutes and any paperwork considered as part of the meeting should be stored in a designated folder – to be held by the clerk or in the school.