The Clerking Competency Framework, released at the very end of last week, provides non-statutory guidance on the knowledge, skills and behaviours required to provide professional clerking to the governing boards of maintained schools, academies and multi-academy trusts.
The framework provides the third piece of advice and guidance on governance in 2017, following the publication of the latest iteration of the Governance Handbook and the accompanying non-statutory guidance, A Competency Framework for Governance, and emphasises the increased focus that the DfE is putting on governance in schools.
In his foreword, Sir David Carter, Schools Commissioner, states:
“The Department for Education recognises the value of professional quality clerking to governing boards in maintained schools, academies and multi-academy trusts. …it provides an invaluable contribution to the efficiency, effectiveness, productivity and compliance of the governing board. A professional clerk works in partnership with the chair to keep the board focused on its core strategic priorities, provides independent and expert advice and guidance to the board on its duties and functions, and delivers administrative support that makes everything work smoothly."
“[This guide] forms a trio of resources published in 2017 that set high expectations for the role and functions of governance in our education system. I make no apology for the stretch that many will feel in reading them.”
I provided an overview of the new Governance Handbook and Competency Framework for Governance in a recent article which are structured around six features of effective governance.
To recap, these are:
- Strategic leadership that sets and champions vision, ethos and strategy
- Accountability that drives up educational standards and financial performance
- People with the right skills, experience, qualities and capacity
- Structures that reinforce clearly defined roles and responsibilities
- Compliance with statutory and contractual requirements
- Evaluation to monitor and improve the quality and impact of governance.
The new framework sets out the clerk’s role in supporting these elements of effective governance and then sets out four key competencies with the knowledge and understanding required to meet them.
Competency 1: Understanding governance
A sound understanding of the board’s duties and responsibilities; governance legislation and procedures; and the wider context in which the board is operating, will enable the clerk to make an important contribution to the effectiveness of the board. It will result in better quality advice on legal and procedural matters related to governance; make for more accurate recording of discussions and decisions; and enable more efficient use of the board’s time.
Competency 2: Administration
Professional clerking ensures that the processes and procedures of governance are administered efficiently. Taking care of the basics enables the chair and the board to make more effective use of their time and focus on strategic matters. Professional clerking involves developing a forward plan with the chair so that board members are well prepared for meetings and executive leaders are able to provide the right information for discussion. High-quality paperwork leads to better-informed decision making, and clear record-keeping enables compliance and accurate reporting to others within, and outside, the organisation.
Competency 3: Advice and guidance
Access to timely and accurate advice and guidance, or signposting to expert advice where appropriate, contributes to better and more efficient decision making and helps the board to manage the risk of non-compliance with legal and regulatory frameworks. Appropriate advice and guidance reduces the risk that the board gets drawn into or distracted by operational matters, helping it stay focused on its strategic functions. Professional clerking gains the confidence and respect of the board by being proactive in keeping knowledge current; is aware of relevant and reliable sources of information; and is clear about when to provide advice themselves and when to recommend external or specialist advice.
Competency 4: People and relationships
Professional clerking plays an important role in ensuring that the board has accurate records of its people and their skills and can contribute to induction and training of new board members. In addition, professional clerking builds and maintains professional working relationships with the board which is the foundation for providing impartial advice and support. Good relationships are also essential to establishing open communication and ensuring smooth information flow between the board, the executive leaders and, where required, staff, parents and the local community.
Throughout the document professional clerking is defined as high-quality delivery of the board’s clerking requirements, including advice on regulatory and procedural governance matters, tailored to each board and its context, by providing:
- Administrative and organisational support
- Guidance to ensure that the board works in compliance with the appropriate legal and regulatory framework, and understands the potential consequences for noncompliance
- Advice on procedural matters relating to the operation of the board.
The Clerking Competency Framework clearly raises the bar in terms of expectations of the role, but also very importantly raises the status of the clerk’s role, which when performed effectively has always been more than a minute taker – although this is important – to one at the heart of successful governance, supporting the challenge needed to improve performance and outcomes in schools, academies and MATs.
One Education provide a professional clerking service to schools and academies, with trained clerks delivering dedicated support to your governing board, as well as advice, guidance and professional development for governors.