Broadening the scope of meetings

The last little idea I posted was about how to improve chairing of meetings. This one will help to ensure that your meetings cover the range of things they need to.

The issue

Meetings get stuck on a certain issue or type of issue, which results in one or more of the following problems:

  • The work of the council only deals with one area (e.g. fundraising events) rather than addressing the whole of school life.
  • The council spends all its time on projects so provides no forum for raising issues.
  • The council spends all its time raising issues, so takes no action.
  • The council only discusses issues suggested by the headteacher and doesn’t have time to deal with its own ideas.

The suggestion

  1. Split your meeting in to sections that will remain the same every meeting. Examples:
    • Fundraising & Events, Buildings & Environment, Learning & Teaching, Relationships & Behaviour
    • New issues from classes, Project updates
    • Issues to be passed on (no discussion needed), Issues that may need discussion, Project updates.
    • Quick win issues and projects, Longer-term issues and projects
    • Issues from headteacher, Issues from classes
  2. Allocate an amount of time you will spend on each section. This doesn’t need to be an equal spilt, it should reflect the importance and complexity of each issue.
  3. When drawing up the agenda things need to fit in to one of these sections.
  4. When people are proposing items for the agenda they need to say which section they feel their issue fits under.
  5. This should be done transparently so that people can see why there isn’t time for their item on the agenda.

The outcome

More projects on the go at any one time.

Meetings that have scope for teacher-led consultation, student-identified issues and student-led projects.

Additional ideas

If you are facing more than one of the issues above, you can split each section in to sub-sections, for example by having ‘New issues’ and ‘Project updates’ under each of the project type headings (‘Fundraising & Events’, etc.).

Using the project type headings you could split your council into sub-committees so you have named people working on a variety of issues.

Evaluate regularly: is the split you’ve decided upon creating the mix of discussion you were aiming for? If not propose how it might be changed.

Sample agenda

This is how an agenda drawn up in this way might look

Item Person Time
1. Apologies Secretary 1 min
2. Approval of last minutes Chair 1 min
3. New issues from classes (max 20 min)
3A. Ensuring homework is returned on time Jeremy 5 mins
3B. Making water fountains accessible Asha 5 mins
3C. Late, urgent issues Chair
4. Project updates (max 20 mins)
4A. Learning survey Orla 5 mins
4B. Creating a new travel plan Danny 5 mins
4C. End of term party Sandra 10 mins
5. Any other urgent project updates Chair
6. Date of next meeting Secretary 1 min

You may not always have enough to discuss to fill the maximum time in each section, that’s fine. Don’t allocate the time to other things, finish the meeting early. You decided on the split for a reason based on importance. It should slowly encourage people in to bringing up the kinds of issues that are important.

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