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Paperless Governance: Environmental Idealism or the Future of all Governing Bodies?

By Andy Matfield, Business Development Manager, SGOSS

The idea of a paperless working environment is nothing new, but as technology becomes easier to use and more responsive to our needs, is it time for governing bodies to sit up and take notice?



Paperless governance sounds simple – preparing for and conducting school governor meetings without printing one single piece of paper. But can it be done and what are the benefits?



The vast majority of governing bodies currently print out their meeting notes or ask the governors to do this themselves. There are costs involved – postage, paper and ink costs add up – and there are also storage and environmental issues to be considered.



Neil Collins, Chair of Governors at Wymondham High Academy in Norfolk, thinks a paperless system could have many advantages. “Paperless governance is more convenient and it’s a lot cheaper - my governing body spends probably £1,500 a year on printing and posting and I don't think that's too unusual at all.



In addition, the storage of paperwork dating back years can be a problem – or at the very least an area for improvement. Neil continues, If you need to validate a decision taken a year ago, finding that with an electronic search is a matter of seconds, finding in a big stack of papers is considerably longer.



The big question – is this system actually workable? Can enough governors operate the required technology for paperless governance without making meetings less efficient?



Lucy, a community governor in Warwick says her governing body has already

tried and failed to implement a paperless system: Our Deputy Head tried to get the governing body to conduct the entire full governing body meeting on i-pads. This had a very mixed reception and some of our older governors were clearly unhappy about the idea. We were back to using paper after about half an hour.



So, will we ever see paperless governor meetings in a majority of schools? Tom Frankel, an LA governor at Morgan’s Primary School in Hertfordshire, thinks it is only a matter of time: “It’s definitely something governing bodies should work towards, but I can’t envisage it happening for at least 15-20 years. However, I expect some form of software will eventually be invented which makes it easier to do these things on tablets/laptops.”



Creating an environment where governing bodies have the ability to perform as effectively and efficiently as possible is crucial. Undeniably there are benefits to going paperless but the reality is that at this stage such a system is unlikely to be suitable for every school.

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  • Rob Baxter Tuesday, 31 December 2013

    Is the reluctance a generational issue? I cannot help but agree that paperless is the future, and probably on phone and not on tablet......................I'm the new but "experienced" chair (LA governor) on my lower school governing body which has had many personnel changes over the last six months and all parent and community governors are now parents of pupils at the school and therefore considerably younger than myself. In December, at my first full governors meeting, I arrived with arms full of papers and noticed that most around me had not brought any papers and simply sat throughout the meeting looking at their phones and commenting where appropriate. It was sometime into the meeting where I realised that all were simply reading the reports etc from their phones and appeared totally comfortable with this. I believe the paperless meeting will emerge in the future rather than be forced.

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Guest Friday, 29 August 2014