Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Paperless School Governor Meetings

One of the first things that struck me after becoming a school governor for the first time was the mountain of paperwork. When I joined the governing body the clerk, chair of governors and head teacher were already sending out governing body papers via email but many of the governors were personally printing them out for the meetings.

Our head teacher led the way by bringing in her laptop and viewing all papers on screen, this has caught on and now the majority of our governors bring laptops and our meetings are now mostly paperless.

This complements our environmental ethos being an award winning leading Eco School. I also write another blog called GeekyGreen about Green IT so it a subject close to my heart.

But it is not just about saving trees and carbon there is a cost issue of the paper, printing and often posting out of the papers.

We had hoped to go one step further by using our Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) called Frog to share school governor papers securely but the pace of this project has been slow for various unconnected reasons.

I am also aware of a service called Online Governor which charges £850 for a Governing Body to turn completely paperless in a secure manner. They claim they can save some schools up to £3,150.

As a small school we would find it difficult to justify £850 in the current financial climate so I am piloting a different system which is free of charge.

I use a a free online file sharing product called Dropbox This allows each governor to setup a free of charge secure 2Gb online storage which can be shared with every governor and accessed from anywhere on the internet.

All the clerk, chair or head teacher needs to do is drop a file or set of files in the dropbox folder on their computer desktop and it replicates to all governors devices whether it be their Windows PC, laptop, Apple Mac, Blackberry, Iphone or Apple IPad or all six devices if they are really flash.

I have recently been using this technology with my Apple IPad which I find perfect for school governor meetings as it is compact, light weight, has a touch screen and 10 hour battery life.

I sometimes think that a free IPad for every school governor funded by the government would be an excellent incentive for becoming a school governor. It would a small price to pay for the time we all give up for our communities.

You don't need online internet access at the governing body meeting as it caches a copy of the papers on the device the first time you open the document or spreadsheet when you are online at home or in the office.

It is as secure as email with all access to the dropbox password protected and there is an option to protect access to files by a pin code.

This pin code protection is the option I use. If someone stole my Ipad the school governor data would be wiped and fully destroyed after 10 incorrect attempts of my pin number.

Dropbox is free at and even better is if you sign up I get an extra 250Mb of storage for referring you ;-)

The other free online resource that I use for School Governing is Google Apps

This allows for a group of School Governors to share a Google Calendar for meetings, Google Docs for documents and spreadsheets and Google Mail for Email. It is also fully password protected.

There is a version for School aimed at the US market but available worldwide for Education organisations for free.

I would love to hear experiences from other governors who have gone paperless in their meetings.


  1. We have used Phorum for many years for sharing briefing papers and for carrying out discussions. It is open source, free to download, and very robust
    Our main problems with it were that we only gave a couple of people power to upload files, which led to delays, and we didn't keep on top of downloading the latest versions because the person who originally set it up left and no one could remember where it was hosted.
    However, those were small problems, and we could have solved them if we had taken the time to do so.
    We have now moved to Fronter, where we have our own area, and a shared folder with school staff where we keep all the policies. That way, they are all securely in one place, and they can be accessed by the people who need to make use of them day to day as well as by the people who have the responsibility of reviewing them and monitoring their effectiveness.

  2. We use our VLE which is also FROG. All our documents are stored in dedicated Governor area under the control of the clerk.

    However, as a move to a paperless GB it has not achieved that objective. For starters you are reliant on all governors having access to the VLE - still a tall order I would imagine for alot of school GBs. Secondly, to work properly all papers need to made available well in advance and again I imagine most schools (like mine) regularly have last minute papers appearing the day or even evening of meetings.

    The VLE is a great archive and saves a lot of filing in my house but as a route to a paperless GB the goal is probably some way off at the moment.

    Andre - Governor in Worcestershire

  3. Our GB uses The Governors Virtual Office run by School Leadership Systems.

  4. Our Governing Body has a Learning Platform which we all have access to and we ensure as much of the documentation is available 7 days before. Also at our meetings we have a projector set up and project the paperwork up onto a screen for everyone to look at whilst talking about items. This saves a lot of paperwork and works well. Just need all governors to read the paperwork before the meetings!