21 Feb 2020
By Mark Richards
Time is precious in schools. It’s the one thing that everyone would agree there isn’t enough of. The school calendar continues to get busier and busier. It’s a struggle to fit in all the various meetings and events that are required. In recent years, many schools have seen a squeeze on department time. Therefore, when department time is allocated, it is important that it is used wisely and effectively.
Department meetings can be extremely valuable, so it’s vital that time isn’t wasted on items that could be communicated and shared in another way.
Here are a few tips about how to hold effective department meetings.
Make the agenda work for you
An agenda is so much more than a list of points to be discussed. It shapes the tone and direction of a meeting. Make sure you give a clear deadline to all colleagues for submission of items for inclusion, together with an indication of how much time the item is likely to take in the meeting. Doing so cultivates a sense of ownership and belonging within the department.
Similarly, if you would like colleagues to express their views or to come up with ideas, you need to give them plenty of opportunity to have thought things through in advance of the meeting. This will keep the meeting itself sharp, snappy and purposeful. Publish an agenda at least 48 hours before the meeting, if possible.
Finally, invite other members of the department to lead on certain agenda items. This is good for staff development, as well as helping to share the workload.
Make meetings interactive
Meetings where colleagues feel they are simply being talked at will not be valued by them. Staff will only feel that the time is valuable and useful if they feel involved. It is essential that staff feel like they have a say and that they can make worthwhile contributions to discussions.
Don’t use meeting time to give out information
Colleagues need to be given information – a lot of it! However, the rare occasions when the whole team is together is not the most appropriate time to do it. Consider using a notice board or email when you just need to relay information.
The golden rule is that if it can go on a handout/page of A4, then put it on one. Just don’t hand it out at the start of a meeting – because it will just become the focus or distract attention away from the meeting if you do.
Don’t accept Any Other Business
If you want to make one firm rule to stick to, let it be that you don’t accept Any Other Business (AOB). It’s unpredictable and often results in a meeting overrunning. Insist that if a colleague wants to raise an issue it should be submitted in advance as an agenda item. Also insist that the whole department follows the same rule – that reminders or information is put on newsletters or communicated by email.
Last but not least, keep meetings snappy and business-like – but always try to begin and end on a positive.