To become a Trustee of Education Otherwise, you need to:
- join EO as a “family member” (you can do this online)
- fill out the special “signed up member” forms (this has to be on paper with an actual signature as far as I know)
- get yourself up for election at the Annual General Meeting (scroll down for likely date) EITHER through being “proposed” in writing by another “signed up member” as late as 4 days before the election OR being “recommended” by existing Trustees
- be voted in (this bit is surprisingly easy since not many people are ever up for election, certainly not as many as the maximum number of trustees, so just by standing for election you will probably get in)
When you read the rules for EO – known as “the M&As” you will see reference to “member of the Council“. That’s what EO Trustees used to be called (Trustee meetings were called “Open Council Meetings or OCMs) A Council Member is the same as a Trustee.
EO can legally operate with only 8 trustees, but there could be as many as 15. (If the number goes below 8, EO can’t conduct any business)
“23. Until otherwise determined by a General Meeting, the number of the members of the Council shall not be less than eight nor more than fifteen.”
The rules say that 1/3 of Trustees have to retire every year. For example if there are 9 Trustees, then the 3 who were elected the furthest back will have to retire at the AGM. This doesn’t necessarily create 3 vacancies though, because the retirees can come straight back again; the rules say that “a retiring member of the Council shall be eligible for re-election“.
Signed Up Members
In addition to being a registered charity, Education Otherwise is also a private company limited by guarantee which means you have to sign the guarantors’ register to become a voting member.
If you become a Trustee, you will also be a director of the limited company Education Otherwise Association Limited.
When you have signed the guarantors’ register you become “a signed up member” or “SUM.”
Only “family members” are eligible to sign up. “Family member” is defined in the rules as “a named member of a family which has during the preceding 12 months paid a subscription to the Association in order to receive benefits such as the newsletter, contact list and online forum access.”
Family membership costs £17 a year. I can’t tell from the form whether each voting member has to take out a family membership in his/her own right or whether you could for example have quite a few “named members of a family” such two (or more) parents and two (or more) grown up children on a single subscription.
Sometimes long-serving members can be a bit resentful of newcomers who they think are joining simply in order to gain some influence. This doesn’t just apply to EO of course! Unfortunately for someone hoping to slip in unnoticed, joining Education Otherwise at all is a slightly unusual thing to do and becoming a signed up member is even more interesting.
Your entry might go more smoothly if initially you just join as a family member without immediately mentioning the signed up member thing.
However, if you’ve been home educating for years and then you suddenly join EO, that is in itself quite conspicuous. One reason why you might join – unrelated to voting – is because there’s no Local Contact in your area or your LC wants to retire, and you are thinking about volunteering. You might not want someone thinking you are volunteering just to get a reduced member subscription, but on balance that’s probably better than if they think you have joined for voting.
At some point after you have joined, you will get a log-in to one of the EO websites or forums (do allow a bit of time for this to be set up) where you can read the minutes of previous General Meetings and Trustee/Council Meetings, as well as the charity’s governing document.
However, even before you join, you can find free information on the Charity Commission website and also on the Companies House web check site. For some things on the Companies House site (eg a copy of the governing document) you have to pay a pound (or you could ask me for a copy) but you can still get quite a lot of information for free, such as who has been and gone as Director/Trustee.
The next Annual General Meeting where you could conceivably get yourself voted in as Trustee will probably be in October 2016 although it could be as late as January 2017. Each AGM has to be held within 15 months of the last AGM, which was October 2015.
If you are terrifically keen, you could always get yourself co-opted as a Trustee before the AGM but then you’d still have to stand for election at the AGM.
If you want to be fully involved in running EO you do really need to go to the AGM in person.
However, your supporters can still vote for you without going to the meeting themselves.
Because EO is a limited company, the provision of the Companies Act mean that proxy voting is in operation, where someone can fill out forms in advance and nominate another signed up member (eg you) to cast a vote on their behalf. (Proxy voting isn’t mentioned in the M&As)
There are postal proxy votes and in-person proxy votes. Obviously, the existing trustes will know in advance about your postal votes because…they’ll get them through the post, but with proxy votes in-person it may be that the proxy form can just be clipped out of the paper newsletter or downloaded and printed off, so your proxies will come as more of a surprise to existing trustees, which might or might not be a consideration for you.
The AGM can’t go ahead unless it is quorate. The quorum for a general meeting is the number of qualified voters who have to be at the meeting in order for it to be properly constituted. The quorum for an EO General Meeting is 16 signed up members.
EO General Meetings are almost never quorate because sadly Trustees often can’t make it to the meeting. Therefore the AGM rarely happens on the due date. This is worth bearing in mind if you had some idea of going along to ask lots of searching questions or make a speech or whatever.
Whatever the supposed date, the AGM will most likely have to be put back to the following week (unless you can get a bunch of your friends and family to become signed up members and troop along to the meeting ) The second time around for the AGM there doesn’t have to be 16 people; in fact the rescheduled meeting can go ahead in someone’s sitting room with just 2 people.
For this reason, it’s a good idea to put the AGM weekend and the following weekend down in your diary. You don’t have to book in advance. If you think you might not be able to get there, you can send apologies in advance and nominate someone as your proxy. If it turns out that in fact you are able to go, I seem to remember that you can just turn up and cancel the proxy.
You might hear about the AGM a long time in advance or you might only hear 3 weeks (21 days) before it’s due to take place. Having to travel to 2 meetings could work out expensive but you can get your travel costs back if you are a volunteer.