What Boards do
Boards of Trustees play a big part in ensuring the network of schools responds as New Zealand’s population grows and our communities change. Keeping an eye on what’s happening in education at the local level and dealing with issues early helps ensure there’s enough space in the network to accommodate every student.
Every state and state integrated school in New Zealand has a Board of Trustees. The Board's core role is to govern its school (or schools, if it governs more than one). This includes planning and reporting, and employing staff who manage and run the school. Schools help students achieve and succeed to the best of their ability. Boards have specific responsibilities under the Education Act 1989 to help them do this.
A standard Board of Trustees is made up of:
- between three and seven parent-elected trustees
- one staff-elected trustee (except where the principal is the only staff member)
- one student-elected trustee (for schools with students in Year 9 and above)
- co-opted trustees (who must be fewer in number than parent-elected trustees)
- up to four trustees appointed by the proprietor (for state integrated schools only)
- the principal of the school
Boards of Trustees govern and manage their school and every member is equally accountable for every Board action and decision.
The decisions of Boards of Trustees are made according to the Education Act and within a framework of plans, policies, processes and procedures that the Board of Trustees is responsible for developing and implementing.
Boards of Trustees also have to prepare and maintain a school charter that sets out their accountabilities to the government and their community and includes their annual targets and goals for the next three to five years.
As well as setting the strategic direction and targets for the school, Boards of Trustees are responsible for all financial, property, health and safety and employment matters, including recruiting school staff. They employ the school’s principal to oversee the day-to-day management of the school, and the principal follows the direction of the Board of Trustees to ensure the school’s goals for student achievement are met.
Board members should be objective in their governance of their school, protect the interests of all students, and work together for the benefit of all students.
The local knowledge, relationships and community connections board members have means they’re vital when options for managing the effects of population growth and decline in their local network are being considered.
Their regular monitoring of what’s happening locally, together with our data, means we can identify shifts in student populations that might lead to issues for their school and other schools nearby.
When a potential issue is identified, timing is everything. Boards are expected to discuss their concerns with us, and engage early with their communities and potentially other Boards of Trustees to consider a suitable response. This could be putting an enrolment scheme in place or changing the school’s home zone.
Depending on the size and scale of the issue, the Board might work with its community to consider a range of options. Following the Board’s engagement and consultation processes the information is provided to us, and sometimes then to the Minister, for consideration.
Sometimes using temporary teaching spaces or converting unused or under-utilised space into teaching areas might be an option to help manage growth. Some schools might be allocated funding for additional classrooms. A new enrolment scheme or changes to an existing one might help address the risk of overcrowding in one school and lack of space or growth in others.
Having one principal for two or more schools, or a combined Board of Trustees might be a response if a small school is having difficulty attracting or retaining suitable staff or Board members.
Establishing a new school might be a response to a new housing development bringing more school-aged children into an area where other schools nearby are already nearing capacity.
Whatever the issue or response, the Ministry and the Minister always want what’s best for all local students, and all local schools. Consideration of all current and future students is always central to decision making.
This is helped by local Boards of Trustees monitoring their rolls and working together to manage the distribution of students across all of their schools, and engaging and working with their communities and us on options when any issues arise.
If Boards of Trustees are unable or unwilling to respond to an issue they have at their school, or are slow to respond, we’ll work with them to assess and manage the risks to the school, or to other schools in the local area.
When we determine that a Board of Trustees is having difficulties, we can appoint a specialist advisor to support them or we might initiate another form of intervention to help. A Limited Statutory Manager (LSM) could be appointed to work with the Board, and take over responsibility for specific aspects of the Board’s functions, such as their financial powers.
A commissioner may be appointed by the Ministry when a Board of Trustees resigns or is unable to function as a Board. Where there are reasonable grounds to believe there is a risk to the operation of the school, or the welfare or educational performance of its students, the Minister may appoint a commissioner. The commissioner takes over the role of the Board and the Board is dissolved.
In some situations, proprietors of state integrated schools might approach us to ask for an LSM or commissioner to be appointed.
Supporting Boards of Trustees in their school governance and management role helps them to help their students to learn and achieve.
The New Zealand School Trustees Association (NZSTA)
NZSTA is contracted by us to support Boards of Trustees in the undertaking of their roles and responsibilities. NZSTA provides practical support, advice, resources and professional development opportunities to help Boards govern and manage their schools.
For more on the support available for Boards of Trustees, visit NZSTA (external link)
For more on becoming a trustee and Board elections, visit NZSTA’s School Trustee Elections site (external link)
NZSTA and ERO have produced useful guidance for Boards:
Tools for Schools
You’ll also find our resources for Boards of Trustees at Tools for schools – templates, guidance and forms to help schools with their day-to-day running of school network processes and procedures.
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