Early stages of a school property project

Boards have a governance role in project management. In the early stages of the project you will be responsible for developing the project brief, opening the project file and appointing a project manager, school representative and the project control group.

For the project managers role, see Role of the project manager in school property projects.

Developing a project brief for your project

The project brief is a summary of the project, including the objectives, time frame and budget.

As a board of trustees, you define your requirements for the project in the project brief. You prepare the first draft of the project brief, which you can use to tender for a professional project manager. It should have enough information to:

  • tell people who are bidding for the project manager contract what the role involves
  • confirm that all board members are agreed on the work to be done.

In developing the brief, you should consult with interested parties who will use the buildings and facilities, such as staff, students and parents.

If your school already has a project manager, such as under a long-term contract, they can develop and manage the brief from the start, with your input.

During the project, the project manager develops the brief into a more detailed document (see: Role of the project manager for the information we provide project managers)

Development plan

Your school may have a development plan that:

  • takes a long-term view of your school property as a whole
  • plans how the property can best help your school to work towards its vision, goals and desired educational outcomes.

If your school has a development plan, it will contain some of the information you need for the project brief.

Sign off the project brief

The project manager will send you the project brief, as it is updated, to check that the project objectives are still being met and for approval from the board. Your delegate or the full board will need to sign it off each time.

Setting up a project file for your project

You will need to set up a project file to store information about your project. This file includes the project brief and all other information such as:

  • correspondence
  • emails
  • contracts
  • variations.

Your project manager will add to the project file as documentation is developed. Use the project management checklists to make sure all relevant documentation is included.

At the end of the project, you will close the project file. See End of a school property project for more information.

Obligations under the Official Information Act 1982

As a board, you are an agent of the Crown and bound by the Official Information Act 1982(external link) (New Zealand Legislation website). If a request is made under the Act, you must provide access to or copies of information in the project file that is relevant and appropriate to the request, unless there is good reason to withhold the information under the Official Information Act.

Engaging your project manager

All school property projects, no matter how small, must have a project manager.

If the project requires building consent, you must engage a professional project manager.


Using a non-professional project manager

If you use a non-professional project manager, such a board member or your caretaker, to manage a project (that does not need building consent), your project manager must still follow all the Ministry’s project management requirements.

You will still have to manage all the board functions covered above, depending on the scope of the project. For example, a project to replace carpets probably won’t need a project control group or design brief, but you should still have a project file, and will need to approve payments.

Appointing a school representative

You need to appoint a school representative to represent the school’s interests. They will be a member of the project control group with an oversight of the project. They will make sure that, as the project progresses, it continues to meet your school’s expectations for learning and achievement.

Your school representative must have a role or relationship with the school so that they can effectively represent the school’s interests. They may be:

  • a member of the board, such as the principal
  • a teaching staff member
  • another school employee
  • a school community member who is actively involved in the school.

You should select a candidate who has:

  • an affinity with or knowledge of the school and the project
  • excellent relationship management skills
  • effective leadership skills
  • excellent communication and networking skills
  • good problem-solving skills
  • sound judgement
  • the ability to provide continuity and effective handover and delegation.

Appointing a project control group

You will need to appoint a project control group to oversee your building project. The project control group is likely to include the:

  • school principal
  • project manager
  • board chair or board representative
  • school representative (who can be the same person as the board representative).

The project manager will include others as they are engaged, such as the designer, engineer, quantity surveyor and contractors.

Role of the project control group

The project manager chairs the group. The group meets at regular, pre-arranged times to:

  • discuss project progress
  • give you financial updates
  • monitor whether the project objectives are being met
  • discuss and resolve problems
  • make recommendations to you for approval.

For small or less complex projects, the process is likely to be less formal. However, you can still use a project control group in this supervising role.

Communication lines for the project

The project control group decides on the communication lines for your building project. The following diagram shows the typical communication lines.

Property management roles and functional relationships in a school building project

Property management roles and functional relationships in a school building proj

Schools, project management and consultants contribute to project management and relate to each other as members of the project control group. The Ministry and contractors each have lines of communication through members of the project control group.

Engaging a full-time builder for your project

Your school can employ a full-time builder to do your building work. You can engage them as either a board employee or a contractor.

Builder engaged as a board employee

If you engage the builder as a board employee, the scope of work must be:

  • fully covered in their employment agreement
  • in line with their collective or individual agreement.

You pay for their labour (as a board employee) from your operational funding. You cannot charge these costs to the project.

Builder engaged as a contractor

If you engage the builder as a contractor, you must follow full project management processes for:

  • procurement
  • qualifications
  • insurance
  • design certification.

You must follow Ministry procurement rules when a builder engaged or employed by the school buys materials for building projects.

To find out if the builder needs to be licensed, go to licensed building practitioners(external link) (business.govt.nz website).

Ensuring contractors are police vetted

Every contractor who is likely to have unsupervised access to students at a school during normal school hours must be police vetted. The school board is responsible for determining the conditions of access for contractors and obtaining police vets.

See Police vetting for school property contractors

Managing conflicts of interest on your project

A conflict of interest is when someone involved in a project has a financial or other interest in the project from which they can benefit or which will prevent them from acting impartially. For example, there is a conflict of interest if:

  • an architect on the board wants to tender for the design work
  • a board member has a brother-in-law who is tendering for the construction work
  • people involved in the project have a financial interest in a company or related company that is tendering for the work.

A conflict of interest can arise during procurement or at any time in the project.

Generally, the project manager will arrange for everyone involved in the project to sign conflict of interest forms and a confidentiality agreement. If you are self-managing the project, you will have to do this.

Board members with financial interests in the project

A board member may have a financial interest in a contract you are entering into. If the value of this interest is over $25,000 a year, that member must apply for Ministry consent before:

  • submitting a tender for the contract directly
  • another party that member is associated with tenders for the contract.

Before giving consent, we need to be satisfied there is no risk of that member receiving preferential treatment.

If we give consent:


Delegating project management functions for your project

To keep the project moving, you can delegate some of your board’s functions and powers for the project so that approvals can be done quickly, without having to wait for a full board meeting.

You can delegate board functions to:

  • one or more board members
  • the principal or any other employee(s) or board office holder(s) at the school
  • a committee of at least 2 people, at least one of whom is a board member.

To delegate powers, you will need to make a formal board resolution agreeing to the:

  • decision-making level to be delegated
  • delegation level and scope.

You will need to give each delegate written notice of their delegation(s).

Clause 8 of the Education (School Boards) Regulations 2020(external link) (New Zealand Legislation website) gives you the power to delegate in this way.

Points to remember when delegating powers and functions:

  • You must record all delegations in the project file.
  • You cannot delegate your board’s general power of delegation. This means you can’t ask anyone other than the board to make the delegations.
  • As a board, you remain responsible for the actions and decisions of the delegate(s) acting under the delegation.
  • You can revoke the delegation at any time.
  • A person with a financial interest in the project cannot be a delegate.

Financial delegation

You can only delegate financial functions to the school representative. Project managers:

  • must not have any financial delegation for using school funds
  • must have all project costs and expenses signed off by the school representative with financial delegation or the full board.

You can only give financial delegations through a board resolution. You must:

For more information about financial delegations, see chapter 3.3.18 of the Financial Information for Schools Handbook.

Engaging parents to work on your project

If a parent of a child at your school tenders for a contract, the relationship must be entirely professional. You should make sure:

  • no one pressures the parent to give a good deal
  • the parent is qualified for the job and supplies warranties that the work meets trade practice.

If you engage the parent to work on the project, you:

  • should expect their work to be to a professional standard
  • will need a process in place to deal with any situation where the contractor does not perform or performs poorly.

Having working bees for your project

You can hold working bees to get work done on your building project. However, if the project needs a building consent, you will have to engage a professional project manager to:

  • confirm the scope of work
  • sign off the completed construction.


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