Governance Stocktake 2008

Executive Summary

It is 25 years since Tomorrow's Schools, and the education sector has continued to evolve. Before 1989 schools were run by the Department of Education. Tomorrow's Schools devolved administration to schools themselves and promoted greater community accountability. The most significant change was the establishment of community based boards of trustees.

Terms of reference

The key question addressed in the stocktake was:

"the extent to which boards are currently supported to focus on directing and supporting student engagement, achievement, and retention in their schools, and what more needs to be done to assist them in this task."

Terms of reference established by Cabinet for the stocktake noted that the government remains committed to the existing system of boards of trustees as autonomous crown entities governing their schools.

Reconsideration of the school governance model itself was not on the table. Operational funding questions, which have been the subject of a separate report that is currently with ministers, were excluded from the stocktake as were the Ministry of Education's training and support contracts (in which NZSTA has a commercial interest).

The stocktake process involved:

Findings

  1. Overall, school governance in New Zealand is generally in good shape. Nevertheless, there is room for improvement in some areas

  2. On the whole, trustees are clear about their roles and functions

  3. Responsibilities for school administration are not always suitably balanced between school boards and the Ministry of Education

  4. Current arrangements for determining board composition do not need strengthening to ensure schools have sustainable and competent boards

  5. Current arrangements are not suitably flexible for the 21st century to allow for multi-school boards, multi-site schools, and shared governance arrangements

  6. Trustees and boards do have the skills and knowledge needed for effective governance

  7. Training and support should be made more accessible to all boards

  8. We can assist schools to more easily access important areas of expertise, such as legal and personnel management expertise by ensuring boards have access to a broad range of quality proactive support (especially for principal appointment and performance management) at least to the level currently provided for personnel and employment relations. 

The consensus among stakeholders consulted for the stocktake is that improving the effectiveness with which boards of trustees govern our schools is "not rocket science". Rather, it is a matter of providing the agreed resources and information in a timely and effective manner, and being responsive to the variances that schools experience.

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