Information for parents


Welcome to the New Zealand School Trustees Association (NZSTA) Parent Place.
NZSTA provides advice, support and professional development for school boards of trustees.  

Everyone knows parents and caregivers play a crucial role in helping their children reach their highest educational potential. They also actively support their schools in many ways. These include:

  • parent volunteers
  • on Home and School associations and other parent | whānau organisations
  • as members of their school board

Scroll down to find information and resources that explain the role of school boards and information about how to become a school board member. You can also find information about key topics of interest to parents, such as whether parents have to pay fees and donations for their child at a state or state integrated school in New Zealand.  

Note: NZSTA does not give advice to parents unless it is in their capacity as a member of a school board of trustees.

To find free expert information and advice on issues relating to your student, view Useful links. Some of the organisations listed also specialise in advising and supporting parents and caregivers around specific issues, including student behaviour management (stand-downs and suspensions).

Useful links

Student Rights Service (formerly PLINFO)

0800 499 488

Website

Youth Law

0800 884 529

Website 

Citizens Advice Bureau

0800 367 222

Website 

Children’s Commissioner                                    

0800 224 453

Website  

Ethnic Communities - Language Line (translation service)

0800 656 656

Website

Ministry of Education (MOE)

04 463 8000

For parents of primary aged children

For parents of secondary aged children

Website

Education Review Office (ERO)

04 499 2489

Website 

Tertiary Education Commission (career information and advice)

0800 222 733

Website 

What is a school board?

School boards are responsible for the school | kura’s performance and ensuring that all legal requirements are met.

Every state and state-integrated school | kura in New Zealand has a board which is accountable for:

  • student achievement
  • setting the vision for the school | kura
  • ensuring the school | kura complies with legal and policy requirements

What does a board do?

The board has the overall responsibility and accountability for the school | kura.

School Boards’ primary objectives are determined by the Education and Training Act 2020, to ensure

• Every student at the school can reach their highest possible standard in educational achievement 

• the school is a physically and emotionally safe place for all students and staff 

• the school is inclusive of students of differing needs 

• The school gives effect to Te Tiriti o Waitangi 

 

These primary objectives flow through all of the board’s work, starting with the charter/strategic plan, which is the board’s key guiding document.

Some of the specific things boards do:

  • Set the strategic direction and long-term plans for the school | kura in consultation with the school | kura’s community
  • Monitor the board’s progress against its strategic  goals and targets
  • Monitor and evaluate student progress and achievement
  • Oversee the management of staff, property, finances, curriculum and administration
  • Ensure that government priorities are met
  • Fulfil the intent of the Treaty of Waitangi by valuing and reflecting New Zealand’s dual cultural heritage
  • Appoint and support the principal and assess their performance.
  • Act as good employers to all staff at the school | kura

What skills do board members need?

School board members are active leaders in their school | kura and need to work well in a team, ask challenging questions and have good communication skills.

Boards need a balance of skills and experiences to ensure effective processes for consultation, planning, monitoring, reporting and reviewing the school | kura’s performance are in place.

How can you become a school board member?

School boards need to represent the diversity of their school communities to ensure a bright future for all our children. Parents, caregivers and people from the wider community can be nominated for election to a school board. Your school | kurawill be happy to help you find out more about standing for election or nominating someone else.

You can also find more information on the school trustee elections website: Becoming a board member.

Who is on a board of trustees?

The Education and Training Act 2020 specifies the makeup of the board but provides some discretion for the board in determining its total size. This flexibility helps the board ensure its membership reflects the diversity of the community and the skills required for effective governance. 

A school board is made up of:

  • 3–7 elected parent representatives
  • the principal
  • a staff representative
  • a student representative (only in schools with students above year 9)
  • proprietor’s appointees (only in state integrated schools)
  • co-opted board members
  • appointed board members

All board members have:

  • equal voice
  • equal vote
  • equal accountability
  • equal standing

How is a board elected?

School board elections are held every three years. These triennial elections are the biggest democratic event in New Zealand, with schools | kura around the country seeking approximately 12,000 parent representatives. All parents, legal guardians and immediate caregivers of students enrolled full-time in a state | state-integrated school | kura can and should vote in the elections for parent representatives.

What help do school boards get?

New Zealand School Trustees Association provides free advice and support through their governance and employment advisory services and professional development workshops. For more information view here.

How does a school board work?

School boards provide strategic leadership and direction to their school | kura. The board works in partnership with the community, principal, teachers, support staff, and the government to ensure the best possible outcomes for all students. The importance of the partnership between a school | kura and its community cannot be stressed enough. Board members represent their community and actively seek the input of parents, staff and students.

In the board's decision-making process, all members take into account all relevant information and to vote in the best interests of all students.

How do I find out more about my school's board?

Your school should have a board page or portal on its website. This should have information about who is on the board, how to contact the board, meeting dates and the board’s annual reports. The portal could also have board minutes (from the public part of the meeting), links to the board’s strategic and annual plans, and many or most of the board’s policies, including the school’s concerns and complaints policies and procedures.

If this information is not on your schools’ website, contact the school office for this information.

 

Can I attend board meetings?

A school board meeting follows the same rules as other local authorities, such as council meetings, and is ‘open to the public’.  In practice, this means that board meetings and agendas must be ‘publicly notified’.

Anyone can: 

  • attend to observe the public part of a board meeting
  • ask for permission to speak. This is best done in advance by contacting the presiding member (also known as the ‘Chair’)

However, a board meeting is not a public meeting. This means that members of the public don’t have automatic speaking rights. So the board can decide (‘resolve’) to exclude members of the public,  for instance, to protect a person’s privacy. This is sometimes called ‘going into committee’. In that case members of the public are asked to leave this part of the meeting.

 

Can I ask for the board’s strategic plan and board minutes?

Anyone can ask to see (and in some cases request copies of) most of a school board’sdocuments and records. They include minutes from the public part of the meeting and the board’s strategic plan. This contains the board’s vision, aims, objectives, directions, and targets, achievement goals/targets and policies. 

Anyone can also request to see (or request copies of) the board’s public excluded minutes. The board follows the rules in the Official Information Act 1982 for this type of information request and can decide to hold back certain information. They must give the requester a reason for this. (An example would be to protect a person’s privacy).

What can parents expect from their school board?

Responsibility

The role of the board is to design the future of the school | kura and ensure that plans and targets are developed, monitored, and reviewed. The board develops policy by which the school | kura is to be controlled and managed.

The board receives regular reports from the principal about student learning and achievement and progress towards the school | kura’s strategic aims and targets. The board uses this information to prioritise resourcing to meet the needs of students.

The Education and Training Act 2020 delegates responsibility for the day to day running of the school | kura to the principal – the school | kura management determines how policy/board expectations will be best met.

Respect and integrity

Each board member is expected to make decisions in the best interests of all students at the school | kura and to ensure culturally appropriate processes are in place. Board members are entrusted to govern the school | kura, on behalf of the community, to ensure the provision of a high quality learning environment for all.

Consultation

The board’s role is to design the future for the school | kura.

Board members are elected to represent the school or kura community.

Community consultation is a critical part of the process for developing and monitoring the board’s strategic plan.

Consultation processes provide information to guide future development and give feedback on current progress towards the goals defined in the strategic plan.

The school | kura should have a procedure outlining the handling of concerns and complaints that is made available to the school | kura community.

Board members are not the immediate point of contact for parent concerns as these should first be dealt with by the school | kura, according to the school’s | kura’s procedure.

Communication

The board should provide the school | kura community with regular updates on how the school | kura is performing in relation to the strategic goals.

Professional learning

Board members are expected to have a clear understanding of:

  • their role
  • their board's governance framework
  • student learning and achievement data

NZSTA runs a comprehensive programme to support board members in their role

How can parents raise a concern with their school board?

Each school | kura should have a policy/procedure outlining the process for handling concerns and complaints. Copies of this policy/procedure should be available from the school | kura, and may be on the school’s website.

Do parents have to pay fees and donations?

Right to free education

Every student in New Zealand who is not an international student is entitled to free enrolment and free education at a state school or kura. This applies from their fifth birthday until 1 January after their 19th birthday. 

The right to free education is guaranteed by section 33 of the Education and Training Act 2020, and means:

·      no enrolment or attendance fee can be charged to parents by state schools or kura

·      any material and activity costs associated with the delivery of the curriculum are costs that must be met by the school and not charged to parents.  

State-integrated school attendance dues - compulsory and enforceable

Proprietors of state-integrated schools can change for attendance. These are called attendance dues. They are compulsory, payment can be enforced and a tax credit cannot be claimed.

Donations - voluntary

Anyone can choose to make a donation to a school or kura at any time. Payment of donations is entirely voluntary. GST cannot be charged, parents can ask for a receipt when paying a school donation, and a tax credit can be claimed.

Parents of decile 8-10 schools and of decile 1-7 schools who choose not to opt-in to the donations scheme (see below) have the absolute right to decide to pay any requested donations in full, in part, or not at all.  (The words “fees” and “levies” should not be used by schools or their boards when requesting donations). 

Donations scheme

Decile 1-7 schools and kura who opt-in to the donations scheme for a particular year receive $150 per student payment in exchange for not asking for donations – with the exception of school camps.

Purchases of goods and services – voluntary but enforceable 

Schools and kura can ask parents and whānau to pay for goods and services they offer that are optional, e.g. pens and school stationary, lunches and swimming lessons. Once the parent has agreed to pay, then GST is payable and payment can be enforced.

More information

Fees, charges and donations                                                                                  

The Donations Scheme

What is the board's role in effective student behaviour management?

The board exercises its responsibilities to ensure effective school-wide student behaviour management in the same way it does for other areas of school governance. This includes planning, resourcing, monitoring, reporting and consultation.

The management of individual student behaviour remains at the operational level within the school, supported by the board's policies around managing student behaviour and the use of physical restraint. The board is directly involved when the principal suspends a student, following which the board must hold a suspension meeting. 

For more information about student behaviour view the Ministry of Education’s website here.

Rights of parents who do not have day-to-day care of their child

NZSTA is frequently asked about the level of involvement and information that parents who do not have the daily care of their child should have. These parents are usually still guardians and, therefore, have a right to contribute to their child’s development and to participate in making decisions about their education. They are also entitled to contact with their child subject to any restrictions set by a court order.

As guardians, both parents have rights to receive information and to participate in activities that involve their child's education and wellbeing. Here are some examples:

  • receive copies of their child’s school report
  • attend parent/teacher meetings or discuss their child’s progress with the school
  • be consulted when the school is suggesting the need for specialist educational services for their child
  • participate in student behaviour management meetings involving their child
  • decide if they want their child to participate in religious instruction (this is an ‘opt in’ process) - (when separated parents disagree on this, the school would expect them to resolve their differences outside of school)
  • participate in parent activities/functions and receive newsletters
  • vote in elections and by-elections for parent representatives on the school's board

We strongly advise that the school is provided with a copy of any parenting order in place. Equally, if there is a protection order relating to the child the school should have a copy. If any parent seeks access to their child in breach of a protection order, the police and the other parent should be informed.

What is NZSTA?

NZSTA is an independent, non-government organisation (NGO) representing school boards throughout New Zealand. It is also a not-for-profit incorporated society with charitable trust status.

NZSTA’s Mission is: to Lead and Strengthen School Governance in New Zealand.

NZSTA has two complementary areas of activity:

• Our membership activities provide leadership, representation and advocacy for NZSTA member boards

• Our service delivery activities, under contract to the Ministry of Education, deliver a fully integrated range of services free to all boards to support and enhance boards’ capability in governance and employment.

• NZSTA is also an active party in relevant education-related decisions and national policy formulation and works alongside the Ministry of Education in negotiating Collective Agreements with unions.

Membership of NZSTA is voluntary and sits consistently at around 90% of all eligible boards.

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