Clarifying Boards of Trustees’ Roles and Responsibilities

The Education (Update) Amendment Bill (the Bill) proposes amending the Education Act 1989 (the Act) to state that the school board of trustees (the board) is the governing body of the school, and to set out a number of roles and responsibilities for boards.

The roles and responsibilities of boards have never been set out in one place in the Act. Many are not explicit. This creates uncertainty about what boards can and cannot do, and means there is often a weak link between what government wishes to see and what boards do.

This proposal would improve school governance by providing clarity on what boards must do to carry out their primary role and focus boards on what matters for raising student achievement

The Bill will also make it clear, for the first time in legislation, that a board is the governing body of the school and outline its specific roles and responsibilities. In addition it sets out all the key legal requirements for boards in one place (the new Schedule 2).

Further information

When will these changes take effect?

The Bill is expected to come into force in 2017.

Who will these changes affect?

The changes will affect every school board in the country.

What are the suggested roles and responsibilities for boards?

Along with stating that the board is the governing body of the school, the roles and responsibilities proposed cover the following areas: 

  • ensuring students reach their highest possible educational standard (existing)
  • ensuring a safe physical and emotional environment for staff and students
  • ensuring an inclusive school
  • having regard to the statement of National Education and Learning Priorities
  • complying with obligations relating to curriculum statements, national measures, teaching and learning programmes, and monitoring of student performance
  • being the employer of staff (existing)
  • complying with obligations regarding cultural diversity, the Treaty of Waitangi, tikanga Māori, and te reo Māori. 

How does this change fit in with the other changes proposed in the bill?

The roles and responsibilities of boards are a key part of the strategic direction setting element of the bill. Boards will give effect to the objectives for education and the government’s medium-term priorities through the improved planning and reporting framework.

How will this affect what boards currently do?

This proposal is not intended to put more requirements on boards or result in more work. The proposed roles and responsibilities mainly cover work boards already undertake or expectations that government and the school community has of them. The list of roles includes governance responsibilities that are closely linked to student achievement – for example, a safe physical and emotional environment is necessary for students to achieve their highest possible educational standard.

The changes would provide a statutory basis for boards to understand what they should prioritise when undertaking their work.

Setting out the roles and responsibilities of boards of trustees in the Act would mean that trustees, especially new trustees elected through the triennial election cycle, will not have to search through multiple documents or translate guidance to understand what it is they should focus their time on.

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