Education and Training Act 2020: A code of conduct for members of school boards

Setting standard expectations for board members

Sections 166-169 of the Act allow the Minister to issue a code of conduct for school boards of trustees that sets out the minimum standards of conduct that each member is required to meet. Individual school boards can decide to expand the minimum standards to reflect local expectations.

There are penalties for failing to comply with the code of conduct. The board may censure a board member, and the Minister may remove a member for a significant or persistent breach of the code. These sanctions do not apply to a principal. Principals are required on the board as part of their employment obligations so issues relating to Principals can be addressed through employment mechanisms.

The code of conduct will give board members a common basis to work from, encourage the development of good practice over time, and provide for more transparent accountability.

Standardising expectations is important

School boards have a unique range of membership with differing levels of experience and skills, and a strong emphasis on voluntary, representative members (such as student and parent representatives).

Prior to the Education and Training Act, school boards of trustees were the only Crown entity governing body for which the individual and collective duties of members were not set out in either Education legislation or the Crown Entities Act 2004. The only guidance as to the responsibilities of board members was the New Zealand School Trustees Association’s Voluntary Code of Behaviour.

During its consultations, the Independent Taskforce reviewing Tomorrow’s Schools identified concerns relating to the behaviour of individual trustees, such as members seeking to progress their own interests rather than those of the board. It recommended the creation of a mandatory national code of conduct for boards.

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