Consulting on bylaws (school rules)

School boards must consult with staff, students and the school community when making or amending bylaws (school rules). Use this guidance to help you decide when to consult on bylaws.

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Principals and Tumuaki

New requirement for consulting on bylaws (school rules)

As a school board, you are able to make bylaws (school rules) for your school.

Under section 126(2) of the Education and Training Act 2020, which came into effect on 1 August 2020, your school board is now required to consult with its staff, its students (to the extent that the board considers appropriate) and the school community when making bylaws.

Education and Training Act 2020: Section 126 – NZ Legislation(external link)

This applies to new school rules, or when making amendments to current school rules.

Many boards already consult when setting rules. Consultation offers numerous benefits for boards and their school communities. It enables greater staff, student and community engagement, and it gives them the opportunity to input into key governance decisions that will impact them.

The following information relates only to consultation on school rules. There are also requirements on boards to consult with their communities on other matters, such the requirement to consult on the health curriculum every 2 years.

What is a bylaw?

A school rule made by the school board is a bylaw1.

A board may delegate authority to make school rules to the principal or other members of staff. These are also bylaws.

When do we need to consult?

Your board must consult when considering making a new school rule or making a change to an existing school rule. Your board does not need to consult on school rules that are already in place.

A school rule requires consultation when it meets the following criteria:

  • it is made by your school board or by the principal or other staff member with delegated authority from the board, and
  • your school intends to enforce full compliance with the rule and there will be disciplinary and/or negative consequences for non-compliance.

Additionally, if the school rule has implications for students’ legal rights, it requires consultation.2

Your board does not need to consult on:

  • general management decisions or governance policies and procedures that do not meet the above criteria, as these are not school rules. If your board is considering making a new policy or amending an existing policy and it does not meet the above criteria, consultation with your community should still be considered to ensure everyone has a voice at your school.
  • school rules that are required for boards to fulfil their legal obligations, for example, for health and safety requirements.
  • rules required by law in New Zealand (for example, grounds and buildings of schools must be smoke free).

Your board cannot make school rules that contravene New Zealand legislation.

Who do I need to consult?

Your board needs to consult with staff, students (where appropriate) and the school community.

The school community is:

  • the parents, families and whānau of the school’s students
  • the Māori community associated with the school
  • any other person or group of persons who the board considers is part of the school community.

What should consultation look like?

Your board can determine which method of consultation is most appropriate for the situation and the community.

You may need to use more than one method of consultation to ensure staff, students and the community are given the opportunity to provide feedback on the proposed rule.

These may include:

  • publishing a request for feedback in a school newsletter or website
  • emailing the school community a link to complete an online survey or poll
  • holding a community meeting or hui
  • asking students to brainstorm or provide feedback in class
  • holding a regular or special staff meeting or hui.

More guidance for boards is available from the New Zealand School Trustees Association (NZSTA).

Information for board members – NZSTA(external link)

What should be included in the consultation?

Your board needs to decide what information is required to be included in the consultation to enable staff, students and your community to provide informed feedback.

This may include:

  • the issue your board is trying to resolve or mitigate
  • the proposed new rule (or amended rule)
  • why your board believes the new or amended rule will address the issue identified
  • how the new or amended rule will be enforced
  • the proposed consequences for any breaches of the rule.

Examples of when is consultation is and isn't required

Definitions used in these examples

The following definitions apply in the examples listed below.


The school board, or person/s to whom the board has delegated one or more of its functions or powers to3 (for example, the principal or a subcommittee).

Negative consequences

Includes disciplinary measures such as detention, or anything that could be perceived as negative such as having something taken away or a privilege removed.

Example 1: Compulsory uniform or appearance rules

Your board intends to make a rule that students must wear the correct uniform for all hours of the school day. The rule will be enforced, with negative consequences for students not wearing correct uniform.

Your board is required to consult.

The rule is being made by your board, who intend to enforce compliance. The rule will also impact students’ legal rights, having implications for their freedom of expression.

Example 2: Social media use

In response to issues around cyber-bullying, your board wants to ban students from using social media during the school day, including during lunch breaks. If students are caught on social media, they will have their devices confiscated for the rest of the day.

Your board is required to consult.

The rule is being made by your board, who intend to enforce compliance. It also has implications for students’ rights as their property will be confiscated.

If your board decided to make this a guideline rather than a rule with consequences, consultation would not be required.

Example 3: School values

Your board wants to set the expectation that students should act in accordance with the values of the school whenever they are at or representing the school. Your board intends these to be guidelines for behaviour, with no negative consequences if the guidelines are not followed.

In this situation, your board is not required to consult.

These are guidelines your board is not intending to enforce compliance with. However, it would still be best practice to consult with your school community.

If your board instead made a rule that students must act in accordance with the values of the school and intended to enforce compliance, for example disciplinary consequences for breaches, consultation would be needed.

Example 4: Healthy eating and drinking

Your board is trying to encourage healthier nutrition. Your school is intending to implement a student health and wellbeing policy, and ask parents to ensure students do not bring junk food to school. Your board does not intend for there to be negative consequences if there are breaches of the policy. Rather the school will send a communication home to the parents of students who bring junk food to school, reminding them of the policy.

Your board is not required to consult.

This is a policy and your board does not intend to enforce compliance. However, it would still be best practice to consult with your school community.

Example 5: Principal’s management decisions

Maintenance is taking place in a classroom and it is a health and safety risk for students to enter. The principal has made a rule making the classroom out of bounds for students. Students who break this rule will be given detention.

Your board is not required to consult.

Even though there will be consequences for breaches of the rule, this is a general management decision made by the principal, not the board, or on delegated authority from the board. It is also a rule required to keep students safe as required of the school board by New Zealand legislation. This is not a bylaw (school rule).

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