Role of the project manager in school property projects

As a project manager engaged on a school property project, you will be required to perform your role and responsibilities. This guidance details the five key areas under your role, and provides resources to support compliance and help you meet the expectations of school and Ministry.

Level of compliance Main audience Other


  • Project Managers
  • Boards
  • Project Control Groups

Five key areas of responsibility are detailed as part of your role when working in schools.

The project manager’s role

If the project requires building consent, the board must engage a professional project manager. It will be required that you understand all the legal and our requirements for school property projects, before beginning work.

As a project manager on a school property project, you will be responsible for managing:

  • project delivery timeframes
  • communication
  • information sharing
  • problem solving
  • dispute management.

Role of the board in school property projects

Administering the project

The project manager is responsible for key administration tasks for school projects, some of which you will work in tandem with the board or a school representative.

  • Developing a project brief
  • Maintaining the project file
  • Managing the budget
  • Project management forms
  • Police vetting for contractors.

Project brief 

In general the board should prepare the first draft of the brief, before handing it to you for further detail. However if you have a previous relationship or long-term contract with a school you may be asked to initially develop a brief. After you add to the brief, send it to the board to:

  • approve
  • check that the project objectives are still being met.

When developing the first draft, the board will need to consult with interested parties of the buildings and facilities:

  • staff
  • students
  • parents
  • community organisations that use the building.

By the end of the project, the brief should include:

  • a statement - of the project’s purpose, objectives and audience
  • a scope – the physical dimensions of the proposed building work, initial designs and materials
  • a site and site works
  • a budget and budget control – prime cost, provisional sums and the process for spending these sums
  • a project time frame – on a Gantt chart that displays the project’s status, assignment of tasks and completion times
  • the people – involved in the project and their roles
  • input from interested parties
  • any board delegations for the project (see: Boards role)
  • reporting lines and functional relationships
  • risks and issues to manage during the project
  • design and construction documentation (see: Design stage)
  • a process for change management (see: Construction phase).

The project brief will inform the procurement plans for the design and build, and will include:

Maintaining the project file

The board must set up a Project File before engaging with you – to store all documentation about the project.

All documentation must be added to this file throughout the project and the recommended structure is:

  • a contents page
  • a schedule of documents sent to others (e.g. the Ministry or consultants)
  • relevant school information
  • reports
  • plans and designs
  • the local authority and consents
  • budgets
  • invoices and payment records
  • warranties and guarantees
  • correspondence including emails and discussions records
  • the board minutes including project stages
  • conflict of interest records.

We recommend the file is:

  • stored in one place
  • tracked and ensured (signed in and out) if it leaves the project office.

Once the project is completed, return the file to the board as it must be accessible and retained for the life of the building.

Managing the budget

The board will be provided with funding for its property project from one of the Ministry’s capital funding programmes.

The budget will be an item in the project brief and more information can be found under the Project budgets page.

Project management forms

It is your responsibility to complete the following project management forms.

  • School-led or Ministry-led Project Form
  • Building Update Form
  • Design Fees Release Form, if applicable
  • Procurement forms
  • Invoices

For more information about what the forms are and when to complete them, visit:

Project management forms

Police vetting for contractors

Every contractor, who is likely to have unsupervised access to students during normal school hours, must be police vetted. The board is responsible for determining the conditions of access for contractors.

Police vetting for school property projects

Working with the project control group

Part of your role includes organising and running group meetings with the project control group.

These meetings should be to discuss progress and any issues with the projects.

  • Monthly minutes and progress reports should be distributed to the group

School representative

A school representative will be your main point of contact, representing the school’s interests and making sure the project is meeting their expectations. They will be a member of the project control group with an oversight on the project.

Project control group

The board will advise you who they have appointed to the project control group, such as the:

  • school principal
  • board member
  • school representative (who can be the same person as the Board representative).

You should also include other engaged parties, such as:

  • designer(s)
  • engineer(s)
  • quantity surveyors(s)
  • contractor(s).

Role of the board in the early stages of a project

Approvals and consent 

Board approval and sign-off

You will need to seek board approval at various stages of the project and this may need approval at a full board meeting.

  • Factor this in early to the plan, as the board may only meet once a month.
  • If they delegate some of their powers and functions for the project, a delegate may be able to sign-off on some project stages

For more information about board approval and delegation function, you can read further on their role during the project.

Consents and local council requirements

Getting consents and meeting other local council requirements are part of your role, which might include building consents and resource consents.

You may also be required to conduct a traffic impact assessment and/or a cultural impact assessment.

Local council requirements.

Managing conflicts of interest

A conflict of interest is a circumstance where someone’s personal interests, obligations or relationships may influence the performance of their position. A conflict of interest may result in an individual’s independence, objectivity or impartiality being called into question.

A conflict of interest can arise during procurement or at any time in the project so you must arrange for everyone involved in the project to sign conflict of interest forms and a confidentiality agreement.

Conflict of interest management on school property procurements

Managing the project

Design stage

Boards provide the vision for the project and are involved at each stage of plan development. In developing plans, designers follow the Ministry’s Computer-Aided Drawing (CAD) specifications.

Your role in the design phase is to:

  • engage the design team
  • manage the consultants’ contracts
  • liaise with everyone with an interest in the project
  • manage the budget
  • coordinate the plan development
  • fulfil any local council requirements
  • get the board’s sign-off for the plans.

Design stage of school property projects

Managing risk and issues

Good practice risk management must be followed during the design and construction phases of the project.

You will need to continually:

  • identify, manage and monitor potential risks (threats and opportunities)
  • react to issues when they occur
  • keep the board informed.

Risks and issues should be discussed at the regular project control group meetings and site meetings.

Depending on the level of risk/criticality of the issue, you may have to:

  • Adjust timelines to accommodate delays and work in with other project tasks
  • Look for ways to adjust the budget so that the project stays within budget, including making changes to specifications.

Before starting a large and complex project, it may be useful to hold a risk identification workshop with the project control group and relevant stakeholders.

Keep a risk register and an issues register

To manage major problems, keep a risk register and an issues register in the project file.

The risk and issues registers should record, as a minimum:

  • identification date
  • the person managing the risk/issue
  • a description of the risk/issue
  • potential impact on the project (risk)
  • actual impact on the project (issue)
  • responses to the risk/issue
  • the date by which you need to resolve the risk/issue.

Managing the construction phase

Managing the construction phase of a school building project involves you, as the project manager, working with the:

  • board 
  • school representative
  • supplier
  • main building contractor
  • other parties as required.

You are responsible for:

  • health and safety
  • change management
  • disputes resolution
  • defects in relation to the project.

As soon as the contractors are engaged, organise a construction meeting and also organise weekly site meetings during the construction. Monitor progress to check that the project brief is followed.

Construction phase of school property projects

Closing the project

It is your responsibility to action the following tasks to close the project:

  • conduct final inspection(s)
  • manage the defects liability period
  • obtain council sign-off
  • send final documentation to the Ministry
  • collect the building and product warranties and provide to the board.

Closing projects

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