School councils and boards

School councils and boards

The council or board of a public school works with the school community to achieve the best outcomes for students.

It plays an important role in contributing to good school governance so that school resources are used efficiently, and community expectations and the school’s priorities reflect the needs of students.

The functions of councils and boards are covered by legislation and include both approval and advisory roles. Some of the matters councils and boards may make decisions on include:

  • fees and charges
  • book lists
  • sponsorship
  • dress codes. 

Councils and boards make these decisions with the principal and others relevant decision makers who ensure the decisions adhere to legislative and policy requirements.

Principals may also seek the advice of councils or boards to inform themselves before making management decisions. Council and board members have the right to understand the principal’s decisions (except where they involve confidential information and decisions about people or families).

The council or board does not intervene in the control or management of the school. This is the role of the principal.

There are 2 types of school councils or boards: incorporated and unincorporated.Most schools have an unincorporated council or board.

For advice on the roles and responsibilities of a school council and board, membership, induction and procedures for conducting elections and meetings, refer to the Public school councils and boards information package.

Unincorporated council or board

An unincorporated council or board uses approved terms of reference to define its way of working and to meet the requirements of the legislation. Schools can access a Model terms of references for unincorporated councils and boards.

For more information on unincorporated councils and boards, refer to the Unincorporated school councils and boards information sheet.

Incorporated council or board

An incorporated council or board must have a constitution which defines its rules and way of working. The constitution meets legislative requirements and includes advice on the roles of office bearers, meetings and proceedings, management of finances, disputes and mediation, legal responsibilities, induction and requirement to obtain insurance.

For more information on incorporated councils and boards, refer to the Incorporated school councils and boards information sheet.

Being a member of a council or board is an important and rewarding role that contributes greatly to the success of a school.

Members include:

  • the principal
  • parents
  • students (who are 15 years, or will reach that age during the year)
  • staff
  • community members who can lend their skills and expertise to the school.

Parents, students (where relevant) and community members must form the majority.

The principal seeks nominations for members when a vacancy occurs on a council or board.  The term for which members sit on a council and board is determined by each school council or board in accordance with legislation.

All council and board members are obliged to act in the best interests of the school and its students.

There are also criminal history screening requirements for parents and community members. For more information, refer to Nationally Coordinated Criminal History Check (NCCHC) for council or board members.

Councils and boards seek to be representative of the school community.

Having quality members is a critical part of establishing and maintaining a successful council or board. Schools should have broad networks to ensure a wide variety of people are considered.

Ensuring diversity on councils and boards contributes to effective school governance, and leads to better-informed decision-making, new ideas, opinions, solutions and stronger connections with the school community.

In determining the balance between categories of members, school councils and boards consider the school’s student population and the social, cultural, lingual, economic or geographic factors that may be relevant.

Council and board members are encouraged to reflect on the diversity of their school community and the council or board. Approaches can be made to persons who would bring diversity to the council or board and to encourage them to nominate when there is a position vacant.

Parent and Citizens’ Associations (P&Cs)

The functions of P&Cs are covered by legislation. P&Cs promote the interests of the school. They do this through:

  • cooperation between parents, teachers, students and members of the community
  • assisting in providing resources, facilities and amenities for the school
  • fostering community interest in educational matters.

P&Cs are very highly regarded in public schools for their organisation of fundraising and other benefits for the good of the school. 

P&Cs can seek voluntary contributions from parents of students at the school, and these are reflected in the contributions and charges schedule published by the school each year.

The P&C is often an incorporated body through the Western Australian Council of State School Organisations (WACSSO). If they are, they can apply for grants or funding.

Councils and boards

The council or board with the school community to achieve the best outcomes for students. It contributes to good school governance so that school resources are used efficiently, and community expectations and the school’s priorities reflect the needs of students.

The functions of councils and boards are covered by legislation and include both approval and advisory roles. 

Councils and boards promote the school in the community and take part in establishing and reviewing the school’s objectives, priorities and general policy directions and evaluating the school’s performance in achieving these.

Relationship between the P&C and councils or boards

P&Cs, councils and boards each play important yet different roles in supporting public schools. They have separate functions which are legislated but work together to achieve common goals. 

Members of the council or board and the P&C often work together on different projects.

P&C members on the council or board

Councils and boards cannot set aside a dedicated (ex officio) position for a P&C member on the council or board. However, P&C members can be members of the council or board if they are nominated as a parent or community member.

The legislation provides categories of membership on a council or board: parent, student, community and staff. Once appointed to the council or board, members do not represent any particular group. These include, for example, teachers, P&C members or members with other affiliations. P&C members bring their experience as parents at the school, and the views and context of the wider school community.

Be involved in your child’s school

There are many other ways to be involved in your child’s school, including:

  • join the P&C
  • nominate to be a member of the council or board
  • act as a classroom helper
  • volunteer in the canteen or library
  • help out at events, such as the sports carnival
  • bring along your skills to a ‘busy bee’
  • take part in class excursions
  • coach sporting teams or clubs, for example chess, computer, netball or football
  • attend school assemblies and special occasions, P&C and council or board meetings – everyone is welcome
  • help to organise fundraising initiatives.

Modules are available for council and board members. 

They can be included as part of new member’s induction package or for ongoing development and training facilitated by the principal or chairperson.

Training for principals and chairs
Linking Schools and Communities: One-day workshop for principals and chairs

Experience has proven that when new chairs who undergo a comprehensive induction process with their principal, they are more effective in their new role. As a result, the council or board can function as a cohesive team, sooner.

This one-day workshop helps principals and chairs understand the roles and responsibilities of council or board members, and how council and boards effectively contribute to the success of schools.

It allows time for them to jointly plan for the needs of their council or board, including training and development that best suits their needs.

The school pays the cost of attendance for principals. The Department pays travel and accommodation costs for council and board chairs.

Linking Schools and Communities workshops are held at the Leadership Institute in Leederville and can be accessed in person or online. They are also delivered face to face in regional areas throughout the school year.

For more information contact the Leadership Institute. Phone 1300 610 801 or email schoolcouncils-boards@education.wa.edu.au.

Training for all board members
Good governance: Online training for all council or board members

Interactive modules can be accessed at any time for online learning. These are available for both new and continuing council and board members. Contact your school to give you access.

Introduction to councils and boards: A 2-hour workshop for newly appointed council and board members

You can request face-to-face training sessions delivered by a principal facilitator who travels to your school (or local training venue) to provide an introductory session covering what you need to know about being a new council or board member.

We recommend you share the training with other schools in the same area to meet the minimum number of participants (at least 15 participants), subject to venue size.

To register your interest, email schoolcouncils-boards@education.wa.edu.au with:

  • your school name
  • whether all participants are from your school or another school (if so, include the school name)
  • your preferred date and time (after school or weeknights are possible)
  • a proposed venue and location.
Additional training: 2-hour workshops

Additional face-to-face training is available to public school principals, chairs and members from all school councils or boards.

The Leadership Institute provides training and modules specific to the needs of the school council or board to best suit your school’s specific requirements.

The 2-hour sessions can be run either during school hours or weeknights.

Contact the Leadership Institute to enquire about these training opportunities. Phone 1300 610 801 or email schoolcouncils-boards@education.wa.edu.au.

Public school council and board members

Public school council and board chairs and members can contact the Leadership Institute:

  • for clarification and advice on council and board matters
  • to enquire about council or board training to suit their school.

Contact the Leadership Institute. Phone 1300 610 801 or email schoolcouncils-boards@education.wa.edu.au.

P&C members

P&C association members can get support from the Western Australian Council of State School Organisations (WACSSO) by calling 9264 4000.

Other resources

Other resources

  • Our School – Our Voice

    A resource for community representatives on principal selection panels. The resource outlines the process, roles and responsibilities to be an effective panel member and the importance of the community voice in selecting public school principals. This resource has been developed with the support of the Western Australian Council of State School Organisations.

Our School - Our Voice video

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