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.

There are two types of school councils or boards: incorporated and unincorporated. Most schools have an 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. The information pack includes advice on the roles and responsibilities of a school council and board, membership, induction and procedures for conducting elections and meetings.

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.

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 and dress codes. Councils and boards make these decisions with the principal and others 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 principals’ 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.

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, and others from the wider community who can lend their skills and expertise to the school. Parents (or where relevant, students) and community members must form the majority.

When a vacancy occurs on a council or board, the principal seeks nominations. There are also criminal history screening requirements for parents and community members. 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.

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

Having quality members is a critical part of the process of establishing and maintaining a successful council or board. It is imperative that schools 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 composition (or the balance between categories), consider the nature of the student population of the school and the social, cultural, lingual, economic or geographic factors that may be relevant to the school.

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 general community
  • assisting in the provision of resources, facilities and amenities for the school
  • fostering of community interest in educational matters.

P&Cs are very highly regarded in public schools for their organisation of fundraising or 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.

Public 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 and dress codes. Councils and boards make these decisions with the principal who ensures the decisions comply with legislation and policy. 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. The P&C is often an incorporated body through WACSSO, and if so, they can apply for grants or funding.

P&C members on the council or board

While there can be no ex officio position for a P&C member on the council or board, there are two ways by which P&C members can be members of the council or board:

  • nominated as a parent member
  • nominated as a 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.  Teacher members may bring expertise such as an education perspective, networks and knowledge that the council or board is looking for at that time.

Be involved in your child’s school

There are many 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.

'How to' information modules are available for council and board members. They can be downloaded and included as part of new member’s induction package, or used as part of 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 and as a result, the council or board is able to function sooner as a cohesive team.

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 cost of attendance for principals is paid from each school’s budget. Travel and accommodation costs for council and board chairs are paid by the Department.

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 further details contact the Leadership Institute:
T: 1300 610 801  E: 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.

The Good Governance online training is available here on the Department's Professional Learning Information System (PLIS). If you have not previously used PLIS, please follow these instructions on how to register.


Introduction to councils and boards: a two-hour workshop for newly appointed public school council and board members

Face-to-face training sessions can be requested. A principal facilitator travels to the school (or local training venue) to provide an introductory session covering the “need to know” of being a new council or board member. We recommend that training be shared with other schools in the same area to ensure there is the minimum number (15 participants and over, subject to venue size).

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

  • your school name
  • whether all 15+ participants are from your school and/or another school (include school name);
  • preferred date and time (eg after school, weeknights possible)
  • proposed venue and location.

Additional training: two-hour workshops

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

A principal facilitator travels to the school (or locally organised venue) to provide training specific to the needs of the school council or board. The two-hour sessions can be run either during school hours or weeknights. Principals and chairs are able to select modules that are most relevant to their school. Advice on content to best suit specific requirements can also be given by the Leadership Institute’s principal advisor.

Contact the Leadership Institute to enquire about training opportunities to suit your school:

T: 1300 610 801
E: 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.

T: 1300 610 801
E: schoolcouncils-boards@education.wa.edu.au

P&C members

P&C association members can also seek support from the Western Australian Council of State School Organisations (WACSSO):

T: 9264 4000
W: wacsso.wa.edu.au

Aset Penerbit

  • Our School - Our Voice

    A resource for community representatives on principal selection panels. The resource outlines the process, roles and responsibilities of being 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

Aset Penerbit