The award winning Independent Public Schools initiative has revolutionised the way public schools operate in Western Australia.
An Independent Public School is a public school where the principal has been given increased flexibility and responsibility to make local decisions across a range of school operations to enhance education outcomes for students. Independent research commissioned in 2015, School Autonomy: Building the Conditions for Student Success identifies the kind of leadership that links greater school autonomy with improvements in teaching and, ultimately, benefits for students.
Principals of Independent Public Schools have more freedom to make decisions about important matters that impact students’ education such as student support, staff recruitment, financial management, governance and accountability.
An Independent Public School caters to the specific needs of its students by determining the curriculum and specialist teachers required that best support them. Independent Public Schools may work in clusters, which enables them to effectively combine ideas and resources to create even greater flexibility and opportunities for each school.
Each Independent Public School has a school board. The board establishes a vision for the school that reflects the aspirations and needs of the community. The board can have an important influence on the direction of the school, with members bringing ideas and lending their expertise to strategic planning and community partnerships.
When establishing the board, the school can re-appoint members of the school council or seek new members from the community. Attracting people with a range of experiences and expertise enhances the board’s ability to make an significant contribution to the development of the school. Board members are provided with support and training.
The principal and chair sign a Delivery and Performance Agreement with the Director General which sets out the performance and accountability expectations of the school, as well as the resources and support provided centrally to the school.
Like all public schools, principals of Independent Public Schools must comply with relevant legislation, industrial agreements and whole of government policies and initiatives including, but not limited to:
- School Education Act 1999
- School Education Regulations 2000
- School Curriculum and Standards Authority Act 1997
- Public Sector Management Act 1994
- Financial Management Act 2006.
Applying to become an Independent Public School is a decision made by each school, in consultation with the school council and local community. The school community must consider its capacity to take on the additional accountabilities of being an Independent Public School, the local community’s support for change and the school’s operational performance.
Currently an opportunity exists for schools to become Independent Public Schools in 2019.
The Independent Public School selection process will be as rigorous as previous years to ensure the selected schools are well placed to maximise the benefits of greater autonomy.
For further information on Independent Public Schools please contact the Innovation and Governance branch on on 9264 4123.
- Benefits of being an Independent Public School
- Greater flexibilities for all schools
- A brief background on the Independent Public Schools initiative
- Review of Independent Public Schools
- Evaluation of the Independent Public School initiative
It takes committed and proactive school communities to become Independent Public Schools.
Independent Public School communities take a greater leadership role in all aspects of education, with the ultimate goal of delivering high quality education to students.
Independent Public School principals have a direct line relationship with, and are accountable to, the Director General of the Department of Education.
Independent Public Schools:
- have greater independence for local decision making which directly reflects the needs of their students and communities
- establish more dynamic and open governance relationships with the people in their communities
- employ greater flexibility in areas such as staff recruitment, budgeting, procurement, school development days, travel approvals and student support
- take part in regular performance reviews to provide their school communities with assessment of the differences they are making over time
- have continued access to central support
- are supported by the full range of resources and infrastructure that comes with being part of the Western Australian public school system.
Resources and support include:
- regional services and school networks
- graduate teacher support and induction
- all professional learning offered by the system
- engagement centres
- management of critical incidents
- attendance officers and participation coordinators
- attendance panels
- student exclusions
- corporate business services
- employee support services
- Notebooks for Teachers program
- ICT helpdesk
- computer software licenses (eg Microsoft products)
- central services including Schools Resourcing and Budgeting, Staff Recruitment and Employment Services, Standards and Integrity, and Corporate Communications and Marketing.
While the pioneering work of the Independent Public Schools initiative has led the movement to greater school autonomy, all public schools are now benefiting from the extension of flexibilities and greater capacity for local decision making.
For example, Independent Public Schools were the first schools to recruit, select and appoint their own staff rather than being provided with staff through a centralised staffing process. Today, every principal can recruit, select and appoint their own staff.
Independent Public Schools were also the first schools to operate with one line budgets. Today, nearly all schools operate with one line budgets and receive funding as dollars. That means the principal, in consultation with the school council/board, has more flexibility to determine how the funding is used to benefit students.
Independent Public Schools will continue to create innovative solutions, test new concepts and generate practical ideas for the benefit of students in their schools and for students in all our schools.
Launched in 2009, the Independent Public Schools initiative empowers school communities to shape the ethos, priorities and directions of their schools to reflect the aspirations of their students.
Since then, we have extended and developed the initiative with further intakes of schools that meet the stringent selection criteria. Today, we have 80 per cent of public school students and teachers in 531 Independent Public Schools across the State.
Independent Public Schools assume greater responsibility for their own affairs and have increased flexibility to respond to their communities. They create more diversity in the public school system and help build strong communities that are more able to respond to the needs of students.
It’s all part of being at the forefront of innovation in education so every child in every school achieves their potential.
An evaluation of Independent Public Schools by The University of Melbourne found that the story of the Independent Public School initiative is characterised by choice, energy, motivation, innovation and engagement. Independent Public Schools are also creating strong foundations for future improvement in student achievement.
The initiative was recognised with the 2013 Premier’s Award for Excellence in Public Sector Management.
Each school enters into a three-year Delivery and Performance Agreement with the Director General of the Department of Education. One requirement of this agreement is the school's participation in a school review.
A school review is conducted of each Independent Public School in the final year of its Delivery and Performance Agreement.
Independent Public Schools demonstrate accountability for the quality of the learning environment and the standards of student learning against their:
Principal's reports to the School Board
Principal's professional review
An evaluation by The University of Melbourne found a specifically Western Australian version of autonomy emerging that was creating the strong foundations needed by schools to improve student achievement.
The report, released in 2013, found the following:
The initiative is positive, with greater autonomy for schools characterised by choice, energy, motivation, innovation and engagement.
The initiative was embraced by principals and has had a significant positive impact within schools and the broader system.
Independent Public School principals reported positive cultural changes in their schools, including stronger relationships with their local school communities and an enhanced profile with strengthened school and community pride.
While it was too soon for Independent Public Schools to demonstrate an effect on student outcomes, the initiative was supporting schools to create the conditions for such improvement.
View the evaluation reports