Online resources for school councils/boards
Online resources to support the induction and development of council/board members.
There are modules and 'how to' information available for council/board members. The modules below can be completed as needed (eg as part of an induction), or used as part of ongoing development and training facilitated by the principal or chairperson.
Each school has an annual plan that communicates the long-term strategic approach.
Role of principals in planning
The principal is responsible for and leads the development of the plan and involves the council/board in the consultation process. The principal is responsible for the development, implementation and outcomes of the plan based on a range of evidence about student outcomes (academic and non-academic).
The plan includes:
- the school vision;
- school beliefs and context;
- references to system policies and directions;
- an overview of school performance;
- student improvement targets;
- key areas of focus and major strategies to achieve the student improvement targets; and
- evaluation measures and timeframes, including a provision for annual review.
Role of councils/boards in planning
- works with the principal to establish the school’s objectives, priorities and directions set out in the plan, including giving insights into local community context, aspirations and history;
- takes part in evaluating the school’s performance towards achieving the objectives, priorities and directions in the plan;
- takes part in planning financial arrangements necessary to fund the objectives and priorities of the plan; and
- participating in the school review.
Role of principals in preparing the school budget
Principals are responsible for preparing and managing an annual budget in collaboration with the school finance committee. The principal provides relevant information to help the council/board to understand how the finances of the school are being used in relation to the priorities of the strategic plan.
There are a number of reports which may inform the council/boards’ understanding of how finances are being directed towards areas of identified need. These reports include:
- student centred funding statement
- cash report
- one-line budget statement
- minimum expenditure requirement
- reserve account school plan
- workforce plan
- staffing profile.
Role of councils/boards in school budgeting
The council/board reviews the budget, with particular consideration to those parts of the budget that relate to the focus areas/priorities of the school’s plan. While the council/board is not responsible for developing or managing the annual budget it is entitled to understand:
- how the school is managing its money to deliver the priorities in the school plan;
- the alignment between the budget and the priorities and strategies in the plan;
- key issues related to financial management of the school; and
- the risks the school faces in relation to budget issues.
School annual report
Each school must publish an annual report that describes its performance. The report gives parents and other members of the community a clear sense of how students in the school are progressing and what is being done to maximise student achievement.
Role of principals in reporting
The principal is responsible for and leads the development of the annual report. In doing so, principals consult the council/board.
Role of councils/boards in reporting
- Principals will consult the council/board in the development of the school annual report through:
- sharing the school’s performance data;
- ensuring the council/board is kept abreast of progress against the schools’ priorities; and
- reviewing the draft annual report before publishing by the principal.
Reporting on school finances
The school must produce a public, annual financial report as part of the school annual report. This report tells the story of the school’s finances including where money and other resources have come from, the current state of the finances and how money is being managed and spent.
Role of principals in financial reporting
The principal oversees the development of the financial reports with the school finance committee. The principal provides relevant information to help the council/board to understand the financial position of the school. Financial reports should be easy for the community to interpret and written in plain English. Schools present their financial reports in ways that make the most sense to each school community.
Role of councils/boards in financial reporting
The council/board takes part in financial planning necessary to fund the school’s objectives, priorities and directions as detailed in the school plan. Council/board members are able to inform the decisions and adjustments that may be required of the principal to:
- understand the overall financial situation as reported;
- ask questions so they understand the true state of the finances; and
- understand any differences between the actual and budgeted income and expenditure.
See above for a list of the types of information principals may provide a council/board to help them undertake this role.
Further information on school planning and finances and reporting can be found in Module 3: School planning
There are three (3) different types of meetings held by councils/boards:
Ordinary meetings are a key part of council/board life. During ordinary meetings, the council/board receives updates on school progress and performance, gives advice and makes decisions (see Understanding, informing and making decisions in Module 1).
Annual public meetings
It is a legislative requirement for every council/board to hold at least one open public meeting each year at which a report is presented on the performance of the council/board’s functions since the previous annual public meeting or the council/board’s inaugural meeting (as relevant). There is no specific format for an annual public meeting. Each school and its community is different, and so too will be the annual public meeting for each school. Some schools maximise participation by aligning it to other school events such as assemblies or parent nights. The annual public meeting can be used to acknowledge council/board members’ contribution and also promote the school.
From time to time, the school community may wish to call a special council/board meeting. To convene a special meeting, at least 20 families of students must call for the special meeting or at least half of the number of families of students at the school, whichever is the lesser number. This may be through a petition or an equivalent document such as an open letter which states the purpose for which the special meeting is called and be signed by the families.
All council/board meetings, including special meetings, must be consistent with the role of the council/board as outlined in the legislation.
How often should councils/boards meet?
The ordinary meeting schedule depends on the council/board’s responsibilities and the school context. It is good practice to meet at least four times a year, which may be once each term, with many councils/boards holding ordinary meetings twice per term.
The council/board should publish a calendar of meetings and business for each term or year (or both). A calendar helps ensure the council/board is aware of and meets all its obligations and the community are informed of the activities happening. The calendar should be available to the council/board and the school community (for example, on the school website). It is helpful for council/board ordinary meetings to follow a pattern throughout the school year, for example, meetings take place on the first Tuesday night of every even-numbered month (February, April, etc.) during the school term. This type of routine means members can plan for their engagement with the council/board.
Who can attend ordinary council/board meetings?
Meetings are generally open to the public unless the council/board decides to close a meeting. Parents and members of the community are encouraged to attend ordinary council/board meetings. Where they do attend, they do so as observers, unless they are invited to contribute by the chair.
Why would a council/board close an ordinary meeting?
Meetings can be closed for a number of reasons such as to discuss information related to a contractual matter or confidentiality. A full list of acceptable reasons for closing a meeting is provided in the legislation. If a meeting is closed, the reasons for this must be included in the meeting minutes. Where a meeting is closed, the meeting minutes may be redacted for confidentiality purposes. An annual public meeting or special meeting cannot be closed to the public.
Setting a clear meeting agenda
An agenda is a powerful tool to foster productive conversations. A clear agenda, published in advance, allows council/board members to prepare for meetings, the school community to consider what is being discussed and whether they would like to attend. Matters requiring discussion and matters requiring a decision need to be itemised to allow sufficient time for consideration.
Records of council/board meetings
Two critical aspects of the work of the council/board are transparency and accountability. One way councils/boards can be accountable and transparent is to publish meeting minutes. It is good practice to make council/board meeting minutes available on the school website. Minutes record items discussed at council/board meetings including key decisions made. The minutes should document general themes and the decisions of the meeting, rather than be a verbatim transcript. Council/board minutes must be retained for audit purposes and as a true record of the activities of the council/board. Documents should be released if requested unless there is an expectation of confidentiality. Some items may be redacted if appropriate for confidentiality purposes.
Information on the role of the chair can be found in the Public School Councils and Boards Information Package.
Role of members
Council/board members must adhere to ethical and transparent processes around holding and documenting meetings. Guidance on expected behaviour from members is included in the council/board’s code of conduct.