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25 October 2017

Perth Modern School report findings productive: DG

Media reports today (October 25) incorrectly have stated that the principal of Perth Modern School was under investigation, the Department of Education said today.

Director General Sharyn O’Neill appointed professional services firm KPMG to carry out an independent review of governance arrangements on a proposed $9 million 700-seat auditorium project at Perth Modern School.

“There was no investigation into the principal; it was a review of the processes around the planning for a new auditorium at Perth Modern School,” Ms O’Neill said.

File photograph of exterior of Perth Modern School building.

INDEPENDENT REVIEW: Governance arrangements on a proposed new auditorium project at Perth Modern School were examined.

(File photograph.)

Concerns were raised about how the proposed capital works project came about, as well as a lack of communication between the board and the school executive.

“It’s really important we get the facts on the table here,” Ms O’Neill said.

“I was approached on two matters: the substantive matter was around the auditorium, and it was also raised with me in a meeting and in writing that they lacked confidence in the principal, substantially related to this auditorium matter.

“While I firmly believe members of the board and the school executive had the best intentions, due to strong differences of opinion over the auditorium proposal, they had reached a stalemate.

“It was unlikely to be resolved without an opportunity to voice their opinions freely to an independent consultant.

“There were two strong camps of thought and opinion about what facilities the school needs and they struggled to reach agreement.”

The review identified that the relationship and communication between the school executive and the board needed to be strengthened, and there needed to be clearer direction around financial management and governance of capital works projects in schools.

“There were 10 recommendations made in the report and I’ve accepted all of them,” Ms O’Neill said.

She said she expected the school executive and the board to work together towards achieving a common goal in the best interests of the students.

“The principal has led Perth Modern School to be one of the highest performing schools in Australia which is a significant achievement. Together with a highly expert and committed board, I believe we can implement the recommendations,” she said.

Under the School Education Act 1999, school boards and councils are advisory bodies to public schools; they don’t have the power to hire or fire principals.

Ms O’Neill disputed a claim that it was a secret report, as it was members of the board who first raised the issue. The board and the school executive were involved throughout the process and saw the draft report.

The board and school today wrote to the Perth Modern School community to inform them that at the board meeting last night there was unanimous agreement to continue to work constructively together in the best interests of students and the school as a whole.

The letter states that there is confidence that the recommendations of KPMG will not only benefit the school, but will also enhance the operation of public schools across the state.

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