IMPROVING SCHOOL
GOVERNANCE

5.1 Role and Responsibilities

Why is this topic important?

All school council members should know and understand their roles and responsibilities, and the functions and objectives of the council, particularly the president. The president, with the principal, provides leadership, establishing the environment in which the council can operate effectively.

On completing this unit, the participant should be able to:

  • understand the skills required of an effective president

  • understand the roles and responsibilities of a president.

The effective president

The role of president requires leadership and management skills.

An effective president is assertive, neutral, task-focused and aware of the big picture. A good president knows the boundary of their authority and the authority of the school council as a whole, and understands and respects privacy and confidentiality obligations. A good president knows when to delegate.

A good president is available to the school and to the other members of school council when needed. The president should have a strong and successful working relationship with the principal, and the support of all school council members.

Before nominating for president, a candidate should consider what they could bring to the position. Do they have an understanding of the school, its direction and its needs, or the time and willingness to learn this? Do they have the patience and commitment to develop good working relationships? Are they prepared to be a role model in the school community for professionalism, integrity and sound judgement?

Role of the president

The president has a strategic role to play in representing the vision, mission and purposes of the school, and ensures school council fulfils its role and functions. As the chair of council meetings, the president ensures relevant matters are discussed, that there is full participation at meetings and that effective decisions are made.

The president’s duties include:

  • developing and working with the community towards a shared vision for the school

  • actively participating in the core review panel in the school’s four-year review cycle

  • endorsing key school planning and reporting documents on behalf of the council

  • being an effective spokesperson and advocate

  • chairing meetings of school council

  • representing the school in public forums with the principal

  • promoting the school and its principal to the community.

Following the election of the president and other office-bearers, the principal will inform the school community and the Department of the names of the council members and office-bearers. The president will be provided with an eduMail email address to receive regular communications from the Department and should speak to the principal about setting up this account.

It is expected the president will access this account each week to be informed of Department communications, especially those relevant to school council business. This account will also be used to access the School Planning Online Tool (SPOT). This is important for endorsement of the School Strategic Plan, Annual Implementation Plan and Annual Report.

The president and the principal have distinct responsibilities as outlined below. They are to:

The principal

  • provide council with timely advice about educational and other matters

  • prepare the council’s agenda in consultation with the president

  • report regularly to council about the school’s performance against its strategic plan

  • ensure council decisions are acted on

  • provide adequate support and resources for the conduct of council meetings

  • communicate with the president about council business

  • ensure that new council members are inducted

  • record the president’s details against the school council president eduMail account.

The school council president

  • effectively chair council meetings (ensure everyone has a say in meetings and decisions are understood and recorded)

  • be a signatory to contracts, the School Strategic Plan and financial accounts

  • participate in the four-year school review as an active member of the core review panel

  • endorse the school pre-review self-evaluation, terms of reference for school review, the school Annual Implementation Plan and Annual Report to the school community

  • attest to school compliance with the VRQA registration requirements and the Education and Training Reform Act 2006.

  • preside at the annual public reporting meeting

  • ensure council stays focused on improving student outcomes

  • with the principal, be council’s spokesperson and official representative on public occasions

  • when council votes are tied, have the second or casting vote

  • access email communications each week, from the Department through the president’s eduMail account..

At times of principal recruitment and selection, the president or his or her nominee is a member of the principal selection panel appointed by the school council.

Building relationships

The president needs to build strong working relationships with the principal, other councillors and the community. The president supports the principal in their role.

To build the relationship with the principal, the president can:

  • upon being elected, meet the principal to discuss key aspects of the school

  • with the principal, develop a shared understanding of the school’s direction and its priorities, as stated in the School Strategic Plan

  • arrange to meet the principal on a regular basis ahead of every school council meeting to discuss the agenda, issues to be tabled and any background information that needs to be circulated

  • keep up to date with school matters that may affect school council and the community

  • inform the principal of community matters that may be relevant to the school

  • introduce the principal to key members of the school community as necessary, particularly if the principal is new to the school

  • be available if the principal needs to discuss matters relevant to the school

  • understand the role of the principal and those matters of the school that are operational and therefore not the responsibility of the school council

  • respect the privacy and confidentiality obligations of school council matters shared by the principal.

To build the relationships with school councillors, the president can:

  • be a good listener and ensure all councillors have the opportunity to be heard

  • be willing to meet individual councillors to understand their particular situation

  • welcome and encourage new councillors to be active participants at meetings

  • share council tasks between members as appropriate.

New councillors are briefed on existing school issues and processes. The principal will provide new councillors with a background information package, which may include:

  • School Strategic Plan

  • Annual Implementation Plan

  • Annual Report to the school community

  • council Standing Orders

  • code of conduct for school councillors

  • information about the Department’s values and ethical decision-making

  • current school policies (or where to access them)

  • minutes of last council meeting

  • list of common education acronyms

  • council members phone numbers and email addresses (with consent of the members)

  • folder or binder in which to file council paperwork.

The president can build relationships with the wider school community by:

  • attending school events such as music concerts, art exhibitions and athletic sports and speaking with staff, students and families

  • considering meeting local government officers and the local Member of Parliament, with the principal.

 

Learning Activity