IMPROVING SCHOOL
GOVERNANCE

1.2 Governance - Online learning activity A - Role of school councillors

Goal

To enable councillors to have a clear understanding of the role of school council and the principal.

Resources

  • Governance module- Participant Handbook - Unit 1.2

Steps

  1. Review the following scenarios to determine whether each is within the functions of a school council.
  2. You may need to refer to the code of conduct for school councillors for guidance in areas such as conflict of interest, using their position appropriately and acting in good faith and in the best interests of the students of the school.

Question One

The council contract sub-committee is recommending at tomorrow’s meeting that the school cleaning contract be awarded to Nifty Cleaners. You have just been made aware that the owner of Nifty Cleaners is the brother-in-law of a councillor. Is this within the functions of a school council?

Feedback:

Negotiating a cleaning contract is a function of school councils. There is a potential conflict of interest with the owner of Nifty Cleaners being the brother-in-law of a school councillor. The councillor should declare the conflict of interest and absent themselves from the discussion (unless invited to be present by the presiding member), and must not be present when a vote is taken.

Question Two

One of the main reasons you joined the school council was to raise the profile of the arts in the school. As a result, you would like the council to recruit an additional arts specialist to the school. Is this within the functions of a school council?

Feedback:

School councillors have a responsibility to represent the best interests of the students rather than any particular personal interest. However, councillors could show their interest and contribute their expertise during planning discussions about the school's strategic direction. Workforce planning (including staff recruitment) is the principal’s responsibility.

Question Three

A local franchise of a fast food company has offered to donate four trampolines with attached safety netting to the school. Their logos would be attached to the equipment but there would be no other advertising. Should the school council accept the offer? Is this within the functions of a school council?

Feedback:

Council might consider the offer as its functions include arranging for the supply of goods, services, facilities, materials and equipment. However it would need to carefully consider the implications of entering into a sponsorship arrangement with a fast food company. Department guidelines are available in the School Policy and Advisory Guide.

Question Four

A couple of parents have expressed concern to you about the performance of a particular member of staff. Should council consider instigating a performance review process for the school’s teachers?

Feedback:

The school principal is responsible for staff performance. Parents with concerns should be advised to take them up with the principal.

Question Five

In order to attract high calibre leadership candidates to the school, someone has suggested purchasing a motor vehicle for the use of the school principal. Should council proceed with this suggestion?

Feedback:

A school council may not purchase a motor vehicle without the written consent of the regional director.

Question Six

At the request of a group of parents, the council has decided to investigate the feasibility of running a before and after school care program. Is this within the functions of a school council?

Feedback:

It is within the functions of council to operate a children’s service at the school. The matter should be listed on the agenda for consideration.

Question Seven

Council approves the school’s budget for the forthcoming school year at its December meeting. Is this within the functions of a school council?

Feedback:

This is one of council’s core functions. A draft budget may be approved in December but the budget cannot be finalised until student numbers are confirmed in term 1 the following year.

Question Eight

Consistent with your family’s interest in environmental issues, you would like to see climate change addressed as part of the science program. Should this be taken to council?

Feedback:

School councillors have a responsibility to represent the best interests of the students rather than a particular personal interest. Curriculum planning and delivery is the responsibility of the principal and staff. However, councillors could show their interest and contribute their expertise during planning discussions about the school's strategic direction.

Question Nine

Council is considering whether its role includes encouraging parents and community members to contribute to the development of the school strategic plan. Is this within the functions of a school council?

Feedback:

It is important for council to draw on community input to establish the school’s strategic direction. Council should facilitate input into plans by the community, which also creates community interest in the school.

Question Ten

It has been suggested that council conduct a working bee to restore garden beds after recent heavy rain. Is this within the functions of a school council?

Feedback:

It is a council function to make sure that the school’s grounds and buildings are maintained in good order and condition. Council should record the names of all people who attend the working bee and ensure that all work practices are safe.

Question Eleven

It has been suggested that council establish a standard contract and users’ guide for groups and individuals who want to hire the school hall. Is this within the functions of a school council?

Feedback:

School Councils must use the Department's agreement templates for hire, licensing, and community joint use agreements with third parties. It is a council function to regulate and facilitate the after hours use of the school premises and grounds. Council needs to determine the hiring fee and ensure that it covers cleaning, power and security costs and that monies received are properly spent for school related purposes.

Question Twelve

Several councillors feel it is time that the school uniform policy was reviewed. Is this within the functions of a school council?

Feedback:

Council is required to be informed about and take into account the views of the school community when making decisions about the school and students. Council should decide the most appropriate and effective means of involving parents, students and the community in reviewing the policy. Policy review is covered in detail in the policy development and review module.

Question Thirteen

A property adjacent to the school has come up for sale for the first time in a long time. Should the school council consider purchasing it?

Feedback:

Council is not authorised to purchase or acquire for consideration any land or building.

Question Fourteen

As a councillor of a small primary school, you are aware that some parents in your small community do not want multi-aged classes next year. Should this issue be raised at the next council meeting?

Feedback:

The principal is responsible for operational issues such as class size and composition.

Question Fifteen

You were nominated to council as a parent member by the school’s parents and friends group. Council has proposed changes to its camps and excursions policy, changes that are opposed by the group. The group has asked you to vote against the recommendations when they are put at the council meeting. As a council member how would you respond? Is making changes to a camps and excursions policy within the functions of a school council?

Feedback:

Schools camps and excursions policies must be consistent with current Department policy. It is a function of the school council to approve any overnight excursions and adventure activities. School councillors are not elected to represent the views of any particular group. Council might encourage individuals and groups to contribute to the policy review process by writing to the council via the school principal or school council president. Council might also conduct an open meeting to provide the group with the opportunity to communicate directly with the council (see Standing Orders in unit 1.3 Council operations).

Question Sixteen

A concern has been raised that the painter who has been contracted to paint one of the school buildings has been spending his breaks talking to some year 8 female students behind the school building. Is this within the functions of a school council?

Feedback:

Standard 7 of the Child Safe Standards requires the school council to develop and implement risk management strategies regarding child safety in the school environment. This includes making a record of any risk and specifying action(s) the school will take to reduce or remove the risk.

Conclusion

Key points to remember are:

  • councillors must work together in a respectful manner for the good of the whole school within the boundaries established by the Education and Training Reform Act 2006
  • sensitive situations may arise and behaviours should be guided by the code of conduct for school councillors.

Back to top