What is a school board of trustees?
School boards are responsible for the school | kura’s performance and ensuring that all legal requirements are met.
Every state and state-integrated school | kura in New Zealand has a board of trustees. The board of trustees is a crown entity – that is, an organisation that is part of the New Zealand public sector.
- is accountable for student achievement
- sets the vision for the school | kura
- ensures the school | kura complies with legal and policy requirements
What does a board do?
First and foremost a board is accountable for student progress and achievement to its parents, community and the Crown. The board has the overall responsibility and accountability for the school | kura. The legal responsibilities of boards of trustees are determined by the Education Act of 1989. Schedule 6 of the Act outlines the functions and powers of boards:
4 (1) A board is the governing body of its school.
(2) A board is responsible for the governance of the school, including setting the policies by which the school is to be controlled and managed.
5 (1) A board’s primary objective in governing the school is to ensure that every student at the school is able to attain his or her highest possible standard in educational achievement.
(2) To meet the primary objective, the board must—
(a) ensure that the school—
- (i) is a physically and emotionally safe place for all students and staff; and
- (ii) is inclusive of and caters for students with differing needs.
Here are some of the specific things boards do:
- Set the strategic direction and long-term plans for the school | kura in consultation with the school | kura’s community
- Monitor the board’s progress against its strategic goals and targets
- Monitor and evaluate student progress and achievement
- Oversee the management of staff, property, finances, curriculum and administration
- Ensure that government priorities are met
- Fulfil the intent of the Treaty of Waitangi by valuing and reflecting New Zealand’s dual cultural heritage
- Appoint and support the principal and assess their performance.
- Act as good employers to all staff at the school | kura
What skills do trustees need?
Trustees are active leaders in their school | kura and need to work well in a team, ask challenging questions and have good communication skills.
Boards need a balance of skills and experiences to ensure effective processes for consultation, planning, monitoring, reporting and reviewing the school | kura’s performance are in place.
How does a parent or caregiver become a trustee on a school board of trustees?
Contact your school | kura if you are interested in becoming a school trustee. There are a variety of ways this can be achieved:
- Parents, caregivers (as well as people from the wider community) can be nominated for election to a school board | kura as a parent representative. There are a variety of ways this can be achieved. If you want to find out about standing for election, nominating someone else and voting in the election - they will be happy to help. For more information visit Becoming a trustee.
- If a parent trustee resigns or in some other way is no longer on the board before the end of their three-year term, the board can select someone to fill this vacancy. Note: this is not the same as co-option, and there is a special process the board must follow
- Parents, caregivers (as well as people from the wider community) can be co-opted to the board if they have specific expertise, skills or experience (e.g. finance, strategy, and to achieve gender or ethnic balance)
- In state integrated schools parents, caregivers (as well as people from the wider community) can be appointed to the board by the proprietor as proprietor’s appointees
Who is on a board of trustees?
The Education Act 1989 specifies the makeup of the board but provides some discretion for the board in determining its total size. This flexibility helps the board ensure its membership reflects the diversity of the community and the skills required for effective governance. There are a number of ways diversity can be reflected.
A board of trustees is made up of:
- 3–7 elected parent representatives the principal
- a staff representative
- a student representative (only in schools with students above year 9)
- proprietor’s appointees (only in state integrated schools)
- co-opted trustees
- appointed trustees
Note: Boards must have more parent representatives than co-opted and or appointed trustees
The board can co-opt additional trustees to increase diversity or for specific skills. Co-option can’t be used to fill casual vacancies on a board. For more information on casual vacancies view here.
All trustees have:
- equal voice
- equal vote
- equal accountability
- equal standing
How is a board elected?
The school | kura staff and parents elect boards of trustees every three years. The trustee elections are the biggest democratic event in New Zealand. Schools and kura around the country seek approximately 12,000 parent representatives. All parents, legal guardians and immediate caregivers of students enrolled full-time in a state | state integrated school | kura can and should vote in the elections for parent representatives.
What help do school boards of trustees get?
New Zealand School Trustees Association provides free advice and support through their governance and employment advisory services and professional development workshops. For more information view here.
How does a school board of trustees work?
Boards of trustees provide strategic leadership and direction to their school | kura. The board works in partnership with the community, principal, teachers, support staff, and the government to ensure the best possible outcomes for all students. The importance of the partnership between a school | kura and its community cannot be stressed enough. Trustees represent their community and actively seek the input of parents, staff and students.
How do I find out more about my school's board of trustees?
Your school should have a board page or portal on its website. This should have information about who is on the board, how to contact the board, meeting dates and the board’s annual reports. The portal could also have board minutes (from the public part of the meeting), links to the board’s strategic and annual plans, and many or most of the board’s policies, including the school’s concerns and complaints policies and procedures.
If this information is not on your schools’ website, or your school does not yet have a website, contact the school office for this information.
Can I attend board meetings?
A school board of trustees meeting follows the same rules as other local authorities, such as City council meetings, and is “open to the public“. In practice this means that board meetings and agendas must be “publicly notified”, and anyone can:
- attend to observe the public part of a board meeting
- ask for permission to speak. This is best done in advance by contacting the chair
However, a board meeting is not a public meeting. This means that members of the public don’t have automatic speaking rights. So the board can decide (“resolve”) to exclude members of the public to, for instance, protect a person’s privacy. This is sometimes called “going into committee”. In that case members of the public are asked to leave this part of the meeting.
Can I ask for the board’s strategic plan and board minutes?
Anyone can ask to see (and in some cases request copies of) most of a school board of trustee’s documents and records. They include the board’s strategic plan. This contains the board’s vision, aims, objectives, directions, and targets, achievement goals/targets, policies, as well as minutes from the public part of board meetings.
Anyone can also request to see (or request copies of) the board’s public excluded minutes. The board follows the rules in the Official Information Act 1982 for this type of information request and can decide to hold back certain information. They must give the requester a reason for this. (An example would be to protect a person’s privacy). For more information view here.
What can parents expect from their school board of trustees?
The role of the board is to design the future of the school | kura and ensure that plans and targets are developed, monitored, and reviewed. The board develops policy by which the school | kura is to be controlled and managed.
The board receives regular reports from the principal about student learning and achievement and progress towards the school | kura’s strategic aims and targets. The board uses this information to prioritise resourcing to meet the needs of students.
The Education Act s76 delegates responsibility for the day to day running of the school | kura to the principal – the school | kura management determines how policy/board expectations will be best met.
Respect and integrity
Each board of trustees member is expected to make decisions in the best interests of all students at the school | kura and to ensure culturally appropriate processes are in place. Board members are entrusted to govern the school | kura, on behalf of the community, to ensure the provision of a high quality learning environment for all.
The board’s role is to design the future for the school | kura.
Board of trustees members are elected to represent the school or kura community.
Community consultation is a critical part of the process for developing and monitoring the board’s strategic plan.
Consultation processes provide information to guide future development and give feedback on current progress towards the goals defined in the strategic plan.
The school | kura should have a procedure outlining the handling of concerns and complaints that is made available to the school | kura community.
Board of trustees members are not the immediate point of contact for parent concerns as these should first be dealt with by the school | kura, according to the school’s | kura’s procedure.
The board of trustees should provide the school | kura community with regular updates on how the school | kura is performing in relation to the strategic goals.
Board members are expected to have a clear understanding of:
- their role as trustees
- governance policy
- student learning and achievement data
- NZSTA runs a comprehensive programme to support trustees in their role
How can parents raise a concern with their school board of trustees?
Each school | kura should have a policy/procedure outlining the process for handling concerns and complaints. Copies of this policy/procedure should be available from the school | kura, and may be on the school’s website.
Do parents have to pay fees and donations?
Right to free education
All New Zealanders aged 5 to 19 are entitled to free enrolment and free education at a state school. This right to free education is guaranteed by section 3 of the Education Act 1989 and this means that there should be no enrolment or attendance fee charged to parents, by Boards of Trustees of state schools. Proprietors of State integrated schools can change for attendance. These are called attendance dues and are compulsory.
Requests for financial assistance
Many schools ask for financial assistance from the families of students attending the school. Since there are no school “fees” or “levies” in state or state-integrated schools, Boards of Trustees/schools should not be using terms such as “fees” and “levies” at all. This is because these terms can imply that the requested payments are compulsory.
Any material/activity costs associated with the delivery of the curriculum are costs that must be met by the Board of Trustees/school, and not charged to parents.
Requests for donations
Payment of donations is entirely voluntary and parents have the absolute right to decide to pay any donations in full, in part, or not at all. So the words “fees” and “levies” should not be used by Boards of Trustees/schools when requesting donations.
Donations are tax-deductible
Parents can ask for a receipt when paying a school donation, which they can then use to claim a tax rebate at the end of the financial year.
Where activities relate to outdoor education (EOTC) programmes (that are part of the curriculum) and school camps, schools may request parents to pay a donation to travel costs, the cost of food, etc. However, such a request is for a donation and is not enforceable. Nor can a student be excluded from an activity such as the school camp, because their parent/caregiver is unable or unwilling to pay the amount requested by the school.
In general, things not related to, or part of curriculum delivery, such as visiting drama groups and lunchtime swimming and music lessons are voluntary. If they are voluntary then parents have a choice about whether their child participates or not. If a parent opts to have their child attend activities which are not part of the curriculum (i.e., attendance is voluntary) and participation incurs a charge, then the parent will need to pay the cost for the child to participate.
Further information can be found in the Ministry of Education Circular 2018/01 of 22 June 2018. This circular is for boards of trustees and principals of state and state integrated schools. It’s also useful for parents because it gives clear information on what needs to be paid, those payments which parents have a choice over, and those things that parents shouldn’t pay for at all.
What is the board's role in effective student behaviour management?
Rights of parents who do not have day-to-day care of their child
NZSTA is frequently asked about the level of involvement and information that parents who do not have daily care of their child should have. These parents are usually still guardians and, therefore, have a right to contribute to their child’s development and to participate in making decisions about their education. They are also entitled to contact with their child subject to any restrictions set by a court order.
As guardians, both parents are therefore entitled to:
- copies of their child’s school report
- attend parent/teacher meetings or discuss their child’s progress with the school
- be consulted when the school is suggesting the need for specialist educational services for their child
- participate in disciplinary hearings involving their child
- opt their child out of participation in religious instruction
- participate in parent activities/functions and receive newsletters
- vote in elections and by-elections for boards of trustees
We strongly advise that the school is provided with a copy of any parenting order in place. Equally, if there is a protection order relating to the child the school should have a copy. If any parent seeks access to their child in breach of a protection order, the police and the other parent should be informed.
What is NZSTA?
The New Zealand School Trustees Association (NZSTA) is a membership-based organisation that:
- represents the interest of 91% (2,200) of the approximately 2,415 school boards of trustees comprising around 18,000 individual trustees
- NZSTA have an agreement with the Ministry of Education, is responsible for delivering a fully integrated range of services designed to support and enhance board capability in their governance and employer role
- NZSTA is a "not for profit" incorporated society with charitable trust status.
A short video about NZSTA.
Student Rights Service (formerly PLINFO)
0800 499 488
0800 884 529
Citizens Advice Bureau
0800 367 222
0800 224 453
Ethnic Communities - Language Line (translation service)
0800 656 656
Ministry of Education (MOE)
04 463 8000
For parents of primary aged children
For parents of secondary aged children
Education Review Office (ERO)
04 499 2489
Tertiary Education Commission (career information and advice)
0800 222 733