Student Trustees

The Student Representative Handbook is aimed at student trustees and outlines some of the key points you need to know.

Student Trustee Elections

Boards of state and state integrated schools with students above Year 9 must hold an annual student trustee election in September each year. The only exceptions are if an approved constitution published in the New Zealand Gazette, or a constitution in a state-integration agreement doesn’t specifically include a student trustee. Refer section 98A of the Education Act 1989.
Note: This section replaces section 105A and applies to all alternative constitutions, whenever approved.
 Details of the process are here


Any student enrolled full time in Year 9 and above, under the age of 20, is eligible to stand for election and vote in the school election for a student trustee.  Student trustees have equal standing, voice, accountabilities and vote as other board members, but they can't be the board chair (and neither can the principal nor staff trustee).  They're not just there to be seen and not heard.

Ensuring the students at your school have the opportunity to know what it's all about before they stand and vote is important. If they want to know more about the board of trustees system, or what a trustee does, they should know where to access information, and where to go to place their nomination and their vote.

It is then up to students to make sure they use their democratic right to vote for someone they think would do the job well.

Let students know that their vote counts - if they don't vote, they will miss an opportunity to have a say in the governance of their school.

The Election Process

The election process begins when the board of trustees sets an election date for the student election and appoints a Returning Officer (RO) to manage the election process.  Boards must formally appoint an RO at least 37 days before the election date.

Frequently Asked Questions

We held our student elections but there weren't any nominations. What should we do?

Section 105(2) of the Education Act 1989 states that if no nominations are received at the student elections this vacancy “shall not be filled” until the following September.

Our student trustee decided not to return to school in the new year. What should we do?

In these circumstances a casual vacancy is created, and the board should hold a by-election: section105(1) of the Education Act 1989.

Help! Our board forgot to run a student election this year. Do we still have to do this?

Legally, every board with students in year 9 and above must hold a student election in September each year. Any board that has not done this needs to contact the local office of the Ministry of Education to request an extension of time to hold its elections.

Our board would like to have its second-highest polling student on the board also. Can we do this?

Legally, there can only be one student trustee on the board. If the board would like more than one student on its board, it could look at co-opting that person under section 99 of the Education Act. That person would be known as a “co-opted trustee” (not a “student trustee”). The board should minute the duration of the co-option.

Our school values its student voice. Can the board have more than 1 student on its board?

Legally, there can only be one elected student on the board. If the board would like another student on its board, it could look at co-opting that person under section 99 of the Education Act 1989. They would be known as a “co-opted trustee” (not a student trustee”). The board should minute the duration of the co-option.

Would the co-opted student be able to speak and vote at board meetings?

Co-opted trustees have the same speaking rights and decision-making power around the board table as every other person on the board.

Our board would like to put forward our student trustees and our co-opted student to both go on the Spirit of Adventure training course. Are we allowed to do this?

No, this programme is only open to student trustees. 
Note, this professional development training programme for student trustees is co-hosted by NZSTA with the Spirit of Adventure Trust at the beginning of each year.

What training opportunities are available for our new student trustee?

NZSTA runs nationally advertised workshops in each region about the role of the student trustee. These are usually held in term 4, following the student elections each September.

NZSTA co-hosts with the Spirit of Adventure Trust a residential professional development programme for student trustees at the beginning of each year. 

Student trustees are also welcome to register for all other NZSTA nationally advertised workshops, including Governance Essentials. 

For more information email

As with any other trustee they are welcome to contact our Advisory and Support Centre (0800 782 435) at any time.

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