Your school board

Every state and state-integrated school or kura in New Zealand has a board. The board's core role is to govern its school or kura.
Standing for election to the school board is a great way to get involved in your child's education.

What is a school board?

Every state and state-integrated school or kura in New Zealand has a board that governs it.

The board's role is to oversee the governance of its school or kura and to ensure that everything that needs to be done gets done - legally, ethically, and as well as possible in the best interests of its students.

The board is the employer of all staff, including the principal, and sets the overall strategic direction for the school or kura. The principal is the board's 'chief executive' and manages the day to day operations of the school or kura in line with the board's direction and policies.

A standard board constitution is made up of: 

  • members elected from the community;
  • the principal;
  • a staff-elected representative;
  • a student representative - for schools or kura with students in year 9 and above;
  • a number of co-opted members (who must be fewer in number than parent-elected members)
  • and for state-integrated schools only - one or more proprietors’ representatives.

Board members have a term of office of up to 3 years.

What does the board do?

Section 127 of the Education and Training Act 2020 describes the board's responsibilities.

This is achieved through particular governance activities such as:

  • setting the strategic direction and targets for the school or kura
  • planning towards and reporting on achieving those targets
  • curriculum management
  • financial and property management
  • policies and procedures
  • health and safety
  • employment of staff at the school or kura.

Section 127 of the Education and Training Act 2020 – NZ Legislation(external link)

The board has a duty to show to its parents, community, and to the government that students are being well prepared for life beyond school. Evidence of progress and future direction is outlined annually in a charter, which is a document declaring specific annual targets and long-term goals.

The board is elected by members of the school community to ensure that the school community has a voice in how its school operates.

The board must also ensure it is a good employer to all the staff in the school or kura.

Here are some things that a board does:

  • work with its local community to make sure that the school or kura works in a way that is appropriate for the students, families and wider community that it serves.
  • create the school or kura's charter and strategic plan. These describe the board's long term plans for the school or kura and sets goals that will help make them happen.
  • monitor progress towards the long-term plan and goals
  • monitor and evaluate student progress and achievement to make sure that every student is getting the preparation they need to survive and thrive in the world
  • make overall decisions about the school or kura's property (grounds and buildings), finances, curriculum (what is taught) and administration. These decisions are often made on the advice of the principal and staff, and are carried out by the principal and staff once they are made.
  • ensure that the school or kura gives effect to Te Tiriti o Waitangi.
  • appoints and supports the principal and assesses their performance
  • is a good employer to its staff. The board employs all the staff including the principal. This means that the board has a responsibility to make sure that the school or kura provides a safe and healthy environment for them all to work in, and obeys the laws about employment.

What skills do board members need?

Board members are active leaders in their schools or kura. All members should to be able to:

  • work well in a team
  • understand and think about what they are being told
  • ask relevant and challenging questions
  • have good communication skills.

Boards also need a balance of specific skills and attributes to make sure that all the board's responsibilities are being met. Board members should have a genuine interest in the work of the school and the education and welfare of its students. Board members should also have:

  • passion
  • energy
  • people skills
  • honesty
  • integrity.

Other knowledge or experience in areas such as Education, Finance, Law, Property, Human Resources, Health and/or the Social Sector may be helpful for a board, but not compulsory.

Who can be a board member?

Parents of students, caregivers and people from the wider community can all be elected to a board. Most people who are New Zealand citizens can become a member. There are a few groups of people who cannot become members and they are identified in clause 9 of Schedule 23 to the Education and Training Act 2020.

Education and Training Act 2020 – NZ Legislation(external link)

Board Members do not have to be parents or have children at the school or kura they stand for, but they need to be nominated by a parent of a student. All board members should have a commitment to the education of children and a desire to improve student achievement.

How and when is a board elected?

State and state-integrated schools or kura elect their parent and staff representatives to their board every three years. All parents of students who are enrolled full-time in a state or state-integrated school or kura are eligible to vote in the elections for parent representatives.

Boards can also choose to have an election cycle for parent representatives which allows some of its parent representatives to be elected at a mid-term election. This is 18 months after the triennial election. This can help boards avoid the risk of having the whole board change at the same time.

Boards will appoint a returning officer to conduct an election. Returning officers are required to run elections in line with the Education (Board Elections) Regulations 2000. This is to ensure that the school community can have trust and confidence in the election process. Your school or kura will be able to provide information about nominating someone or standing for an election.

Education (Board Elections) Regulations 2000 – NZ Legislation(external link)

Most members are elected, but boards are also allowed to "co-opt" additional members with particular skills or knowledge that the board may not otherwise have.

What help and training does a member get?

The New Zealand School Trustees Association (NZSTA) provides free advice and support for boards of members through a contract with the Ministry of Education.

NZSTA also provides professional development opportunities for members to help them in their role and hold an annual national conference for members.

Board meetings

School boards meet regularly. The meetings are not public meetings, but they are "open to the public". This means that even if you're not a member you are welcome to attend as an observer although you may not have speaking rights.

Some items on the agenda may need to be discussed in private, for example if they concern a complaint to the board or a disciplinary matter. This is usually done "in-committee" The board chair will tell you when you need to leave the meeting, and when you can come back after the in-committee discussion is complete.

Meeting minutes and agendas

Board meeting minutes are usually available on your school or kura website, and/or in the school office. These are public documents and therefore you have a right to see them.

The minutes of the meetings will also record whether the board went into committee. If this occurred, you will not be able to see what was discussed in that part of the meeting. The only details you will see will be when that part of the meeting started and finished.

The minutes also usually state the agreed time and place of the next meeting.

Agendas for board meetings should be available once they have been decided.

How can I get involved with the board?

You can get involved with your school or kura board by:

  • Contacting the board to discuss an idea or issue that you think it should consider. Usually the best person to contact is the board chair.
  • Attending board meeting and/or reading the meeting minutes.
  • Attending other meetings, like parent evenings.
  • Reading the board newsletters and notices.
  • Responding to board requests for assistance.
  • Being elected, appointed or co-opted to the board.

Other ways to get involved at the school

If you’re not sure if you would like to be involved with the school board just yet, you might like to talk to your child’s teacher to see if there are other ways you could help, such as:

  • helping in the classroom
  • making resources
  • helping with class trips
  • coaching or managing a sports team
  • attending Parent Teacher Association (PTA) meetings, and joining the PTA
  • training to be a teacher aide for special needs or special abilities programmes.

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