Roles and responsibilities of school councils
School councils play a vital role in the educational opportunity and outcomes of all students at the school. In essence, the role of school council is one of setting the long term future for the school and maintaining oversight (not management) of the school's operation. It is not about running the school – that is the job of the principal.
Role of school councils
Three of the critical roles of school councils are; developing the strategic plan, approving the annual budget, and setting and reviewing policies.
Other roles include:
- school maintenance
- developing, reviewing and monitoring the Student Code of Conduct and the School Dress Code
- school community engagement.
It is important for school councillors to be aware of their roles and responsibilities.
For school councils to operate effectively, school council members need to be able to work as a team, respect the different skills, knowledge and experience that each member brings to council, and share the workload and responsibility. The council president and principal need to work cooperatively and, where necessary, be prepared to acknowledge any personal differences so as to be able to work in partnership for the good of the school. Similarly the school council president and the convenors of the sub-committees need to maintain respectful and cooperative relationships.
School councillors also need to be able to listen and ask the school community, and sometimes the wider community, about their views on topics that council might be considering.
Role of sub-committees including finance sub-committees
Sub-committees are advisory bodies to the school council and assist council in all the work that needs to be done. They report regularly at school council meetings and provide advice and make recommendations to the school council, which has the final responsibility for decisions. Sub-committees are open to non school council members and therefore provide opportunities to involve many people in the school who are not members of school council.
School Council Membership
Mandated school council positions are:
- President – Parent member (non DEECD employee), who is chairperson of school council meetings
- Executive officer – the principal
Other positions may include:
- Vice president - Parent member (non DEECD employee) or community member, who chairs school council meetings in the absence of the president
- Convenor of the finance sub-committee – as elected from council members, preferably a non DEECD parent member or a community member
- Minute taker - can be filled by a non council member. If this is the case, that person is required to be a silent observer and has no voting rights. Alternatively, the position of minute secretary can be filled by a council member.
The school council is responsible for ensuring that the school has a Strategic Plan that sets out the schools’ goals and targets for the next four years and the strategies for achieving those goals and targets. The school council does this through the Annual Implementation Plan (one for each of the four years of the Strategic Plan) and is reported on in the Annual Report. School council can encourage input to the Strategic Plan from parents, carers and students, as well as the wider community.
By 2008, all Victorian government schools will be expected to have a Strategic Plan. The Plan replaces the current School Charter.
A strategic plan is a three or four page document that tells people what the school wants to achieve in the future and how it plans to get there. The plan lets people know:
- Why the school exists (its purpose)
- How staff and students are expected to behave (the values)
- What is different or special about the school (the context)
- What you are going to focus on over the next four years to improve students’ experience at school (the goals and targets)
- How the school is going to do this (key improvement strategies).
A policy is designed to influence decisions and actions that the school makes. It is usually a written document that outlines a required process or procedure within the school, such as how to deal with bullying, the school’s approach to homework or how complaints are to be managed within the school.
A policy should only be established to achieve some purpose which reflects a set of beliefs or values on the issue concerned. For example, a homework policy might reflect the belief that regular homework develops sound study habits. Not all issues require a policy; many routine matters can be dealt with by developing simple procedures. For example, you might have a procedure for “wet” lunch times – this is unlikely to require a detailed policy.
Good policies are essential because they demonstrate that the school is being operated in an efficient manner, let everyone know what the approach to certain matters will be, and ensure that there will be uniformity and consistency in decisions and in how the school operates.