22 Jun 2018

Principals dismiss trustees' suggestion as 'folly'

6:57 am on 22 June 2018

School principals have dismissed as "folly" a call to oust them from the boards of trustees that govern schools.


Classroom Photo: 123RF

The School Trustees' Association is suggesting the change as part of the government's review of the way schools are run and organised.

Principals have been voting members of school boards of trustees since the Tomorrow's Schools reforms of 1989 introduced them.

The president of the School Trustees Association, Lorraine Kerr, told RNZ's Insight her organisation was asking if it was time to drop principals from school boards.

"One of the changes I would look at is in terms of effective governance where the principal reports to the board and is not part of the board," she said.

Ms Kerr said removing principals' voting rights would make it clearer that the principal was the manager of the school, while board members were in charge of governance.

"If we look at every other effective governance model, the CEO reports to the board and is not a board member," she said.

Ms Kerr said allowing the principal to be the school's manager and a member of its board could "muddy the waters".

She said principals would not like the idea, but the government's review of the Tomorrow's Schools system was about testing the boundaries.

Secondary Principals Association president Mike Williams said his association would be "dead against" the trustees' suggestion.

"On boards of trustees we have some really good-meaning people, volunteers in our community, business leaders, but the only person with an educational background, an educational experience is the principal. To take that one person out of any voting situation would seem to be folly," he said.

Mr Williams said he disagreed with the trustees' claim that the principal's dual role as school manager and member of the governing board was causing confusion.

"I don't think there's any evidence of that having caused problems in schools. From our perspective the majority of problems around the boundary between governance and management happen the other way around."

Principals Federation president Whetu Cormick said the trustees' association's suggestion was surprising.

"We know that principals lead the school, they are the CEO. I think it would have a negative impact if principals were banned or barred from voting. We should be able to participate at that level," he said.

Submissions to the government's review of Tomorrow's Schools close on 6 August.

You can hear more about the review of schooling on Insight just after the 8am news on Sunday Morning.

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