Parents Voice in Government School Education

Your school community

Developing good relationships

First understand each group and its role in the school and its relationship (if any) to the parents club.

School Council

The school council is the committee of management for the school.  It is a legal body – a body corporate – constituted under the Education Act.  A school council is regulated by the Education Act, Regulations and a Constituting Order.  The main duties, powers and procedures of a school council are conferred by the Education Act.  The Constituting Order includes the school council membership of each school and the rules that govern school council elections.  All school council decision making takes place within a framework of legislated powers and Education Department policy.

There is sometimes confusion about the relationship between the school council and parents club.  The Parents Club is not a sub-committee of the School Council

Responsibilities

The Education and Training Reform Act 2006 (section 2.3.5) sets out the functions of a School Council. The first  is, “to establish the broad direction and vision of the school within the school’s community.”

The school council is responsible for developing the School Strategic Plan and school policies  For a broader view of the roles and responsibilities of school council see the School Council Functions page on the Education Department website. And for any Parent Club members who are considering also joining School Council, there’s a useful guide from the Insitutute of Community Directors called Damn Good Advice for School Councils.

Parents Club rep on School Council

It is fairly common for the Parent Club to have a representative on the School Council.  This is done through an invitation from the School Council for the Parent Club to fill one of the ‘co-opted’ positions on the council.  If this position is not currently provided it may be advantageous for the club to lobby the council for a position.  School Councils also have a number of committees.  Again, it may be useful for the Parent Club to have a representative on some or all of these committees to allow for more informed discussion of relevant issues and more direct feedback to the committee from the parent community.

Advice from the Department is:

Where the School Council invites the Club to nominate a member to fill a Community Member Category position on the School Council, the Club shall elect a member, other than an employee of the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development as the Club nominee. If co-opted as a member by the school council, the nominee will be a full member of the school council with the same responsibilities as all other members of the school council. A club does not have authority to appoint a member to a school council.

Report template

We have provided a template to help you write your report to School Council.

Principal

The principal is responsible for the day to day running of the school, including management of all staff.  The principal is also the Executive Officer of the School Council – his/her role in this regard is quite complex and varied. Detailed advice about the duties of the school principal is provided in the Education Department guidelines about principal selection.  Your school may also have a specific role statement which was developed by the school council at the time of principal selection.
The principal is often invited to Parent Club meetings to give a report to parents, answer questions and discuss issues of interest.  She/he is not a member of the Parent Club and doesn’t usually stay for the whole meeting.  (Many parents are reluctant to ask questions about educational issues in front of ’experts’ for fear they may appear ignorant.  There may also be occasions where issues relating to the school e.g. class organisation need to be aired without staff being present. The club could then nominate two or three representatives to speak to the principal / staff / school council after the meeting and present an agreed parents club position)

Student Representative Council / Junior School Council

These groups are usually made up of representatives of each class in the school.  The student body discusses issues of interest to the students of the school, sometimes running fundraising efforts and often making recommendations for action to school council.  In many schools there are no connections made between the student body and the parents club, however there may be occasions when the student body needs support e.g. in having its voice heard.  There will also be times when the two groups could work together very successfully in pursuit of shared goals.

School community

Everyone associated with the school, including students, parents, teachers and other staff.  The parents club should try to represent all families at the school, even those who are not members.
A  Parent Club should be inclusive of the whole parent community – continuously evaluate your success in this area.  Changes may be necessary.  Consider all viewpoints – this means talking to lots of people about relevant issues.  Maybe particular groups are under-represented at Parent Club or not there at all.  Consider meeting times, child-care, language barriers.
Encourage all forms of participation – if attendance at meetings isn’t possible, try surveys, discuss issues and raise at meetings (don’t forget to report back.)  When these parents realise you are taking their concerns seriously, they may be encouraged to attend meetings and become members. Parent Club too often wear the tag of being ’white, middle-class, Anglo women’.  Parent communities are much broader than this.