School governance and management

School boards

What does a school board do?

Education and Training Act, ss 125,126, 127

The board sets the direction of the school, with the main focus being student progress and achievement. The board does this by creating its charter, and strategic planning in consultation with you, your whānau and the community.

The principal and teaching staff use the New Zealand Curriculum and/or Te Marautanga o Aotearoa to create the local and classroom curricula (so that the intent of the strategic plan can be achieved). The board must take account of the Government’s statement of National Education and Learning Priorities (NELP) and carefully consider it.

The board also:

  • monitors and scrutinises progress against the strategic plan and annual implementation plan
  • makes school rules, policies and guidelines about how the school runs (and self-reviews these regularly)
  • appoints the principal, who deals with the day-to-day management of the school, and hires teachers and other school staff
  • manages the finances and property of the school.

A board’s responsibilities in the Education and Training Act

Education and Training Act 2020, s127

There are key objectives (aims) that school boards must uphold when they are managing a school. School boards are responsible for ensuring:

  • every student can reach their highest standard of achievement
  • the school:
    • is a physically and emotionally safe place
    • gives effect to student rights in the New Zealand Bill of Rights, and the Human Rights Act
    • is free from racism, stigma, bullying, and any other forms of discrimination
    • is inclusive of, and cater for students with different needs
    • gives effect to Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

These objectives are explained in more detail in other chapters. See “Te Tiriti o Waitangi in schools“, “Learning support” and “Health, safety and wellbeing

School charters

Education and Training Act 2020, s 138; Education Act 1989, ss 61, 63B

A school charter is a signed agreement between the school’s board and the government. It states the school’s aims, purposes and specific objectives, and it includes the national aims and objectives from the National Education Guidelines (NEGs).

The charter must be made available to parents and whānau. The school should also review its charter regularly to make sure it continues to reflect the changing educational needs of students.

Strategic plans replace school charters in January 2024

Education and Training Act 2020, ss 138, 139, 146

From the first of January 2024, school charters will be replaced by “strategic plans”. A strategic plan sets out the board’s plan for achieving (or working towards) its objectives.

The board must consult with the school community when drafting the strategic plan – this means they must provide information and talk to parents, guardians and whānau, the school’s Māori community, and the school’s staff (and students when appropriate).

The board must also have an “annual implementation plan”, which describes how they will achieve the strategic plan each year.

Once the plan has been drafted, it is checked off by the Government to make sure it meets the expected standards. This plan must be updated every three years and you must be able to see a copy of it on the school’s website.

When does the board need to consult with me, my classmates and whānau?

Education and Training Act 2020 ss 91, 126, 127, 139; s 10 (see “school community” definition)

The board is required to consult with the “school community” when doing certain things, for example:

  • preparing the school charter or strategic plan
  • giving effect to te Tiriti
  • before deciding the health curriculum (every three years)
  • making rules (bylaws).

The “school community” means:

  • parents, guardians and whānau of students
  • the Māori community associated with the school
  • anyone else who the board thinks is part of the community for the purpose of consultation.

Generally, the board doesn’t have to consult directly with ākonga. It should consult with students when making bylaws if it is appropriate. Boards are also encouraged by the New Zealand School Trustees Association (NZSTA) to get feedback from you when making decisions about things that affect you.

Who is on the school board?

Education and Training Act 2020, s 119

The school board is made up of:

  • at least three, but not more than seven, parent, caregiver and guardian representatives (most schools have five)
  • the principal
  • if it’s an integrated school, up to four representatives appointed by the school’s owner (the owner will be a trust, church or some other body)
  • a staff representative
  • any other people co-opted by the board to be board members
  • a student representative (if the school has high school students).

The school board should tell parents and guardians when board meetings will be held, and should welcome parents, guardians and whānau to board meetings.

Can I go to board meetings?

Yes, usually. Board meetings are not public meetings, but they are open to the public (so you, your whānau and the wider school community can go). You don’t have speaking rights.

All minutes should be publicly available, so you can see what was talked about at a meeting if you can’t go in person.

Some things will need to be talked about in private, like if they need to protect a student’s privacy. You’ll be told if you need to leave a meeting.

How is the school board elected?

Education and Training Act 2020, sch 23, cl 3; Education (Board Elections) Regulations 2000

Parents and guardians of ākonga elect board members, for no longer than a three-year term. The election process is laid out in the Education and Training Act and regulations.

Free phone support

If you have a question about the role or governance of the school board, or anything else about legal rights in school, call the Student Rights Service on 0800 499 488 or YouthLaw on 0800 YOUTH LAW

What can I do if a board isn’t doing a good job?

Education and Training Act 2020, s 171 – 181

There are a range of things the Ministry of Education can do if it thinks the current board is a risk to the operation of the school or to the welfare or educational performance of its students. These include:

  • asking the board for specific information
  • requiring the board to bring in specialist help
  • requiring the board to prepare and carry out an action plan
  • appointing a limited statutory manager (an independent temporary manager who takes responsibility for aspects of the board’s role)
  • dissolving the board and appointing a commissioner in its place.

If you think the Ministry of Education needs to be involved, you should contact your local Ministry office.

For contact details, go to and search “contact” or see “Where to go for more support” in “Raising concerns and making complaints

I have an issue I want to take to the board – what should I do?

Usually you should try to talk about the issue with the principal first. However, if you feel you can’t approach the principal, or if after approaching them you’re not happy with their response, you could:

phone or write to the chairperson of the board, asking for some time to speak to the board at its next meeting, or

write to the chairperson explaining the issue and saying what action you would like the board to take. Mark your letter “Confidential”, and address it to “the chairperson, care of the school”.

I’m not happy with the way the board has dealt with an issue – what can I do?

Ask the board for a copy of its complaints policy. Put your complaint in writing, clearly stating the facts relevant to the issue you’re experiencing, as well as what you would like to see done to put things right.

If you’re not satisfied with the board’s response, you can consider taking your concerns to one of the following government agencies or officials:

  • Ministry of Education (MoE) – MoE oversees the conduct of all state and integrated schools. Complaints can be lodged with your local Ministry office.
  • Children’s Commissioner – The Commissioner’s role is to protect the rights of children and young people under the age of 18. They can receive complaints about schools and can make recommendations to the school.
  • Education Review Office (ERO) – ERO visits schools every three years to make sure they’re being run properly. ERO doesn’t deal with individual complaints, but if several complaints have been received they’ll look into the problem when they visit. All complaints will be noted and could affect the school’s ERO report, which is a public record. Complaints to ERO should be made in writing.
  • Ombudsmen – The Ombudsmen can investigate complaints about decisions made school boards and can make recommendations to the board. While the recommendations aren’t legally binding, schools usually take them seriously. The Ombudsmen provide an annual written report to parliament, which includes the names of schools that have ignored their recommendations.
Next Section | Teachers and staff

Did this answer your question?

School governance and management

Where to go for more support

Community Law

Your local Community Law Centre can provide initial free legal advice and information.

Also available as a book

Help the manual

We’re a small team that relies on the generosity of all our supporters. You can make a one-off donation or become a supporter by sponsoring the Manual for a community organisation near you. Every contribution helps us to continue updating and improving our legal information, year after year.

Donate Become a Supporter

Find the Answer to your Legal Question

back to top