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School trustees focused on student progress and achievement

Media release: School trustees focused on student progress and achievement

13 July 2017

School trustees have a strong focus on strategy and most principals feel boards add value to schools.

The New Zealand Council for Educational Research (NZCER) 2016 national survey of primary and intermediate schools included questions for school trustees. The results show trustees identify the main elements of their role being to provide strategic direction, to support principals and staff, and represent parents and whānau.

‘Trustees report being motivated by wanting to contribute to their community and help their children,’ report co-author Cathy Wylie said.

Around half of trustees identified their main achievements as good financial monitoring, maintaining high-quality teaching, improving governance processes, and improvement in student progress and achievement.

‘Most principals reported trustees understand achievement data and ask good questions as they focus on student progress and achievement,’ Cathy Wylie said.

Overall, principals think boards are in good shape, with 85% reporting boards are on top of things or making steady progress. In line with this, 35% of principals said their boards required a lot of support, down from 48% in the 2013 survey.

Trustees are increasingly using digital technology to consult with their communities. This happened less in decile 1-2 schools, where other ways such as hui with whānau were slightly more likely. About half of parents and whānau felt consultation about new directions or issues was genuine, with just over a quarter not sure. Under a quarter of parents felt they were not genuinely consulted. Some trustees (16%) indicated that community consultation is an area where they need more experience.

Trustees were asked what they might change about their role. Top of their list was more funding for their school (53%) and to improve their knowledge or training (46%).

Trustees reported being well supported through professional development workshops and resources, particularly from the NZ School Trustees Association.

The survey showed chairs serve longer and spend more time on board business than other trustees. Nearly three-quarters of trustees spend two hours or less per week onboard work. The workload for chairs has increased since the 2013 survey, with 18% of chairs reporting they spend more than 6 hours per week.

The NZCER survey was sent to a representative sample of 349 English-medium state and state-integrated primary and intermediate schools. Two questionnaires were sent to the board via the school, to be answered by the chair and another trustee. The response rate was 25% for trustees (n = 176). The survey was conducted from August to September 2016.

The full report is available at: The findings from the National Survey are being released in a series of standalone reports. All the reports are published on and are free.

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