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The cost of overhauling school governance

The New Zealand School Trustees Association is reassured by Minister Hipkins’ acknowledgement to Select Committee that recommendations for changing the basis of school governance would come at a significant cost.

The Tomorrow’s Schools Taskforce initial report recommended that significant strategic and governing responsibilities should be transferred from community-based school boards of trustees to employed by district "education hubs". The Taskforce is currently considering feedback on the initial report and is due to present its final recommendations to the Minister next month.

Undervaluing community time and expertise has been a long-standing problem in education according to NZSTA President Lorraine Kerr, and this needs to change if we truly want to improve outcomes for students. Since boards of trustees were introduced in 1989, NZSTA estimates that it has upskilled over 100,000 parents and community members including judges, lawyers, engineers, teachers, tradespeople, parents, other professionals and community leaders have contributed their time, energy and expertise to ensure the success of schools, classrooms and students.

Although the stories that make headlines are the outliers where board decisions are called into question, NZSTA says their experience is that boards of trustees take their responsibilities seriously and usually make good quality decisions based on sound processes and information.

Among other things, boards are required to decide whether a student who has been suspended from school by the principal will be permitted to return. NZSTA has calculated that if these hearings were transferred to education hub employees, they could cost in the vicinity of $40-$50 million each year in salaries alone. Time for administration, professional development, other duties, preparation, moderation, or other services such as providing advice to schools or managing complaints and review processes would be in addition to this baseline.

Comparable calculations are not available for the amount of time school trustees currently spend on other board business, but this donated community capacity would also need to be replaced by salaried personnel under the Taskforce proposals.

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