Bells set to toll for independent schools governance

If there’s one thing in Australia that’s almost as certain as death and taxes, it’s that what happens in one state or territory, particularly in the area of governance, is bound to send ripples into all others.

Which is why the recent announcement by the New South Wales government of increased requirements for non-government – or independent – schools should get the bells ringing across this educational sector, in every nook and cranny of the country.

In effect, the changes create a raft of work for boards and board members if they are to achieve compliance and so be allowed to register and operate.

Broadly speaking, the New South Wales government’s updated Registration Manual mandates a set of six key requirements that independent schools must follow in their governance policies and procedures.

These are:

        • develop and implement policies and procedures for the governance of the school, including setting out a constitution and structure for the governing body;
        • establish a standard and process for documenting conflicts of interest within the governing body;
        • establish a register for ‘related party transactions’…in other words, those transactions with people who may represent a conflict of interest;
        • provide for professional learning for school managers and governors, including a minimum requirement of four hours of such learning;
        • provide an induction process for school managers and governors; and
        • ensure that school annual financial statements are audited by an independent body.Of course, as someone committed to governance best practice, I welcome these initiatives while appreciating they place a greater onus on – and extract a greater time demand from – boards and board members.While those of us in other parts of the country start preparing for the likelihood of such an eventuality in our state or territory, there are a number of options open to us.

          You can, of course, attend to all on your own, if you have the time and expertise to do so.  You could also go in search of pro forma documents. Or you could turn to organisations such as Governance Matters.

          The Governance Matters ‘Policies for Good Governance’ are written in plain English to ensure that every board and each board member knows precisely what to do and what to expect.

          The policies address every requirement of the first three points outlined above, while our Board Minded online service for board professional development attends to point four – and allows time-poor board members and boards to view the myriad of topics, collectively or individually and always at a time that’s most convenient.

          When it comes to the induction process, we have a policy document on this very subject.

          And while we can’t help with the independent auditing of your financial statements, we’re pretty sure that’s the least of your concerns as you ready yourselves for a new dawn in independent schools governance.

          Until next time,

Kate.

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