Editorial: What schools don't need

I would love to be on the board of trustees at our local school.

I'm sure it would be a rewarding role and I would have something to offer. It would be a great way of making a difference to the school community.

But given my day job as an editor it's not a good idea. The potential for a conflict of interest would be ever present. I need to ensure I am impartial and do not have roles in other groups or organisations.

But what I did have the chance to do in last month's trustee elections was vote.

I took my time reading through candidate biographies and carefully made my decisions. As a parent, I felt empowered and that I was making a small difference to the running of our school.

Boards of trustees are today the subject of our Inside Story feature.

Following May's elections, Annemarie Quill has examined our boards and looked at who is running our schools. It is an interesting read. She speaks to several board members and has uncovered the incredible story of Te Puke's Rebecca Wichmann.

Wichmann, a hairdresser, is on three boards - chairing both Te Puke Primary and Te Puke Intermediate, and is now a trustee on the town's high school board.

This woman is inspirational and deserves credit for working so hard for the schools in her community.

The feature uncovers what makes these people tick but also investigates some of the issues facing boards today.

The governance of our schools changed radically in 1989 and they became self-managing. School communities elect their boards every three years and these boards are responsible for governing the school, spending millions of dollars and appointing principals.

The current system has weaknesses. Smaller boards can struggle to attract the expertise needed and there can be conflicts across boards of all sizes.

Clashes between some boards and principals where the lines between governance and management have blurred have happened. But in these cases, the ministry can step in and straighten things out.

More change is possible. The Government has hinted at allowing for board mergers and great collaboration between boards.

It has also signalled boards will be under great pressure over student performance.

Education researcher and author Cathy Wylie says the current model is flawed and delivers uneven and inadequate gains for learners.

She also says it is wasteful and

Responses may be published. Please include your contact details. does not allow for sharing of good ideas and practice. She says schools should remain selfmanaging but proposes 20 new regional education authorities to appoint principals, in conjunction with boards, and reduce difficulties some boards face and ensure less fragmentation.

Changes such as allowing mergers, greater sharing and collaboration are positive as long as those school communities want that. And, of course, boards should be fully accountable for student achievement.

But the last thing we need is more bureaucracy in the form of regional authorities. An extra layer of centralised control can be costly and potentially inefficient.

The current system is fundamentally sound. School communities should decide who runs their schools and we should celebrate that every school is different. We do not need any more government interference.

What is important is the Government keeps supporting boards, providing money, training and advice. Extra funding in this year's Budget, including additional HR advice, is welcome and brings the total national amount for board training and support to $31.508 million.

It's also important schools aim to attract quality and diversity among their trustees.

School trustees perform a valuable volunteering role. They do it to make a difference and come from many walks of life. They don't do it for the money. We should celebrate this and support them.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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