Step up monitoring of trustees, auditors urge

By Martha McKenzie-Minifie

The Ministry of Education is too inconsistent in the way it deals with boards of trustees in different parts of the country and needs to more actively monitor them, a report says.

A report by the Office of the Auditor-General - tabled in Parliament yesterday - found it can be more than three years before school boards identified as "potentially at risk" get a formal statutory intervention.

However, it said opinion on the speed at which the ministry moved was divided, with some people interviewed claiming it intervened too quickly, while others considered it left it too late.

Boards govern the more than 2400 state and state-integrated schools across the country. They are largely made up of volunteer parents, students and staff, 44 per cent of whom were new to the role after the elections last year.

Schools Trustees Association general manager Ray Newport told the Herald that ministry training was focused on boards that were "at risk" and it needed to be more widely available. "We've had a view for a long time that all boards should be able to access an ongoing programme of training.

"In some cases, particularly in the bigger schools, they are pretty big businesses. Quite apart from educating kids, in terms of the dollars they're quite big businesses and quite complex businesses."

Ministry spokesman Iain Butler said it was comfortable with the report's findings and recommendations.

"We've started work on some of the recommendations already, for instance, work on reviewing the training and professional development that boards of trustees have available to them," said Mr Butler. "We are happy to put in place some of the other recommendations that the report makes."

The report made nine recommendations to the ministry in three broad areas.

Among them was identifying information needed to consistently recognise school boards at risk and use it in a timely way, analysing boards' training and support needs so it can match services to them, and documenting and making transparent the process for appointing people to the group available to carry out statutory interventions.

"Overall, the ministry provides some useful training and general support for all boards," read the report. "It also has good systems for supporting boards that are clearly at risk of poor performance."

RUNNING SCHOOLS
* 2469 boards of trustees nationally at state and state-integrated schools.
* 18,500 volunteer trustees - often parents, students and staff - serving on those boards.
* 44 per cent of trustees were new to the role after the 2007 elections.
* The schools spent an estimated $4.5 billion for the year to the end of December 2006.
* Ministry of Education is responsible for support to boards to enable effective governance.
SOURCE: Office of the Auditor-General's Ministry of Education: Monitoring and Supporting School Boards of Trustees

- NZ Herald

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