Page 1

Primary School Governance

&

Challenges

Opportunites

Goals Compliance

Policy Direction Accountability

SCHOOL GOVERNACE

Vision

Leadership

Strategy Resources Mission

Values


Primary School Governance

&

Challenges

Opportunites Goals Compliance

Policy Direction Accountability

SCHOOL GOVERNACE

Vision

Leadership

Strategy Resources Mission

Values


PRIM ARY SCHOOL GOVERNANCE: CHALLENGES & OPPORTUNITIES


TABLE OF CONTENTS FOREWORD ......................................................................................................................iii EXECUTIVE SUMMARY.........................................................................................iv 1.

CONTEXT...............................................................................................................1

1.1. 1.2.

SCHOOL GOVERNANCE IN IRELAND – THE BOARD OF MANAGEMENT ................................1 GOVERNANCE OR MANAGEMENT? ...............................................................................2

2.

THE RESEARCH ....................................................................................................3

2.1. 2.2. 2.3.

QUESTIONNAIRES ......................................................................................................3 SCOPE OF THE STUDY ...............................................................................................5 FINDINGS .................................................................................................................5

3.

WHO GOVERNS? ..................................................................................................6

3.1. 3.2. 3.3. 3.4.

MALE-FEMALE REPRESENTATION ..................................................................................6 OCCUPATIONS OF BOARD MEMBERS ...........................................................................7 GOVERNANCE REPRESENTATION BY SCHOOL TYPE ........................................................8 THE ROLES OF CHAIRPERSON, TREASURER & SECRETARY ............................................10

4.

GOVERNANCE PRACTICES.................................................................................13

4.1. 4.2. 4.3. 4.4. 4.5. 4.6.

EFFECTIVE GOVERNANCE – WHAT MAKES FOR GOOD GOVERNANCE PRACTICE?...........13 GOVERNANCE PRACTICES – WHAT REALLY HAPPENS?.................................................14 BOARD MEETINGS – WHO PARTICIPATES?..................................................................16 GOVERNANCE MEETINGS – ISSUES DISCUSSED ...........................................................17 INDICATORS OF EFFICIENCY? ....................................................................................18 GOVERNANCE MEETINGS – THE PERSONAL – EMOTIONAL RESPONSE? ..........................19

5.

CHAIRPERSONS & PRINCIPALS .........................................................................20

5.1. 5.2. 5.3. 5.4. 5.5.

CHAIRPERSONS .......................................................................................................20 PRINCIPALS’ OPINIONS AS TO WHY THE CHAIRPERSON WAS APPOINTED ........................21 PRINCIPALS’ PERCEPTIONS ON THE CONTRIBUTION OF MEMBERS OF THE BOARD ............22 CHAIRPERSONS & PRINCIPALS – THE EMOTIONAL RESPONSE TO GOVERNANCE ...............23 CHAIRPERSONS & PRINCIPALS PRIORITISING CHANGES FOR GOVERNANCE .....................23

6.

CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS.......................................................25

6.1. 6.2.

CONCLUSIONS ........................................................................................................25 RECOMMENDATIONS .................................................................................................26

7.

BOARDS OF MANAGEMENT 2011-2015: A GUIDE TO BEST PRACTICE ...........29

7.1. 7.2. 7.3. 7.4. 7.5. 7.6. 7.7. 7.8. 7.9.

THE BOARD OF MANAGEMENT – A ‘CORPORATE BODY’ ...............................................29 BOARD MEMBERS....................................................................................................29 CONFIDENTIALITY .....................................................................................................30 COMMUNICATION .....................................................................................................30 BOARD PLANNING ...................................................................................................30 BOARD MEETINGS ...................................................................................................31 PARTICIPATION.........................................................................................................31 ROLES & RESPONSIBILITIES .....................................................................................31 CHAIRPERSON.........................................................................................................31 TABLE OF CONTENTS

i


7.10. 7.11. 7.12. 7.13. 7.14. 7.15. 7.16.

DECISION-MAKING ...................................................................................................32 AGENDA .................................................................................................................32 MINUTES ................................................................................................................32 FINANCE.................................................................................................................33 PARENTS ................................................................................................................33 TRAINING & INFORMATION .........................................................................................33 ROLE DESCRIPTORS ................................................................................................34

8.

REFERENCES ......................................................................................................38

List of Figures FIGURE 2:1: FIGURE 2:2 FIGURE 3:1 FIGURE 3:2

DISTRIBUTION OF QUESTIONNAIRES BY COUNTY .....................................................3 QUESTIONNAIRES FOR CHAIRPERSONS, PRINCIPALS AND BOARD MEMBERS .............4 MALE/FEMALE REPRESENTATION OF ALL BOARD MEMBERS ......................................6 OCCUPATIONS OF BOARD MEMBERS (EXCLUDING PRINCIPALS AND TEACHER REPRESENTATIVES).........................................................................7

FIGURE 3:3

ROLES ASSIGNED TO THE VARIOUS REPRESENTATIVE GROUPINGS ON THE BOARD OF MANAGEMENT .......................................................................10 THE POSITION OF TREASURER BY ROLE REPRESENTATION ......................................11 PATTERNS IN THE NUMBER OF BOARD MEETINGS HELD OVER A YEAR .......................14 CIRCULATION OF AN AGENDA IN ADVANCE OF BOARD OF MANAGEMENT MEETINGS ..................................................................................15 CIRCULATION OF MINUTES IN ADVANCE OF BOARD OF MANAGEMENT MEETINGS .......15 RESPONDENTS’ LEVEL OF AGREEMENT WITH ASPECTS OF GOVERNANCE..................16 ISSUES FREQUENTLY DISCUSSED AT BOARD OF MANAGEMENT MEETINGS ..................17 ISSUES RARELY DISCUSSED AT BOARD OF MANAGEMENT MEETINGS .........................18 OPERATIONAL PATTERNS OF BOARDS OF MANAGEMENT .......................................18 RESPONDENTS’ OPINIONS ABOUT THEIR OWN ROLE ON GOVERNANCE .....................19 WORDS SELECTED TO DESCRIBE BOARD MEETINGS..............................................19 LENGTH OF SERVICE AS A BOARD MEMBER .........................................................20 LENGTH OF SERVICE AS CHAIRPERSON ...............................................................21 PRINCIPALS’ OPINIONS AS TO WHY THE CHAIRPERSON WAS APPOINTED ..................21 PRINCIPALS’ COMMENTS ON WHY CHAIRPERSONS WERE SELECTED ........................22 PRINCIPALS’ PERCEPTIONS OF THOSE INVOLVED IN OPERATIONAL MATTERS OF THE BOARD (%)............................................................................22 PRINCIPALS’ AND CHAIRPERSONS’ FEELINGS ABOUTBOARD MEETINGS ....................23

FIGURE 3:4: FIGURE 4:1: FIGURE 4:2: FIGURE 4:3: FIGURE 4:4: FIGURE 4:5: FIGURE 4:6: FIGURE 4:7: FIGURE 4:8: FIGURE 4:9: FIGURE 5:1 FIGURE 5:2: FIGURE 5:3: FIGURE 5:4: FIGURE 5:5: FIGURE 5:6:

List of Appendices APPENDIX 1: QUESTIONNAIRE COMPLETED BY ALL BOARD MEMBERS ............................................39 APPENDIX 2: QUESTIONNAIRE COMPLETED BY CHAIRPERSONS.....................................................41 APPENDIX 3: QUESTIONNAIRE COMPLETED BY PRINCIPALS ..........................................................43

ii

PRIM ARY SCHOOL GOVERNANCE: CHALLENGES & OPPORTUNITIES


FOREWORD

Foreword The Board of Management has been the governance structure underpinning Irish primary education for almost four decades. The leadership potential for governance is immense given that there are approximately as many people directly involved in school governance as there are teachers teaching in schools. It is for this and other reasons that IPPN has been keen to spotlight governance and to review the composition, roles, operation and effectiveness of the current governance model in Irish primary schools. This report belongs to those who have contributed to it – the board members of the 500 primary schools randomly selected to participate in the study. Their response has provided – for the first time – real information on who is governing schools, what structures and practices operate locally, and how board members perceive their role and the roles of others. It looks at the extent to which the board functions as a corporate body rather than a gathering of representative groups, whether it works proactively or reactively, leads and governs or follows and manages. IPPN is indebted to all who have contributed to this work but most particularly to the many patron, community, parent and teacher members of boards of management who not only commit voluntarily to the governance of their schools but who also took the time to contribute to this work. Many principals who participated in this study were keen to acknowledge the contribution over many years of church management bodies – Catholic Primary School Management Association (CPSMA) and the Church of Ireland Board of Education in particular – to primary education in Ireland. The commitment of many priests, rectors, nuns and brothers to supporting schools, principals and teachers, parents and communities in the provision of a high quality education for children is commmendable. So where do we go from here? This report is timely, given the debate on governance and patronage that is gathering momentum. The reality is, as the findings of this report indicate, that national schools are fairly embedded in a management structure that for many reasons needs to be completely reconfigured. We need to ‘unlearn’ our management practices and begin again. Patronage is one debate. Effective governance is another. Regardless of what the outcome on ownership and patronage may be, schools need to lift their game on governance. There is an African proverb that states ‘It takes more than one person to make a path’. We need to create a new path for school governance. IPPN presents this report on governance as its contribution to a first step along that new path. Seán Cottrell Director

FOREWORD

iii


EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

Executive Summary This study focuses on primary school governance. It describes governance practices in Ireland and draws on the data provided to make recommendations and to suggest future directions for governance. There are 26,600 people working in a voluntary capacity on boards of management and this is the first large-scale review of boards since their establishment almost four decades ago. 500 school boards were invited to participate in this study. The quantitative and qualitative data provided by board members, by chairpersons and by principals describes many challenges and highlights a number of corresponding opportunities. The presentation of findings includes a profile of those contributing to governance, an overview of governance practices, and more detailed information from chairpersons and principals on their experiences of governance. Conclusions are based on the research outcomes. Recommendations set out how school governance can be reformed to fit the current and future needs of Irish primary schools. IPPN has also included its Boards of Management 2011 – 2015: A Guide to Best Practice1 which, it is hoped, will help to optimise the efficiency of boards in the short term.

MAIN FINDINGS2 Who Governs? - Representation on Boards of Management I There is an even gender balance in parent and community representation on boards of management. Principals and teachers reflect the gender imbalance already in the profession. There is a significant gender imbalance (67% male, 33% female) in patron representation. I Chairpersons are appointed by the patron, rather than agreed by the board. 84% of chairpersons are male. 47% are religious (priest/rector/sister). I

I I

1

2

iv

Treasurers and secretaries are nominated by the board. In most cases the principal is secretary to the board. Approximately 15% of parent and community representatives have an assigned role on the board, usually that of treasurer. Most board members belong to professional, caring and skilled groupings. Some clusters of small schools have difficulty recruiting board members. Parishes with several schools (Catholic schools in particular) are often competing for community representatives with skills of value.

The publication Boards of Management 2011-2015: A Guide to Best Practice has been developed by IPPN. It is a practical step-bystep guide to assist boards in conducting business effectively. The findings are based on the information given in 2007 by board representatives who had just completed a term on a primary school Board of Management.

PRIM ARY SCHOOL GOVERNANCE: CHALLENGES & OPPORTUNITIES


I

I

Schools in lower socio-economic areas have difficulty recruiting board members with the range of required expertise e.g. financial, legal, human resource and building/maintenance. An expertise deficit is apparent in the parent and community representation on boards. Many newer schools have challenging governance issues arising from the focus groups underpinning the establishment of such schools. There is a higher ethos focus in membership and governance of these schools.

Governance Practices - How Boards of Management Function 44% of larger schools and 71% of smaller schools hold between three and six meetings a year. Twelve hours per year represents the average meeting time for most schools. I Many schools do not circulate an agenda for meetings and most schools do not circulate minutes. 20% of board members said that they never receive an agenda prior to a meeting and 64% said that minutes are never circulated. I 61% of respondents felt most of the business of the board was conducted by the principal and the chairperson during and between meetings. Most were unhappy with the imbalance in participation and involvement of members. I Meetings are dominated by issues related to finance, buildings, the provision of resources and discussing and agreeing policies. Boards usually support the work of the principal but don’t have much time to discuss education, ethos and vision. I

I

I

I

Boards differ in terms of operational practices, and structures, that ensure that board business is conducted efficiently. Over 40% of boards don’t agree a plan of work, form subcommittees, or invite experts, if necessary, to attend meetings. The majority of board members are clear about their role and about the functions and duties of the board. 15% stated that the governance work was impinging too much on their personal time. Most respondents had positive experiences of board meetings and felt they were wellorganised, focused and purposeful. 13% had negative experiences and selected terms such as ‘haphazard’,’ tense’ and ‘controlling’ to describe meetings.

Chairpersons and Principals – Profiles, Practices, Perceptions3 I 55% of chairpersons had at least ten years experience of governance. 15% had served as chairperson for at least four terms. Many chairpersons indicated that they did not want to continue in the role. I 45% of principals felt chairpersons were selected because of their religious vocation. A high proportion of board members were unhappy with the imposition of a chairperson and felt that boards should select the chairperson. I Principals were unhappy with the extent to which board work fell on them. Board members were also conscious that most work was conducted by principals and chairpersons. Principals wanted a fair distribution of governance tasks. I 67% of principals and 84% of chairpersons were positive about board meetings. 33% of principals, and 16% of chairpersons, described feelings of stress, tension, and anxiety when facing or attending a meeting. I Principals and chairpersons were concerned about ownership and governance responsibilities. Almost all members wanted issues around the legal responsibilities of governance and the implications for board members (in particular the role of legal employer) to be clarified.

3

Where exact percentages are not given, the outcome is based on the responses to open-ended ‘opinion’ questions

EXECUTIVE SUM M ARY

v


CONCLUSIONS 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6.

7. 8.

Primary schools in Ireland are managed rather than governed A new governance structure is required to support a far more complex school system with educational, legislative, financial, human and other resource responsibilities Governance by voluntary representation alone is no longer sustainable Many schools are still operating a low-impact management system with most activity and responsibility retained by, or left to, the chairperson and the principal The external appointment of chairperson weakens the leadership potential within governance The large number of small primary schools in Ireland, and the voluntary nature of boards, leaves many schools struggling to fill some positions, thus reducing the capacity for good governance Governance impacts heavily on the workload of principals Training is available but many feel that it falls far short of what is required.

RECOMMENDATIONS 1. 2. 3. 4. 5.

Primary schools need to be both governed and managed Management should be defined in the context of the day-to-day operation of the school The chairperson should be selected by the board The role of the principal in school governance should be clarified Smaller schools should be encouraged and incentivised to establish shared governance structures 6. Legal, financial, human resource and building/maintenance expertise should be available on a cluster or regional basis to all schools 7. Training should be provided for, and attended by, all board members at the beginning of their four-year term, and as required thereafter 8. Training should be provided for individuals who have specific roles and responsibilities in governance 9. Good governance should be underpinned by effective planning, recording and reporting 10. Adequate, skilled administrative support should be put in place to enable principals to fulfil both their governance and instructional leadership responsibilities 11. Governance roles should be defined and duties and responsibilities delegated 12. Governance should include the formation of sub-committees and co-option to the board, or to sub-committees of the board, when necessary.

vi

PRIM ARY SCHOOL GOVERNANCE: CHALLENGES & OPPORTUNITIES


CHAPTER ONE

Context ‘Our schools are over-managed and under-led’ Maurice Gianotti4 Irish school governance structures can be traced to the English education system over 500 years ago, when some believed that the function of schools was to provide basic education in preparation for employment, while others argued that religious and moral instruction was a key function of the education system. This led to the establishment in England of church-managed schools and the church rector – the one-man manager – emerged as the governance structure of the school. The system that followed had two significant lead-players – the school inspector and the school manager. The school manager sought control of the school but the financing of schools and the influence of the inspector in determining the size of the grant, and the worth of teachers by means of payments awarded, resulted in some power positioning between managers and inspectors. The Board of Legislation in England in the mid-20th century led to school governance becoming an interesting combination of employer and caretaker. The 1944 Education Act5 outlined governors’ key responsibilities as a. having responsibility for the school premises b. determining the use of premises after school and c. appointing the head-teacher, assistant teachers and non-teaching staff.

Management takes up one third of my time as a priest. Chairperson

A similar situation existed in Ireland with managers (usually the local parish priest or equivalent) having responsibility for the employment of staff and the upkeep of school buildings.

1.1

SCHOOL GOVERNANCE IN IRELAND – THE BOARD OF MANAGEMENT

I would like to see paid expertise available to governance Principal

The current ‘board of management’ model in Irish primary schools emerged almost four decades ago as an extension to the one-person manager that had dominated the national school system. The education system was at that time legislation-light, partnership-free, and almost parent-free. By the time schools were ready to embrace partnerships, parents and policies, and by the time the long-required legislative context was enacted, management structures were well-embedded, with many board members passively fulfilling duties and functions previously controlled by the school manager. The responsibilities of boards of management have been somewhat clarified since the publication of the Education Act (1998). However, the tradition

4

5

Principal, school inspector, and advisor to the Ministry of Education in New Zealand. Author of ‘Tomorrow’s Schools’ on the redesign of the New Zealand education system. The Education Act (England), 1944

CHAPTER ONE: CONTEXT

1


While the BOM is enthusiastic and hardworking it has taken members two years to become familiar with legislation, acts, circulars, policies, contracts, accounting etc to do with running a school.

pertaining to church-state establishment and management of schools, coupled with the barren legislative context in which schools had been operating, has resulted in an unsatisfactory structure whereby ownership of schools, employment of staff, accountability for teachers, and for the religious direction of schools, is devolved to local volunteers.

1.2

GOVERNANCE OR MANAGEMENT?

Definitions of ‘governance’ and ‘management’ vary but ‘governance’ is a term that is more associated with steering a group or an organisation whereas ‘management’ suggests a more immediate leading/directing of a task or group. Management is more closely Principal associated with tasks and people, whereas governance is often connected with strategy, policy and compliance. The following descriptors of governances and management combine dictionary definitions with the summary interpretations from a range of organisations:

Governance suggests I I I I I I I I

Legal entity Legal accountability Financial accountability Participation Representative group Transparent group Consensus orientation Reflection and response

Management suggests I I I I I I I I

Planning Structuring Organising Administration Layers of management (teams) Senior/middle management Individual/group action Immediate response

The term ‘governance’ is used throughout this report partly to distinguish between references to in-school management structures, but mainly because the term encompasses the wider elements of what is required of school ‘boards of management’ as outlined in the Education Act (1998)6, and in Boards of Management of National Schools – Constitution of Boards and Rules of Procedure 7.

With the changes in Irish culture and lifestyle the relationship between church and state on school governance needs to be redefined Community representative

6 7

2

The Education Act (Ireland) 1998 Boards of Management of National Schools – Constitution of Boards and Rules of Procedure (2003, 2007, 2011)

PRIM ARY SCHOOL GOVERNANCE: CHALLENGES & OPPORTUNITIES


CHAPTER TWO

The Research ‘Every organisation has to prepare for the abandonment of everything it does’ Peter Druker8 The initial study underpinning this report was based on the experiences of chairpersons, principals and board of management members who had, in 2007, just completed a term on a school board. In 2010 a follow-up study was conducted with principals to see what changes had occurred since 2007. They were asked to respond to many of the same questions that were in the 2007 survey. This included the composition of boards, practices at board meetings, and the effectiveness of management structures. The responses in 2010 confirmed that many of the issues have remained unchanged in recent years.

2.1

QUESTIONNAIRES

The basis of the research was the distribution of a questionnaire to all members of the boards of management of 500 primary schools9. Chairpersons10 and principals11 were asked to complete a second questionnaire that focused on issues relevant to their roles. The schools were randomly selected by roll number, representing a fair distribution of school type, school size, geographical distribution etc. The 500 schools included: I pupil enrolments ranging from 10 pupils to 853 pupils I schools ranging from 1-teacher to 47-teacher schools I 34 Church of Ireland schools I 18 Gaeltacht schools I 11 multi-denominational schools I schools distributed across all counties.

There should be compulsory training for school boards in all aspects of governance before assuming office Chairperson

The selection of schools by county was as follows: Carlow Cavan Clare Cork Donegal Dublin Galway

7 15 17 66 33 65 40

Kerry Kildare Kilkenny Laois Leitrim Limerick Longford

24 23 13 6 5 24 6

Louth Mayo Meath Monaghan Offaly Roscommon

5 19 15 13 5 14

Sligo Tipperary Waterford Westmeath Wexford Wicklow

10 26 9 13 17 10

Figure 2:1: Distribution of questionnaires by county 8 9 10 11

Druker, Peter F., Management Challenges for the 21st Century See Appendix 1, pg 39 – IPPN Questionnaire distributed to 500 Board of Management members See Appendix 2, pg 41 – IPPN Questionnaire distributed to 500 Board of Management chairpersons See Appendix 3, pg 43 – IPPN Questionnaire distributed to 500 principals

CHAPTER TWO: THE RESEARCH

3


There was a 37% response from chairpersons (186 questionnaires), and a 58% response from principals (289 questionnaires). The general questionnaire distributed to all board members yielded a 23% response (876 questionnaires). The average response to all questionnaires was 39% (1351 questionnaires), providing for reliable and valid outcomes.

Figure 2:2 Questionnaires for Chairpersons, Principals and Board Members

The questionnaire for all board members sought to profile respondents by seeking information on age, occupation and length of experience on boards of management. Respondents were asked about the effectiveness of their boards, practices at board meetings and the relative involvement of all members. Some questions were designed with a range of answers along scales such as ‘strongly agree’ to ‘strongly disagree’. Some questions required respondents to select from a number of statements that would best represent their opinion on aspects of governance. There were also opportunities for open-ended responses to allow for a qualitative analysis of school governance.

I feel information meetings about the role of the board are essential before selecting a new board of management. Principal

4

The questionnaire for chairpersons asked about their background, length of experience of school governance, reasons for their selection to the position, their disposition and attitudes to governance, their perceptions of the principal at board meetings, and their views on future directions for governance.

This is my second term of office – I’m now more confident and knowledgeable. However the first term was horrendouspolitical & personal conflicts between principal and chair nearly destroyed a good school. Change of one has changed matters positively. Parent representative

The principals’ questionnaire sought additional information on the school, on some areas included in the chairpersons’ questionnaires, and on areas such as principals’ perceptions of their own roles and responsibilities on governance, and on the degree to which other members were active participants in governance. They were asked to comment on the selection of chairperson, and to also indicate some future directions for governance.

PRIM ARY SCHOOL GOVERNANCE: CHALLENGES & OPPORTUNITIES


2.2

SCOPE OF THE STUDY

The scope of the study was to provide a quantitative overview of governance structures while also establishing a qualitative measure on governance practices. Many questions, particularly the open-ended questions, were designed to gauge the ‘real feel’ of what members were experiencing and thinking.

There should be greater integration of the school and community but we need training and resources to do this

Areas covered included: Community representative I a profile of board members, including skills/expertise e.g. financial/ legal/ HR I a profile of chairpersons (age, gender, occupation, experience on boards) I the typical role-relationship between the principal and chairperson I the board’s understanding of its responsibilities as a voluntary body I the board’s understanding of its responsibilities as a corporate body I the division of responsibilities amongst board members I the satisfaction of board members with the board’s structures and effectiveness I the board’s understanding of governance, autonomy and accountability I the impact of legislation on the board’s practices I recommendations from members to improve the quality of school governance.

2.3 FINDINGS It seems to me that a lot is expected of the members who are there on a voluntary, unpaid basis

The research findings are presented in three chapters. Chapter 3 profiles the representation on boards. Chapter 4 looks at the structures and operational patterns – when and how meetings take place, who is involved and what is discussed. Chapter 5 places the spotlight on chairpersons and principals – their roles, responsibilities, the extent to which they are happy with how the board is functioning and their views on new directions for governance.

Teacher representative The commentary in each of Chapters 3, 4 and 5 has been informed by the extensive range of open-ended comments provided by the respondents, ensuring that those directly involved in school governance give direction to this report, to its findings, conclusions and recommendations.

CHAPTER TWO: THE RESEARCH

5


CHAPTER THREE

Who Governs? ‘If we do not change direction we are likely to end up where we are headed’ Chinese Proverb The Boards of Management of National Schools – Constitution of Boards and Rules of Procedures12 requires (in schools of more than one teacher) that the board include eight representatives, as follows: I Two direct nominees of the patron I Two parents (one mother and one father, both elected by the parent body) I The principal teacher (or the acting principal teacher) I One teacher representative (elected by the teaching staff) I Two members from the wider community, unanimously agreed by the other board members, selected with gender balance in mind, and having: G a commitment to the ethos of the school G skills complementary to the skill requirements of the board G an interest in education and its promotion.

3.1

MALE-FEMALE REPRESENTATION

The data confirms that boards are constituted in accordance with regulations. Gender balance does not, however, reflect the aspiration explicitly stated in the Constitution of Boards and Rules of Procedure. % Male/Female Representation

Male

Female

Patron Representatives (2)

67

33

Parent Representatives (2)

50

50

Community Representatives (2)

49

51

Principal (1)

30

70

Teachers’ Representatives (1)

8

92

The board Chairman should be appointed by the board. Parent representative

Figure 3:1 Male/Female representation of all board members

There is a perfect male/female balance within the parent and community representatives. Gender balance cannot apply to the principal as the imbalance of male to female principals is currently 36:64. The high number of female teacher representatives (92%) on boards suggests a gender imbalance but some boys’ schools have clusters of male teachers, leaving many schools with only

12

6

Department of Education and Science : Boards of Management of National Schools: Constitution of Boards and Rules of Procedures 2003 pgs 3-4

PRIM ARY SCHOOL GOVERNANCE: CHALLENGES & OPPORTUNITIES


female teachers. Gender representation for principals and teachers is, therefore, a fair reflection of the situation in schools. The gender imbalance is most apparent, however, in the patron representative grouping with over twice as many male representatives (67%) as females (33%) on boards. The constitution does not specifically suggest ‘a consciousness of having a gender balance’13 for the patron representatives.

3.2

OCCUPATIONS OF BOARD MEMBERS

Board members’ occupations are weighted towards the professional, caring and skilled professions. Patron Community Parent Representatives Representatives Representatives Patron Clergy/Religious

41%

4%

0%

Retired /Semi-Retired

10%

10%

1%

Teacher/Health/Caring Professions

10%

16%

13%

Childcare/Home Management

8%

20%

29%

Professional/Higher Skilled

6%

7%

6%

Skilled Services/Civil Service

6%

7%

7%

Finance / Financial Management

6%

8%

9%

Farmer/Fishing/Semi-Skilled

6%

15%

16%

Unemployed14 / Unclear

3%

0%

2%

Business/Retail/General Manager

3%

13%

17%

Self-Employed/Creative Arts

2%

1%

3%

Figure 3:2 Occupations of board members (excluding principals and teacher representatives)

3.2.1. Nominees of the Patron Patron representatives are nominated rather than elected. 41% of patron nominees have a full-time vocational occupation as priest, rector or nun. Of the 59% lay patron nominees almost half belong to the higherskilled/skilled/caring professions and one sixth are retired or semi-retired. Financial or legal skills, experience in business, or skills of value to maintenance/building such as architect or builder are typical of the occupations of many patron nominees. In almost all cases (98%) the chairpersons were one of the two patron nominees15. 3.2.2. Selected Community Representatives The employment profile of community representatives is fairly similar to the parent representation. However a significant number of co-opted 13

14 15

It is important that each member undertake and carry out specific duties if we are to function effectively as a board. Chairperson

Department of Education and Science : Boards of Management of National Schools: Constitution of Boards and Rules of Procedures 2003 pgs 16-17 The unemployed figure is the figure pertaining membership on Boards of Management in 2006/2007 The 2003 Constitution of Boards and Rules of Procedure states that ‘The Chairperson shall be appointed by the Patron and his/her authority shall derive shall derive from such appointment’ pg. 7

CHAPTER THREE: WHO GOVERNS?

7


members had a skills/professional background of added-value, such as legal or financial expertise. 30% of community representatives were no longer working full-time - most having retired. The expertise and time provided through co-option was at no cost to boards. The careful selection of committed, experienced, community representatives with both the interest and time to contribute to school governance augurs well for the co-option process. However a breakdown of community representatives by area/school reveals some concerns: I Community representatives in more affluent areas or in ‘advantaged’ schools had a significantly higher skills’ profile to offer to schools. I Large schools were able to draw on a larger community representation, providing boards with a wider and more relevant skill set. Comments from chairpersons and principals of large schools suggest that community representatives could, if necessary, be replaced with other ‘high value’ community representatives. I Small schools found it difficult to replace ‘essential’ patron, parent, or community representatives; it was in these schools, by and large, that some long-serving members continued on boards. This impacted at times on frequency of meetings, attendance at meetings, and effectiveness of meetings because meetings tended to be timetabled to accommodate key contributors, and these were often the community representatives. I

Schools in disadvantaged areas, while having committed community representatives, did not always have people with relevant professional expertise similar to the larger, more advantaged schools. In practical terms this made it more difficult for these boards to function with the ease and effectiveness of boards that had a more relevant, focused skill set.

It’s difficult to interest the right people in the Board of Management – some fear the responsibility. Teacher representative

3.3

3.2.3. Elected Parent Representatives Parent representatives are elected and their representation is fairly evenly divided between professional/higher-skilled (32%), self-employed/retailskilled (35%) and homemaker (29%). Parent representation on governance does not have a fair balance of lower-skilled /unemployed/marginalised groupings. Only one parent representative was a newcomer-Irish parent and there was only one traveller-parent16. The significant increase in newcomer children, and the educational issues that have emerged for them, suggests that parent representation from newcomer parents would provide a greater awareness at governance level of the specific language, cultural and other needs of these children.

GOVERNANCE REPRESENTATION BY SCHOOL TYPE

Membership and attendance at boards meetings was examined. The commitment of members to attending meetings was strong, but a small number of respondents said they missed meetings because they had not received enough notification, because there was no agreed day or time for meetings, or because the date and/or time favoured the availability of the chairperson, principal or other key members. The quality of representation, in terms of the experience and skills available to schools, was of greater concern in parishes that had a number of small schools competing for involvement of key community representatives.

16

8

The random sampling included two special schools but no school for travellers.

PRIM ARY SCHOOL GOVERNANCE: CHALLENGES & OPPORTUNITIES


3.3.1. Governance membership in smaller schools Smaller communities where there were two, three, four or five primary schools in a parish, found effective governance challenging because of the difficulty in electing/selecting a full board. One chairperson described his experience of a parish where there were five schools - a boys’ school and a girls’ school in the village, alongside the church, and three other smaller schools in outlying areas of the parish. The total number of children in the schools was 211, representing 93 families. The governance structure necessitated the appointment of forty members to manage the education of 93 families. The chairperson outlined these challenges:

It should be obligatory for boards to set objectives for their term of office. These objectives should be annually reviewed and evaluated Community representative

I

I

I

I

I

I

I

It was difficult to recruit members, even parents, as the parent-pool in some schools was small. In three of the five schools there was no election of parents and some parents had to be approached to offer themselves for election to the board. Schools within the parish were ‘competing’ for community representation. It was difficult within a small community to find and to agree up to ten community representatives that would offer the range of skills required for effective governance. The patron nominees included the appointment of the parish priest to all five schools, chairing three of them. Some of the other patron nominees included a priest from a neighbouring parish because of the difficulty in finding enough patron nominees available to serve on the boards. It was difficult to plan meetings beyond the minimum one meeting per term required. This was partly because of the pressure on the patron nominees, particularly the chairperson, as they had to attend the meetings of most - if not all - of the schools. There was an unnecessary duplication in discussing and agreeing policies on a school-byschool basis when many policies, particularly in regard to health and safety, might have greater impact if uniformly agreed for a number of schools. Individual submissions from schools for grants or for summer work schemes make unnecessary demands on some board members. A coordinated parish/community plan would be timeefficient and cost-efficient. The board structures provided for unhealthy competitiveness within parishes. The confidentiality of boards was not always respected by board members.

3.3.2. Governance membership in disadvantaged areas Some schools found it difficult to recruit members with skills and experience of value to the board from within the parent and/or community groupings. For example one third of all schools, but almost two thirds of schools in lower socio-economic areas, did not have anyone on the board who could act as treasurer, or offer financial advice to the board. This suggests that schools in greatest need of good, effective governance are additionally disadvantaged in the unavailability of suitably qualified people for governance. These schools are given additional resources – financial, human and other resources – and this makes it all the more essential that appropriately skilled people are available to ensure that resources are well-managed. 3.3.3. Governance membership in all-Irish schools and in multi-denominational schools In general all-Irish and multi-denominational schools were more recently established and appeared to have less difficulty selecting and electing members. The governance representation in these schools had a high ethos focus. This worked very well when those appointed, for example because CHAPTER THREE: WHO GOVERNS?

9


of their commitment to Irish, were also in a position to offer other necessary skills. Many all-Irish and multi-denominational schools were focused not just on ethos but on the practicalities of acquiring a school site, or temporary accommodation. The membership on these boards seemed to be a more involved membership, probably because of the ‘ownership involvement’ in establishing the schools.

3.4

THE ROLES OF CHAIRPERSON, TREASURER & SECRETARY

The allocation of roles on boards of management is interesting. 43% of patron representatives have the role of chairperson, secretary or treasurer. This is almost three times as great as the role-assignment to principals, parents and community representatives. The chairperson role is time-consuming on patron representatives, and explains why many chairpersons commented that their preferred option was not to continue in that position. (%) 100 80 60 40 20 0

Patron 98

Parent 1

Principal

Teacher

Community 1

Treasurer

20

26

11

11

32

Secretary

10

19

32

23

16

Chairperson

Figure 3:3 Roles assigned to the various representative groupings on the board of management

3.4.1. Chairperson Opinion varied as to the reason for the selection of the chairperson, and the effectiveness of the chair. The data provided, and comments from board members, confirm that there are some excellent chairpersons who are very committed to the school, and have a strong interest in education and in the community. Some are experienced in management or business, or have experience of chairing other meetings at work or in the community. There were, however, some serious reservations expressed regarding the appointment of chairpersons. The main issues are: I Almost 10% of chairpersons indicated that they had been too long as chair, that they could make a better contribution as a board member, that the role was time-consuming and a distraction from their core work. These comments were not from lay-chairpersons but from religious who felt they had could not opt out as the patron had appointed them to the position. I There was a strong view expressed that the chairperson should be elected by the board after it is appointed, that this would allow for a team consensus and the person most suited would be appointed. I Some members commented that the selection of chairperson from the group would allow for a more cohesive team. I Some lay-chairpersons were committed to the role for one term of office but indicated that it was too onerous or time-consuming to consider a second term. 10

PRIM ARY SCHOOL GOVERNANCE: CHALLENGES & OPPORTUNITIES


3.4.2. Treasurer Two thirds of boards of management have a member on the board with relevant qualifications and/or experience in finance. Almost all of these were appointed treasurer to the board or were providing financial advice to the board. It is significant that 32% of the treasurers are co-opted community representatives. This is a further indication of the value of boards working together to identify their needs, and then co-opting people who can make a real contribution to a number of boards in a parish or community. 26% of parents act as treasurer to the board. This is similar to the number of parents who indicated that their professional background was in finance or financial management. 20% of the patron nominees were appointed treasurer. It is likely that some of these were targeted appointments because of the experience of value they could offer. 22% of principals and/or teachers were also the appointed treasurer to the board but it is not known what qualifications or experience they had that would be of value to the position of treasurer. It is probably the case that the majority of principal/teacher treasurers were agreed when no other financial expertise was available to the board17.

Treasurer

Patron 20%

Parent 26%

Principal 11%

Teacher 11%

I find the majority of Board members are disinterested and lack any real enthusiasmeverything falls back on the principal and teacher representative - we effectively run the show and "report" to the board. Principal

Community 32%

Figure 3:4: The position of treasurer by role representation

3.4.3. Secretary to the Board The role of ‘secretary’, in terms of boards of management, has had a number of interpretations. This research, based on the governance period 2003-2007, did not specifically look at the role of secretary as the Rules of Procedure for that period identified a clear – but very limited - role of Recording Secretary only18. There were, therefore, no issues in regard to the role as outlined but, during that governance term, there was a growing concern about the gap between the role of recording secretary (as outlined) and the more extensive duties and functions similar to that of ‘executive secretary’ that were not specifically assigned to any person, but were in most cases falling to the principal. This also led to a crossover between the role of principal as a member of the board, and the executive secretarial functions that had not been assigned but were assumed to belong to the principal. Shortly after questionnaires for this research were distributed, a circular clarifying the role of the principal as secretary to the board was issued by the Department of Education and Science19. Boards now have two secretaries – the secretary and the recording secretary. The secretary, usually the principal, is a major contributor to most board discussions, and progresses board business between meetings, as an executive secretary might do. It makes practical sense, in light of the involvement of principals at meetings, that a recording secretary, or note taker, is appointed

17

18 19

The Constitution of Boards and Rules of Procedures 2011, pg. 21, explicitly states that the “Principal or teacher nominee on the Board shall not be the Treasurer”. Department of Education and Science : Boards of Management of National Schools: Constitution of Boards and Rules of Procedures, pg 7 Circular 0079/2007 issued to Boards of Management and Principals of Primary Schools

CHAPTER THREE: WHO GOVERNS?

11


to record the business of meetings. This record is given to the principal after the meeting who then acts in ‘executive capacity’ to draft the minutes and present them to the chairperson before they are agreed. Circular 0079/2007 confirmed a payment of allowance to principals acting as secretary to the board20. This circular included a list of duties as follows: 1. 2. 3.

Set the agenda for meetings in consultation with the chairperson Issue notice of meeting and agenda to board members Record the minutes of board meetings - to include issues discussed, decisions taken, including the numbers of those voting for or against a motion, and actions to be taken 4. Transmit board decisions to relevant parties and follow up appropriately 5. Keep minutes of each meeting in an appropriate form and in a safe place 6. Deal with board of management correspondence 7. Liaise with chairperson between meetings 8. Provide information to members concerning board of management rights and responsibilities 9. Liaise with school management authorities on behalf of the board and apprise board members of advice and guidance received 10. Advance development of school policies. Some respondents were conscious of the governance workload on principals, while others commented that principals – and in some cases chairpersons – were conducting too much of the business of the board, leaving others wanting to contribute more, but feeling redundant. The only clear outcome from those on the 2003-2007 boards of management was a desire by all parties that roles and responsibilities be more clearly defined, and this clarification has happened in the case of the secretary/recording secretary.

20

12

The Constitution of Boards and Rules of Procedure 2011 includes, and expands on, Circular 0079/2007

PRIM ARY SCHOOL GOVERNANCE: CHALLENGES & OPPORTUNITIES


CHAPTER FOUR

Governance

Practices

‘The bureaucratic nature of the enterprise seems to have acquired a purpose of its own’ Jack Frymier21 The procedures for board meetings are outlined in Chapter 13 of the Constitution of Boards and Rules of Procedure for Boards of Management of National Schools22. To date no research has been conducted on best governance practice in Irish primary schools. This may be related to the long-established, yet unchallenged, management patterns in Irish schools, the volunteer nature of boards, and the low legal compliance required of boards prior to the establishment of the Education Act in 1998. This chapter outlines indicators of good practice for governance, describes the experiences of respondents, and compares indicators of good practice with current practices in Irish primary schools.

4.1

EFFECTIVE GOVERNANCE – WHAT MAKES FOR GOOD GOVERNANCE PRACTICE?

In Improving Schools and Improving Governing Bodies: Making a Difference23 Michael Creese and Peter Earley describe two years spent tracking twenty three schools in England with high-end governance success. This study confirmed a strong correlation between governance effectiveness and school effectiveness. They identify the following indicators as essential prerequisites for good governance: I working as a team I having a good relationship with the principal I managing time and delegating effectively There should be a I having effective meetings clustering of I knowing the school schools for the I being concerned for their own training and development bigger ‘governance’ I working in partnership with the staff issues and a I promoting school improvement management board I creating effective links between the school and the community. Creese and Earley emphasise the relationship between effectiveness and efficiency. The efficiency measures they cited for school governance included:

21 22 23

for each school to deal with specific school matters. Principal

Frymier, Jack R. Accountability in Education: Still an Evolving Concept Boards of Management of National Schools: Constitution of Boards and Rules of Procedure (2003) Creese, M. & Earley, P. Improving Schools and Governing Bodies: Making a Difference

CHAPTER FOUR: GOVERNANCE PRACTICES

13


1. Working cooperatively to give proper attention to all important matters 2. Delegating specific work to sub groups and having good reporting structures 3. Allowing governors to contribute to matters of specific interest to them 4. Using the full potential of the expertise available 5. Ensuring that the chairperson keeps the sub groups on task 6. Providing appropriate training – individually and as a team - for the board. Some practices in Ireland reflect the high efficiency description by Creese and Earley, but others are functioning at a much lower level. The snapshot below gives a fair representation of the range of practices and efficiencies in Irish primary governance.

4.2

GOVERNANCE PRACTICES – WHAT REALLY HAPPENS?

I have only been on the Board for one year, we did not have a functioning treasurer so we only got up-to-date accounts last week – after twelve months. Parent representative

Many boards of management have regular meetings, timetabled at the beginning of the year, while others operate a borderline compliance pattern by meeting the minimum requirements outlined in the Constitution of Boards and Rules of Procedure. Some respondents commented that meetings were sometimes convened because of the requirement to do so rather than for any perceived need on behalf of the board. 4.2.1. Frequency and length of meetings Schools are required to have at least one board meeting per term. ‘....a Board shall hold such and so many meetings at such times as the Chairperson deems necessary but shall hold a minimum of one meeting per school term and shall hold not less than five meetings in any school year.....24

The frequency of meetings varies between larger urban schools and smaller rural schools. Almost one third of rural and smaller schools hold only the minimum three meetings a year, with 71% of rural/smaller schools having six meetings or less per year. Chairpersons in smaller schools indicated that board meetings typically last about one hour and a half to two hours. This means that governance/management in the majority of smaller schools is no more than twelve hours per year. In about 30% of smaller schools the total management time is less than six hours a year. Frequency of meetings

3 to 4

5 to 6

7 to 8

9 to 10

11 to 12

> 12

Urban/Larger schools

11%

33%

26%

26%

0%

4%

Rural/Smaller schools

33%

38%

16%

8%

5%

0%

Figure 4:1: Patterns in the number of board meetings held over a year

In larger schools, newer schools, Gaelscoileanna and Educate Together schools, meetings are usually convened between eight and ten times a year, usually on an agreed day each month during the school year. Although a quarter of these schools have monthly meetings, many larger schools (44%) have six meetings or less a year.

24

14

Boards of Management of National Schools: Constitution of Boards and Rules of Procedure 2003 pg 22

PRIM ARY SCHOOL GOVERNANCE: CHALLENGES & OPPORTUNITIES


4.2.2. Preparation and documentation Members should receive a minimum of seven days notice of meetings, including the time and place of the meeting, and an agenda for the meeting25. The quorum for meetings is five members (three in the case of one teacher schools). Boards are required to record minutes and to have the minutes signed by the chairperson. There were significant variations in accepted practices regarding notification of meetings, preparation for meetings, circulation of agenda and documentation and – to a lesser extent – the recording and agreeing of minutes, as evident in Figure 4.2. 45% of respondents said they did not always receive an agenda before meetings. More significantly, one fifth stated that they never receive an agenda before meetings. (It is unclear whether agendas are available at the meetings or whether meetings proceed without an agenda). Some respondents also commented on ordinary meetings being held at short notice, without the required minimum seven days notice. (%)

Is an agenda circulated in advance of the meeting?

60

55

50 40 30 20

15

10 0

Always

Regularly

20 10 Seldom

Never

Figure 4:2: Circulation of an agenda in advance of Board of Management meetings

Most board members do not receive the minutes of board meetings. Respondents understood the confidentiality pertaining to minutes and most were content to receive the minutes at the beginning of the next meeting. However, given that - in at least one third of schools - meetings occur only every few months, it is difficult to understand how boards can function effectively if minutes are not circulated after meetings, thereby leaving no record or follow-up opportunities for several months between meetings, even though there may be actions and deadlines allocated. (%) 80 70 60 50 40 30 20 10 0

Are minutes circulated in advance of the meeting?

64

21

4

Always

Regularly

11 Seldom

Never

Figure 4:3: Circulation of minutes in advance of Board of Management meetings

The recording secretary records and keeps minutes, the board agrees the minutes, and it is the duty of the chairperson to sign the minutes. Respondents were not asked if minutes were agreed and signed. However, given the low-level compliance of a significant minority of schools regarding notification of meetings and circulation of agendas, it is probably fair to assume that all boards do not comply with regulations in regard to recording, agreeing and signing the minutes of meetings. 25

Boards of Management of National Schools: Constitution of Boards and Rules of Procedure 2003 pg 8

CHAPTER FOUR: GOVERNANCE PRACTICES

15


4.3

BOARD MEETINGS – WHO PARTICIPATES?

Apart from the contribution of those board members who have specific skills and experience of value to the board, it is clear that there are wide variations in members’ involvement and participation at meetings. Most principals Reading the indicated that they, along with the chairpersons, carry a heavy burden of the questions posed in governance work. 61% of board members agree that the chairperson and this survey principal conduct most of the board business. In open-ended comments, highlights the members displayed a range of opinions regarding this imbalance. The inadequacies of the following are typical of comments from board members: present system. I I will not be on a board again – everything is decided by the principal Community representative and chairperson I The principal simply does everything – we are so lucky I I would like to be involved but I have no training – I feel inadequate I There are too many dead ducks accepting roles with no intention of contributing I A number of procedures have a union bias rather than reflecting governance needs I Much of the management and governance is carried out by the principal I I feel I’m just there to nod things through – the chairperson and principal decide I Excellent principal so my role is very limited – thank God! I It is extremely difficult to ask or expect volunteers to share the workload I Principals and chairpersons have experience – it’s hard to get involved without training. Some contradictory views emerged on the effectiveness of boards, probably because many boards were not always clear about roles and responsibilities, some had not agreed a work plan, and many had little opportunity for training. 88% of respondents stated boards were functioning efficiently. However: I 45% felt the board did not have the necessary skills available to it I 63% said the board seldom or never invited expert/professional advice to meetings I 43% said that sub-committees or working groups were seldom, if ever, formed I 28% felt boards had no clear plan of work I 21% felt a lack of clarity between the board’s role and the role of the principal. VIEWS EXPRESSED ABOUT BOARD MEETINGS (% agreement)

%

The board is functioning effectively

88

The board has the necessary skills available to it to discuss all matters

55

The board carries a lot of responsibility but lacks authority

30

There is a lack of clarity between the board’s role and the principal’s role

21

The chairperson and principal conduct most of the board business

61

The board really has no clear plan of work

28

The meetings tend to be dominated by the same few people

20

Figure 4:4: Respondents’ level of agreement with aspects of governance

16

PRIM ARY SCHOOL GOVERNANCE: CHALLENGES & OPPORTUNITIES


4.4

GOVERNANCE MEETINGS – ISSUES DISCUSSED

Respondents were given a range of 24 areas that might typically be discussed at meetings. They were asked to indicate the extent to which these are discussed regularly, occasionally or not at all. Figure 4.5 describes the issues most frequently discussed at meetings, and Figure 4.6 lists those areas least discussed. Since most boards have less than eight meetings a year, and meetings last an average of about 90 minutes, it can be assumed that those items listed in Figure 4.6. are rarely, if ever, discussed. The matters most often discussed are ....... (%)

Regularly discussed

Occasionally Not discussed discussed

School buildings / extensions / summer works

84

15

1

Financial management and planning

80

19

3

Provision of teaching resources / equipment

57

37

6

Policy development and drafting / agreeing policies

53

41

5

Actively engaging with and supporting the principal

51

36

10

DES Circular or other DES letters / communications

43

44

10

Child Protection (Policies and Legislation)

42

52

6

Policy on pupil enrolment

42

52

8

Contract/payment/supervision of cleaners, caretaker

42

52

8

Inspections / Evaluations / The School Plan

40

52

8

Special Needs or Special Programmes e.g. DEIS

39

50

12

School ethos/values/ religious education

37

52

11

Legislation relevant to primary schools

33

62

6

RSE/Stay Safe/ SPHE Programmes

32

57

12

Figure 4:5: Issues frequently discussed at board of management meetings

‘Promoting school improvement’ was cited by Creese and Earley as an indicator of effective governance26. It is a matter of concern that many of the areas least discussed at board meetings are those most connected with ‘promoting school improvement’. It is hard to believe that boards would not have school ethos, health and safety programmes, curriculum, and other such areas, as high interest areas. Areas of such relevance to school improvement probably lose out because of time required for discussions on financial management, building and plant management etc.

26

This is a small school. Our meetings are lively, purposeful and efficiently managed. Teacher representative

Creese, M. & Earley,P. Improving Schools and Governing Bodies: Making a Difference

CHAPTER FOUR: GOVERNANCE PRACTICES

17


The matters least often discussed are ....... (%)

Regularly discussed

Occasionally Not discussed discussed

Discipline matters (specific cases)

31

52

17

Employment (management of SNAs and others)

29

52

16

Curriculum issues (policies, use of texts etc)

28

51

21

Staffing structures (In-School Management)

23

53

20

The Education Act / Education Welfare Board

17

62

19

Traveller Education/ new Irish/ non-Nationals

17

46

34

Training for board of management members

11

50

41

Parental complaints about staff members

9

44

45

Staff discipline/conflict

7

26

64

Professional underperformance of a staff member

6

18

72

Figure 4:6: Issues rarely discussed at board of management meetings

4.5

INDICATORS OF EFFICIENCY?

The operational practices of boards are described in Figure 4.7. The areas selected as indicators of efficiency are some of the high efficiency indicators cited by Creese and Earley27. Schools clearly differ in their practices. The outcomes presented below suggest that many boards are unaware of what constitutes good practice. Absence of training and a lack of planning and reviewing leave many schools offering a functional response to governance, rather than high-quality leadership and vision response. OPERATIONAL PATTERNS OF BOARDS (%)

Occurs Sometimes Rarely fairly often occurs occurs

The Board agrees a plan of work for the year or for its term of office

34

24

13

29

The Board requests the attendance at meetings of an expert/professional to advise as required

9

28

22

41

The Board forms sub-committees or working groups to progress issues

21

36

17

26

The Board meets with parents or provides a written report on its work

14

17

19

50

The Board takes time to review and reflect on its own performance

17

21

16

46

The Board identifies needs and accesses training for members

13

26

22

39

Figure 4:7: Operational Patterns of Boards of Management 27

18

Doesn’t occur

Creese, M. & Earley,P. Improving Schools and Governing Bodies: Making a Difference

PRIM ARY SCHOOL GOVERNANCE: CHALLENGES & OPPORTUNITIES


4.6

GOVERNANCE MEETINGS – THE PERSONAL – EMOTIONAL RESPONSE?

Finally, board members were asked to respond to statements about their own participation, and to describe how they perceived the atmosphere at meetings. Almost all respondents indicated that they had a clear sense of their role, that they were clear about the purpose, duties and functions of governance and that they had enough knowledge to contribute to meetings. 50% did, however, indicate an uncertainty around legal matters, and 15% said that governance was impacting too much on their personal time. (%) 100 80

87

93

88

60 40

46

20 0

15 Board I'm unsure I have a clear I have enough I'm clear matters take about the legal sense of my knowledge to about the up far too responsibilities role as a contribute purpose, much of my attached to the member of meaningfully duties and personal time board the board functions of the board

Figure 4:8: Respondents’ opinions about their own role on governance

Most respondents were positive in the words they selected to describe their experience of board meetings. 87% chose words such as focused, committed, supportive and capable, to describe board meetings. Significantly, however, 13% of the words selected as descriptors were negative. These included words such as haphazard, tense, unpleasant, controlling, lacking skills etc.

I have 19 years experience working on boards of management and I have not yet had one day’s training for the job! Chairperson

DESCRIPTORS USED FOR BOARD MEETINGS

%

Clear, Focused, Well-Organised

32

Capable, Well-Informed, Progressive, Committed

30

Purposeful, Energised, Supportive, Enjoyable

25

Haphazard, Lacking Skill/Experience, Casual, Unclear

8

Tense, Strained, Unpleasant

3

Powerful, Controlling, Directive

2

Figure 4:9: Words selected to describe board meetings

CHAPTER FOUR: GOVERNANCE PRACTICES

19


CHAPTER FIVE

Chairpersons

& Principals It is important that each member undertake and carry out specific duties if we are to function effectively as a Board Chairperson

5.1

‘Experience is what you get when you didn’t get what you wanted’ Anonymous Two thirds of chairpersons are priests, rectors, nuns or brothers; some chair more than one school board, and many have previously chaired school boards in other parishes. Principals have as much experience of school governance as they have of principalship. In some cases principals have moved schools, thus having the experience of more than one board of management. It is, therefore, important to include specific reference to the experiences and opinions of both the chairperson and the principals as part of the research on school governance.

CHAIRPERSONS

Since most schools selected for this study were Catholic schools, reflecting the predominance of Catholic patronage, the priest-chairperson usually had experience of a number of school boards. A number of these chairpersons indicated that they found their role as chairperson onerous, timeconsuming and distracting from their core work as priest. They were also dissatisfied with what often appeared to be a duplication of the same work in three or four schools within one parish. 55% of chairpersons had at least ten years experience of school governance. Some were members of the board prior to being appointed the chairperson. 42% of chairpersons had completed one term in office and another 42% had served more than one term as chairperson. 15% of chairpersons had served at least four terms as chairperson of a board of management. A breakdown of results confirms that it was priest-chairpersons who had served for the longest number of years. The pattern for lay chairpersons was that most of them were in their first term of office and just less than 10% were serving a second term. None of the lay chairpersons had served for more than two terms. (%) 60

Chairpersons’ years of service as a board member

50 40 30 20 10 0 <1

1–2

3–4

5–6

7–8 9–10

Figure 5:1 Length of Service as a board member

20

PRIM ARY SCHOOL GOVERNANCE: CHALLENGES & OPPORTUNITIES

>10


(%) 50

Chairpersons’ years of service as a chairperson

40 30 20 10 0 <1

1–2

3–4

5–6

7–8

9–10

>10

Figure 5:2: Length of service as chairperson

Having continuity can be good for governance and serving a second, or even a third term to provide for this continuity can be helpful. Experience of having served on other school boards can also be helpful. However, ten years or more is a long time, particularly when many chairpersons indicated that they found the commitment onerous and would prefer not to continue as chairperson, or to withdraw entirely from involvement in governance.

5.2

PRINCIPALS’ OPINIONS AS TO WHY THE CHAIRPERSON WAS APPOINTED

All principals were asked to suggest why they felt their chairperson had been selected for that position. The following table summarises the views of the principals. 45%

he/she is a priest, rector or a religious appointee of the patron

24%

he/she has experience, expertise, ability and understanding

16%

he/she is involved, energetic, committed or willing

5%

he/she is personable, independent or impartial

3.4%

he/she is a founder member and has competence in Irish

2.7%

he/she has professional, leadership skills or is competent

2.4%

he/she is a former principal

1.5%

he/she wanted to be chairperson

Figure 5:3: Principals’ opinions as to why the chairperson was appointed

I would like the Board to dissolve asap, as I feel bullied by one chair and feel as if I have had no support whatsoever, since I started. I feel undermined and my confidence broken. Principal

45% of principals believed their chairperson was appointed because of his/her vocation but 40% also commented on the expertise, ability, understanding, involvement, energy and commitment of the chairperson. These positive attributes were more frequently, but not exclusively, associated with lay chairpersons. 24% mentioned expertise and experience as reasons for the appointment of the chair but very few referred to leadership skills, competence or professionalism. The comments below are typical of what was said by principals:

CHAPTER FIVE: CHAIRPERSONS & PRINCIPALS

21


‘CPSMA school chairperson has always been the local Parish

I am an Acting Principal for the past year. I had no experience of BOM (as I had previously been a deputy principal). The experience of being on BOM (without any previous training) has been an overwhelming (negative) experience for me and one that I was not prepared for.

Priest’ ‘Good HR background. Energetic’ ‘Trustworthy character with common sense’ ‘He started the school’ ‘Bishop is against appointing a lay chairperson’ ‘Because he wanted to be chairperson’ ‘The trustees know him to be of good character and ability’ ‘Experience working with public/ state’ ‘The best there was to choose from at the time’ ‘No one else interested’ ‘Rector of Parish’ ‘Suitable because he is the Parish Priest’ ‘Bishop always insists on Parish Priest being chairperson’ ‘In keeping with Catholic ethos of the school’

Principal Figure 5:4: Principals’ comments on why chairpersons were selected

5.3

PRINCIPALS’ PERCEPTIONS ON THE CONTRIBUTION OF MEMBERS OF THE BOARD

Principals in general expressed dissatisfaction with the operational patterns of boards. Their opinion was that most of the work between meetings, and a lot of the preparation work for meetings, was left to them. This is in keeping with views of all board representatives. 61% of board members believe that most business is conducted by principals and chairpersons. Principals’ perceptions of the relative involvement of board members in outlined below. Chairperson

Recording Secretary

Principal Treasurer Others

Setting the agenda

63

31

88

11

9

Preparing / circulating documentation

16

32

84

8

7

Policy development

26

24

95

14

32

Follow up on decisions after meetings

50

21

94

22

24

Teacher issues (appointments etc.)

62

11

94

22

24

Finance

36

11

71

83

13

Summer works /school maintenance

49

10

93

18

27

Figure 5:5: Principals’ perceptions of those involved in operational matters of the board (%)

22

PRIM ARY SCHOOL GOVERNANCE: CHALLENGES & OPPORTUNITIES


Clearly principals feel that an unfair burden of governance responsibilities is falling on them and to a lesser extent on chairpersons. Interestingly, many board members expressed their unhappiness with the dominant role of principal and chairperson. The absence of training; the limited number of meetings; the demands on volunteer-members such as community and patron representatives; the imposition of chairpersons and many chairpersons expressing their reluctance to assume the role; some chairpersons lacking the skills required to chair meetings effectively; and members not presenting as a cohesive team - all of these issues contribute to a disjointed involvement of board members in the governance of schools.

5.4

CHAIRPERSONS & PRINCIPALS – THE EMOTIONAL RESPONSE TO GOVERNANCE

I am a priest. I am chairperson of one board and a member on another. This takes up one third of my time. I am the visible church presence on the board. It adds nothing to my ministry. Chairperson

Some principals and chairpersons display a high emotional response to governance and in particular to attending meetings. Both chairpersons and principals were asked to describe how they felt when attending board meetings. They were offered a range of descriptors and asked to mark any that described their feelings before, or at, board meetings. Their responses were grouped and measured as outlined in Figure 5.6. How I feel when attending board meetings...

PRINCIPAL

CHAIRPERSON

Affirmed, Supported, Valued

43%

45%

Enthusiastic, Happy, Successful

24%

39%

Anxious, Fearful, Challenged, Overwhelmed

14%

12%

Angry, Stressed, Undermined, Tired

19%

4%

Figure 5:6: Principals’ and Chairpersons’ feelings about board meetings

Two thirds of principals were very positive about their governance experience. However, it is of concern that 33% of principals selected descriptors within the negative/high-anxiety range. Chairpersons were more positive about meetings but 16% of the descriptors they selected to describe their governance experiences were also negative.

5.5

CHAIRPERSONS & PRINCIPALS – PRIORITISING CHANGES FOR GOVERNANCE

Chairpersons and principals were asked to indicate what changes they felt were required for governance and their views are listed below: The changes most sought by chairpersons: I Remove boards’ responsibility as legal employers I Clarify ‘ownership’ and clarify the legal implications of being a member of a board I Appoint lay chairpersons & allow religious a clear pastoral/faith role I Provide adequate finances to effectively and efficiently manage and run the school CHAPTER FIVE: CHAIRPERSONS & PRINCIPALS

23


Review appointment procedures – a regional panel I A clustering structure for common legal/financial issues I ‘Ownership’, ‘governance’, ‘management’ to be defined I Less voluntary commitment, more paid expertise I Board of management’s authority and resources should match its responsibilities. I

The chairperson must be professional, knowledgeable and capable. A good chairperson is the single most important element in a Board!.If he/she is capable & understands his/her role the rest of the Board functions effectively. Principal

24

The changes most sought by principals: ‘Ownership’, ‘governance’, ‘management’ to be defined I Fair distribution of management-related tasks I Review the size and structure of membership I Chair to be an independent appointee, or elected by the board I Appoint a separate building/planning committee I Ongoing training for members I Adequate funding, boards should not need to fundraise. I

The issue of most concern to both groups, and to all members, was the lack of clarity around ownership, governance and management and in particular their request that the legal implications of governance and of being a governor/employer be clarified. Chairpersons listed the appointment of lay chairpersons as a change they would welcome, and principals suggested that chairpersons should be appointed or elected by the boards.

PRIM ARY SCHOOL GOVERNANCE: CHALLENGES & OPPORTUNITIES


CHAPTER SIX

Conclusions

& Recommendations ‘What is needed for system reform is coordinating and developing what has to happen at the local school and community level, the regional level, and the level of the state’ Professor Michael Fullan This study confirms that boards of management are properly constituted, and that many are diligent in their compliance with the regulations for boards of management. Some boards, however, fall short on required practices and operate a low-level minimalist approach to governance. These boards are not engaged in effective school governance, are unsure of roles and responsibilities, and are short on the skill set required to fulfil the various functions that fall within their remit. In many cases chairpersons and principals are the governance force in schools, with other board representatives providing tacit support without being key contributors to the governance of the school.

6.1

The school population is very small so there is great difficulty in getting 8 members Chairperson

CONCLUSIONS

There are a number of conclusions that can be drawn from the research on primary school governance in Ireland. The following represent the main challenges – the big, urgent issues that prompt reform and that must be addressed if schools are to improve their governance practices. 1.

Primary schools in Ireland are managed rather than governed. There have been significant changes in primary education since the replacement of school managers by boards of managements almost four decades ago. Schools now need strong, informed, effective, responsive governance structures that are compliant, proactive and accountable, thus contributing to an assurance of high quality education for pupils.

2.

A new governance structure is required to support a far more complex school system with educational, legislative, financial, human and other resource responsibilities. Irish primary schools were legislation-light when the board of management structure was constituted over 30 years ago. There are now approximately twenty pieces of legislation that impact directly on primary schools. These refer to schools’ legal, financial, resource and other responsibilities. Given that schools are now operating within a much more complex framework, the long-established management model needs to be replaced with a more appropriate governance structure.

3.

Governance by voluntary representation alone is no longer sustainable. The significant legal, financial, human resource and building/maintenance responsibilities that now impact on schools demand high-level compliance. This can only be assured when expertise is available to schools. The committed, volunteer, community ‘feel’ of primary schools, and the

CHAPTER SIX: CONCLUSIONS & RECOM MENDATIONS

25


assurance of fair representation through allocated positions on boards, need to be supported by appropriate professional services.

The Board is dominated by an excellent principal. Unfortunately that leaves us with a listening role. Community representative

4.

Current governance structures remain embedded in an outdated linear system of management whereby most activity and responsibility is retained by, or left to, the chairperson and the principal. The formation of boards of management as an extension of the one-person manager-model influences the extent to which other board members are encouraged to take collective responsibility for governance.

5.

The external appointment of chairperson weakens the leadership potential within governance. Most board members, including chairpersons, are unhappy with the imposition of a chairperson on the board. Many religious chairpersons indicate that their preference is to be a member of the board rather than chairperson, that they have been â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;reluctantâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; chairpersons for many years, that they do not have the time or the skills that other board members might have, and that their commitment to school governance is a distraction to core pastoral duties. Board members feel chairpersons should be selected by the board at the first meeting.

6.

Governance impacts heavily on the workload of principals. The overlap between governance and management, and the absence of any paid professional services to support governance, leaves most principals who are already experiencing management overload in their day-to-day school responsibilities, filling the governance gaps.

8.

The large number of small primary schools in Ireland, and the voluntary nature of boards, leaves many schools struggling to fill some positions, thus reducing the capacity for good governance. In some cases people with legal, financial, human resource and other expertise are not available to schools through the representative structure. In other cases professional expertise is available exclusively to one board within a parish or community with no facility to extend such professional support to other boards in the same parish or community.

8.

Training is available but many feel that it falls far short of what is required. Most board members are unhappy with the extent and quality of training available to them. Some members have had training opportunities but have not availed of these opportunities. This impacts on governance effectiveness, and may explain the unequal participation of members at meetings, and between meetings.

6.2

RECOMMENDATIONS

Governance of Irish primary schools needs to be redesigned to accommodate a rapidly changing society, an education system that now has a strong legislative underpinning, a school system that is becoming more community-based than parish-focused and a school population that is more diverse and more demanding in terms of the expectations of parents and the needs of children.

26

PRIM ARY SCHOOL GOVERNANCE: CHALLENGES & OPPORTUNITIES


The following recommendations focus on the foundations for good governance. They offer opportunities for reform. Real change in procedures and practices can only be assured when the redesign opportunities have been moved from aspiration to action. 1.

Primary schools need to be both governed and managed. The current entity that is the â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;board of managementâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; is a misnomer. Governance needs to be clearly defined and distinct from day-to-day school management. Governance is about vision and mission, goals and direction, policy, values, compliance. Governance supports and enables effective school management.

2.

Management should be defined in the context of the day-today operation of the school. Management requires the accessible, visible, leadership of the principal and the in-school management (ISM) team. School management is about leading and inspiring people, inducting and coaching, evaluating childrenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s learning, communicating internally and externally, planning, and implementing policy.

3.

The chairperson should be selected by the board. The board, at its first meeting, should select the chairperson. This should ensure that the most appropriate person, with the necessary skills, experience and time, is the person selected to chair meetings and lead the governance group.

4.

There is genuine good will among Board members but it is impossible to effectively operate the dual responsibilities that come with being a teaching principalmost especially the expectation that the Board has of the principal

Principal The role of the principal in school governance should be clarified. Governance and management will be more clearly defined if the principal is in attendance at, reporting to, and contributing to governance, but not a member of the board.

5.

Smaller schools should be encouraged and incentivised to establish shared governance structures. Resolving the overlap between governance and management should facilitate a governance structure for clusters of schools within a community. This should ensure a more skilled, effective representation on governance and the availability of a sufficient number of people with the time and the interest to commit to governance.

6.

Legal, financial, human resource and building/maintenance expertise should be available on a cluster or regional basis to all schools. School governance cannot continue on an entirely voluntary basis. The increasingly complex nature of education requires an availability of paid professional services on an ongoing basis to all schools. This should ensure greater planning for, and sharing of, facilities and expertise.

7.

Training should be provided for, and attended by, all board members at the beginning of their four-year term, and as required thereafter. Schools can only be effective and accountable if appropriate training is provided on an ongoing basis to the board as a corporate entity.

8.

Training should be provided for individuals who have specific roles and responsibilities in governance. Training must respond to the differentiated needs of

CHAPTER SIX: CONCLUSIONS & RECOM MENDATIONS

27


boards and of board members on matters such as chairing of meetings, human resource management in schools, legal implications for boards, managing school finances etc. 9.

Good governance should be underpinned by effective planning, recording and reporting. Boards must plan, record and report effectively. Structures need to be clearly outlined, and adhered to, if effectiveness and accountability are to be assured.

We, as community representatives who help out when our families are reared, should be respected by DES and not given the impression that we are soft touches. Community representative

10. Adequate, skilled administrative support should be put in place to enable principals to fulfil both their governance and instructional leadership responsibilities. The principal is key to effective school governance and efficient school management. Ensuring that the principal can fulfil the distinct roles of secretary to the board and leader of teaching and learning requires appropriate, professional resources including secretarial support, appropriate office space, and access to paid financial and legal services. 11. Governance roles should be defined and duties and responsibilities delegated. All members of a school ‘board of governance’ should understand their collective and individual responsibilities. Individual responsibilities would include areas such as chairperson, treasurer, secretary, recording secretary, capital projects’ officer, maintenance officer, safety officer and school premises’ officer.

12. Governance should include the formation of sub-committees, and co-option to the board or to sub-committees of the board, when necessary. Very few boards have any structures beyond full-board meetings, and there is no facility for the co-option of members that might contribute for a period to a specific issue under consideration. This diminishes the potential effectiveness of the board and should be changed. The above recommendations are a starting point – they challenge current governance structures in Irish primary schools. The voluntary contribution of thousands of people over many years to boards of management has ensured that Ireland’s extensive network of primary schools has been well supported. People have volunteered legal, financial, human resource, architectural, building and other services to schools. This community spirit in contributing to quality learning and teaching will, hopefully, continue. It must, however, be underpinned by effective governance structures that ensure that all communities can provide effectively and efficiently for the educational needs of their children.

28

PRIM ARY SCHOOL GOVERNANCE: CHALLENGES & OPPORTUNITIES


CHAPTER SEVEN

Boards of Management 2011-2015: A Guide to Best Practice This guide has been developed from examples of successful practice provided by individual members of boards of management, focus groups of school principals and from submissions received from principals. It also draws on research on school governance, both nationally and internationally. Effective boards demonstrate: I a clear sense of common purpose – what is the right thing to do for all children in the school I a determination that respect for others, regardless of role, is a core value underpinning all behaviour. These underlying principles ensure that there are good relationships and that board business - no matter how challenging - is dealt with efficiently and effectively.

7.1

Initially I enjoyed my time on the Board and was hugely committed, but now I see it as a chore and feel I am only there to make up numbers as the board is controlled by the chairman and principal. Community representative

THE BOARD OF MANAGEMENT – A ‘CORPORATE BODY’

The board of management is acting on behalf of the patron, and in accordance with the regulations of the Department of Education and Skills. It operates as ‘a corporate body’. This means that: I the board acts as one unit in terms of its function in addressing the business of the school I the elected parents and teacher do not act in a representative or communicative role. Board members are not always familiar with the concept of ‘corporate body’. This can lead to serious breakdowns in the functioning of boards when individuals liaise with those who elected them.

7.2

BOARD MEMBERS

Each member should I uphold and support the ethos, culture and traditions of the school I be aware of his/her collective and individual responsibilities I have a specific role/function in the management of the school I support new members in understanding the functions of the board, and the relationship between the board and the pupils, teachers, staff, patron and the Department of Education and Skills.

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29


More and more people are reluctant to serve on Boards because of fear of litigation and approaches by parents with complaints. Parent representative

7.4

7.3

CONFIDENTIALITY

It is essential that confidentiality is respected, and this includes I respecting the sensitivity and privacy of individuals within the school community I maintaining strict confidentiality on all discussions of the board and its sub-committees, other than information specifically included in the agreed report I ensuring that all documentation is filed securely and not shown to, or discussed with, anyone other than those directly involved in the business of the board.

COMMUNICATION

The board should I get to know all staff of the school, including teaching and non-teaching staff I be introduced to members of the Parents’ Association I ensure that representatives of the board attend important school events I maintain courteous and positive relationships with staff, parents and children I issue an agreed report to parents and staff after each meeting of the board, or at least once per term I host an annual (low-cost) celebration of the school’s success with all staff and with the Parents’ Association.

7.5

BOARD PLANNING

Planning should include I long term and short-term goals28. I a schedule of dates for the year’s meetings, circulated at the end of the school year (June) for the following year (September-June) I a plan, including specific and realistic objectives, agreed at the first meeting each school year. This plan should include: G specific policies to be formulated/reviewed, prioritising mandatory policies (e.g. health/safety, child protection, enrolment, behaviour) G building/maintenance programme, including a time-line and a brief commentary on financial implications Parent representative G a training programme/schedule for the board and/or for officers of the board G a budget/financial plan G a list of the sub-committees that may be required for specific areas, and clarification on the reporting structure for such sub-committees.

Challenging behaviour from parent representatives can make BOM meetings unpleasant and disrupt the work of the Board.

28

30

Long-term goals will probably take a year (or longer) to achieve e.g. a building project Short-term goals will ideally be achieved within a school term e.g. development and approval of a new policy area, establishment of a sub-committee to oversee the change of use of a classroom to a library/resource room

PRIM ARY SCHOOL GOVERNANCE: CHALLENGES & OPPORTUNITIES


7.6

BOARD MEETINGS

Meetings should I be convened at least twice each school term I have an agreed time-limit and a clear start and finish time I focus on specific activities to meet the goals identified in the year plans.

7.7

PARTICIPATION

All members should I contribute to the business of the board, at meetings and between meetings I participate, as necessary, in the work of sub-committees and/or working groups to progress specific areas of work I act as chairperson, or secretary, to a sub-committee when required.

7.8

ROLES & RESPONSIBILITIES 29

Roles and responsibilities should be agreed, and the workload distributed fairly amongst all board members. Roles may include I Chairperson I Principal (who acts as secretary to the board) At best, I have I Treasurer found the Board I Capital Projectsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; Officer supportive and I Maintenance Officer well-meaning, but I Safety Officer reluctant to actively I School Premises Officer.

7.9

CHAIRPERSON

participate in BOM duties Community representative

The Chairperson should I conduct the business of the board efficiently by G planning effectively for board meetings G ensuring that agenda, minutes and relevant documentation have been circulated agreeing a time-allocation for agenda items at the beginning of each meeting nviting all members to participate in discussions and decision-making G ensuring a fair balance in participation at meetings, and between meetings G prompting the establishment of sub-committees, or working groups, to progress the business of the board between meetings G ensuring that appropriate reporting mechanisms are in place for officers of the board, or for sub-committees and working-groups G ensuring that decisions are communicated, and upheld. progress the business of the board efficiently between meetings by G communicating frequently with the principal and treasurer G reporting to the meeting on issues progressed, and/or decisions taken between meetings by officers of the board and the principal. attend training opportunities offered for chairpersons. G G

I

I 29

Please refer to the Role Descriptors on pg 34.

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31


7.10 DECISION-MAKING Decisions should I be by consensus, ensuring that the sense of common purpose - the right thing for the good of all the children – prevails I be fair, consistent and impartial, ensuring that members declare any potential conflict of interest, and are not present for any discussion and decision-making on that item I be recorded by the person nominated to record decisions at the meeting I be included in the minutes I avoid voting as a mechanism G voting, while appearing democratic, can be divisive G voting, if taken and the vote is tied, should allow the chairperson the right of a second, casting vote.

7.11 AGENDA The agenda for each meeting should:30 I be prepared and agreed by the chairperson and principal I be circulated at least one week before the date of the meeting I be accompanied by minutes of the last meeting and relevant documentation I be focused on issues affecting the school I have as specific agenda items G the agreement of the minutes G correspondence G a principal’s report G a treasurer’s report/financial statement G a report from sub-committees, or working groups, where appropriate.

7.12 MINUTES The minutes constitute the official record of the school’s business and are an important legal document. Minutes should31 I be recorded at the meeting by the recording secretary nominated for the meeting I be reviewed after the meeting by the principal and amended if necessary I be reviewed and signed off by the chairperson I have the following recorded at the beginning of the minutes G time, date and location of the meeting G attendance and any apologies received G any correspondence received and/or discussed I reflect the agenda of the meeting, with each item on the agenda having a corresponding record in the minutes I be clear and concise, recording only decisions, actions, responsibilities and time-frame for completion of tasks I exclude names or references to individuals where matters of a sensitive nature arise32 (an 30 31 32

32

Please refer to the Agenda Template on pg 36 Please refer to the Minutes Template on pg 37 Note how sensitive information is handled in item no. 9 of the Minutes Template on pg 37

PRIM ARY SCHOOL GOVERNANCE: CHALLENGES & OPPORTUNITIES


I

I I I I

agreed reference number/code should be used in such cases) only include the key points leading to decisions/actions have the following recorded at the end of the minutes G time the meeting concluded G date, time and location of the next meeting be circulated to all members at least one week before the next meeting be agreed (or amended as required) as the first item of the next meeting be signed by the chairperson when agreed by the board be filed safely as a record of the business of the board.

7.13 FINANCE Boards of management are required to I prepare an annual financial report I have the accounts properly certified or audited in accordance with best accounting practice I have the accounts available in the school for review by the Parents’ Association or individual I parent, school staff, the patron, the Minister for Education and the inspectorate.

7.14 PARENTS The Education Act (1998) requires boards of management to assist parents in the formation of a Parents’ Association. The National Parents’ Council can assist and advise on setting up a Parents’ Associations. Parents can refer to www.npc.ie for information and advice. Note: Supporting Each Other – A Guide to Best Practice for the Effective Partnership between Principals and Parents’ Associations is available on www.ippn.ie and on www.npc.ie.

7.15 TRAINING & INFORMATION Boards of management should I avail of training offered to the board, or to officers of the board I invite relevant persons (e.g. a solicitor) to present to the board on its legal, corporate, financial and other responsibilities. The following references are important and should be of particular relevance to all board members: I The Education Act (1998) I Boards of Management of National Schools: Constitution of Rules and Rules of Procedure 2011

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7.16 ROLE DESCRIPTORS The following describe specific roles and responsibilities. While duties and functions may be delegated for the purposes of sharing the workload and giving meaningful involvement to all members of the board, overall responsibility remains with the board as a corporate unit. 7.16.1. Chairperson Responsibilities include I chairing meetings I corresponding officially on behalf of the board on governance issues I being available to liaise with the principal between meetings I acting on recruitment/employment issues for all school staff I preparing an annual budget in consultation with the treasurer and principal I signing cheques with the treasurer or other person nominated by the board I maintaining familiarity with financial matters including online banking and credit card arrangements I being available to act as ‘data controller’ for the DES OLCS (Online Claims System). 7.16.2. Principal/Secretary to the Board Responsibilities include I providing leadership to the school community I managing the school, staff and pupils on a day-to-day basis I addressing all educational issues affecting the quality of teaching and learning I acting as secretary to the board of management including: G setting the agenda for meetings in consultation with the chairperson G issuing notice of meeting and agenda to board members G recording the minutes of board meetings - to include issues discussed, decisions taken, including the numbers of those voting for or against a motion, and actions to be taken. The specific function of recording board decisions may be delegated by the board to another member of the board (i.e. to act as the ‘recording secretary’) to allow the principal to take full part in the dialogue of the meeting G transmitting board decisions to relevant parties and following up appropriately G preparing the official minutes following each meeting, presenting the minutes to the chairperson and following agreement, keeping the minutes in an appropriate form and in a safe place G dealing with correspondence G liaising with chairperson between meetings on matters of significance G providing professional advice and guidance to the members of the board as required G co-ordinating the teaching staff, and where relevant, members of the board and parent association in the review and development of school policies. I acting on recruitment/employment issues for all school staff I preparing an annual budget in consultation with the chairperson and treasurer I being familiar with all online banking and credit card arrangements I acting as data entry controller for the DES OLCS (Online Claims System).

34

PRIM ARY SCHOOL GOVERNANCE: CHALLENGES & OPPORTUNITIES


7.16.3. Treasurer Responsibilities include I preparing an annual budget in consultation with the chairperson and principal I presenting that budget to the board for approval I reporting at each meeting on the management accounts and outlining budget comparisons I liaising with the principal/deputy principal/school secretary regarding invoices and lodgements I preparing management accounts using appropriate software I preparing accounts for the annual returns I arranging for the annual certification of accounts33 I liaising with the bank in regard to school accounts I being familiar with all online banking and credit card arrangements I being available to act as data controller for DES Online Claims Systems. 7.16.4. Recording Secretary Responsibilities include I recording decisions of the board I recording actions to be taken or tasks to be completed for each item on the agenda I

recording the names of those responsible for actions/tasks, and the time-scale/date for completion.

7.16.5. Capital Projectsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; Officer Responsibilities include I managing Summer Worksâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; Scheme projects I managing emergency works I managing school building/extension projects for the board. 7.16.6. Maintenance Officer Responsibilities include I managing cleaning staff and/or contractors I managing caretaking staff I organising cleaning arrangements I organising for maintenance and repair of buildings and grounds I organising the maintenance of equipment and procurement of supplies. 7.16.7. Safety Officer Responsibilities include I carrying out an annual Health & Safety audit in consultation with the staff safety representative I preparing a Health & Safety Statement in consultation with the staff safety representative I identifying risks to Health & Safety and planning for the management of those risks. 7.16.8. School Premises Officer Responsibilities include I providing keys and alarm codes to school staff and other approved users I ensuring appropriate security and fire alarm systems are in place I co-ordinating a list of out-of-hours key holders in the event of alarm activation or access for repairs and maintenance I co-ordinating the hire of the school premises to outside groups, including arrangements regarding insurance, timetabling, security, cleaning and keys. 33

School accounts must be independently certified annually.

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AGENDA TEMPLATE

A meeting of the Board of Management of ________ National School will take place on _________________ (date) at _______ (time) in ________ (venue).

36

1.

Minutes of last meeting Matters arising

2.

Correspondence

3.

Finance a. Treasurer’s Report a. Matters arising

4.

Principal’s Report a. Child Protection b. Matters arising

5.

Policies a. Under review b. To be reviewed/agreed

6.

Specific Item A e.g. Building Project

7.

Specific Item B e.g. Employment Matter

8.

Specific Item C e.g. Special Needs’ Issue

9.

Any Other Business (not listed on the agenda)

PRIM ARY SCHOOL GOVERNANCE: CHALLENGES & OPPORTUNITIES


MINUTES TEMPLATE Date of Meeting

Venue

Minutes taken by Present (initials)

Apologies (initials)

Time Meeting Opened

Time Meeting Closed

Topic

Relevant Items

1. Minutes

Agreement on the Minutes of the previous meeting Matters arising (not specifically on the agenda)

2. Correspondence

Issued (by whom, to whom, about what, when) Received (from whom, to whom, about what, when) DES correspondence – reports, letters, circulars Other communication (e.g. visit from inspector)

3. Finance

Presentation of Treasurer’s Report Matters arising

4. Principal’s Report

Presentation of the Principal’s Report Matters arising

5. Child Safety

Child protection concerns raised: Outcome/Decision/Action

6. Policies

Policy on [insert] presented for discussion/agreement and outcome/decision/action

Decision/ Action by (initials)

Other policy areas to be reviewed or developed – [insert policy names] 7. Specific Item A e.g. Building Project

8. Specific Item B e.g. Employment Matter

9. Specific Item C e.g. Special Needs’ Issue

Led by whom, about what Decision, action, responsibility, time-frame Led by whom, about what Decision, action, responsibility, time-frame Led by [AN Other], about pupil A [reference number 12345] Decision, action, responsibility, time-frame

10.Any Other Business Item 1 raised by whom, about what, outcome (not listed on the agenda) Item 2 raised by whom, about what, outcome End of Meeting: The meeting concluded at Next Meeting

pm

The next meeting will take place on

at

Minutes agreed on

(date)

Signature

(Chairperson)

in

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37


8

REFERENCES

Creese, M. & Earley, P. (1999) Improving Schools and Governing Bodies London: Routledge, Taylor& Francis Group Department of Education and Science/Skills. (2003, 2007 and 2011) Boards of Management of National Schools: Constitution of Boards and Rules of Procedures 2003. Government Publications Department of Education and Science. Circular 0079/2007 issued to Boards of Management and Principals of Primary Schools (issued in July 2007) Department of Education and Science. (1995)White Paper on Education, Charting Our Education Future. Government Publications Druker, P. F. (1999) Management Challenges for the 21st Century New York: Harper Collins Earley, P. (1994) School Governing Bodies – making progress? Berkshire: National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) Elmore, R. (2004) School Reform from the Inside Out Cambridge: Harvard University Press Frymier, J.R. (1996) Accountability in Education: Still an Evolving Concept PDK Educational Foundation Fullan, M. (2006) Quality Leadership <-> Quality Learning Cork: Irish Primary Principals’ Network Fullan, M. (2005) Leadership and Sustainability Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press; Toronto: Ontario Principals Council Gann, N. (1998) Improving School Governance: How better governors make better schools The Falmer Press, London Gianotti, M. (1989) Tomorrow’s Schools. Principal, school inspector, and advisor to the Ministry of Education in New Zealand on the redesign of the New Zealand education system Glendenning, D. (1999) Education and the Law. Dublin: Butterworths (Ireland) Ltd. HayGroup (2003) Defining the role of the primary principal in Ireland. Dublin: HayGroup Management Consultants. HMI. The Education Act 1944 An Act to reform the law relating to education in England and Wales. Oireachtas na hÉireann, Irish Statute Book No. 51/1998, The Education Act, 1998 Oireachtas na hÉireann, Irish Statute Book No. 22/2000, The Education Welfare Act, 2000 Oireachtas na hÉireann, Irish Statute Book No. 8/2001, The Teaching Council Act, 1998 Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (2006), Think Scenarios, Rethink Education, OECD Publishing

38

PRIM ARY SCHOOL GOVERNANCE: CHALLENGES & OPPORTUNITIES


Appendix 1: Questionnaire completed by all board members

APPENDIX 1

39


40

PRIM ARY SCHOOL GOVERNANCE: CHALLENGES & OPPORTUNITIES


Appendix 2: Questionnaire completed by chairpersons

APPENDIX 2

41


42

PRIM ARY SCHOOL GOVERNANCE: CHALLENGES & OPPORTUNITIES


Appendix 3: Questionnaire completed by principals

APPENDIX 3

43


44

PRIM ARY SCHOOL GOVERNANCE: CHALLENGES & OPPORTUNITIES


TacaĂ­ocht, Misneach & Spreagadh Supporting School Leadership

With Thanks to

46

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Primary School Governance - Challenges & Opportunities  
Primary School Governance - Challenges & Opportunities