A balancing act


​​Good governance in a school is not only essential for financial stability and effective strategic planning, but it can also significantly boost the quality of the education provided. Student outcomes will improve in an environment where parents, teachers, students and community members can work together and learn from each other.

To make this possible, the School Governance module in Bastow’s Strategic Management for School Leaders course is designed specifically for principals to develop their understanding and skills as executive officer of school council.

School councils can, by their nature, be challenging, time-consuming and demanding, and with their capacity to make major decisions effecting the whole school community, effective management and leadership are crucial.

A balancing actTo balance both the conformance and partnership facets of school council, principals as executive officers must be multi-skilled, according to Sharon Butler, School Governance facilitator and Director of Silent Partners Learning Services.

‘There is the technical competence to be able to guide school council and to be able to know how to conduct an election, and so on … and then there’s the relationship aspect of council, which is just as critical.’

For Chad Ingram, Acting Principal at Labertouche Primary School, completing the School Governance module earlier this year assisted him in dealing with both these aspects when inducting the new school council president.

‘I could clarify questions and provide directed support to the new president regarding the standing orders and their purpose, in particular in relation to positive behavioural expectations and clear, reasonable processes.’

Reflecting the dual nature of the role, School Governance is delivered in two parts. The first part is via online vodcasts to provide an overall understanding of what governance is, including critical aspects of key roles, strategic planning, public administration and reporting and elections; and the second part is a half-day workshop.

‘The workshop is more practical and draws on the experience in the room. There is no explicit instruction, although input is provided by facilitators as needed – the focus of the whole session is really a facilitated discussion,’ says Sharon.

Employing a variety of scenarios, the workshop puts learning into practice by giving participants the opportunity to identify key issues and then share ideas, strategies and tools for addressing these issues.

For Chad, learning content and then applying that knowledge in realistic scenarios was highly valuable.

‘I really liked the fact that it wasn’t cut and dried and given to you on a plate. It actually made you think, and from that I've gained so much more than I would have had it been a traditional tick-the-box-type approach.’

Chad was able to immediately use this knowledge when supporting his school council to develop an approach for fundraising.

‘I found it much easier to define and put in context the respective roles of fundraising and parents and friends,’ explains Chad. ‘As a result, Council decided to adopt a tiered approach and introduced a fundraising subcommittee.’

Because of the complex nature and balancing act involved in being an executive officer, as well as the fact that he is principal of a small country school, Chad also appreciated the chance to collaborate with other principals and find out how they approached particular situations.

‘This course really is a must, if you are a principal or an aspiring leader, to broaden your perspective and actually engage in things that perhaps you hadn’t before,’ says Chad. ‘My network of contacts grew from attending the course, and I really believe the more contact points you have, the better the advice to help you make decisions.’

For more information on the course: Strategic Management for School Leaders, Module 9 - School Governance