See below ten practical tips for improving governance in a school as well as ten useful tools.
School council members should have a shared understanding of the school's purpose statement, and monitor progress toward achieving the things in the statement.
What matters is how a school council's plans, policies and partnerships - the '3Ps' - support the school's purpose and how people work together to improve students' educational experiences, learning outcomes and life opportunities.
The principal and council president make sure that the meeting agenda always has a focus on core parts of the school's purpose and the student outcome areas in the school's strategic plan. Council members are invited to suggest an agenda item for the next meeting which will inform the council about an aspect of the school's work or progress toward the school's goals, and provide an opportunity for the council to look at how its work is contributing to the goals. It is important that the role, objectives, functions and powers of the council are understood in a detailed, practical way by all council members, and every member has a copy of the documents that specify what a council does.
The effective functioning of a school is assisted by understanding and respecting the distinction between school governance and the professional management of the school. In relation to the school council objective of enhancing the educational opportunities of students, for example, school councils put aside time to 'drill down' into this objective - to agree as to what it means and how their planning, policy and partnership work may best enhance all students' learning. It is important that council members participate in strategy discussions and updates and upcoming reviews of school plans and policies. Some schools put together a school council calendar that identifies in advance the opportunities throughout the year for council input.
With financial reporting, all school council members should understand and carefully consider the financial reports provided at monthly meetings.
A skills audit of council members (see point 8 below) is a useful way to raise awareness of the kinds of skills and strengths that an effective council requires.
It is important that council members have a copy of the Director's Code of Conduct (as issued by the Victorian Public Sector Standards Commissioner) as well as their school’s code of conduct.
The skills of the school council president in chairing meetings are obviously of the utmost importance. Using the school's code of conduct and ground rules for meetings as tools for clearly articulating the behaviour expected of council members. A competent, efficient and inspiring chair obviously makes a major difference to the work of a council. Guidelines produced by the Department (such as the online school council training package and school policy-writing template) and other organisations (such as the Great Schools Checklist).
Acting quickly and positively to deal with any relationship strains or breakdowns, using external facilitation or mediation if need be.
The principal and council president jointly prepare the agenda, and ensure that the agenda is focused on a few things that really matter and thus is not distracting attention from the council's governance role of setting and monitoring strategic goals. Minutes are a record of the proceedings and resolutions of a meeting - not a transcript of who-said-what. Accountability - the reporting requirements (such as providing a single recommendation or options) for the council to consider.
Schools find that it can be useful for such teams to be co-chaired by a teacher and a parent.


It is good practice to identify and act on any gaps in council and sub-committee membership. The best school council membership reflects the behaviors your school expects + brings particular expertise and skills into the council + reflects the diversity and networks of your community.
It is good practice to develop a school-family-community partnerships policy which becomes a core influence on all decisions, actions and practice. Councils also discuss improving the school’s broader community partnerships such as becoming part of a P-12 cluster of primary and secondary schools and strengthening links with community organisations and workplaces.
Consider how you can assess your improvements – what does a better school council look like? Set up a time in the year to review and consider the next steps – celebrate the progress too.
Please click on the picture below to view the presentation from the Heth’s and Natoli Field Improvement Meeting┬áthat took place on October 17th.
MACC always needs volunteers to help with a variety of projects, from event planning to mailings, and gardening to painting.
Become a MemberPlease help us continue our work for the neighborhood by joining MACC or renewing your membership. School councils use the ten tips to test how far they live up to these practices, and to develop practical actions for improvements. A purpose statement usually puts the student or learner at the heart of everything and thus focuses the school's purpose on supporting their needs, interests, aspirations and experiences. The council does not involve itself in operational issues; enhancing student achievement through the impact of the 3Ps is its focus. A focus on the school’s goals and priorities helps a council to stick to the 3Ps and not be distracted by operational matters. Footscray City College is a great example of how a school council's role and responsibilities are clearly set out. If council members seek to micromanage the school, there is a lack of clarity about a council's role and the strategic issues for which council members' knowledge, skills and perspectives are needed.
In looking at how to enhance the opportunities for all students, some schools together with their councils support a school community dialogue about developing a more community-based curriculum.
Some councils place a policy focus item on every second meeting agenda - as a key issue to be reviewed or discussed and agreed on. The finance training program as part of Improving School Governance can assist all school council members to develop this financial literacy. Some councils develop and promote a list of the kinds of personal capabilities that are valued such as the ability to relate respectfully to a wide range of people, strategic thinking, challenging the status quo and questioning, active listening, and financial literacy. These council members have direct access to data and are supported in their efforts to learn how best to monitor data and use data to inform the development of their council's plans, policies and partnerships for school improvement.
A lot of it has to do with whether or not all participants are aware of what specific practices help to make meetings productive. Some principals and schools suggest that a great meeting agenda is organised around the school's goals, which helps to keep meetings focused on the council's goal-oriented governance and oversight role.


Less is better, apart from key decisions where sufficient detail should be included to substantiate the reasoning behind the decisions. There is obviously no point having committees simply because your school has always had them. Schools also find that 'less is more' - it's obviously better to have a small number of well-functioning teams than lots of committees.
Some school create a council matrix in order to list the skills, diversity and experience of members. Some schools form a team around this and create a volunteer position for a parent to be a community partnerships coordinator. Some schools also make sure that contact details for council members can be accessed by the school community. Some schools have a simple evaluation sheet at the end of each council meeting - an easy way to gain quick feedback. Principals and school council presidents suggest that what follows is a mix of both good practices that are realistic and do-able and ideals and aspirations that take some time to develop and require sufficient resources and support. Organising an agenda around school community goals and priorities (such as the shared policy goal of stronger school-family-community partnerships and an anywhere, anytime e-learning vision to support students’ increasingly personalised learning) also strengthens the links between the council, leadership team and school community. Putting aside time at the start of each year to discuss the most important work of a council, a council ensures that all members are 'reading from the same page' and makes it more likely that a council provides direction, leadership and oversight without inappropriate involvement in operational matters. A great council is engaged in strategic discussions and decisions that make the best use of members' time. By alternating procedural and policy-focused meetings, a council is less likely to be a monthly meeting 'treadmill'.
Keep the school community informed by reporting on each meeting in the school newsletter and on the school website. Schools find that it is important for sub-committees and working groups to address broader educational issues (such as personalised learning) of importance to the school, families and the wider community. Some schools have rebuilt their leadership structure around a small number of teams, providing a sharp (and shared staff and school community) focus on improvement.
It is important that the work of a council is transparent and visible to school community members.
Or a short agenda item at the end of each meeting when the members can reflect on how the meeting went, what went well and practical suggestions for the next meeting. We wish to thank the many principals, teachers, parents, students, community members and personnel in Victoria's Department of Education and Training and Victorian Public Sector Commission for their input into the following. These areas may include Strategic Plan, Student Progress and Achievement, Finance, Curriculum, Policy, and Council PD.



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