The dynamic between an independent school head and board chair arguably shapes the most important relationship within an independent school. In our work with school leaders and governors, we witness wonderful examples of complementary support that provides a safe space for schools to grow and innovate. Sometimes, however, the relationship can turn, suppressing any momentum and energy that may have previously existed.
As heads and chairs change and new incumbents learn the ropes of school and board leadership, what may be the most important advice they should consider together? The following may help new heads and chairs set up their relationship for success:
Leading a school is a hugely rewarding vocation, and for many chairs, leading a school board is one of the most personally satisfying tasks they engage in. Chairs and heads that learn, dream, and lead together create the right conditions to experience this satisfaction themselves.
To effectively monitor a school’s performance, board members need a line of sight into the operations of the school. While reports in board papers can be a valuable monitoring tool, these are often prepared based on information gathered by board committees or the senior leadership team.
There are many other ways that boards can gather information for monitoring, and these may provide them with valuable, additional insights into school operations. In doing so, they materially improve a board’s ability to monitor the school’s performance.
Following are suggestions for boards to review their monitoring activities and develop a monitoring system that is enduring, with the view to establishing a more effective line of sight into the operations of their school.
1. Work out what your board needs to know
Make a list of all the indicators of success relevant to your school by:
Examples may include indicators about educational outcomes, staff culture and customer satisfaction.
2. Prioritise the indicators based on importance to success
This will assist the board to determine how to monitor each indicator and how often to monitor them. For instance, critical indicators should be reported at every board meeting while less important indicators may be reviewed quarterly or annually.
3. Determine how the board will gather information about the indicators
Appendix 1 provides an example of a board monitoring activity register. Boards can use the register to record the type and frequency of monitoring activities they plan to undertake for each indicator.
4. Structure the process to make the monitoring of the indicators sustainable
Appendix 2 provides an example of a monitoring board calendar, which can be added to your existing board calendar to show when monitoring activities for each indicator will be undertaken throughout the year.
What are deep dives?
Deep dives are like a health check in a particular area of the board’s responsibility. Each deep dive should focus on one issue and have limited terms of reference to ensure a balance is struck between fulfilling the board’s monitoring role and avoiding delving too deeply into operational management.
To facilitate a suite of board deep dives, the board should develop their board monitoring activity register and board calendar, with areas chosen for the deep dives. Once the topics are identified, the board should outline the terms of reference for each deep dive, for example:
Provide an immersion into <<the topic>> to assist the board to gain a better understanding of it. Include a description of any associated policies, processes and procedures; case studies showing its operation at the school; and the inhibitors, challenges and opportunities related to <<the topic>>.
A range of techniques are available to gather information for board monitoring and using a variety of these can be useful for boards to gain in-depth insight and an understanding of the operations of the school. This may lead to new ideas and the identification of problems, ultimately assisting board members to monitor more effectively.
A Director ID is a requirement for anyone looking to become a company director or those who are already in director roles. Previously known as a Director Identification Number (DIN), this is a unique 15-digit identifier that company directors apply for once and keep forever.
You need a Director ID if you are a director of a:
You do not need a Director ID if you are:
The deadline for applying for a Director ID is dependent on the date company directors are appointed, and under which Act they were appointed. It is a criminal offence if directors do not apply on time. If directors can’t apply by the due date, they can apply for an extension.
Date you became a director
Date you must apply
On or before 31 October 2021
By 30 November 2022
Between 1 November 2021 and 4 April 2022
Within 28 days of appointment
From 5 April 2022
On or before 31 October 2022
By 30 November 2023
from 1 November 2022
Directors can apply for a Director ID online using a myGovID. They will need to apply themselves, so their identity can be verified.
For more information, visit https://www.abrs.gov.au/director-identification-number
Board Chair Interview:
Chair, Sunshine Coast Grammar School
What excites you about your school?
My school is situated in a serene rainforest setting. Even when the students are out on the campus the serenity remains. School pick-up and drop-off sometimes challenge that serenity but for most of the school day, the campus is a sanctuary of tranquillity. We have a new Principal this year and we are excited about new perspectives and strategic/governance renewal. The school is also enrolling record numbers of students.
What prompted you to become a council member?
I was alarmed at the increasing anti-faith dialogue in the political arena and media space. I wanted my daughter to be educated in a culture that encouraged her Christian faith and contrasted Christianity against other religious practices and ideologies. I wished to support an institution under increasing societal pressure to abandon a faith-based ethos in favour of popular secular social edicts. An important principle lost in current social/education debates and core to the remit of the ISQ is one of parental choice.
How can boards/councils add maximum value to their school?
Assisting the school Executive to maintain their focus on what the school wants to ‘Be’ in a ‘Be, Do, Have’ paradigm when the Executive are necessarily immersed in the day to day ‘Do’ of that paradigm can be important. The Governance function is vital. Resisting accountability outside of ourselves is inherent in human and by extension, corporate nature. Boards/councils play the necessary role of ensuring legislative and compliance requirements are met and strategic aims are realised.
What is your advice for leading a board/council?
Immerse yourself in the environment as much as your situation allows. Read widely, question and listen. Seek to understand what benchmarks for performance might be available or in play. ISQ has an excellent suite of learning available to assist, take full advantage of the resources available to you, you can always learn more.
Which strategic issues should be on school board agendas in 2022?
The pending Religious Discrimination Bill is a great strategic concern. The Bill could seriously curtail parental freedom of choice for their children’s faith-based education. The pandemic has raised the issue of modes of education delivery. Schools might consider how they may deliver a suite of online learning for both core and elective subjects. Immersive Virtual reality (incorporating both Augmented and Mixed Reality) open really exciting opportunities and allow a decoupling from expensive ‘bricks and mortar’ models with their inherent constraints on enrolment numbers.
Appendix 1: Example Board Monitoring Activity Register