Formerly New Zealand's High Commissioner to the Cook Islands and MP for the Northland Electorate of New Zealand.


Moving forward together

Thursday 5 May 2016

Support your school

Most people know that local authorities hold triennial elections later this year, but many people may not be aware that New Zealanders also elect boards of trustees for schools in 2016. The election of boards at 2,500 schools every three years is one of the most important democratic exercises in New Zealand, but it doesn't always get the attention it deserves.

I commend the New Zealand School Trustees Association and Ministry of Education for campaigning this year to raise the profile of these elections. More than 15,000 people are needed to form school boards across New Zealand, so this is a major call-up, especially when you consider that less than 1,000 councillors and Mayors are elected to New Zealand's territorial authorities.

I also support the Association's call for skilled and experienced people to stand as candidates. School boards play a vital role in our schools and, by extension, New Zealand's future. They have overall responsibility for the governance of schools, setting their educational goals and strategic direction. They are also accountable for ensuring that students achieve academically and that schools comply with the law and are good employers.

In short, school trustees are critical to the success of our education system our economy and our communities. One of the challenges we face in the sparsely-populated Far North is finding enough people with the right skills and experience to stand as trustees in board elections at the 72 schools in the district.

The membership of a board needs to reflect the diversity of the school's community. However, trustees also need to have the skills and experience needed to govern effectively and raise student achievement.

The Ministry of Education has appointed commissioners or limited statutory managers to run a number of schools in the District over the years because it has been concerned about poor governance or the education and welfare of students. I encourage people with the skills and attributes needed to make a positive difference to our children's learning to stand for election this year, so we get the best possible boards for our schools.

Candidates don't need to be parents or have children at the school they are seeking election to. Also, professional development and support are offered to trustees to help them to deal with challenges and govern effectively. There is therefore nothing to stop any adult from putting themselves forward for election, provided they meet criteria under the Education Act 1989.

More than 110,000 New Zealanders have taken on the trusteeship role since 1989, so this is not a role reserved for a small elite. It is more a question of asking yourself: Am I strategic? Do I ask questions? Do I work well in a team? Can I put students at the centre of every decision I make as a trustee?

If you answered yes to each of those questions, please think about becoming a school trustee. It is a great way to support your school, your community and your country.


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