Why is student wellbeing important?
Boards have a legal responsibility to consider, promote, balance and respond to all aspects of the student, including their physical, social, emotional, academic and spiritual needs. These considerations require deliberate expression and action across all curriculum areas, pastoral care, strategic priorities and teaching practices.
What part do trustees play in ensuring student wellbeing?
Ensuring student wellbeing is part of the board’s stewardship role. You can, through the principal and teachers:
- actively seek students’ perspectives about wellbeing
- ensure the school’s vision and values reflect the strengths and potential of students, teachers, parents and whānau
- connect with parents of the most vulnerable children when reviewing the school’s vision and values
- focus on improving wellbeing of all students, particularly those who are at risk of poor wellbeing outcomes.
To effectively meet the board’s statutory requirements you should have well-defined processes and procedures for dealing with and reviewing traumatic experiences and critical incidents in the school.
How can we improve student wellbeing at our school?
As a board, you can review the effectiveness of wellbeing policies, procedures and practices in place by asking and responding to questions such as:
- What priority, as a school, do we place on promoting the wellbeing of our students?
- What are the key problems facing our students?
- How meaningful are the ways we determine the effectiveness of pastoral care, and do they include student and parent /whānau voice and links to teacher appraisal?
- Do we have a set of agreed goals and targets based on school data, that emphasise student wellbeing, to guide all actions, reviews and improvements so that all young people can be, and continue to be, ‘confident, connected, actively involved lifelong learners’.
The board can use self-review tools developed by NZCER to explore how they can contribute to creating a safe and caring climate that deters bullying and the extent to which school practices are inclusive of all students.
|The Vulnerable Children Act 2014 – what it means for boards of trustees
The Vulnerable Children Act 2014 introduces new requirements for organisations funded by state services that employ or contract people to work with children. This includes boards of trustees.
The requirements are all about keeping our children safe through mandatory safety checking for all paid staff in the state-funded children’s workforce. Some people won’t be allowed to work with children because of their previous convictions.
It is the board’s responsibility to ensure safety checking is carried out. The board can delegate this role to an agreed person.
The board must have a written child protection policy in use that says how suspected neglect and abuse will be identified and reported.
The Ministry of Education has a VCA Guide for schools to help navigate the requirements of the Act. Go to www.education.govt.nz under Running a School.
The New Zealand School Trustees Association has detailed information about a board’s requirements under the VCA. Go to www.nzsta.org.nz under Employer Role.
What sort of information should the board receive about attendance, stand-downs and suspensions?
- You will get information on patterns of attendance, and the numbers of stand downs and suspensions. There should be a comparison of your school’s data with the national norms and expectations for your type of school.
- These figures should be further broken down for Māori, Pacific, year level, gender and other cultures to check that your school is doing well for these students.
- You should be kept informed about the impact of initiatives to improve attendance or reduce stand-downs and suspensions.
- You may want to set targets in relation to improving attendance and reducing standdowns and suspensions.
What sort of information should the board receive about bullying?
- Your school should have a policy regarding student safety, both physical and emotional, and procedures regarding bullying.
- Schools investigate bullying in different ways. Some conduct regular (at least annually) anonymous student surveys on the amount of bullying and report the outcomes to the board.
- As a board, you should also receive reports containing information on trends and patterns, and indicating the number of bullying incidents handled.
- Serious bullying incidents may be discussed fully by the board, in committee, as part of disciplinary procedures.
- You should expect reports about how effective anti-bullying programmes have been.
Should the board receive any information about complaints made against staff or children?
- Your school should have a readily accessible complaints policy and/or procedures that clearly outline channels for communication.
- The principal would not normally report the details of day-to-day complaints to trustees unless they require a board decision, or impact on board policy, such as a complaint about a suspension. You may receive reports on the numbers of complaints received and whether they were resolved.
- You should be informed about any complaint made against a teacher that is likely to result in disciplinary action. This would be discussed in committee.
- If a complainant is unhappy with the way the principal handled the complaint, they can raise their concerns with the board. If you are approached by a parent who has a complaint, check with them that they have first followed the procedures laid out in the school’s complaints policy/procedure.