All government schools in Victoria have school councils. They are legally formed bodies that are given powers to set the key directions of a school. In the performance of their role, school councils are able to directly influence the quality of education that the school provides for its students.
Within guidelines provided by the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development (DEECD), a school council has responsibilities for developing such things as:
A school council's constituting Order specifies the total size of the council and the number of members in each category.
Most members of a school council stand for election at the school where they are parents or staff members. Other members can be co-opted by the council within the limits of the order.
Because parents have such an important part to play in schools, there is an elected parent member category. More than one-third of the elected members must be parents.
Similarly, there is an elected member category for employees of the DEECD. Members of this category may make up no more than one-third of the total membership. The principal of the school is automatically one of these members.
In February 2000, amendments to the global constituting Order made it possible for DEECD employees to be elected to the parent member category of school council. However, in order to preserve the overall balance between DEECD-employed and non DEECD-employed council members, the number of DEECD employees in the parent member category is strictly limited, and will vary according to the configuration of the individual council. Schedule 2 of the global constituting Order sets out in table form the various configurations available.
The February 2000 amendments also stipulate two separate electorates for the election of parent members and DEECD-employee members. Hence parents vote only for parent members and DEECD employees vote only for DEECD-employee members.
Many schools also have a community member category. This comprises non-elected members from the school or wider community who are co-opted on to the council because they have special skills or experience. This category cannot include DEECD employees.
School Council members are elected (or appointed in the case of co-opted members) for a two year term. Half the membership is elected or co-opted each year and this creates vacancies for the annual school council election.
Parents on councils provide important viewpoints and have valuable skills that can help shape the direction of the school.
Those parents who become active on a school council find their involvement satisfying in itself and may also find that their children feel a greater sense of belonging.
The most obvious way to become involved is to vote in the elections which are held in February or March each year. Since ballots are only held if more people nominate as candidates than there are positions vacant, you might seriously consider:
The principal arranges and conducts the elections. Ask at the school for help if you would like to stand for election and are not sure what to do.
If there are more nominations received than there are vacancies on council, a ballot will be conducted two weeks after the call for nominations has closed.
Make sure that you cast a vote and encourage other parents to do the same.
Details of the election process are available from the school.
All parents and staff will receive from the principal a notice of the election and a call for nominations in the second half of February or early in March. For parents, this notice will probably be given to your child, so you may need to check with them whether it has been sent.
If you decide to stand for election, you will need to arrange for someone to nominate and second you as a candidate in either the parent or DEECD employee category. Request a nomination form from the school and make sure that it is completed and returned to the principal within the time stated on the notice of election - seven days from the date it was sent.