Boards of Management in Post-Primary Schools
All Community and Comprehensive Schools and Colleges and the great majority of Voluntary Secondary Schools now have Boards of Management. Under requirements set out in the Education Act, 1998 it is expected that all schools will soon operate under a Board of Management structure. Catholic Voluntary Secondary Schools with Boards operate in accordance with the Articles of Management for Catholic Secondary Schools negotiated by ASTI and the Catholic Managers. Community Schools, Comprehensive Schools and Community Colleges operate under the Deeds of Trust for such schools.
The ASTI believes that the establishment of Boards of Management represents the introduction of democracy and participation in the management of second level schools and is a real and genuine expression of partnership at a local level. The introduction of a Board of Management in an already existing school will help to ensure the future of that school and the employment security of its staff. The Board of Management structure ensures an element of continuity and security for teachers at a time when religious orders are considering withdrawal or are actually withdrawing from their involvement in secondary education. The ASTI welcomes the growth in the number of schools with boards and encourages its members to play an active and positive role in their relationship with these boards.
Community Schools, since their foundation, have had Boards of Management, but in the Voluntary Secondary sector it was only after long and protracted negotiations had taken place that the original agreement on Boards of Management was reached. The ASTI had sought equal representation for Parents, Staff and Trustees. In 1985 agreement was negotiated on the composition of Boards of Management, the re-establishment of Home-School links and the introduction of a Redeployment Scheme.
The Articles of Management document agreed in 1985 and the operation of boards since then, have been examined by the ASTI and the Managerial Authorities, was revised in 1989 and, more recently, in 2003.
Composition of Boards of Management
Voluntary Secondary Sector
The Board of Management consists of eight persons appointed by the Trustees. Four members are nominated by the Trustees. Two parents / legal guardians of children currently in the school are elected by the parents / legal guardians. Two teachers are elected by all the current pro-rata contracted, non-casual part-time, job-sharing and current full-time teachers on the staff of the school on the date of the election. The elected teachers should have at least one year of registered service in the school and should be lay members of the staff. The term of office for each member of the board is three years.
The Board of Management of a community school consists of 10 members. Three members are nominated by the religious authority. Three are nominees of the local county Vocational Educational Committee. Two parents of pupils in the school and who are resident in the area are elected. Two teacher nominees are elected by all the teachers in the school.
“Catholic” Comprehensive Schools
A Deed of Trust has been agreed for those comprehensive schools which are under the trusteeship of the Catholic Bishops. Composition of the Board is two nominees of the Diocese, one nominee of the VEC, the Chief Executive Officer of the VEC, two nominees of the parents and two nominees of the teachers. These eight members may co-opt a ninth member to the Board. The term of office is five years.
Comprehensive Schools under the Trusteeship of the Church of Ireland
A working Deed of Trust is in operation. The composition of the Board is six nominees of the Trustees, one Chief Executive Officer, two parents and two teachers. The term of office is five years.
These schools are owned by the Vocational Education Committee and are usually managed by a Board of Management which is a sub-committee of the VEC. The composition of these boards is a matter for local negotiation. A “Designated” Community College will usually have three nominees of the religious trustees, three nominees of the VEC, two teachers and two parents with the option of co-opting a tenth member. Each community college is part of the local VEC and board decisions have to be ratified by the VEC itself.
The School Principal and the Board
The Principal of the school is entitled to attend and speak at Board meetings but is not entitled to vote. The Principal should report to Board meetings, keeping it up-to-date on school activities.
(i) Academic Organisation:
The Principal is responsible for the day-to-day running of and internal business of the school. She / he oversees the academic organisation of the school, e.g. timetabling, staff allocation, class organisation, curriculum organisation, employment of and allocation of duties to non-teaching staff.
The Principal is responsible for pupil discipline within the school. A decision on the short-term suspension of a pupil may be made by the Principal. Such decisions should be reported to the Board at its next meeting.
All necessary communication with the Department of Education and Science should be undertaken by the Principal. The Principal should also maintain communications with the parents of pupils attending the school.
While applications for leave must be submitted to the Board, the Principal may, due to the circumstances, grant personal leave to a teacher for five school days in a school year for any reason which he / she may consider sufficient, e.g. weddings, funerals, etc.
Election of Teacher Representatives
The Articles of Management and the Deeds of Trust provide for the election of two teacher representatives to the Board of Management.
(a) Voluntary Secondary Schools:
As the teaching staff in voluntary secondary schools are almost all ASTI members it is expected that this will be reflected in the election of ASTI members as teachers' representatives and equally in determining the manner of election. This does not conflict with the Articles of Management and the ASTI insists on the right of its members to pre-select their own candidates for the positions on the Board (see election procedure below).
(b) Community and Comprehensive Schools:
The executive committees of the ASTI and the TUI have agreed to co-operate in the election of teacher representatives to Boards of Management in Community and Comprehensive Schools.
Joint ASTI – TUI Agreement regarding election of Teacher Representatives on Board of Management in Community and comprehensive Schools
The Executive committees of the ASTI and the TUI have agreed to co-operate in the election of teacher representatives to Boards of Management in community and comprehensive schools. Where both unions have at least 25% each of total teaching staff in the school, each union shall hold its own internal election to nominate one candidate for subsequent election to the Board of Management. Both Unions will then support their own and the other unions candidate at the staff elections.
Total union membership includes all eligible union members working in the school at the time of the election.
Each union’s candidate will be nominated for the Board of Management elections. Members of both the ASTI and the TUI will vote for both union candidates only.
Both Unions are agreed that where there are more than two candidates (i.e. where a non-Union or “unofficial” candidate is nominated) the Unions should seek to have the staff election conducted by means of a ballot paper with all candidates listed. The simplest voting method in such circumstances is one where all candidates bar two are crossed out.
In cases where, despite this agreement, more than two candidates are nominated to the Board of Management, all members of both TUI and ASTI shall vote in accordance with the terms of this agreement.
In schools where one union has less than 25% of the total teaching staff, the majority union, at its own meeting, shall determine the two candidates to be nominated as teacher representatives to the Board. Members of the minority union shall not, in these circumstances, nominate any teacher for election to the Board of Management.
Nothing in this agreement prevents members of either union agreeing to one representative per union.
The ASTI and TUI have agreed to review the operation of this arrangement at the end of the current three year election period.
Newly established schools: first Board of Management in newly established schools. It is recommended there should be a representative of either union on the Board of Management.
Agreed between ASTI and TUI in 2004.
The following election procedure must be adhered to in both Voluntary Secondary Schools and Community and Comprehensive Schools and Community Colleges.
(a) ASTI meeting:
- The School Steward will call an ASTI meeting for the purpose of selecting ASTI candidates* for the positions of staff representatives on the Board of Management.
- One week's notice of the date, time, venue and purpose of this meeting must be given to all ASTI members currently on the staff of the school. This notice should also be given to staff members who are on leave of absence from the school and who have retained ASTI membership.
- The meeting will normally be chaired by the School Steward unless the steward is a candidate in which case another member should be selected to chair the meeting.
- Nominations of teachers who are ASTI members and who are current pro-rata contracted, non-casual part-time, job-sharing and full-time teachers on the staff will be accepted.
- Nominees must be formally proposed and seconded.
- In the event of only two members* being proposed the chairperson shall formally declare these members elected as official ASTI candidates for election as staff representatives on the Board of Management.
- In the event of there being more than two* nominations a secret ballot must then take place.
- By agreement at the meeting two members shall be appointed to act as tellers.
- Each member present, regardless of membership category, is entitled to vote and shall be given a single ballot paper.
- Members may vote for only one or two* candidates from amongst those nominated.
- Ballot papers shall be collected and counted immediately by the tellers.
- The result of the ballot, including the number of votes received by each candidate, shall be announced by the chairperson.
- The *two candidates with the highest number of votes shall be deemed to be the official ASTI candidates for the Board of Management election.
- In the event of a tied ballot in which two* candidates fail to get more votes than the other candidates a second ballot shall be held.
- In the event of a second tied ballot the matter shall be decided by lot.
- Members who are not present at this meeting should be informed by the School Steward as to the identity of the two successful candidates.
(b) Full Staff Meeting:
17. The staff meeting will be convened by the Chairperson of the Board of Management / Manager or Principal on his / her behalf and will include all the current pro-rata contracted, non-casual part-time, job-sharing and full-time teachers on the staff.
18. Nominations will be invited at this meeting for the positions of teacher representatives on the Board of Management.
19. Arrangements should be made by the School Steward to have the two* official ASTI candidates formally proposed and seconded. They should be supported in the election by all ASTI members present.
20. Other nominations may be invited and any non ASTI member on the staff may exercise his/her right to nominate a teacher or be nominated for the position of teacher representative.
21. ASTI members should not propose, second or vote for any candidate other than the official ASTI candidates.*
22. Standing Committee has deemed it to be conduct injurious to the welfare of the Association and the interests of its members for
(i) members, other than one of the two* official ASTI candidates to stand for election as Teacher Representatives on the Board of Management
(ii) for members to propose or second anyone other than one of the two *official A.S.T.I. candidates for election to the Board of Management.
* In Voluntary Secondary Schools two ASTI candidates are chosen. In Community and Comprehensive Schools one or two candidates may be chosen as per TUI/ASTI agreement.
Note: The Articles of Management require that the elected teachers shall have at least one year of registered service in the school except in the case of a new or amalgamated school.
Functions of the Teacher Representative
Teacher representatives are full members of the Board of Management. While the primary purpose of these representatives must be to represent staff interests they should concern themselves with and fully participate in all the discussions and decision-making of the Board. As well as safeguarding the interests of staff and giving professional advice they should play a positive role in the overall development and promotion of the school.
- To promote the welfare of the school.
- To develop policies that will assist pupils and staff.
- To seek to ensure the acceptance and implementation of trade union practices.
- To promote ASTI policy with regard to such items as interviews, selection boards, posts of responsibility, class sizes and the employment of part-time teachers.
- To seek to ensure that existing agreements and arrangements with the ASTI are honoured.
- To further the teachers' interests and advise them of the decisions of the Board especially in regard to matters which may affect their conditions of employment or livelihood.
- To consult with the staff and to initiate changes in school policy requested by staff.
- To use an appropriate method of "reporting back" in order to ensure that members are kept fully informed.
- To protect the interests of the staff in the running and management of the school.
- To insist on formal consultation with the ASTI where changes which would affect the staff are being proposed.
- To ensure that no criticism of an individual teacher takes place without notice from the Principal to that teacher.
- To be fully involved in all Board sub-committees including selection committees.
Guidelines for Teacher Representatives
The teacher representatives should involve themselves fully in the decision-making processes of the Board. The teacher brings to the Board a professional expertise and knowledge which has a sound basis in the reality of the classroom. While acting as a full member of the Board the teacher representatives should always see themselves as representing the staff perspective on issues under consideration. At times it may be necessary to request that the minutes of the meeting record their position on a particular matter.
It is important that the teacher representatives are fully aware of the representative nature of their Board involvement. Boards of Management represent a move towards democracy in education and offer teachers an excellent opportunity to influence the managerial policy of the school.
(ii) Preparation for Meeting:
Adequate preparation should be made prior to each Board meeting. Documentation should be carefully studied; agenda examined; implications of any impending proposals should be clearly thought out; relevant agreements and regulations should be examined. The views of staff should be sought on issues likely to affect them. The two teacher representatives should consult with each other prior to the meeting.
The Secretary draws up the agenda in consultation with the Chairperson and the agenda should be issued with the notice of the meeting, i.e. not less than seven clear days prior to the meeting. Requests for the inclusion of any additional items on the agenda must reach the Secretary a minimum of three days before the meeting. Board members should be clear about the procedure for inclusion of items on the agenda and should use this procedure when necessary.
(iv) Financial Accounts:
Financial reports should be treated with great care and attention. Board members should develop for themselves the minimum skills required for the analysis of financial documents, balance sheets, budget projections, income and expenditure reports and bank statements. The Board is responsible for all business carried out in connection with or on account of the school. Each Board member should see it as his / her responsibility to ensure that proper books for the entering of the accounts of the school are maintained and that full and complete financial reports are given to the Board. A forward budget should be compiled and an annual report submitted to the Trustees. The ASTI has produced Financial Guidelines for Boards of Management in both Voluntary Secondary Schools and Community Schools.
The Board must set up a Sub-Committee on Finance consisting of the Principal and two Board members. The Board may invite additional members with financial expertise to membership of this sub-committee. Teacher representatives with their experience of the spending requirements of the school should be actively involved in this area.
The Board may set up other sub-committees of its own members and may delegate powers to such sub-committees. The Board is responsible for the setting up by the Principal of an Advisory Board of Studies to be elected by and from the full-time teaching staff.
(vi) Taking Decisions:
Boards of Management sometimes take decisions with far-reaching effects, influencing the education of the pupils and the livelihood of the staff. Prior to an important decision being taken it is essential that the issue under discussion is clearly defined. The Board should be clear on
(a) why this decision is being taken?
(b) what exactly is the decision intended to achieve?
(c) what further information is required?
(d) who will be affected by the decision, either directly or indirectly?
(e) when must the decision be taken and implemented?
(f) where does responsibility for implementing the decision rest?
(g) what would be the likely effect if no decision was taken?
(vii) Procedure at Meeting:
Each Board should devise a procedure / standing orders for the orderly running of its meetings. This procedure should be respected and any deviation should be pointed out.
(viii) Criticism of Teachers:
Teacher representatives should take particular note of Article 18 (Catholic Voluntary Secondary Schools) which states that "No criticism of an individual teacher shall take place at Board meetings without notice from the Principal to that teacher (and / or the School Steward)". This article applies also to items of correspondence. It is in the interests of natural justice that a teacher be afforded an opportunity to prepare a response prior to any discussion at Board level. The teacher must be afforded an opportunity to be present and hear and / or be represented at the Board before the matter at issue is concluded. The same principle of natural justice applies in all schools.
The business of the Board should be conducted in private and no disclosure of the business should be made without the authority of the Board. Items of a confidential nature such as financial contracts or appointments, where the individuals concerned have not been informed, should not be discussed outside the Board meeting. It is recommended that items which are "confidential" should be so identified by the Board. An agreed report on meetings should be given to the interested parties.
(x) Communication with Staff:
For the representative nature of the Board to be meaningful it is essential that good communications exist between the Board and the Staff. A report should be given to the full staff as soon as possible following each Board meeting. The Board representatives should inform the staff when a Board meeting is due and should discuss the agenda with them in advance. These procedures will help to improve the relationship between the staff and the Board and will foster an atmosphere of mutual understanding. ASTI members may decide that a meeting of ASTI members is also necessary.
(xi) Conflict of Interest:
Members must disclose any personal / financial interest in matters under discussion. They should not participate in discussions or vote on any matter in which they, or any company of which the member is a director or partner, may have an interest. A teacher member of the Board who intends to compete for a Principalship or Deputy Principalship should declare such an interest when the process of appointing the Principal or Deputy Principal is in progress.