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Barbara has enjoyed being a member of Wentworth College and Primary Board of Trustees for more than 10 years.  She now chairs the board.  She advised board trustees for 26 years until her recent retirement. Her knowledge of human resource management and legislative and regulatory requirements in schools, plus her extensive governance experience resulted in multiple appointments by the Ministry of Education as Commissioner and Limited Statutory Manager in schools throughout Auckland and Te Tai Tokerau/Northland. Barbara has also undertaken significant reviews and investigations at the request of both state and independent boards, the Ministry of Education, and the Teachers Council.      

Each year, the Institute of Directors identifies five issues that should be top of mind for boards.
In my first column for this newsletter, I promised to highlight, and provide insight into, some of the issues that have bubbled to the surface for 2022 through consultation with the IoD’s membership.
In this column, I want to address a topical issue for the education sector, reconnecting globally. But first, let me say that it is always a challenging task to recognise which of the myriad issues facing directors should be in our annual top five. And this was particularly challenging for 2022.  
Directors need to be aware of many issues as they steer their organisations, from global forces such as the covid-19 pandemic to climate change and the impact of technology.

This year, we identified:
  • climate crossroads
  • reconnecting globally
  • talent shortage
  • board character
  • active regulators.
 
That doesn’t mean that other core areas such as health and safety, or community expectations, are less important now than in previous years. These will, of course, remain on the agenda of every board.
 

Reconnecting globally


Part of that has been the ways schools at all levels rapidly adapted to the new needs of their students, since the start of the pandemic, is providing technological solutions where they could and prioritising student and staff safety in an ever-changing and evolving risk environment.

Nevertheless, as borders around the world reopen – or perhaps we should say as border restrictions loosen – global forces are likely to once again impact New Zealand’s education providers.
Border restrictions were identified as a high priority area in our Director Sentiment Survey 2021, with 54% of respondents putting this among the top three impediments to national economic performance.

While travel will become easier over 2022, this may mean easier access to new staff from overseas or a loss of staff overseas, while the economy will continue to be affected by supply chain issues. These are the result of global disruption due to the pandemic, and the pandemic is still with us.
Boards who oversee importing or exporting organisations need to be across the issues affecting their supply chains and ensure appropriate risk management processes are in place.

Exporters should seek to understand the challenges of reaching their significant markets. Importers may need to look at their reliance on “just in time” materials, materials in high demand, or key products in their portfolio and adjust their strategy accordingly.

More broadly, all organisations are likely to continue to see costs rise as inflation – at least the portion of it driven by the impacts of the pandemic –remains high over the near term. This makes it more likely the Reserve Bank of New Zealand will hike the official cash rate further. This is one of its main tools to combat inflation. Expect to see interest rates follow suit, and understand the potential cost of any debt currently on your books, or likely to be incurred in the next few months.

Just as different organisations have had different experiences of the pandemic, it is important to recognise that other countries’ experiences of the pandemic are different from our experience in New Zealand. And different from each other. As I write this, for example, China still has a zero-covid-19 policy in place that is creating disruption in large cities and regions, with unpredictable effects on the movement of goods.
The reopening of the world will happen unevenly and may be put at risk by the emergence of new variants of the virus or regional surges of infection. It will present great opportunities for boards that can capitalise on the potentially easier movement of people and goods. But supply chain disruption due to the pandemic is likely to be with us for some time yet.
 

Kirsten Patterson - Chief Executive

Institute of Directors in Aotearoa/New Zealand
Ask Kirsten Patterson a question for the next issue...
There are three elements to strategic planning, each with its own timeframe. When developing a strategy, these should always be front of mind for Directors and staff.

 

First element: The role of Vision/Purpose as a long-term strategy filter (20-30 years)


Your Vision or Purpose statement should articulate the difference your school wishes to make with the stakeholders you serve. This is your long-term plan. 10, 20 maybe 50 years in the future. How you get there will change over time, but nevertheless, it is unwavering in its focus, and the School Board is the custodian of this vision/purpose. This is your BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal). It should be used as a key business filter for all projects and programs submitted to the Board, the staff should use it to align their operational programs, the Board should use it to inform discussion, questions, and monitoring, and the School should use it to inform stakeholder engagement. The Board should use the vision to continually check in with key stakeholders
 

Second element: The role of the strategic plan as a short-term strategy filter (2-3 years)


We define a strategic plan simply as “The top 3 or 4 things the Board agree have to occur in the next 2 to 3 years” This simple definition allows us to focus on the most important 3 or 4 key “things” (or strategies) that have to be achieved in the next few years that will have a significant impact on the future to be created. Strategic plans these days typically have a 3-year time frame, but often get substantially completed within 2 or 2.5 years due to the sheer pace of change. Regular updates at the Board level, and the more formal annual strategic plan review process ensures the strategic plan is updated as required, with a full reset typically every 3 years.
 

Third element: The role of the Operating Plan to actualise the strategic plan (1 year)

 

The annual operating plan provides the detail for the Principal and staff to operationalise the strategic plan, prepare the budget and allocate resources. This typically would not be reported to the Board

 
Next issue: The four keys to developing an elegant school strategic plan
Read more about Conscious Governance
Conscious Governance TV

Vaccination mandates: were they lawful and can schools continue to require staff to be vaccinated?

 
The High Court has recently upheld the legality of vaccine mandates in the health and disability sectors in its decision in NZDSOS Inc v Minister for Covid-19 Response.
 
The Court held that the mandates were lawful as a demonstrably justified limit on the right to refuse a medical treatment when they were imposed, and that it was unable to conclude they were unjustified prior to the Government announcements that they be discontinued and narrowed in March 2022, notwithstanding that the increased transmissibility of the Omicron variant reduced the justification for the mandates.
 
Given vaccine mandates for the education sector were removed from 5 April 2022, where does this leave schools?
 
As a general rule, schools are no longer able to justify a vaccination requirement for their staff, with WorkSafe stating that “few workplaces” will be able to do so. However, it remains open to schools to conduct their own risk assessments to identify any work that can only be undertaken by a vaccinated employee for health and safety reasons. In doing so, schools should consider the public health factors identified by WorkSafe to help determine whether the risk in the workplace is higher than in the community: COVID-19 controls at work - employer vaccination requirements and other measures | WorkSafe
 
Applying these factors, we consider some schools may have a basis for justifying an ongoing vaccination requirement for certain roles. For example, roles working alongside unvaccinated and unmasked children in Early Learning Centres and roles that deal with immunocompromised students. However, any decision to require staff to be vaccinated must follow a careful (and documented) risk assessment and consultation with the relevant staff.
 
Please contact a member of our team if you have any questions regarding vaccinations, or any broader legal issues relating to COVID-19.
Contact Simpson Grierson
As members of trust boards, we are duty-bound in our governance role to ensure that our decisions are made in the best interests of the schools that we govern.  Independent schools do not have the luxury of being fully funded by taxpayers’ funds. The amount provided by the state has steadily dwindled over the years. This puts a different pressure on those principals who lead our schools.  I have looked with some envy at the many well-established independent schools that have heritage and history along with superb reputation and significant and loyal alumni to call upon for contributions to different projects within their schools.  
 
Our school is a newer independent school. In 2023 Wentworth College and Primary will achieve the ripe old age of 20 years.  Our first years’ alumni are just approaching their zenith of success.   We are not yet fortunate to have endowments or legacies left to the school.  And thus, Wentworth has ridden the wild bronco of economic ups and downs since 2003, plus a COVID 19 pandemic in its formative years. It takes courage from board members, generous landlords but most importantly superb, and determined principal management to get through such tests.
 
Any smaller independent school facing these challenges is at the mercy of the economic winds that cause parents and grandparents in New Zealand to reconsider if they can afford to send their children or grandchildren to a fee-paying school. The current pandemic has all but wiped out our foreign fee-paying student numbers.  For any school reliant on these offshore students, this has been a severe financial shock.
 
So how does one ensure that such shocks are mitigated?  In our experience, the professionals who lead, manage and teach at our school have largely mitigated them.  A principal and senior managers who managed staff constructively so that redundancies were limited, was an important factor for staff morale during the Global Financial Crisis. 
 
On 18 March 2020, our board held a normal Trust Board meeting. We were briefed by the principal at that meeting as to the strategies that would be implemented in case of a COVID 19 lockdown.  All planning for such an event was in place. A mere 8 days later this was a fact of school life that was to continue off and on for some lengthy time. It was reassuring to know that all the systems for educating our students online were thoroughly scoped by our senior leaders, so staff seamlessly and successfully continued the teaching and learning digitally.  Our administrative staff also kept the school functioning as normal.  Parent feedback was almost entirely positive during this time.
 
Our end-of-year Cambridge results identified that if there had been any loss of learning it was remarkably minimal, with some of our students once again achieving top results for Cambridge New Zealand exams in certain subjects. 
 
If at the heart of what we deem to be a success is our student achievement results, the test for this is leadership and a cohesive and complementary senior team. This is especially so in a smaller independent school in its developmental years. It is the board and principal that lead strategy and philosophy, but it is a superb leadership team directing the operational requirements, that makes a good school great, and thus provides confidence for parents. Leadership by a principal is not just being able to mentor the skills of teaching and learning, - in independent schools it carries the attributes of superb interpersonal skills. It requires, in conjunction with senior managers, the ability to motivate all staff in good times and times of crisis. Leadership is about being able to successfully manage external impacts in conjunction with internal goals, to ensure there is no loss of results or reputation. Reputation and results are the critical hooks that parents require in order to invest their money in return for an education that will give their children opportunities on a national and global stage. This requires a curriculum that offers the greatest opportunities in all areas; intellectual, cultural, physical, and social to ensure a well-balanced education.
 
In a small independent school, principals are a jack-of-all-trades. Along with senior managers, our principal coaches sport, teaches a class during and after school hours, and has oversight management of two on-site schools, and an off-site school.  A challenge for a small school, and our principal at Wentworth delivers! 
 
During the worst pandemic of our time, resulting in a fall off of almost all of our overseas students at Wentworth, our principal, and his senior team managed to raise our roll numbers significantly.  Our board attributes this to foresight and commitment by leadership and staff.  Staff adapted their teaching, our students were not wandering the streets; they turned up for their lessons as rostered. And as a result, our students maintained their high external exam achievement levels.
 
So, if leadership is the key how does a board ensure they have recruited the right person? Our board considers making the right decision once; i.e. ensuring that the best person is appointed the first time. As has been seen in media reports, an independent school can reap unwanted attention if there are issues with leadership. A larger independent school with a longer history can survive such negative publicity, but for a smaller, newer school such as ours, this would not be helpful.  A larger independent school also has a significant management and administrative structure. Not so, in new and smaller independent schools. Trust boards must measure the skills and attributes when recruiting principals in ways that go beyond an interview, psychometric tests, and good references.
 
If a potential appointee is from the state sector, can they adapt to your independent school philosophy and the need to ensure that leading a school is not just about the teaching and learning but also about managing the financial requirement for the school’s sustainability? Can the potential appointee develop a cohesive and complementary senior management team? How does one measure the depth of resilience to ensure success in a normal environment let alone in the face of crises? How well will a potential appointee manage an irate fee-paying parent, who has other choices for their child, and yet ensure their child remains a student in your school? And how will you really know whether your new appointee will be open and candid with your board? Openness, trust, and confidence between the board and principal are absolutely critical.
 
At Wentworth, the founding Board got it right the first time. Subsequent board members have witnessed the success of their appointment. Taking in-depth advice about a good process – especially for new and smaller independent schools, it is critical and worth investing the time, and money to ensure the right appointment the first time for the success and longevity of your new independent school. 
 

Barbara Judge - Board Chairman

Wentworth College and Primary

The disruption and uncertainty caused by unexpected events can threaten to obscure what we most value in education 
our purpose, our people, and our place.
 In an uncontrolled environment,
sometimes the present is all we have capacity to focus on.
 The vision that we had for where we want to be and what we want to achieve grows dim as we focus on the immediacy of what is required.
 Remembering our people, our purpose and our vision is a powerful tool.
 The ISNZ Annual Conference in 2022 shall offer an opportunity for delegates to reflect, review and consider the future of education, our schools for tomorrow, and the essential elements of leadership and wellbeing in a time of uncertainty.
Secure your accommodation today!
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Friday 28 October 2022
Wellington InterContinental Hotel 

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