Guidance on school council powers and functions
This guidance provides information on the application of school council powers and functions, across a range of common school council activities, with links to further information specific to each activity, where available.
School councils are responsible for the oversight of school buildings and grounds, and ensuring they are kept in good condition.
Information about asset management roles and responsibilities for school councils, principals and Department staff is available in the Asset Management Roles and Responsibilities Framework.
For further information on school council asset management responsibilities, refer to:
In accordance with school council’s function to provide meals and refreshments for the staff and students of the school, school councils may decide to provide canteen services for the school.
Refer to Canteen Policy for further information.
School councils must comply with the Child Safe Standards when exercising any of their powers, duties or functions.
School councils also have certain responsibilities in developing, maintaining, and implementing the Child Safe Standards at their school.
Refer to Child Safe Standards and for further information.
School councils are responsible for providing cleaning services that are necessary for the school. When engaging cleaning services for the school, school councils are required to follow Department policy.
Refer to Cleaning Policy
The Education and Training Reform Act 2006 allocates school councils with specific community engagement responsibilities by requiring school council members to:
- inform themselves of the views of the school community when making decisions
- stimulate interest in the school within the wider community
The school community primarily includes:
- students, and
- parents and carers
It may also include:
- early childhood services
- service clubs
- organisations, or
School councils can also play an important role in consulting with and representing the views of the school community, when required, to support the principal in school-based decision-making.
School council may employ any person to do anything the council is authorised to do under Part 2.3 of the Education and Training Reform Act 2006. Refer to School Council Employment for further information.
School councils must:
- provide and maintain a working environment that is safe and without risks to health for all, employees, independent contractors and contractor’s employees
- ensure that contractors are competent and able to control their own systems of work
- retain a general supervisory power over any work undertaken by a contractor
- define the contractor’s respective areas of responsibility, particularly where there is more than one contractor involved
- examine carefully the contractual arrangements, and
- ensure that the activities undertaken do not put staff, students or the contractors at risk
For information on insurance and contract requirements for engaging contractors, refer to Contractors Insurance and Contract Arrangements.
For information on health and safety obligations for contractors, refer to Contractor OHS Management.
When engaging contractors, school councils must ensure that the school complies with:
- the Department’s Procurement Policy, and
- the Finance Manual
School councils play a role in determining the financial aspects of camps and excursions. See Excursions for further information.
The Education and Training Reform Act 2006 (Vic) allocates the following financial activities to school councils:
- managing the school’s budget as it relates to running the school. Note: principals are responsible for budgeting for their school’s teaching staff, in collaboration with the Department
- entering into contracts and agreements
- maintaining property
- authorising payments
- raising funds
It is a legal requirement that school councils ensure that funds coming into the school council are being properly used and authorised. Most schools have a finance subcommittee which handles many of the school council’s routine financial responsibilities including the development of the annual budget.
School councils help develop the annual school budget and are responsible for ensuring the school has functioning and effective systems of internal financial controls in accordance with the Finance Manual — Financial Management for Schools.
The finance subcommittee typically presents the annual budget to the school council for discussion and approval. For more information, refer to:
For information on raising funds or school generated funding, see:
School councils hold a duty under the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 (Vic) to ensure that the school, as a workplace, is, so far as reasonably practicable, safe and without risks to health.
This means that the duty will extend to all matters over which school council has management and control.
This includes matters such as:
- engagement of goods and services
- oversight of the management of contracts, and
- the maintenance of school buildings, grounds and facilities
The duty extends to all persons affected by the conduct of the school, including:
- visitors, and
For further information, refer to:
- Contractor OHS Management Policy — for information on occupational health and safety responsibilities of school councils
- Occupational Health and Safety Management System (OHSMS) — for information on Employee Health, Safety and Wellbeing
School council decides whether to:
- establish a service, or
- change operating models or service provider
A council that oversees or operates an outside school hours care (OSHC) or kindergarten service must:
- ensure the service complies with Department policy and relevant laws.
Refer to Outside School Hours Care Policy for further information.
Victorian government schools and school councils must implement the Department of Education and Training (DET) Parent Payments Policy.
The school council has responsibility for approving school-level parent payment arrangements. Parent Payment arrangements include payment requests to parents for items and activities, financial support options for parents experiencing financial hardship and payment methods.
Schools must use the Parent Payment Arrangements to develop their parent payments and have this approved by their school council prior to communicating it to parents. Once school councils have approved the parent payment arrangements, schools must also upload these arrangements onto their school website for transparency.
- The school council can play a valuable role in developing selected school policies and supporting the school principal to understand and consider the views of the school community where appropriate.
- School principals are responsible for operational school policies, procedures and decisions. There are a small number of policies that must be developed and approved by the school council because of legal or Department policy requirements (for example, student dress codes, parent payment policies and finance policies).
- For other local school policies, the principal may choose to seek school council approval of a policy (even where there is no legal or other requirement to do so), may consult with the school council during the policy development phase or may present policies to the school council for noting.
The Improving School Governance module — Policy and Review provides further information on the school council’s role in policy development, review and approval.
The School Policy Templates (login required) is a resource for principals, school council presidents and school staff. The portal provides policy templates for Victorian government schools to download and modify to suit local needs and priorities.
For the majority of schools, the school council is involved in the principal selection process. For further information refer to Principal Selection.
On request from the Regional Director, the school council president may also provide input to principal contract renewal discussions.
The president advises the school council of that input at the next school council meeting.
A school council can purchase goods, equipment and materials for carrying out its functions, subject to Part 2.3 of the Education and Training Reform Act 2006 (Vic).
When purchasing goods, equipment and materials school councils must ensure that the school complies with
- the Department’s policy Procurement in Schools, and
- the Finance Manual — Financial Management for Schools
School councils are strongly encouraged to use Department templates for the purchase of goods and services, refer to Procurement in Schools.
- If a supplier insists on using their own Agreement or the school council would like to amend a template Agreement, it is recommended the principal, as executive officer of the school council, seek advice from Procurement Division via email: email@example.com
School councils play an important role in school strategic planning and reporting.
The principal and school council president must endorse a number of school planning and reporting documents in the Strategic Planning Online Tool on behalf of the council. These documents are:
- School Strategic Plan — a 4-year plan for school improvement, completed by schools after their school review. When completed, the school strategic plan is endorsed by school council, signed by the principal and school council president and submitted to the Secretary for approval.
- Annual Implementation Plan — outlines how the strategic plan will be implemented, monitored and evaluated. The school council president endorses the plan in SPOT, on behalf of the school council.
- Annual Report to the School Community — detailing the school’s financial activities, workforce composition and performance. Annual reports are endorsed by school council and signed by both the principal and school council president. They are made available to the school community at a public reporting meeting organised by the school principal, and published on the Victorian Regulation and Qualifications Authority State Register.
Further information on school council’s role in strategic planning is available in the School Councils Improving School Governance — Strategic Planning .
Reviewed 24 November 2022