Policy last updated
8 December 2021
- School councils
This policy sets out the powers and functions of school council.
- School councils play a vital role in Victorian government schools and are established and operate under the Education and Training Reform Act 2006 (Vic), the Education and Training Reform Regulations 2017 (Vic) and a constituting Order.
- Understanding their legislated powers and functions, as well as the functional split between the school council and the principal is critical for the effective functioning of the school council.
- The powers and functions specific to each school council are set out in their constituting Order.
- School councils are also required to comply with state and federal laws, relevant Ministerial Orders and certain department policies when exercising their powers and functions.
A well-informed and effective school council strengthens community confidence in the school and helps to build and secure the school’s reputation.
Understanding the distinction in roles and responsibilities between school council and the principal supports the effective and efficient operations of the council and the school. School council powers and functions are set out in this policy. Responsibility for all other aspects of running a school rests with the principal, with support from the department and other members of school staff.
A school council’s constituting Order constitutes the school council as a body corporate and specifies the council’s powers, functions and objectives.
Ministerial Order 1280 Constitution of Government School Councils 2020 updates the constituting Order for all school councils with effect from 1 January 2021.
School council functions, powers and objectives
School council functions, powers and objectives are set out in various instruments, including the Education and Training Reform Act 2006, the Education and Training Reform Regulations 2017, Ministerial Orders and the school council’s own constituting Order.
The following information sets out the various functions, powers and objectives prescribed in the Education and Training Reform Act and the Education and Training Reform Regulations.
Further information on school council powers and functions is available in the Guidance and Resources tabs, including links to other department policies relating to specific school council functions and powers, such as the Child Safe Standards, occupational health and safety and finance.
Functions of school council
The key functions of school council with regard to the school are:
- to establish the broad direction and vision of the school within the school's community
- to arrange for the supply of:
- other things or matters required for the conduct of the school, including the provision of preschool programs
- to raise funds for school related purposes
- to regulate and facilitate the after-hours use of the school premises and grounds
- to exercise a general oversight of the school buildings and grounds and ensure they are kept in good order and condition
- to provide for the cleaning and sanitary services that are necessary for the school
- to ensure that all money coming into the hands of the council is expended for proper purposes relating to the school
- to provide meals and refreshments for the staff and students of the school and make charges for those meals or refreshments
- to inform itself and take into account any views of the school community for the purpose of making decisions in regard to the school and the students at the school
- to generally stimulate interest in the school in the wider community
- to prepare the School Strategic Plan and review the Annual Implementation Plan — to be signed by the president and the principal
- to report annually (the Annual Report) to the school community and to the department on:
- the school’s financial activities
- the School Strategic Plan, and
- any other matters that are determined by the Minister
- to manage the hire, licence and shared use of school facilities
- to determine the dates for the school’s student-free days:
- in accordance with the number of student-free days each calendar year specified by the Secretary of the department
- to perform any other function or duty, or to exercise any power conferred or imposed on the council by or under:
- the Education and Training Reform Act 2006, or
- any regulations made under that Act
- a Ministerial Order made, or direction issued, by the Minister under the Education and Training Reform Act.
Information on the role and responsibilities of the various school council officer bearers (such as the principal as Executive Officer and the school council president) is available on School Councils – Composition and Officer Bearers.
Powers of school council
For the purpose of meeting its functions and objectives, and in accordance with any conditions or limitations set out in the Education and Training Reform Act, the Education and Training Reform Regulations, Ministerial Order or the school council’s constituting Order, school councils may:
- enter into contracts, agreements or arrangements
- form sub-committees
- sell property acquired for use in the school
- for primary schools, provide preschool programs
- use any funding provided to the school, for any purpose related to the school, provided the funding was not provided for a specified purpose
- establish trusts and act as trustee of them
- employ staff (noting the exception in relation to the employment of teachers)
- charge fees to parents for goods, services or other things provided by the school to a child of the parent:
- subject to section 2.2.4 of the Education and Training Reform Act, and
- in accordance with any Ministerial Order made under that Act
- conduct programs in or use, or allow any other person or body to conduct programs in or use, any of the school’s buildings or grounds for the purpose of educational, recreational, sporting or cultural activities for students, the local community or young persons, but only when the buildings or grounds are not required for ordinary school purposes
- with the applicable approval from the Minister, construct or carry out any improvements to any school building structure or school grounds
- do any other thing that is necessary or convenient to be done for, or in connection with, meeting its objectives or performing its functions or duties
- do anything else conferred on it by or under the Education and Training Reform Act, or any regulations or a Ministerial Order made under that Act.
Important: A school council does not have the power to:
- employ a teacher for longer than twelve months or with no date fixed for the termination of that employment;
- purchase or acquire for consideration any land or building; or
- unless authorised by or under the Education and Training Reform Act or any regulations or a Ministerial Order made under that Act:
- license or grant any interest in land, including school lands or buildings;
- enter into hire purchase agreements;
- obtain loan or credit facilities;
- form or become a member of a corporation;
- provide for any matter or thing outside Victoria unless it is related to an excursion by students from the school or the professional development of staff of the school;
- purchase a motor vehicle, boat or plane.
Objectives of school council
The objectives of a school council are set out in the school council’s constituting Order and section 2.3.4 of the Education and Training Reform Act and are to:
- assist in the efficient governance of the school
- ensure that its decisions affecting students of the school are made having regard, as a primary consideration, to the best interest of the students
- enhance the educational opportunities of students at the school
- ensure the school and the council complies with any requirements of the Education and Training Reform Act, the Education and Training Reform Regulations, a Ministerial Order or a direction, guideline or policy issued under the Education and Training Reform Act.
These school council objectives must be taken into account by school council members when exercising any of their powers, duties or functions.
Delegation of school council powers, duties and functions
The Education and Training Reform Regulations allow school councils to delegate their powers, duties or functions. However, a school council cannot delegate any of its functions in relation to the approval of the school budget or Annual Report.
A school council must generally obtain written approval from the Minister for Education if they wish to delegate a power or duty to a person or body, other than the principal.
- The delegation must be recorded in the minutes of the meeting of school council and a register of delegations must be kept by the school council.
- The instrument/documentation setting out the delegations, and the terms and conditions of the delegations, must be signed by the president of the school council and delivered to the delegates.
- A person or body to whom a delegation has been made must provide a written report about any activities performed as a delegate at each ordinary meeting of the school council.
A Delegations Fact and template instrument of delegation for school is available to support school councils with the delegations process.
School council decisions will usually affect the school community, and they generally need to be clearly communicated to, and understood by, the school community.
However, school council members must feel confident their deliberations and any differing views during council discussions are treated confidentially by other members.
School councillors must only use the information they gain in the course of their duties as a councillor for its intended purpose of achieving school council decisions and responsibilities.
School councillors must not use information to obtain an advantage for themselves or another person or to cause detriment to the school council.
Ministerial Order 1280: Constitution of Government School Councils
Coming into operation on 1 January 2021, the new Ministerial Order No 1280 — Constitution of Government School Councils 2020 consolidates and replaces the following Ministerial Orders:
- Ministerial Orders No 38 and 108: Order amending the Constituting Orders of the School Councils of all State Schools
- Ministerial Order No 52: School Council Composition and Elections Order
- Ministerial Order No 53: Order amending the Constituting Orders of the School Councils of all Government Schools (2008)
- Ministerial Order No 198: Order amending Ministerial Order 52 (2009)
- Ministerial Order No 311: Order amending Ministerial Order 52 (2010)
- Ministerial Order No 383: Order amending the Constituting Orders of Government School Councils (2010)
- Ministerial Order No 399: Order amending Ministerial Order 52 (2010)
- Ministerial Order No 470: School Plan and Annual Report Order (2011)
- Ministerial Order No 487: Order amending Ministerial Order 52 (2011)
- Ministerial Order No 784: Amendment to School Plan and Annual Report Order (2015)
- Ministerial Order No 928: Power of School Council to Grant a Licence in Relation to School Lands or Buildings (2016)
- Ministerial Order No 1018: Order amending the Constituting Orders of the School Councils of all Government Schools (2018)
- Ministerial Order No 1086: Order amending the Constituting Orders of the School Councils of all Government Schools (2018)
- Ministerial Order No 1098: Order amending the Composition and Election Provisions (2018)
- Ministerial Order No 1127: School Cleaning in Government Schools (2018)
- Ministerial Order No 1174: Banking services for School Councils (2019)
The objectives, functions and powers of school council remain set out in the Education and Training Reform Act 2006 (the Act). There is no material change to a school councils’ functions or powers under the Act. Rather, Ministerial Order 1280: Constitution of Government School Councils:
- updates the existing Orders to use plain English and simpler language
- removes duplication of matters that are already provided for in the Act and
- clarifies school councils’ powers and functions and responsibilities in respect of various areas of school administration.
Summary of clarification of school council roles and responsibilities
Clause 31: Power to purchase by use of purchasing card facilities
The purchase by a school council of goods and services, equipment or material using purchasing card facilities must be for a school-related purpose. The purchases must comply with any applicable guidelines issued by the Minister and any applicable policies or procedures about the school council’s use of purchasing cards issued by the Secretary (as amended from time to time).
Clause 34: Gifts
A school council may accept gifts (including real estate) provided that any encumbrance or condition that attaches to the gift is approved by the Secretary before the school council accepts the gift.
Clause 35: Installation and Operation of Closed Circuit Television (CCTV)
Where a school council exercises its powers and functions in relation to the installation and operation of CCTV, it must do so in accordance with any policy issued by the department (and amended from time to time).
Clause 36: Cleaning
This clause will:
- apply to all school councils (the previous Ministerial Order currently only applies to metropolitan schools)
- provide that schools councils, in discharging their functions to provide school cleaning services, must comply with any applicable department policies and procedures.
Clause 38: Use of school buildings and grounds for activities
School councils must ensure that, where use of school premises is allowed under section 2.3.11 of the Act (Use of schools building and grounds for activities):
- that use complies with any applicable department policies and procedures and
- appropriate insurance coverage is maintained in relation to that use, and those activities either by the council or by the other person or body that conducts the program.
Clause 40: Construction works
This provision was previously provided for in the Ministers’ instrument of financial authorisations.
Clause 41: Early Childhood Services
Updates the meaning of early childhood services in the Order to:
- an education and care service within the meaning of the Education and Care Services National Law Act 2010 (Vic) or
- a children’s service within the meaning of the Children’s Services Act 1996 (Vic).
Clause 42: School Plan (known as School Strategic Plan)
A school plan (known as a School Strategic Plan) must be prepared in accordance with any guidelines issued by the department (and amended from time to time).
Clause 43: Curriculum planning
A school council does not determine the curriculum programs to be followed in the school. However, the school council may inform itself and take into account the views of the school community. The council may advise the principal of its views and those of the community regarding the curriculum programs in the school.
Clause 45: International Education
Provides that international education activities must be conducted in accordance with department policies and procedures, and requires the principal to provide the school council with an annual report of the school’s compliance with an International Student Program in accordance with Commonwealth legislation.
- Child Safe Standards
- Contractors – Insurance and Contract Arrangements
- Finance Manual – Financial Management for Schools
- OHS Management System (OHSMS) Overview
- Out of School Hours Care – Decision Making Regarding the Provision of OSHC
- Parent Payments
- Procurement in Schools
- School Council – Composition and Office Bearers
- School Council – Conduct and Conflict of Interest
- School Council – Elections
- School Council – Liability and Legal proceedings
- School Council – Meetings
- School Council – Overview
- School Council – Subcommittees
- School Council – Training and Good Governance
- Student Dress Code
- Education and Training Reform Act 2006
- Education and Training Reform Regulations 2017
- Ministerial Order 1280 Constitution of Government School Councils 2020
- Ministerial Order 1359 Child Safe
- Ministerial Direction 145 Special Religious Instruction in Government
- Ministerial Order 1006 Principal (Selection Procedures and Grounds for
- Ministerial Order 1039 School Council Employees (Employment Conditions, Salaries, Allowances and
- Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004
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 .
A delegations fact and a template instrument of delegation for school are available to support school councils with the delegations process.
Reviewed 24 March 2020