Legal responsibilities

Boards of Trustees have a responsibility for providing a safe physical and emotional environment for students.

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Education Act 1989

1. A board’s primary objective in governing the school is to ensure that every student at the school is able to attain his or her highest possible standard in educational achievement.

2. To meet the primary objective, the board must —

(a) ensure that the school —

(i) is a physically and emotionally safe place for all students and staff; and

(ii) is inclusive of and caters for students with differing needs; and

(b) have particular regard to any statement of NationalEducation and Learning Priorities issued under section 1A; and

(c) comply with its obligations under sections 60A (in relation to curriculum statements and national performance measures), 61 (in relation to teaching and learning programmes), and 62 (in relation to monitoring of student performance); and

(d) if the school is a member of a community of learning that has a community of learning agreement under section 72, comply with its obligations under that agreement as a member of that community; and

(e) comply with all of its other obligations under this or any other Act.

Education Review Office

In every Education Review Office (ERO) review, school boards and principals are asked about the steps in place to ensure students are safe and the strategies schools implement to provide a safe physical and emotional environment. ERO's focus includes physical, verbal and social bullying, including cyber-bullying and homophobic bullying.

According to ERO(external link), schools that actively create inclusive, respectful environments experience less bullying that schools that simplly respond to bullying incidents.

ERO’s current review documentation on the prevention of bullying includes:

The Board Assurance Statement (Page 24, ERO Guidelines for Board Assurance Statement and Self-Audit Checklists): defines bullying and provides information on the types of bullying behaviour.

The Self-Audit Checklist for the Board of Trustees (Section 3 – Health, Safety and Welfare, Question No. 24) asks does the board meet the requirements under NAG5:

  • Through the principal and teaching staff, currently provide anti-bullying programmes for students?; and
  • Do these anti-bullying programmes include a focus on (i) racist bullying; (ii) bullying of students with special needs; (iii) homophobic bullying; (iv) sexual harassment?

Checklist prompts have questions focusing on the:

  • Emotional safety of students:
    • clear documentation
    • reporting incidents and serious harm
    • procedures for preventing bullying
    • appropriate anonymous surveys (parents, students) analysed
  • Wellbeing and inclusion
    • the board/principal asked if the school uses (or is aware of) the NZCER surveys to monitor wellbeing and inclusion.

ERO’s online School Trustees Booklet – Helping you ask the right questions(external link)

This booklet focuses on student achievement and wellbeing, and the role the board plays in these two areas.

Within the component on student wellbeing, sections are dedicated to answering the following questions:

  • Why is student wellbeing important?
  • What part do trustees play in ensuring student wellbeing?
  • How can we improve student wellbeing at our school?
  • What sort of information should the board receive about bullying?

Other legal considerations

Board of Trustees should understand their school's responsibilties set out in other legislation and guidelines, including National Administration Guideline (NAG) 5.

Read more about...

Schools' responsibilties: Legislation and guidelines with question for Boards of Trustees to consider.

Responding to bullying incidents

Responding to bullying incidents should be part of a school’s wider bullying prevention policies and procedures.

Bullying that occurs outside of school

Schools are increasingly involved in incidents where students' activities at home or in their own time have an impact on school life.

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...a school's responsibility to to act when bullying that occurs outside school has a negative impact on the school's learning environment.