School Council and Safety
Translating school council functions into responsibilities for safe school governance
Author: Thomson K Fedrick
A school safety committee assists the council regarding safety matters
Safe school governance is one topic with manifold dimensions; It is not merely about infrastructure. It touches the psychological environment of the school also. The school as a whole should be a factory which produces positives only. Safety is a concept which should be thoroughly scrutinised and updated. All the stakeholders of the school have to contribute their part in this process.
It is necessary to clearly demarcate the functional difference in the role of a school council and a Principal
Introduction to School Council
The word governance derives from the Greek word ‘kybernao’ meaning ‘to steer or guide’. As the word suggests, it is an activity which comprises taking administrative decisions to manage a particular resource or institution. For schools, the responsibility of safe and good governance lies with the school council.
What is a school council? Why we need a School Governing Council? School Governing Council or SGC is an apex body set to frame and implement the rules and regulations necessary for the unobstructed functioning of the school. It comprises of the Principal, Academic Head, Senior Teacher, Chief Accountant, Teacher Representative, House Masters Council Representative, P T A representative, School Management Committee Representative, and Student Council Members.
A principal is the council’s chief executive officer responsible for day to day operations
Objectives of a School Council
• Assist in the efficient governance of the school.
• Ensure that its decisions are taken with regards to safeguarding the best interests of the students.
• Enhance the educational opportunities of the students of the school
Authority of a School Council:
• Enter into contracts, agreements or arrangements.
• Establish trusts and act as a trustee of them.
• Employ teachers (for a fixed period not exceeding one year or on a casual basis), teacher aides or any other staff for the purpose of performing the council’s functions and duties.
• Charge fees to parents for goods, services or other things provided by the school.
• Conduct programs in or use or allow third parties to conduct programs in or use school buildings or grounds for students, young people and the local community for educational, recreational, sporting or cultural activities.
• Carry out construction and improvements to school buildings. (Ref. Making Partnership Work/ Department of Early Childhood Education, State Govt, Victoria).
Functions of a School Council
• Establishing the broad direction and vision of the school.
• Developing, reviewing and updating the policies of the school.
• Arranging for the supply of goods, services, facilities, materials and equipment that are required for the conduct of the school, including the provision of preschool programs.
• Raising funds for school-related purposes.
• Regulating and facilitating the after-hours use of school premises and grounds.
• Exercising a general oversight of the buildings and grounds and ensuring that they are kept in good order and condition.
• Providing for cleaning and sanitary services necessary for the school.
• Providing meals and refreshments for staff and students and charging for this.
• Ensuring all money coming into the hands of the council is properly expended for purposes related to the school.
• Informing itself of, and taking into account, any views of the school community for the purpose of making decisions in regard to the school and its students.
• Ensuring that an annual report relating to financial activities and the school’s strategic plan is published and made available to the school community.
• Stimulating interest in the school in the wider community.
Council and Safe School Policy
Among the diverse functions, the most important function of school council is to frame and follow a safe school policy where the parameters of safety are defined on international standards. A school safety committee assists the council regarding safety matters.
The safety plan guidelines have been given by the government of India in consultation with UN.guidelines to safety plan in 2011-12. As per the recommendations the following things to be taken care by schools. As per the guidelines, it is the sole responsibility of school council to carry out safety inspections as per the checklist provided.
However, the checklist does not cover the concept of safety in entirety. It does not include safety concerns outside school boundary e.g. safe transportation or concerns within e.g. the emotional safety of child etc.
Thus, the school councils should proactively look at filling this lacuna and take a multi-dimensional approach to address safety concerns i.e physical, social as well as emotional. Then only the body will achieve its ultimate objective of efficient governance.
Demarcated Roles and Responsibilities: Key to Effective Governance
It is necessary to clearly demarcate the functional difference in the role of a school council and a Principal. It results in effective governance and avoids confusion. The function of a school council is much broader and involves school governance by framing policies in resonance with the vision and mission while the Principal is responsible for managing and implementing such policies. School councils play a crucial role in strategic planning which involves reflecting on past performances of school and setting a future course. The council also passes the school budget on how the school will allocate its resources in a given academic calendar. A principal is the council’s chief executive officer responsible for day to day operations. At times, council consults with students’, especially when it comes to developing policies on topics of students’ interest.
Thus, Council is the connection between the school and the community including staff, students, and parents. An effective and efficient governance by council demands a dialogue exchange by a mutual sharing of information, knowledge, and ideas.
About the Author
Thomson K Fedrick
Mr. Thomson K Frederick hailing from Kottayam, Kerala has been working in the field of education for 19 years, as a teacher and an administrator. He holds a Bachelors in Education and Masters in Arts and Language from the presitigious Mahatama Gandhi University. He has also worked with MIT Maharashtra as an International School Award coordinator for British Council. He was appointed the principal of ARJ International the Futuristic School in May 2016. During his tenure, he has always been an active school council member and advocates for translating the legislative functions of council in safe school governance. He believes in the skill of Team Management, Team Work and Educational Leadership to help him govern his school effectively and efficiently. Mr. Thomson aims to be an inspirational leader and his mantra to achieve professional excellence through training and regularly upgrading yourself by sharing knowledge and ideas through a collaborative learning approach.