All schools work within legal constraints. In Australia, there is legislation and regulation. To operate as a ‘school’, there is a process of registration and accreditation governed by NESA. NESA is the State-based Education Standards Authority. The AIS (Association of Independent Schools) is an affiliation of non-government schools. The AIS interpret NESA policies and support independent schools to ensure each school operates legally and responsibly.
Having a good governance model with clear policies ensures there is consistency and transparency. Living School is a not-for-profit corporation. As such it has a constitution and a board of directors with nine members. The Board of Living School has targets for elected members to ensure diversity: 40% female, 40% male, 20% cultural diversity and/or indigenous. The Head of School and the Business Manager also sit on the board and report to the board.
Adopting sociocracy ‘circle’ structures is a way of structuring organisations collaboratively so decisions are based around consent and transparency.
There are three defined areas of function:
Community – e.g. culture, welfare, support groups, networks and opportunities.
Administration – e.g. staffing, enrolments, communication, procedures
Pedagogy – e.g. curriculum, learning, teaching, assessment, resources.
To avoid over-commitment and ensure organisational management, under the board are a limited number of active working parties, assigned by the Board. Each working party must be chaired by at least one board member, who is able to manage an autonomous sub-circle based on an identified strategic area of growth. These working parties lie between the day-to-day management of Living School and the policy governance of the Board. The working parties’ reason for being is to support harmonious evolution, transparency and collaborative consent.
Council of Elders
Every board member has a tenure of 3 years with the opportunity to extend for a second term of three years. When a board member leaves the Living School Board, the member is approved by the Board to sit on a Council of Elders.
This council has the responsibility to sustain the cultural history of the school: the council ensures they are the knowledge-owners of all policies archived and current. The Board Chair can pass requests on to the Council of Elders for consideration. The Council of Elders has two major roles: arbitration and archive management.
Arbitration – managing complaints
The Living School’s Council of Elders can be called upon to objectively review a complaint that has passed through the usual governance structure, ie Community member – Teacher/Staff member – Head of School/Business Manager – Chairperson.
If a complaint has not been resolved, the Board is able to vote to have the dispute heard by the Council of Elders as independent arbitrators. The decision will be reported back to the Board and to the Community.
The Board has an archive policy, which is a public statement outlining:
purpose of the archive
- why it collects
- what it collects
- what it does not collect
- who can use the material collected.
The archive policy ensures any new policy must be passed to the Council of Elders for review so the council can advise objectively with reference to historical information the merits and history of policy development, providing the council with advice on previous discussions and reasoning. In so doing, the growth of Living School is always reflective of policies and protocols – which in turns ensures sound governance and transparency.
Any new policy must be published to the community prior to any determination by the Board. This ensures there is transparency and the opportunity for all members of the community to have agency.
Our aim is to have a collaborative relationship with teachers, staff, students, parents and the wider community to continuously co-create Living School.