Independent schools are accountable to their governing body and must operate within the law and government policy but enjoy the autonomy to respond flexibly and innovatively to their local community and their students’ needs.
Governance and management
Each Independent school is responsible for its own educational programs, financial decisions, staffing, co-curricular content and ongoing development and accountable to its governing body, within the bounds of legislation and government policy.
When autonomy is combined with appropriate accountability – for education as well as responsible financial management – it has been found to be associated with better student outcomes.
More than 80 per cent of Independent schools are governed by their school board or council and are primarily accountable to their parent and school community. This makes them different from government schools, which are managed by state and territory governments – and Catholic systemic schools, which are managed by Catholic education authorities or systems.
School governors represent one of the largest volunteer bodies in Australia, with more than 10,000 members of Independent school boards or councils.
Independent school boards or councils are responsible for making sure their schools meet high standards.
The leader of an Independent school is accountable to the board or council for the school’s day-to-day running and educational programs, including how they apply the strategic directions and ethos of their school.
Regulations and accountability
Independent schools must comply with the legislative, regulatory and reporting requirements that apply to all schools, corporate entities or charities.
They must meet the relevant state or territory government criteria for registration as a school. This registration is regularly reviewed to ensure that schools maintain appropriate standards and meet staffing, facilities, environment, management, curriculum and reporting requirements.
To receive Australian Government funding, Independent schools must be not-for-profit institutions, as per Sections 75 and 76 of the Australian Education Act 2013.
As companies limited by guarantee or registered charities, they are accountable to the Australian Securities and Investments Commission, the Australian Taxation Office and the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission.
They must also demonstrate that the funds they receive from government have been expended appropriately and provide relevant financial data to the Australian Government Department of Education, Skills and Employment.
Independent schools are bound by a range of other legal requirements associated with their educational and financial operations and must comply with both Australian Government and state and territory government regulations and accountability requirements. These requirements include participation in national testing; implementation of the national curriculum; the provision of data on schools, staff and students for national reporting; and completion of an annual financial questionnaire, financial viability assessment and reporting against government grants.
As employers, they must comply with legislation and regulations covering such issues as equal employment opportunity, industrial awards and work health and safety.
As educational institutions, they must observe health, safety, privacy and child protection requirements as well as regulations relating to building and fire codes.
The Australian Government requires all schools commit to the The Alice Springs (Mparntwe) Education Declaration.
Through this commitment, all Australian schools work towards common goals in education and associated performance measures. All Independent schools use the Australian Curriculum developed by the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) and participate in national student assessments such as national literacy and numeracy tests (NAPLAN).
The development of national goals, directions and policies is a collaborative effort involving all school sectors. The Independent school sector is actively engaged in these developments through Independent Schools Australia and the Associations of Independent Schools.