Planning and reporting: School charters

Purpose of a charter

A charter sets the direction for the school and identifies the priorities the board expects the principal to be leading.

The Education Act requires every school's board of trustees to:

  • prepare and maintain a charter
  • send a reviewed and updated charter to the Ministry of Education every year.

Key planning document

Your charter is the key-planning document for your school. It includes strategic aims and annual plans which:

  • reflect the goals and aspirations your community has for your school and your students for the next 3–5 years
  • outline how your school is implementing the government's priorities as set out in the National Education Guidelines and the National Administration Guidelines
  • identify the key areas your board will focus on, both in the longer term and the coming year, to improve the progress and achievement of all of your students.

In the words of the Education Act, Section 63:

A school charter has effect as an undertaking by the board to the Minister to take all reasonable steps (not inconsistent with any enactment, or the general law of New Zealand) to ensure that:

(a) the school is managed, organised, conducted, and administered for the purposes set out in the school charter; and

(b) the school, and its students and community, achieve the aims and objectives set out in the school charter.

Your role in developing a charter

The board has overall responsibility for developing and reviewing your school's charter. It plays an active role in setting the strategic direction.

A governance-management partnership

As principal-trustee you will participate in developing the charter. As principal-manager you will be the person responsible for implementing it.

  • Developing 3–5 year strategic aims and expected outcomes for your students is a governance role. You will be working with the board to do this.
  • Determining the specific steps that your school will take year by year in order to achieve your strategic aims is a management role.

The Professional Standards for Principals, Partnership and Networks part, reinforce the governance-management partnership needed to develop and implement a charter.

A living document

As principal, you play a key part in making your charter a "living" document and a shared document for the school community.

To give your charter life, look at how you can intentionally link the structures and systems in your school to progressing and reviewing your school's strategic aims.

Back to top

Content of a charter 

The Education Act, Section 61, describes three sections for a charter:

  • an introductory section – usually includes mission, vision and values
  • a strategic section – looks at the next 3–5 years
  • an annual section – identifies targets and planned actions. 

Read more about charter contents – Legislation website

Charter template and guide

Anyone picking up a charter today would reasonably expect to get a sense of the school and its community, its priorities and expectations for students.

For advice and recommendations on what to include in your school's charter use the following resources.

Charter template – Ministry of Education website

Guides for school planning and reporting – Ministry of Education website

Examples of school charters – NZ Curriculum Online website

Keeping a focus

In your strategic plan, and thus each year's annual plan, focus on what is most important to achieve your school's vision or mission and the government's priorities.

Most schools use a 3 year timeframe for their strategic plan. It pays not to have too many strategic aims, as you will need at least one annual objective and target for each strategic aim.

Use the evidence you generate from gathering and analysing data and undertaking self-review to set your aims, objectives and targets.

Keeping alignment

The annual section of the charter does not have to contain all management planning for the year, but it does have to link to and align to everything that is happening in the school. That is, to policies, plans and programmes, including those for curriculum, National Standards, assessment and staff professional development (NAG 2).

For example, school property should be able to provide for the curriculum, the school's educational aims and its administrative requirements. There need to be links between the 10YPP and the key activities you plan for.

Back to top

Reviewing and updating a charter

Annual planning and reporting cycle

The Ministry of Education expects you to review and update your charter as part of an annual planning and reporting cycle, in accordance with the National Administration Guidelines.

The board, principal, school leaders and teachers all have roles and responsibilities in the school's annual planning and reporting cycle.

Engaging the community

In your charter include a plan for when and how you will consult with your community about your school and your charter.

It is important to stand back from time to time and check that the hopes and aspirations contained in your charter are still relevant to your school, students and community.

Plan how you will engage parents, whānau, iwi, the students themselves, and others in the school's community. It's a good idea to develop a list of others you might involve. Think about such things as:

  • Where do our students transition from?
  • Where do our students go to continue their learning?

Consider what it might be useful to find out from them, for example:

  • What are the aspirations and needs of our community?
  • What do they want from our school?
  • Are our students well prepared for the next stage in their learning?
  • What do they think the school does well?
  • What do they think it might do differently or better?

An important note about timing

Update your charter before the school year is underway. It is key to your school's annual planning and reporting process and provides valuable information for you and your community.

Communications from the Secretary for Education have underlined this expectation. It is good practice and it helps the Ministry work with you to identify any additional support the students or your school may need in that year. This could be professional learning and development for teachers or resources for students.

Send your reviewed and updated charter to the Ministry of Education by 1 March each year.

Submitting your documents – Ministry of Education website

Support for boards

NZSTA has an e-learning module on charter review on its website and offers workshops for boards at various times.

E-learning programmes – NZSTA website

Tell a colleague | Back to top

Related sabbatical reports

  • Robert Callaghan, St Martin's School

    Examine the characteristics of strategic planning that make it effective, and investigate how school evidence impacts on improved student achievement and school improvement. (PDF 8MB)