AISSA recognises that effective governance arrangements are crucial to independent schools.  AISSA can provide expert advice to Boards and Principals on different governance models for schools, reviewing governance arrangements and resolving governance issues.  Governance issues in schools usually focus on the roles and responsibilities of the Board and the roles and responsibilities of the Principal.

View our Professional Learning for School Governance.

Key topics associated with school governance include:

  • Trends in board governance;
  • Strategic direction of the school;
  • Management and governance;
  • Board member training;
  • Meeting education, legal and financial obligations;
  • Appraisal of the Principal;
  • Monitoring and reporting financial matters; and
  • Evaluation of board performance

There is no “correct” governance model, as schools should establish arrangements suitable for their circumstances. Often the most appropriate arrangements for a school change as circumstances change; e.g. the experience and skills of the principal increase or a board’s role changes as the school is more established.

Often governance issues are associated with different perceptions of the role of the Board or the role of the Principal or if expectations or needs have changed.  AISSA has been involved in many situations where governance issues have impacted on the relationships between:

  • The Board and the Principal;
  • The Board and the school community; or
  • The Board or Principal and organisations linked to the school.

There have been substantial developments in governance theory in recent years and suggested references on governance can be obtained from AISSA.  To discuss any governance issues, please contact Anne Dunstan.

See More

AISSA’s Annual Governance Conference

2023: Empowering Great Governance in Your School

This Conference, which was held on 17 March 2023 at the Stamford Grand Glenelg, addressed three critical areas of board leadership, namely drivers of school choice and their impact on enrolments (based on AISSA’s recently commissioned research), the board’s role in supporting principal wellbeing and an exploration of future global education trends.

You can view the full Conference program by clicking here.

2021: Virtual Conference: What Boards Need to Know About Wellbeing
The 2021 conference was held virtually across three evenings and focussed on the role of school boards in creating and sustaining high levels of wellbeing in their communities.

Session 1: Tuesday 26 October
Dr Helen Street
Supporting Principals and Thriving School Communities with Contextual Wellbeing

Session 2: Thursday 4 November
Mr David Runge and Mr Andrew Brown
What is the Board’s Role in Influencing Culture and the Wellbeing of the School?

Session 3: Tuesday 9 November
Panel Discussion
Mrs Carolyn Grantskalns, Mr Anthony Mackay AM, Ms Fiona Hutton and Mr David Runge facilitated by Mr Louka Parry, CEO, of The Learning Future.

Please see the full conference program for more information about each session.


2019: Managing Critical Risks

The 2019 conference was held on Saturday 4 May at Pembroke School.
See the full program


Keynote address: The Board’s Role in Creating Child Safe Schools
Presented by Commissioner Robert Fitzgerald AM

Keynote address: ICT Risk from the Boundary
Presented by Ms Janet Brimson, Information & Analytics Partner, Business Aspect

2018: The Strategic School Board

The 2018 conference was held on Saturday 5 May at Pembroke School.

See the full program

2017: Strategic Foresight - Opportunities and Challenges for School Boards

The 2017 conference was held on Saturday 27 May at Pembroke School.

AISSA 2017 Governance Program

2016: Scanning the Horizon - Strategic Issues for School Boards

The 2016 conference was held on 28 May at Immanuel College.  This conference was designed to inform and challenge School Boards about the strategic environment in which they operate. Governors need to understand and respond to the external threats and opportunities all schools currently confront.  The conference was facilitated by Mr Tony MacKay, CEO of the Melbourne-based Centre for Strategic Education, Co-Director of the Global Education Leaders Programme (GELP) and Chair of the Innovation Unit Ltd, England.

AISSA 2016 Governance Program

A range of outstanding keynote speakers provided insight into the local, national and global contexts which impact on independent schools. In particular, we welcomed back Professor Yong Zhao to Adelaide to elaborate on the challenges presented during the 2015 conference. He further explored the changes he believes schools should make in order to remain relevant to our students’ futures. Mr Tony Harrison, Chief Executive, Department for Education & Child Development (Department for Education) summarised the improvement agenda in South Australian Government schools and Colette Colman, Executive Director, Independent Schools Council Australia, provided a national picture.

A panel discussion focusing on the ways schools might be responsive to the changing educational and economic landscape was another program highlight. Panel members include Ms Carolyn Hewson, AO, Dr Leoni Degenhardt, Dean of Leadership AISNSW and Professor David Lloyd, Vice Chancellor and President of the University of South Australia.

2015: AISSA Governance Conference

The 2015 conference was held on Saturday 2 May at Walford Anglican School for Girls.

AISSA 2015 Governance Conference Program

How do we educate our children for a world where future work and careers will require students to create their own employment opportunities?  In the new global economy, the jobs that exist now might not exist by the time today’s students enter the workplace. Professor Yong Zhao believes that to succeed in this ever-changing world, students need to be able to think like entrepreneurs: to be resourceful, flexible, creative, and global.

Being a great school is its own reward but, from a Board viewpoint, a school’s reputation is, at least partly, about driving enrolments.  If nobody knows that you exist or understands what it is that you do really well then you have not successfully managed your school’s reputation. Likewise, doing the ‘right thing’ to manage a crisis is essential but may not be sufficient if your school’s hard-earned reputation is to be upheld.



Good Governance Checklist
Effective Governance and Benchmarks

Impact of Organisational Culture on NFP Boards
This research paper written by David Runge and Andrew Brown from Future Schools Australia,  focuses on board culture, the implications for collective culture and the adaptive capacity of the organisation it oversees.

For more information please see:


Online Learning

The AISSA, in conjunction with AISNSW, is pleased to make available a collection of online modules on school governance developed by AISNSW.  Each module is about 50 minutes long and costs $50 per participant payable directly to AISNSW via credit card.  Some Boards may wish to consider watching a module together to facilitate discussion on the matters raised.

To register for any of the online modules you must have an active AISNSW account linked to a South Australian independent school in the role of Board Member or Principal.   For more information about establishing an AISNSW account or registering for online modules please see the user guide.


AISSA Webinar: What Boards need to know about Student Wellbeing and Bullying

This session for Board members provided robust practical evidence from Professor Cross’ research on student wellbeing and learning, and the impact of bullying on individual students and the school community. Professor Cross shared the essentials of effective whole school approaches and rigorously tested school-based interventions which improve social and emotional wellbeing and minimise bullying.


AISNSW Webinar: Payment Fraud Through Online Banking

AISNSW has kindly shared with the AISSA a recording of a recent webinar on payment fraud through online banking.  Ensuring a school’s finance systems are secure and protected against cyber-attacks is getting more challenging every year as cyber-attacks become more frequent and more sophisticated.  During this webinar experts from Malwarebytes, Mimecast, AON, EFTSure and NAB share insights, strategies and advice for schools to encourage the implementation of proactive business processes and system defences.


Good Governance Guiding Principles: A Guide to Promote Good Governance

The Good Governance Guiding Principles have been adapted by the Association of Independent Schools of South Australia from the Association of Independent Schools ACT School Governance Guiding Principles (January 2021) developed by Day and Hodge Associates and Management Partners Australia.


National Principles for Child Safe Organisations

The National Principles (NPs) reflect the ten child safe standards recommended by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, with a broader scope that goes beyond child sexual abuse to cover other forms of harm to children and young people.  In February 2019, the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) endorsed the NPs which aim to provide a nationally consistent approach to creating organisational cultures that foster child safety and wellbeing across all sectors, including Schools and Early Learning Centres.  All states are currently working towards implementing them and the AISSA is part of the SA education cross sector reference group and will advise schools this year on how the changes will impact schools.  Tools and resources for implementing the NPs are now available.