Report says St Peter’s College governance poses ‘significant risk’

St Peter's College

Gore’s St Peter’s College principal wants an apology from the school’s board of trustees’ chairperson after the limited statutory manager’s report highlighted flaws in the school’s governance.

After the board and principal sought Education Ministry support, the Catholic co-ed school went into limited statutory management in April.

The report

Several issues “pose risks to the educational performance and health and safety of students, and to the operation of the school,” limited statutory manager Nicola Hornsey’s report says.

It lists these as: poor employment practices; incohesive governance framework; dysfunctional relationship between the school and the school board; and diminished student voice.

The report also says the current governance model poses “a significant risk to the operation of the school, student achievement and health and safety.”

Principal’s comment

In May, the school’s principal Tara Quinney said she had no confidence in board chairperson Ruth Mitchell’s leadership. She wanted her to resign.

Having read the report, Quinney says it shows the intervention has led to “notable strides forward” for the board.

Mitchell should “acknowledge her responsibility for the lapse in appropriate governance practices” Quinney says.

“She should demonstrate genuine accountability and extend a heartfelt public apology to the students, staff and wider community.” This would “exemplify true leadership and humility in accordance with our Catholic values.”

Hornsey’s response

Speaking on Mitchell’s behalf, Hornsey made no comment on Quinney’s apology request.

Her report, however, addresses the school and board’s dysfunctional relationship.

The principal is the conduit for communicating information between the board and school, she wrote. She noted principal-board relationships detrimentally affected communication regarding board decisions.

The poor relationship led to widespread mistrust between some staff and the board, the principal and the board, and the board and principal.

Board dysfunction

Hornsey’s report notes a high turnover of board members and board chairs at the school. This contributed to a lack of alignment between the principal and board regarding the school’s strategic direction.

The board tried to facilitate this model of working but was not successful, the report says.

Board members were committed to meeting their duties, the report continues. They’ve participated in training and sought advice to add to their governance knowledge.

However, the report notes employment practices allowed breaches of good faith obligations, employment policies and procedures, confidentiality and privacy duties, and codes of conduct in the past year.

It says these failures pose a significant risk to school operations and students’ educational performance and health and safety.

Governance framework

Hornsey says the board recognises the policies and procedures governing the school need reviewing; changes are underway.

She noted students value their education but are concerned about “inconsistencies in the teaching practices and attitudes shown towards them.”

Avenues to raise issues and suggest solutions were not currently effective, posing a moderate risk to student engagement and learning.

What now?

The board and the Education Ministry will now devise an “outcomes plan”.

Work is already in progress on:

  • The board’s understanding of individual roles and responsibilities
  • Ongoing improvement in governance through training and planning
  • The board developing relationships with the principal and staff based on trust, integrity and clarity about roles; building trust with the school community and diocese; promoting the care of students

The ongoing intervention will be reviewed in April 2024.



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