Ask a school principal what they least like about the job, and the chances are administration and red tape will be close to the top of the list. They became school leaders because they’re passionate about education, yet much of their time is spent on form filling, paper work, and navigating their way through complex and overlapping layers of government bureaucracy.
Consider just some of the bureaucratic chores they’re confronted with. They have to report to and fill forms for state and federal education departments, school and teacher registration authorities, the tax office and a range of other official agencies. Added to the mix is the Australian Charities and Not-for-Profits Commission (ACNC).
The ACNC is an independent national regulator of charities, set up to ensure public confidence in charities and not-for-profit organisations (which include non-government schools) through increased accountability and transparency.
At the same time, the commission seeks to reduce unnecessary regulatory obligations for charities. This might sound like a contradiction, yet it’s a commitment that the commission seeks to adhere to.
Earlier this year, ACNC Commissioner Susan Pascoe restated her commitment to working towards streamlined reporting processes for non-government schools, a sector she acknowledges is ‘highly regulated’.
It’s an acknowledgement I welcome.
Independent Schools Victoria has long argued for clarity and consistency in government regulation and accountability requirements. We don’t say we should not be accountable to funding and regulatory agencies. Instead, we argue that our Member Schools expect these requirements will be clear and consistent, not onerous and unreasonable. And where more than one level of government is involved, we’d like to see duplication eliminated.
From her professional background, Commissioner Pascoe is well aware of the reporting burdens imposed on non-government schools.
Her office is currently conducting public consultations on proposed changes to the 2016 Annual Information Statement that all charities, including non-government schools, are required to complete.
The proposed changes will remove unnecessary questions, improve the way in which information is displayed on the ACNC’s register and provide further clarity on the information that it collects for compliance purposes.
In addition to calling for comment on the proposed changes, ACNC has also invited interested parties to make any general comments about its reporting requirements and how these could be improved.
The current transitional financial reporting arrangements for non-government schools do not form a specific part of the consultation process, although schools are free to comment on these as part of any general comments.
People are invited to complete an online survey or to submit a written response to ACNC. Consultation will remain open until Friday 27 November 2015. Further information on the consultation process, including the proposed changes to the Annual Information Statement, are available online.
Our busy principals and school administrators might think this is just another irksome task in their busy schedules, but I encourage them to make their views heard in the consultation process.