Author Identifiers

Matthew Bambach
ORCID: 0000-0001-7418-2714

Date of Award

2020

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

School

School of Business and Law

First Advisor

Doctor Uma Jogulu

Second Advisor

Associate Professor Janice Redmond

Third Advisor

Doctor Megan Paull

Fourth Advisor

Associate Professor Peter Standen

Fifth Advisor

Associate Professor Llandis Barratt-Pugh

Abstract

My experience of working with boards of independent schools has led me to conclude that boards often struggle to know how they might make their governance more effective. Very little has been written and few empirical studies have investigated governance of independent school boards in Australia, despite the considerable responsibility and power entrusted to them. This study asks how well such boards are governing and what they could do to engender fully effective governance.

Currently, there are no standards or instruments for assessing the effectiveness of board governance. This study identified seven governance effectiveness factors (GEFs) from the literature on governance in schools and other non-profit organisations. These factors were used as assessment instruments in seven case studies of school boards in small to medium-sized independent schools. The research was predominantly qualitative and involved four research methods: a survey, semi-structured interviews, a review of board documents and observation of board meetings.

The data were explored by assessing the GEFs within each case and across cases. The findings showed that five boards demonstrated poor governance effectiveness, one was very poor and only one was effective. Three unexpected themes emerged from the data, showing how boards can move towards governance by delegating operational management of the school to the principal. These involve boards understanding, first, the nature of governance and developing the intention to govern effectively, second, when and how to make the difficult transition from operational management to governance, and third, how to adapt their approach to governance as they gain experience with it. A model of this transition process and a framework to guide managers and researchers through key decisions were developed. These fill a critical gap in the literature on board management in independent school governance.

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