Impact of the 2017 Act
According to early Explanatory Notes, the 2001 Act was reviewed with a view to ''modernising and streamlining" non-state school accreditation. There are a number of new provisions in the 2017 Act, but as we identified in our previous article, there are four key areas that will have an immediate impact on Queensland non-government schools:
- Increased NSSAB Powers: the 2017 Act broadens the NSSAB’s functions to clarify that it is the NSSAB’s role to monitor and investigate offences under the Act and contravention of accreditation requirements. Under the 2017 Act, NSSAB will have the power to: monitor compliance with the 2017 Act and enforce compliance on schools who fail to comply with the 2017 Act; and conduct investigations about contraventions of, or non-compliance with the 2017 Act.
- Removal of provisional accreditation: the 2017 Act allows for a simplified process where the school will be accredited from the outset if the governing body is suitable and if the NSSAB determines that a school will comply with registration requirements from the commencement of the school’s operation. If the school is compliant or is not able to become compliant, the NSSAB reserves the right to cancel a school’s accreditation. The concept of provisional accreditation no longer exists.
- Changes in government funding eligibility: the 2017 Act streamlines the way non-government schools are given government funding whereby a governing body will automatically be eligible for government funding upon accreditation; provided the NSSAB is satisfied that the school will not be operated for profit.
- Government body notifications: under the 2001 Act, governing bodies are not required to notify the NSSAB when directors change. Under the 2017 Act, the governing body must notify the NSSAB about changes in directorship and when a new director commences their directorship, provide a copy of the new director’s working with children clearance (blue card). This change eases the administrative burden on the NSSAB.
For more information regarding these changes please refer to our previous School Governance article.
Not operated for profit and prohibited arrangement definitions have changed
To be eligible for government funding, a non-state school in Queensland must not be operated for profit. In the 2001 Act, a school is not operated for profit only if any profits made from the school’s operation are used entirely to advance the school’s philosophy and aims, as stated in the school’s statement of philosophy and aims. This definition has changed in the 2017 Act. The new and 'reverse' definition is now worded as ''operated for profit" and means: a school is being operated for profit if any profits arising from the school’s operation are used for any purpose other than to advance the school’s philosophy and aims, as stated in the school’s statement of philosophy and aims. The bold text indicates where the word ''made'' has been replaced by ''arising''.
Another difference is the deletion of the word ''entirely'' from the old definition. The former wording was more narrow in the sense that a school would only be ''not operated for profit'' if all profit was used solely for a purpose other than stated in the school’s statement of philosophy and aims. The new wording, by removing the word entirely, has the effect of broadening the situations where a school may operate for profit to any case where the funds are used for a purpose other than stated in the school’s statement of philosophy and aims, not just a situation where the funds are used entirely for that purpose.
Cyclical Review Program Guidelines
The current Cyclical Review Program Guidelines (Guidelines) were last updated by the NSSAB in 2016. It is anticipated that once the 2017 Act commences, the NSSAB will update the Guidelines to reflect the requirements of the 2017 Act. Until the new legislation commences and while the Guidelines still apply, non-state schools in Queensland do not have to make any urgent compliance or governance changes but instead, should be aware of the status of the 2017 Act and what the reforms will mean for their accreditation and governance requirements in the future.