As you read this edition of ‘Connected Leader’, many of you will be on term break, preparing for term break or preparing to return for Term 2. The movement of Easter has created different term breaks across the country. Change is good at times; it keeps us alert to opportunities, created and real. Change is constant, we know, but it’s nice that some things stay the same (or happen at least more than once!). Consistency and routine allows us to deal with the changing circumstances that impact on our lives and the world around us. However, consistency and routine can lead to complacency, if our focus is not on doing our best and seeing learning as continuous. So with the term break, what new learning or experience will you have? What will be your story when you return to school? Hopefully, everyone will have a safe and restful break, turn the emails off and spend time with family and friends.
On the APPA radar, we have been very busy with a number of key areas. This has included Senate and Budget submissions; responses to the NAPLAN data on My School; meeting with ACARA regarding NAPLAN Online; principal health and wellbeing; STEM in primary schools; and teacher education.
AITSL has released the new standards for teacher education and the guidelines for Teacher Education providers have been released. All courses will be expected to demonstrate their evidence against the standards, especially with partnerships, assessment practices, teacher specialisation, selection, literacy and numeracy testing, and measuring impact. The key evidence will be the impact of teachers on student learning. I encourage principals to ensure they have a partnership agreement with providers before agreeing to take students for professional experience.
The Professional Experience Participant Roles and Responsibilities are now available on the AITSL website. This resource has been designed to assist with the implementation of high quality professional experience placements. It complements the other professional experience resources on the AITSL website, including the professional experience good example case studies and the report, titled Key Components of Effective Professional Experience in Initial Teacher Education in Australia.
At the recent APPA National Advisory Council meeting, we agreed on positions regarding Year 3 NAPLAN Online and My School. APPA cannot, at this point, support the move to have Year 3 Writing completed online or auto-marked. The teaching of writing by pen is clearly different to teaching by typing. We believe education stakeholders have not had the conversation about the impact of assessing online writing nor one that focuses on the teaching methodology currently being implemented in our schools. Currently, most Foundation to year 2 teachers use pen and paper far more than tablets, laptops and iPads in the teaching of writing. There is an assumption, too, that schools have been teaching and assessing in an online mode, as per the Australian Curriculum. For a number of reasons, this is simply not the case. With different approaches currently being employed within schools, it is not possible for APPA to support the NAPLAN Year 3 Writing if it has the potential to significantly disadvantage students.
APPA is not supportive of the My School website as it currently rolls out. APPA supports NAPLAN for school and system data collection. We also support school results being placed on school websites and in school annual reports. As principals, we see the role of accountability and transparency with our school community and will continue to work to improve the educational outcomes of our students. Over a relatively long period of time, the My School website has not contributed to any significant change to school performance. Indeed, we could well say that, since My School, there has been a flattening of results and a narrowing of the curriculum. There is much to say that we have also seen an increase in the focus by some schools, system leaders and politicians on the rankings together with what we might call ‘league table’ journalism.
APPA will be conducting a short survey this second term on the implementation of the Australian Curriculum. We hope to gain a better understanding of the issues and challenges principals are facing in implementing the curriculum.
APPA is currently working on producing a position for principals to use with the school communities, parent groups and local members in a lead up to the next federal election. We look to release the document early Term 2. The key areas include primary school funding, resourcing for schools, school leadership development, NAPLAN, My School and school starting age.
The Trans-Tasman Conference. Over 150 Australian Registrations – looking fantastic! Let’s go for 250!! Each State and Territory has the opportunity to provide a scholarship for a principal to attend the conference. APPA and the National Sector Associations will cover the difference between the ‘at cost’ price for registration ($675) and the early bird cost of $875.
Some other interesting aspects of the conference include: Time to ‘Shop for your School’ has been built into the program, as has a Rural Matters Lunch and Workshop to be led by NZPF and a First Timers Breakfast to be hosted by the Conference Committee.
The conference welcome on Tuesday evening will consist of a colourful and lively Powhiri and Acknowledgement of Country by two Indigenous school leaders from Australia, followed by Pacific drumming, drinks and canape. There will be three performances by school groups during the conference – a Pacific/Maori fusion group, a combined choir group and a boys’ dance group. The social program has been finalised, as well as the menu and theming for the dinner. School visits will be offered on the morning of Monday 30 May.
Go to: www.transtasmanconference.co.nz.
2017 APPA National Conference 13-15 September in Brisbane. The Committee is currently working on keynote presenters. More news to come over the year. Block in 11 – 15 September 2017 in your diary.
APPA has been supporting the National Young Leaders Days run in most capital cities. These have concluded in Adelaide recently. I had the opportunity to meet many young leaders and they were greatly inspired by the speakers, but especially by the presentation from KidsGive. The leaders have already responded by developing campaigns and having them loaded on to www.kidsgive.com.au.
Captain Courageous Foundation. APPA is supporting this event and encourages schools to develop a campaign and celebrate your hero on Friday 29 July. Recently, I visited Stirling East Primary School and met principal Mr Stephen Measday and Captain Courageous, Angus Bond. Angus suffers from bone marrow cancer and requires constant blood transfusions. He is keen to raise funds for research to help other children. I will be working with Angus and the school leadership team to develop a campaign for My Hero Day. It will be placed on the KidsGive website. To register your school, visit www.captaincourageous.com.au.Dennis Yarrington
On behalf of the New Zealand Principals’ Federation, the Australian Primary Principals Association and the host committee from Auckland Primary Principals’ Association, we invite you to register for the Trans-Tasman Principals’ Conference to be held at SkyCity Convention Centre, Auckland on 31 May – 3 June 2016.
Payment via invoice is available for all registrations received before the end of November, don’t delay register now!
The theme of the conference is “Knowledge in Our Hands” with the emphasis on telling the stories that excite us within education. In the spirit of collaboration, we have structured a programme that showcases stories and story tellers from both sides of the Tasman, which we are sure will provoke energetic discussion and professional debate.
We look forward to seeing you in Auckland next year!
Chair – Organising Committee
Auckland Primary Principals’ Association
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Describe your current school, its students, the demographics of your school community, and any special challenges and/or strengths.
Bunbury Cathedral Grammar School is a co-educational independent school from kindergarten to year 12. It has a school population of around 1000 students and is in regional Western Australia. There are many wonderful aspects to the school, including a like-minded and supportive community, a high calibre of teachers and engaging and positive students.
How many years have you been a school leader?
I have been Head of Primary for four years in my current school and a school leader for over 12 years.
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What motivated you to become a school leader (and when)?
I think the motivation behind becoming a school leader was observing outstanding people (in similar leadership positions) and feeling inspired to make a difference. I have been in numerous leadership roles for some time, but was privileged to take up my first headship in 2005.
What was your first leadership role, where was it located, and what were some of your early challenges as a new leader?
My first leadership role was as deputy head of primary at an Orthodox Jewish day school in Sydney, namely Masada College. This was challenging because I am not Jewish and had worked in mainly Christian or non-denominational schools. Some of the early challenges were timetabling for Hebrew/Jewish Studies lessons, along with balancing secular curriculum requirements. Another interesting challenge was understanding about a new culture that I was not familiar with. I learnt a great deal at Masada and was fortunate to have had many enriching professional learning opportunities, including an educational trip to Israel.
As a new principal, what was the most useful lesson you ever learned from a more experienced principal colleague?
The most useful lesson I was given from a principal colleague was to make sure you have thorough processes in place when employing staff. His words were, ‘the people you employ can either make or break you.’ These wise words have always resonated with me when recruiting people. I have always tried to surround myself with a plethora of outstanding people with varying talents and skills.
What makes you smile at work?
There are many things that make me smile each and every day as a school leader. However, students interacting positively with friends and teachers, or seeing a young person overcome a challenge or obstacle (whether that be in the classroom, on camp or on the sporting field) is always rewarding to witness.
In managing your staff, what are your most valuable skills and beliefs?
I think being a good listener is the most valuable skill you can have as a leader, especially when dealing with a myriad of personalities. Having an ‘open door’ policy also enables people to come and share their thoughts and ideas for the betterment of the school.
What was the best day you ever had as a school leader?
Too many to mention, but I enjoyed having a number of year 6 students recently act as Student Principals for a Day. They were amazing and I learnt a great deal from them. The future is looking positive.
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What was the toughest day you ever had as a school leader?
The toughest day was telling a staff member they no longer had a position in the school for the first time (due to a restructure). This created challenges with staff in respect to morale and thus I learnt a great deal about dealing with people in the process. Thankfully, I had a collegial team who understood that leaders sometimes have to make tough decisions.
What was the funniest single thing that ever happened to you as a school leader?
There have been many . . . one could write a book. Recently, I drove our student councillors to a retirement village to provide some service to the elderly in our local community. After dropping the children off and parking the bus, I miraculously managed to get stuck in the bus (unfortunately unable to open the door) for about an hour. Thankfully, we have a caring and compassionate maintenance team at BCGS who managed to open the door and help collect the children. The student councillors shared the story with teachers, students and parents. I thereby managed to win the ‘Mop Head’ award from staff for my deeds (not for the first time!).
What tips would you give new school leaders about staying positive and keeping their energy levels high?
I think my best advice is to have a sense of humour, as you will have life changing moments, as well as challenging days, as a leader. Try not to take yourself too seriously.
I would also advise new leaders that they need to have good people around them. A school is all about the people. I would also suggest having an excellent mentor (often one who is separate to the school you are working in) and who you can trust implicitly. I have been fortunate to have some great people around me.
If you could name just one thing that kept you going to school every day, even on the really difficult days, what would that be?
The students provide me with a refreshing reality check, especially when I am confronted with other difficulties or challenges. One should never forget why we started working in the profession of teaching.
How do you achieve (or are trying to achieve) a positive work-life balance?
Firstly, I am very fortunate to have a very understanding family who appreciate that being a school leader is not simply a 9 to 5 job. In saying this, I do enjoy watching my children (a son and a daughter) with their sport and music. I also enjoy trying to do some exercise myself (I walk with my wife, swim, ride and play tennis with friends). I think it is important to find some time for movement as, too often as a principal, you are in solitary situations.
What special measures do you take (if any) to protect and nurture your own health and welfare?
I’m not sure I take any special measures. However, I do try and keep a regular routine of exercise each day, as well as constantly surrounding myself with positive and interesting people outside of work.
What do you see yourself as doing with your life after the principalship?
I have plenty of thoughts in this area. I would still love to be involved in education. I have thought about possibly supporting and mentoring new principals (giving back some knowledge and skills learnt over time). I would also like to complete further studies (I’m not sure in which area yet). I have always dreamed of owning a little coffee shop (not to make money), but to chat to customers about life and love (plenty of ‘blue skies’ dreaming moments can occur through conversations in a coffee shop). I’d better learn how to make a good cappuccino then!
Martin Tait, Head of Primary, Bunbury Cathedral Grammar School, Bunbury, Western Australia
Debra J. Crouch
Mobile: 0413 009988
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