Australian Primary Principals Association - Connected Leader: The APPA e-journal for Australian primary school leaders


April 2018

Dear Colleagues,

Welcome to the April edition of Connected Leader. We have school holidays and the Commonwealth Games happening, and I hope you are all taking time to relax and connect with networks beyond the work place. The APPA report, Back to Balance, certainly highlighted the importance of leaders being explicit about their role and managing work demands. The term break is that; a break from the usual routine and frenetic pace of school. I suggest clear communication to ensure everyone is aware that you are not on call 24/7, when the office is closed and a contact number for emergencies only. The leader leads the culture. It is time for reflection, rest and a little ‘me time’ (health and wellbeing).

The APPA Board recently met and welcomed Ian Anderson, the new AGGPA president, to the Board. We also farewelled Graeme Feeney (IPSHA NSW Rep). We acknowledged the tremendous contribution Graeme has provided for APPA as a board and national council member. The board approved the strategic plan developed at NAC which will be available on the website.


The Board received an update on the National Conference being held in Perth in September. The organising committee is very excited about WA hosting the conference. They have locked in keynote speakers and concurrent workshop presenters. We have local, national and international speakers presenting around the theme of Visionary Leadership: inspire and engage. There are school tours organised for Monday 17 September. The APPA National Conference is the only event where you will connect with government, Catholic and independent primary school leaders from across the country and from overseas. If you cannot attend, send your deputy, assistant principal or aspiring leader. Have your school counted in the number present! Early bird closes end of April. Register here for the conference.


APPA Board has endorsed the recommendation to hold a National Primary Principals Day on Friday 3rd August 2018. The day is held to acknowledge the work and commitment our primary school leaders bring to their community and to primary education. We are encouraging all schools and principals’ associations to engage with this initiative. APPA will launch the event at the May NAC meeting and provide an information package for principals’ associations.


APPA thanks the many schools and individuals who have donated to this appeal. We are currently over $15000 and growing. For more information got to:


AITSL has established a Teacher Registration Review Panel. The Panel has produced a consultation paper and conducting stakeholder sessions in each state and territory. The Review will look at how the current framework is working and being implemented, the extent to which the Australian Standards for Teachers are used to drive teacher quality, and recommendations for improvement. The work of the panel will include consideration of the registration of early childhood teachers, registration of vocational education and training (VET) teachers, transition of people into the teaching profession and the process to address the suitability of people to be registered. Submissions are due on the 30 April. See AITSL website for further information.

The Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute (AMSI) are working on a 5-year national project CHOOSEMATHS designed to empower and encourage Australian students (in particular girls) to pursue mathematics through to Year 12 and possibly beyond.


We will watch with interest as schools undertake the first NAPLAN assessment online. For APPA the key issue raised with authorities is not the test in itself but the reporting of results. A focus on competition to drive improvement is not working. A policy of collaborative and collective sharing will have a greater impact in schools and across schools. We need to drop the idea that comparing schools will drive improvement. It is not working! A system that reports using averages will always have schools above the line and below the line. Even if all schools improved, we will still have school results identifying schools in the red, white or green. APPA is supporting a review of the reporting of NAPLAN results and the need to identify the best way to report to parents on their child’s growth and achievement using the Australian Curriculum. We hope the promised technology and connectivity work for the ‘high stakes’ assessment environment.

Below my signature are two articles. The first is by Rob Randall, CEO of ACARA, outlining his position on NAPLAN and why it should be kept in perspective. The second is look at one of my favourite books. It gives thoughtful guidance to how to lead others effectively and thoughtfully.

I wish everyone a great holiday and terrific start to Term 2.

Best regards,

Dennis Yarrington
President, Australian Primary Principals Association

Keeping NAPLAN in perspective

By Robert Randall, CEO of the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority

As we approach the May NAPLAN assessment, let’s recall the purpose of NAPLAN and why it was introduced by Australia’s education ministers.

NAPLAN is the only national assessment all Australian children undertake (four times across seven years of schooling in Years 3, 5, 7 and 9), replacing different state and territory assessments. It only assesses literary and numeracy, as is its intention.

Over the last 10 years, NAPLAN has been doing what it was designed to do – providing data on literacy and numeracy achievements at a student, school, state/territory, and national level. While literacy and numeracy are fundamentally important for all young people, there’s no question in my mind that NAPLAN is not, and should never be, the sole measure of a child’s achievement at school or of the success of a school.

The school curriculum has so much more to offer. All students should have an opportunity to study a rich curriculum for literature, science, humanities and social sciences, technology, health and physical education, languages, and the arts.

The data gained from NAPLAN have proven value. Numerous studies have been conducted using NAPLAN data, providing valuable insight into education and community issues. For example, NAPLAN data have been used recently in a University of New England study into the ‘nature versus nurture’ theory, where education outcomes of identical twins were tracked.

NAPLAN data have also been used by the Australian Education Union to identify gaps in achievement according to socio-economic circumstance and geographic location (December 2017) and by others to identify gaps in achievement between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and other Australian children. NAPLAN provides an evidence base for these important conversations.

For parents, NAPLAN is an important tool for seeing how their child, compared with the rest of Australia’s children, progresses in gaining the fundamental skills of literacy and numeracy. It supports conversations between parents, teachers and schools on working together to help children achieve their full potential. Schools and education systems have long recognised the value of NAPLAN data and have used them to inform decisions about improving student outcomes.

NAPLAN has evolved over the last 10 years with alignment to the Australian Curriculum, changes to the assessment of writing and reduction in time taken to return results. This year NAPLAN will be undertaken in some schools as an online assessment, meeting calls from stakeholders to make the test more engaging, to provide more precise assessment and to get the results faster, to inform decisions about teaching and learning. Once NAPLAN is online, I anticipate that further improvements will follow.

The ongoing aim for NAPLAN is to provide data on literacy and numeracy achievement to inform decisions about improving learning for all young Australians. It’s not the only source of data that can be used, but it is the only national set.

As with any test in life – whether academic, sport or hobby-related – some students may feel anxious about NAPLAN. In these cases, it’s up to the adults in students’ lives to help explain what NAPLAN is all about and keep it in perspective. Remind your child that it’s not a big deal, that it’s a short assessment taken only four times during their school life, assessing what they normally learn in the classroom every day.

More information about NAPLAN, including fact sheets, FAQs and examples of NAPLAN questions are at


The Mindful Leader, by Michael Bunting, explores the concept of how a leader could view leading with a mind similar to beginner learning. That is, with curiosity, discovery and finding better and new ways to do things. Researchers Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner show that people who feel challenged to innovate, learn and improve exhibit higher levels of engagement than those not challenged. People who feel challenged by their leaders are significantly more likely to feel committed to the success of the organisation and proud to tell gets they work for the organisation.

Bunting believes creating a culture of perpetual innovation is far more important that any business strategy, and the culture is determined by the behaviour and mindset of the leaders.

Having a learner’s mind is losing the expert mind, which tends to be rigid, fixed, and calcified. When we view the world with an expert mind, we know all the answers and are therefore can be closed to new possibilities. When we admit we don’t know something, it’s a good sign that new insights and understanding will follow. We have an attitude and courage to ask big questions. At times you will feel out of your depth and really challenged. However, learning is meant to have uncomfortableness and the feeling of achievement is empowering.

As leaders we can be conditioned to have the answers and being right. This does not mean we don’t know anything or have knowledge or experience. However, the fear of failure is strong and sometimes it takes great courage to question a strategy or initiative and change. As Albert Einstein said, “The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing.’ (Bunting 2016 P94) We can hold on to perceptions and conclusions for fear of being wrong. We also have invested time and resources, so changing can be admitting our plans and decisions are not working. We persist to prove ourselves right in spite of the evidence. We then, with an expert mind approach, can lead to blame and judgement of others. Bunting talks about a culture of compassionate accountability. It is simply about objectively analysing a situation with a beginner’s mind to learn from it, with the attitude of ‘What can we learn from this?’

Bunting believes we need to shift from initiatives to experiments, with the opportunity to learn. We can promote learning from these experiments. However, with initiatives we are stuck in the paradox of wanting to innovate but fearful of making mistakes. Leaders feel a responsibility to make them succeed, which often leads to a refusal to recognise when they are not working. Initiatives may devolve into attempts to prove an idea or strategy is right. As Bunting (Bunting 2016, p 104) points out, ‘In this framework, there is no beginners mind; there are only egos and experts who ‘know’ and then deny and defend when things don’t turn out how they predicted.’

Underlying attributes of beginner’s mind. Bunting (2016, p107) quotes the work of Professor Jeff Dyer and Hal Gregersen who found that the most innovative leaders share five mental traits:

  1. Associating - connecting dots and recognising patterns across seemingly unrelated questions, problems and ideas.
  2. Questioning - asking ‘What if’ or ‘Why’ and ‘Why not’ questions that challenge the status quo and open up the bigger picture
  3. Observing - closely observing details, particularly of people’s behaviour
  4. Experimenting - trying out new experiences and exploring new worlds
  5. Networking - constantly meeting new people who have little in common with them, but from whom they can learn.

Bunting (2016 p108) points out that a beginner’s mind also is humble and, ‘humility keeps our egos in check and prevents us from calcifying into expert’s mind. It keeps us open to feedback and learning.’

Learning organisations, like schools have complexities and are impacted by change. We sometimes revert to simplification to address a complexity. However, the circumstances can change, and the situation becomes more complex, and the simplification can fail. Good leadership is not a one-size fits all proposition. The best response is to deal with complexity is to cultivate a beginner’s mind and be opened minded and have curiosity. This will lead to finding the solution to the challenge required for this situation.


Are you a Masters student looking for a research project to help principals?

Michael Hawton, psychologist and teacher, who runs the Tough Conversations workshops nationally (see registration form) is seeking an educator who is currently undertaking a higher degree to evaluate the impact of professional development in reducing principals’ stress levels. The research would need to be done ‘at arms’ length’ from the programme developers. There is good anecdotal evidence from the 200+ school leaders, who have already completed the program, that it is benefiting members of our association. But, it is important to build the evidence base. There may be some opportunity to liaise with Associate Professor, Phil Riley, who is willing to discuss any design issues. So, if you’re looking for a topic and you want to do some applied research, please contact Michael Hawton on 0422 214 430. Michael can describe the topic and its parameters.

INSPIRING STUDENTS TO READ MORE, and helping them find the books they will love to read, takes a combination of dedication, inspiration and engagement. We know you bring the dedication to work every day and with our ‘Reading Leader’ portal we hope to help with both the inspiration and engagement to get more kids reading and kids reading more.

At Scholastic we encourage the borrowing of brilliance and through our “Reading Leader Award’ we are seeking out the very best for you to borrow from. Scholastic and APPA are providing a platform to recognise Reading Leaders across the country, so that their ideas and efforts can reach more students, and remind us all to help children every day with their reading journey.

Visit our “Reading Leader” portal for reading programs, professional resources, brilliant book suggestions and more. NO COST offerings, all designed to help you be a better reading advocate and connect your students with books they will love to read.

APPA and Scholastic announced the National Reading Leader Award recipient for Term 1. This is to acknowledge the commitment of school leaders to improving children’s reading. Congratulations to Sandra Hodge-Neill from Hawker Primary School (ACT) and Principal, Mandy Kalyvas.


Under the spotlight

April 2018

Wilbur (Charlie) Klein

The principal of Western Australia’s Tjuntjuntjara Remote Community School, has worked in regional (predominately remote) education for 20 years. Recently, he was shortlisted for the US$1million Global Teacher Prize.

Maree Herrett

The principal of Santa Sabina College, in NSW, recently attracted media attention when she was publicly criticised by some sections of the community for her comments on gender expression. Ms Herrett had said that the school’s new uniform, which includes optional trousers and shorts, would help students who struggle with their gender identity to feel more comfortable at school.

John Cleary

The principal of Casuarina Street Primary School, in Katherine, NT, is one of 12 educators from across Australia to be awarded a $45,000 Fellowship, as part of the Commonwealth Bank Teaching Awards.

Nancy Tyler

A principal who used an emoji in her response to a worried parent has attracted media attention.

Eddie Woo

For this NSW maths teacher, there's a direct link between the trouble many adults have with maths and the election of Donald Trump, Brexit and climate change denial. ‘We've just had major election results that stem directly from mathematical illiteracy, because people don't have the mathematical wherewithal to understand the statistics they're being fed,’ he says. Woo claims that some primary school teachers lack confidence in mathematics and this is indirectly conveyed to their students.

Locally made ethical school wear

Through their own procurement policies local schools have the power to support an ethical Australian clothing industry and help prevent the exploitation of workers. There are local school wear manufacturers who are committed to making clothes locally the right way.

Ethical Clothing Australia is responsible for accrediting local clothing and footwear manufacturers to ensure that their workers are receiving their legal wages and entitlements, and working in decent conditions.

To find out more contact Ethical Clothing Australia to ask how we can assist your school to source ethically accredited school wear.

Phone: 03 94190222

Learning curve

April 2018

Transaction vs transformation

Leadership expert Robert Staub talks about the difference between transactional and transformative styles of leadership.

Working backwards

Retrograde analysis is a style of problem-solving where you work backwards from the result you want. It can help you win at chess or solve a problem in your professional life.

Why collaboration is an individual effort

Understanding personalities, people, and their individual needs is essential to collaboration and good teamwork.

Changing an unhealthy working environment

Do you think backbiting is happening at your workplace or place of study? Psychotherapist Glenn Rolfsen talks about what contributes to a toxic work environment and what the significant factors are that determine working life quality. His approach addresses how to achieve a permanent end to slander and bullying among adults in the workplace.

The emotional fruits of labour

Psychologist Shane Lopez explains why some people love their jobs: they know they can make a difference.

Written by internationally recognised school and early education experts, Your Child's First Year at School: Getting off to a good start, is highly valued as a home and school resource which provides excellent advice to parents, teachers and all interested in giving childrenthe best possible start at school. Order at:

Legal eagles

April 2018

Principal deregistered

The Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal has ordered the deregistration of a principal it deemed to be an inappropriate role model. The unnamed principal took students on a range of excursions, including a sleep-over at his home, fishing trips and a helicopter ride, all without their parents’ permission. He also allowed unlicensed students to drive his car.

Rohan Brown seeks legal advice

After being sacked for giving a student a haircut, the deputy principal of Trinity Grammar, in Melbourne, has secured high-level legal services. Mr Brown is currently being investigated by the Victorian Institute of Teaching in relation to the incident that has attracted international media attention.

School loses funding appeal

The Malek Fahd Islamic School, in NSW, recently lost a bid to maintain its federal funding after appealing an earlier decision by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.

The AAT had ruled that the school was being run for profit, in breach of education funding laws.

Deputy principal arrested

A Victorian educator was one of 20 men recently charged for child pornography-related offences. The deputy principal was immediately stood down from his role at a large regional college, after police informed the school of the allegations.

Near miss

It’s not yet been decided whether a near miss between a school bus and a 2,000-tonne train will be referred to Tasmanian police. ‘Without any lookout for any train coming, he's driven his bus straight through the crossing,’ said a TasRail spokesperson.

PR1ME Mathematics—based on the world’s best practice used in Singapore PR1ME has been developed by Scholastic in collaboration with the Ministry of Education in Singapore.

How does it work? PR1ME: explicitly and systematically teaches the problem solving processes and strategies; uses consistent and carefully structured pedagogy; takes a carefully scaffolded, deep-dive into conceptual development; actively involves students in metacognition; and provides professional learning for teachers.

Challenge your thinking

April 2018

Impact of declining performance

Australia's declining performance in maths, reading and science will cost the nation $120 billion over the next 45 years, predicts the Public Education Foundation. The analysis links students’ results to their impact on the economy.

Performance of migrant children

According to a recent report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, Australia ranks seventh in the world for the academic performance of migrant students. The OECD report also showed how well specific migrants groups perform at school. In Australia, migrant children from India, the Philippines and China are significantly outperforming their Australian-born peers.

Report advocates drastic change

A new report, ‘Developing the Workforce for a Digital Future’, has found that drastic change to the education system at school, vocational education and training (VET) and university levels is required. The CEO of Ai Group, which commissioned the report, said that ‘businesses and educational institutes are struggling to respond to the pace of digital transformation.’

Quitting too early

According to a new Royal Life Saving Society-Australia report, three out of four children give up swimming lessons by the time they are eight, long before they have learned vital water safety skills. The report also shows that many children start lessons earlier.

Report on school-entry age

A recent report, ‘Is there an optimum age for starting school in New Zealand?’ says there is no evidence to support a nationally mandated school starting age.

For 40 years, Scholastic Australia has been partnering with schools across the country to give kids access to books they want to read through Clubs and Fairs. In 2012, Scholastic gave Australian schools over $11 million worth of Scholastic Rewards. To find out how you can spend Scholastic Rewards on resources and save your budget, visit

Balancing act

April 2018

Principal health and wellbeing

In this podcast available on the ACER website, Jo Earp interviews the chief investigator of the ‘Principal health and wellbeing survey’.

Eat for real change

Macquarie University nutrition scientist, Joanna Mcmillan, talks about why many Australians need to change the way they eat.

Stress management: cognitive behavioural skills

This fifth presentation, in a six-part series on stress management and wellness, delivered by psychologist LuAnn Helms, reviews several cognitive behavioural tools to deal with stress, anxiety and overwhelming emotions.

Five ways to disarm toxic people

Here are five techniques, including a few ‘mental tai chi’ phrases, which may help to minimise the stress of interacting with difficult people.

Find exercising hard?

Why do some people struggle more than others to keep themselves at a healthy weight? Social psychologist Emily Balcetis shows research that addresses one of the many factors: vision. In this presentation, she shows how, when it comes to fitness, some people quite literally see the world differently from others. She offers a surprisingly simple solution to overcome these differences.

Camp Australia delivers after school care solutions, building on the educational experience of school communities. As the nation’s leading after school care provider Camp Australia has partnered with school communities for 25 years, adding value by delivering high quality care, well-trained staff, systems and support. Find out how Camp Australia will add value to your school community at

Something different

April 2018

Renewable energy

Classrooms could soon be powered entirely by renewable energy as the result of a ‘Hivve’ modular classroom that is now being trialled in NSW schools.

The International Bebras Challenge

Year 3-8 students at King Island District High School recently participated in the International Bebras Challenge. The international program provides students with opportunities to develop innovative and creative solutions to challenges.

The ALICE system

Hopefully, Australian schools will never need to consider training students to respond to an active shooter on the premises. This confronting US video shows student and teachers as they learn a new technique for defending themselves against an armed intruder.

Links with Pacific schools

The Bridge School Partnership Programme is part of the Australian Government’s plan to reconnect with Pacific nations and extends the scheme that has been operating between Australia and Asia for the past ten years.

The Forget Me Not’ Program

The Forget Me Not program operating at Unley Primary School, in South Australia, enables primary school students to learn from older people living with dementia.

KidsMatter Primary is a proven mental health and wellbeing framework for primary schools. It provides expert knowledge, tools and support to help schools grow healthy young minds and care for children’s mental health. KidsMatter is backed by the expertise of Principals Australia Institute, beyondblue and the Australian Psychological Society.

My word

April 2018

Les Perelman

Commenting on NAPLAN, this retired US professor says, ‘It's the worst one of the 10 or 12 of the international tests that I've studied in depth. It's by far the most absurd and the least valid of any test that I've seen.’

What to do about principal stress?

‘There are . . . many ideas for strategies involving stakeholders, including educating parents on the role of principals and whom they should go to for which concerns (i.e. often issues regarding individual students can be dealt with at a teacher level); changes or reductions to the compliance requirements of principals; and a streamlining of school administration systems - although it would take time for the impact to be noticeable,’ says the leader of the Flourish Project.

Ben Smee/h1>
‘Measures to protect well-off schools from funding cuts under the Gonski model ultimately ‘undermined’ efforts to improve results in disadvantaged areas, a report by the Queensland Audit Office has found.’ Here, Ben Smee provides a less than favourable analysis of the implementation of the Gonski model.

Peter Gunning

A recently retired Irish school principal speaks about the limits on personal disclosure experienced by an increasing number of people who pursue a career in education in that country. ‘Next September, many newly qualified teachers will be in the same ambiguous position in which I found myself when I began my career in 1980. Like me, they will face battles of conscience in order to find and maintain employment,’ he writes.

Chuck Stetson

Bible study should be a requirement for every Australian child in school, regardless of their religious upbringing, says this Christian activist. 'If you don't have knowledge of the Bible you can't understand the English language, literature, history, art, music or culture fully,’ he says. 'If you're not, you're not getting a full education. And that's unacceptable.’

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Money matters

April 2018

Catholic school funding

‘Why is the funding for Catholic schools so controversial?’ asks senior lecturer Glenn Savage.

Post-mining boom enrolments

Perth’s independent school numbers have dropped by nearly 650 students in the past two years, with analysts tying the reduction to the end of WA’s mining and construction boom.

Public dissection of audit results

Be prepared to explain every bunch of flowers and out-of-hours meal. After her Brisbane school was audited last year, this former Queensland principal, now an MP, was questioned by political rivals for expenses that were subsequently found to conform to departmental guidelines. The only exceptions, where departmental policy on ‘minor expenses’ was unclear, were a meal for new teachers and Ms McMillan’s purchase of a bunch of flowers to apologise to an elderly neighbour of the school, after a student blocked her driveway and caused a medical delay.

Fruit flies wreck fundraiser

An outbreak of fruit fly has caused the cancellation of a major annual fundraiser at a school in Tasmania. In recent years, the Spreyton Primary School Apple Festival has raised up to $25,000.

Service clubs buy bus

The City of Devonport Lions Club and several other Lions and service clubs raised funds for over two years to buy a new 20-seater bus for Devonport School of Special Education, in Tasmania. The school took delivery of the bus in late February.

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Love the job

April 2018

Brad Gaynor

Principal, Holy Spirit ELC & Primary School
Nicholls, ACT

Describe your current school, its students, the demographics of your school community, and any special challenges and/or strengths.

Holy Spirit Primary School is now 21-years-old; our new ELC commenced in 2016. The school is surrounded by new suburbs and the area is growing rapidly again. We have five classes in the ELC and 26 in the primary school, with an average of 26 students in each class. Our current enrolment is 650 in the primary school and 110 in the ELC. The main challenge is managing the growth and ensuring that the school is adequately resourced to cater for the increasing numbers.

How many years have you been a school leader?

I have been a school leader for nearly 20 years and a principal for 13. This is my fourth principalship and I am currently in my second year at Holy Spirit and am excited to be here.

What motivated you to become a school leader (and when)?

My first leadership role was in 1997 and it really happened by chance. I was moving to a new school; the principal at the time noticed my qualifications and experiences and encouraged me to apply for a leadership role. My wife and I were expecting our first child and I was not really looking in that direction. As it worked out, the principal and assistant principal left at the end of the year, so I commenced with a completely new team I didn’t know. But someone saw the potential in me and I will be forever grateful.

What was your first leadership role, where was it located, and what were some of your early challenges as a new leader?

My first role was as a religious education coordinator in a small school. The principal and assistant principal were new to the school and their roles, too. Fortunately, we hit it off immediately. We learned and grew together as a team, so much so that the staff called us the ‘Bermuda Triangle’! Not sure if that is a good or bad thing! Interestingly, we are still very close to this day and have remained great friends.

(continued on next page)


NEW resilience and wellbeing program

Dusty and Friends is a great resource for learning and building resilience in children. Game ON highlights the importance of being calm and prompts children to see how consequences result from actions. A popular resource in Early Stage 1- Stage 1 classrooms, children identify and relate to different characters. The program aligns with the Australian Curriculum and works well for Stage 3 in a peer support model. Available for immediate download through the School For Living website.

Love the job

April 2018

Brad Gaynor

Principal, Holy Spirit ELC & Primary School
Nicholls, ACT

(continued from previous page)

As a new principal, what was the most useful lesson you ever learned from a more experienced principal colleague?

As a new principal, I struggled with being out of the classroom and yet found limited time to get into classrooms! (I still do!). An experienced colleague told me to consider the staff as my class. To make sure I nurture them, I ensure they have adequate resources, look after their wellbeing, use their strengths and talents and listen to them. It was great advice.

What makes you smile at work?

The students! I love it when students come to visit or I visit a classroom and the kids are excited to share their learning. It still gives me the same buzz every day and reminds me of why I entered the teaching profession in the first place. The staff and parents also make me laugh. We need to make sure our schools are full of humour and fun times. The occasional prank or joke is played and everyone - staff, parents and students - all have a laugh. Good for the soul.

In managing your staff, what are your most valuable skills and beliefs?  What should beginning principals strive to avoid in this area?

Communication. Open, honest and respectful communication is extremely important. If staff feel valued, listened to, and that their concerns are heard or dealt with and they are involved in major decisions or directions of the school, then success usually follows. Make sure you, as a leader, do all you can to support them. You are only as good as your staff.

What was the best day you ever had as a school leader?

Too many to mention! It’s the day a student comes to show you their work; the day you hear a child read to you; the day you can see the ‘light bulb’ flick on in a child’s eye; the day a parent thanks you for supporting them or their child; the day a staff member says they appreciate what you are doing for them and the day you hear fun and laughter in the staffroom, classroom or playground. It’s not about NAPLAN, interfering government policy or assessment data – it’s about people and relationships.

(continued on next page)


Love the job

April 2018

Brad Gaynor

Principal, Holy Spirit ELC & Primary School
Nicholls, ACT

(continued from previous page)

What was the toughest day you ever had as a school leader?

The tough days are when you are dealing or supporting someone’s mental health, whether that person is a student, a staff member or a parent. This is never easy and issues concerning mental health are becoming more frequent. Decisions often require a balance of maintaining someone’s dignity, dealing with the issue, supporting the person and developing an action plan to mitigate issues in the future. My toughest day was several years ago, when I was on the phone with a parent for over two hours, talking them down from making a drastic life decision and reassuring them until support could physically get to them. The situation was stressful, intense and one of my lowest days. Subsequently, I sought counselling support. However, the subsequent gratitude from that particular parent showed me the trust and impact we, as school leaders, can have on people.

What was the funniest single thing that ever happened to you as a school leader?

So many to choose from! Probably the funniest thing was getting a call from a ‘concerned citizen’ about an unidentified child from the school who had dropped their pants and ‘mooned’ out the school bus window. I gathered the bus children, read the riot act, threatened disciplinary action and saw red! Only to find out that it was a practical joke from a friend from another school. Staff thought it was hilarious! I sheepishly apologised to the kids!

What tips would you give new school leaders about staying positive and keeping their energy levels high?

Get a good team about you! You cannot do it all yourself. Share the load and work collaboratively with others. Maintain your life-work balance. Notice that I put life first!

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?

Students – the learning, the conversations and the smiles make it worth it every day.

How do you achieve (or are trying to achieve) a positive work-life balance?

Well, the first thing is to put life first. At the end of the day, work is work and your health, wellbeing, family and friends are more important. It is important to eat well, get some good sleep, exercise, have fun and have a social life. It is important to switch off!

What special measures do you take (if any) to protect and nurture your own health and welfare?

I try not to answer emails when I am home (I did say try). I also try to have an early day each week where I either catch up with a friend or go home early. I also get together regularly with principal colleagues to discuss education issues, debrief and seek advice. Having a strong network around you is really important for health and wellbeing.

What do you see yourself as doing with your life after the principalship?

Actually, I would like to finish off my working life by working in classrooms as a learning support assistant. Either that or living by the beach somewhere!

Brad Gaynor
Principal, Holy Spirit Primary School & Early Learning Centre
Nicholls, ACT


Managing Editor, APPA 'Connected Leader'

Debra J. Crouch
Mobile: 0413 009988

Connected Leader

Connected Leader Copyright ©. Australian Primary Principals Association 2016. This whole publication, created as a deliberately selected compilation of internet-based resources, may not be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise without the prior permission of the Australian Primary Principals Association (APPA).

Connected Leader is an official publication of the Australian Primary Principals Association. In close collaboration with APPA, Connected Leader is designed, produced and edited, specifically for APPA members, by Debra J. Crouch, Managing Director of straight to the point, to enhance the professional learning of Australian primary school leaders.


The opinions expressed in any of the internet-based resources accessed by links from Connected Leader, belong entirely to those who created those resources, and do not necessarily represent official APPA views and policies. At times, links to some resources may be deliberately selected to reflect the wide range of views held by Australian primary school leaders, and the views therein may be subject to debate in some sections of the education community. Readers are advised that, in the interests of brevity, not all of the available personal opinions or information about a particular event, development, issue or policy direction may be published in resources made available through links in Connected Leader. Interested readers who require more comprehensive information, or who seek the opinions of all stakeholders, are advised to directly contact the institution/s or persons cited in the resource/s or conduct their own private research.

Neither APPA, Debra J. Crouch nor Vivid Word and Image Design can guarantee, or take responsibility for, the accuracy or otherwise of any of the information and/or views contained in any of the internet-based resources accessed by links from Connected Leader, or from subsequent webpages accessed via links within (or in material/text following) those suggested resources. The duration of all links cannot be guaranteed by APPA or VIVID Word and Image Design. Nor do these two parties accept responsibility for any loss or damages arising from statements or opinions contained in any published article or advertisement.