It is with a deep sense of sadness that I open this report in Connected Leader. I refer, of course, to the events in New Zealand on March 15th. Our sympathy has been conveyed to our NZ Principals Federation colleagues as well as our empathy – many of us have endured events in our own parts of Australia which have touching points with the sadness of our friends, relatives and colleagues in New Zealand. I thank the dedicated Headspace team for their thoughtful contributions of professional support around Australia and New Zealand.
I mention, too, the heartbreak and challenge of drought, flood and fire that has afflicted Australia for many months and, of course, most recently – including the devastating flooding in north Queensland and further cyclonic activity in Queensland, the Northern Territory and West Australia. In touching on these events I want to recognise the work each of you do in leading your schools and communities – at all times, but particularly in times of sadness, loss and challenge. Your commitment, knowledge, skill and experience are priceless assets – especially to the children (and families) of our primary schools who look to you for guidance and support.
If you are leading under these trying circumstances please do not allow yourself to become isolated.
Earlier last month I attended the review of the Melbourne Declaration on Australian Schooling. More work will ensue from what was effectively an introductory activity. What I took away from the day was the importance of agreement amongst members of the education community and a focus on the purposes of education. I very strongly believe that the future of primary education is exciting and that there is concrete cause for optimism, even amongst the coolness and criticism about Australian education of which we are all aware.
Of course, a necessary component of school education is our teaching workforce. Again, we are all well aware that media assessments of this workforce are influenced by the ATAR scores for candidates – the supposition being that teachers need high ATAR scores; and that Australia’s schools are not delivering in the global league of standardised testing. Like most other elements of education the reality is far more complex than this. I personally want to know that the person entering teaching has the capability to thrive as they deliver high class education to diverse student groups while contributing to, and learning from, high performing teams. An ATAR score may be indicative of a level of capability but is not definitive. We know enough about learning to understand this. A test may be indicative of something – but precisely of what remains a moot point.
I also recently learned that around seventy per cent of applicants for places in initial teaching education courses are first choices. This is very encouraging as it is evidence counter to the notion that teaching is considered as a fall-back position – something you do if you don’t get into medicine or law, for example.
I recently heard six new, studying and/or prospective teachers speak about their motivation and experiences. Each of the people spoke with a passion, commitment and grasp of purpose that was impressive and truly inspiring. The levels of intrinsic motivation were crystal clear. Remuneration did get several mentions – a couple of people had fielded questions from friends and family who questioned teaching as a career choice when they were already earning significantly more and/or had higher earnings in prospect. The answer was the same – teaching matters. This example has fuelled my optimism.
I am also enthusiastic about steps being taken to address the difficulties and demands of work intensification on school leaders and teachers. All jurisdictions are facing up to this. We remain indebted to Professor Philip Riley and the longitudinal study into Principal and Deputy Principal Health and Wellbeing. Add this to the two Gonski papers – especially, perhaps, the first review paper with its emphasis on needs-based and equitable funding; and the close examination of standardised testing, with the OECD recently questioning the effectiveness of this strategy, and we have some solid foundations for the ongoing processes of continuous improvement across all sectors of Australian education. There is, of course, much work to be done – but as the teachers I mentioned made very clear, and as you do by your actions every working day, teaching matters.
In closing – Conferences. Many thanks indeed to the hard working committees of our Adelaide Conference from 3-6 September titled Leading the Way: collaboration, connection, community; and to our 2020 Melbourne Trans Tasman conference titled Leading Today For Tomorrow … We are also looking forward to the 2021 conference in Darwin which will be a joint NT/ACT effort. Please, come and join us.Malcolm Elliott
With farmers suffering through what many are calling the ‘worst drought in living memory’ SchoolAid has today launched its ‘Hay and Hampers for Hope’ campaign.
The campaign is calling on 10,000 schools around Australia to donate $100 each, and in doing so raise $1 million to go towards hay for drought-affected livestock and hampers for farming families that are struggling with meeting their living expenses.
SchoolAid founder and CEO Sean Gordon said: “Farming families are often the last to ask for help and the first to lend a hand. ‘Hay and Hampers for Hope’ is about harnessing the collective power of Australia’s youth to help those who have given us so much, both economically and culturally. If you’re a young person and you’re distressed by these images on the news of starving sheep and farmers doing it tough, get involved because there’s now something you can do about it.”
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.
Congratulations to Lesley Gollan of Queensland’s WoodLinks State School, who is the Term 2 Scholastic National Reading Leader Award winner.
Principal Vicki Caldow noted, ‘Lesley is a reading champion who works across the school to develop and implement programs that empower teachers and invites the wider community to support students in practising and enjoying reading.’
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.
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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
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