I would like to welcome all principals and school leaders to the 2015 school year. For some, it will be your first, for others a new school and, for many, the return to the same school but with renewed energy and inspiration for the year ahead. Whatever your situation or context, I wish you all the best for the year ahead.
As you work through your correspondence, email, SMS, Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and the like, how do you keep abreast of the national issues? Well, this is where I will, on behalf of APPA, provide regular updates to support your knowledge of the key issues impacting your school. Each edition of Connected Leader will provide the current policy positions of APPA and what is currently happening on the national scene.
Who is APPA you ask? APPA is the Australian Primary Principals Association (APPA). My position is that of president with the role of representing, at a national level, the three principals associations in each state and territory (government, Catholic and independent primary school principals). Each association provides one of their members – generally the president – to the APPA National Advisory Council (NAC) which, together with the three national sector presidents, numbers some twenty-seven. The APPA Board is made up of eight members of the NAC, including the three national sector association presidents, and provides leadership and governance direction.
The start of the New Year has seen the relocation within Canberra of the APPA office to the Hedley Beare Centre in Stirling. Michael Nuttall, our Executive Officer, and I will be based here in the National Capital, where we will continue to have regular access to the Education Minister’s office and his advisers and to senior officers of the Commonwealth Department of Education. We acknowledge and thank sincerely the support of the ACT Education and Training Directorate for providing our new office and meeting space for APPA.
Below highlights many of the key issues and events for 2015. These include the report from the Teacher Education Ministerial Advisory Group (TEMAG), Curriculum Review and response from ACARA, the Federation White Paper, principal preparation and professional learning and, last but not least, the APPA National Conference in September.
This report will provide recommendations from the advisory group for the Federal Education Minister in regards to initial teacher education. APPA is keen for the Minister to take strong action in addressing the concerns primary principals have raised over the quality of graduates, the courses offered by universities and the practicum requirements. It is due for release in early February and the Minister will be speaking on 13 February at an ACEL event in Sydney. Our APPA Board meets on 11 February and will have time to develop a draft response and strategy to bring to the NAC meeting in early March.
APPA provided a media release at the end of last year regarding Initial Teacher Education. Our key points were focused on entry requirements and selection of applicants for teacher education; professional experience and practicums; increased collaboration between schools and universities; and the expectation that universities ensure graduating teachers have the skills and personal characteristics necessary for effective teaching, and are classroom ready. We also recommended that at least 100 days of professional experience with a final placement of at least six weeks towards the end of the course be minimum requirements for the course.
We believe the training of future teachers requires a strong partnership between the school and the university. This includes clear expectations and supervision support. We need trainee teachers to have extended periods in the classroom to experience the realities of teaching. The best courses provide the best possible preparation for future teachers and this means ensuring that graduate teachers are ready for the rigours and expectations of classroom teaching.
APPA representatives have been meeting with ACARA to discuss the next phase in addressing the recommendations of the Australian Curriculum Review and the Australian Government’s response to it. The key points APPA will be pursuing include:
APPA's position paper is available on our website. I urge principals and school leaders to be active with your ‘voice’ regarding the changes to the Australian Curriculum. We have an opportunity to make significant improvements to the curriculum that will benefit all schools.
The Government has released the Reform of the Federation White Paper, Issues Paper 4 for comment and submissions. The paper is looking at the roles and responsibilities of the various tiers of government in education. The Government is seeking comment that will inform the publication of the Green Paper that sets out the options for reform. The NAC will be developing a strategy to ensure APPA has a well-informed and professional response to the delivery of education in Australia.
So, what has this got to do with you? Well, you have an opportunity to have your say (you might talk to your school board and staff) on the role and responsibilities of government in education. In the issues paper, there are questions provided to assist with the discussion. What role should the Federal Government have in education? Maybe include some questions or scenarios. You will be able to access the Issues Paper on the Reform of the Federation White Paper website at: www.federation.dpmc.gov.au.
The topic of professional learning will be high on APPA's agenda. We are working on a proposal to address the issue of principal preparation and how we can support the learning of future principals. I hope to provide more information in the next edition of Connected Leader. However, in the meantime, I encourage you to pencil in your diary the national conference in Hobart. This will be held in September and presents an excellent opportunity to hear from fantastic speakers and, more importantly, have a chance to network and converse with principals working in schools all over the country. I have always gained something from the national conference. Each year it is in a different State or Territory, so the opportunity to learn and share with different systems is well worth the trip. Plus, you have a great time enjoying the company of fellow leaders, the chance to experience Tasmania (MONA is not to be missed!) and time to refresh the mind and body away from the daily demands of running your school. This is the time to give to you, so you can give to your school community on your return.
While your state association will have its own conference or gathering, may I suggest you seriously consider attending or sending a school member to the EduTECH 2015 and Future Schools conferences in Sydney. Both provide excellent presentations and opportunities to broaden professional learning.
There are, of course, other key issues brewing. These include the My School website review and the publication of NAPLAN results. The government has committed to moving NAPLAN online. It may be worth you reflecting with your staff on the benefits and consequences of online assessment and reporting. What will it mean in your school? What might you need to do to move to NAPLAN online? I welcome your thoughts and comments.
So, if you have a principal association meeting in February, you may wish to have some discussion with colleagues in your sector about the above topics. Your state or territory principals’ association representative to NAC will have an opportunity to bring your point of view to our next meeting in early March. This input from principals will ensure our discussions and work at NAC will be well informed and provide current perspective on the reality in primary schools. This will greatly assist APPA when we are required to comment to the media or provide input to government, and in preparing responses and position papers.
APPA has a number of business partners and we encourage you to support them, where possible. Our partners include Scholastic, Camp Australia, Catholic Super, Academy Photography, Talk Less Listen More, Tig Tag science and School Library Software. Links to our business partners can be found on the APPA website.
In mentioning our business partners, I am sure we all congratulate Jackie French on being named Senior Australian of the Year. Jackie is great advocate for children – and adults – reading. APPA strongly supports the focus on reading in primary schools and we are working with Scholastic on how to build upon children’s love of reading in our primary schools.
Last, but not least, two groups that APPA is developing a strong partnership with are The Smith Family and School Aid. The Smith Family is a great organisation to have in collaboration with your school community. They can provide valuable support in a number of ways. All it takes is a phone call to your local Smith Family contact. School Aid is about children helping other children in need. We are planning a new initiative that will enable student leaders to get involved in organising school events to raise the awareness and support for children who are less fortunate.
APPA will be holding its first National Advisory Council meeting for 2015, in March, in Canberra. I look forward to welcoming returning members and new members of the Council. While in Canberra, we hold a Parliamentary Friends of Primary Education Dinner, where invited members of parliament join us to discuss national issues over a meal. It also gives us the opportunity to bring to the attention of parliamentarians those issues impacting on schools, whether remote, country or metropolitan, government, Catholic or independent, large or small.
Please feel free to contact me to discuss or raise issues. If I can assist in any way with your association or in presenting the APPA perspective on national agendas, I’m happy to be involved.
President, Australian Primary Principals Association
Mobile: 0466 655 468
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.
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 children the best possible start at school. Order at:
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.
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
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
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.
Academy Photography are proud sponsors of the Australian Primary Principals Association. Academy Photography services include school photography, yearbooks, complete printing and educational solutions using latest technologies.
Call 1800 816 224 for your SPECIAL OFFER as an APPA member.
Catholic Super has been providing outstanding superannuation and retirement services to members and employers for more than 40 years. As a leading industry super fund that anyone can join, we offer award-winning superannuation and pension products, long-term superior investment performance, a broad range of investment options and competitive fees.
Where are you currently working as a school leader?
I am currently the Principal at Mitcham Primary School, in suburban Melbourne. It is a very interesting school community, with 425 students in 2014, 39 different languages spoken by families in the community, a number of refugees enrolled, large school grounds and the economic circumstances of school families demonstrating enormous variation. There are also a number of Montessori classrooms with trained Montessori teachers in charge.
How long have you been a school leader? What/where was your first appointment?
I have held the position as Principal at Mitcham Primary School for nearly 16 years. I have held Principal Class appointments for 24 years. My first full-time appointment was at Ivanhoe Primary School in 1977, where I taught a grade 4.
I also play a leadership role more broadly with the Victorian Principals Association, having been a Board member for 12 years and the VPA Treasurer for seven years, appointments which I recently relinquished. Access to key decision-makers becomes a lot easier in this sort of a role and you get to converse with politicians and senior bureaucrats about the way it really is in a school setting and what their compliance requirements actually mean on the ground.
When, and why, did you originally want to become a school leader?
I took on leadership roles early on in my career, within three years of commencing as a teacher. Being a leader gives you more opportunity to influence the direction of a school, and I was very fortunate to have had excellent principals leading schools in many of my appointments from whom I learnt a great deal. The ability get things done positively for providing learning opportunities for the children is a strong motivational factor for me.
What makes you smile at work?
Many things make me smile at work. I have a wonderful team of teaching and non-teaching staff who enjoy each other’s’ company.
I love visiting each classroom every day and talking to the children about what they are doing and learning.
I particularly love going outside when the children are having their play breaks and talking to them about how their day is going and their plans to improve and do their best.
(continued on next page)
(continued from previous page)
What are you most pleased about in relation to your staff?
My staff members have an amazing work ethic and really care about the children’s achievement and social outcomes. They relate extremely well to the school community and participate actively in school community life. Their willingness to embrace new ideas (which are well-founded and based on empirical research) and new technology is wonderful. Recently, we built a new media studio (with a TV broadcast facility and radio broadcast facility) and the level of effort that so many staff put into learning how to use it was amazing. I am constantly surprised at how generous, compassionate and caring the staff are when anyone suffers a setback and how willing they are to celebrate successes. They are terrific people and I am extremely proud of the great team processes we have operating at Mitcham Primary School. I hope other principals can be as fortunate as I am with our team.
Our staffroom is a noisy, funny and happy place, where everyone enjoys being.
What was the best day you ever had as a school leader?
They are all pretty good actually, if you focus on interactions with the children and their teachers and other staff and the positive things which happen every day.
The best day in recent times occurred just seven months ago. Recently, I had surgery which occurred with great rapidity and was completely unexpected (appendectomy). I had to have four weeks off, which is the longest I have ever been away from any position I have held (I had only taken four days on sick leave for the previous 15 years).
I was flabbergasted at the number of staff who emailed me, rang me, sent me a text message or passed on a message to someone they knew would be in touch with me. They were amazingly generous in buying and sending items in a large basket that they thought would be useful whilst I was recuperating (fortunately, no lawnmowers and paint brushes). And when I finally did return, their warmth was so profound that I will never forget it. The children were equally as delightful as were many parents.
(continued on next page)
(continued from previous page)
As an inexperienced principal, was the most useful lesson you ever learned from a more experienced principal colleague?
Be yourself, take care with the financial management of the budgets and the salaries, check everything, plus remember that the faintest pencil is 10 times more powerful than the strongest memory – write things down. Plus, make sure you go to school every day with a sense of humour and a smile on your face to greet everyone with.
What is the funniest thing that has ever happened to you as a school leader?
Many things come to mind. I suppose the cleverest amusing thing was all the staff sneaking into my office to have a photo taken of them doing some ridiculous things in my office chair, to be made into a book which was later presented to me.
What tips would you give beginning school leaders about staying positive and keeping their energy levels high?
I would tell them that you grow with experience and that decision-making becomes easier with time. I would recommend that they have two or three trusted colleagues whom they can discuss any issues causing them concern or difficulty. I would also recommend that inexperienced principals have two or three trusted, more experienced principals whom they can bounce ideas off and from whom they can seek confidential advice when an answer is not clear. I think you should steer clear of negative people and energy-drainers.
Learning to listen twice as much as you speak would be the advice that I have valued the most, along with being decisive when it’s time to chart a course. There is little value in procrastinating.
I would also strongly encourage them to maintain interests outside their school life – golf, cricket, netball, bridge, friendships, anything which they enjoy. There should be room for fun and other community service. For me, it has been Athletics Victoria, particularly cross country and road running (not as a competitor any longer, sadly), Box Hill Athletic Club and the Victorian Milers Club, where I have an administrative role and the Australia College of Educators, which embraces government, Catholic and independent sector educators, and where there are huge opportunities to learn and network.
I would also urge beginning school leaders to join and attend activities with their professional association, such as WAPPA, SAPPA, the VPA and the NSWPPA. This will give immediate access to great experience, and, if needed, thoughtful, helpful and caring advice.
If you could name just one thing that kept you going to school every day, even during tough times, what would that be?
I think would be knowing what a difference you can make as a leader and the difference that teachers can have over children’s lives, providing a large range of opportunities for them to learn, grow and develop, and wanting to see the children and the staff do their best, with the provision of appropriate resources to enable them to do so.
Principal, Mitcham Primary School, Melbourna, Victoria
Debra J. Crouch
Mobile: 0413 009988
Connected Leader Copyright ©. Australian Primary Principals Association 2015. 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 Vivid Word and Image design, 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.