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


February 2018

Dear Colleagues,

Welcome back to the 2018 school year! I hope you have had a relaxing and re-energising break. How are the New Year’s resolutions going? What are the goals for you as a principal in 2018? Have you identified how you will give priority to your own health and wellbeing, as you head into school? What changes will your staff see and experience? A few questions to reflect on as we kick off the year.

To those who are starting their first year as a principal, I particularly wish you the very best for the year ahead. You will no doubt see plenty of ‘firsts’ and, yes, some experiences that may not be repeated in years to come. I urge all new principals to join their local principals’ association and invite a nearby colleague for coffee. This must be on your ‘to do list’ for week one.

Returning principals, whether in the same school or a new school, hopefully you have had a good rest and be ready to inspire your team for the year ahead. I would encourage our experienced principals to ring a newly appointed colleague with an invitation to meet up and come to the next association meeting. This type of connection has been shown as extremely valuable in building support networks.

Lead from mindful values. I am currently reading a book called ‘The Mindful Leader’ by Michael Bunting. In this book, there is a great message about leadership and modelling values. Values in leadership matter. Firstly, people want to know who you are and what you stand for and, secondly, whether or not they can trust you. This translates to walking the talk, and the talk is your values and leadership philosophy. Being able to articulate your values enables others to develop trust.

As a leader, we model and define shared values; however, we need to know what our personal values are first. A key message here is, living with our values and with personal integrity is about more than leading well. ‘It’s about feeling happy with ourselves and our lives. Values give us personal clarity’ (Bunting 2016, p.46). Being honest and owning (mindful of) our leadership behaviour will lead to greater improvements in our leadership.

Bunting says leading from values is our internal compass that provides direction. Another key point is that ‘(we) are inspired to engage more when our leaders walk their talk even – especially – when the pressure is on. When they don’t, we become disillusioned and disengaged’ (Bunting 2016, p. 54).

So, how will your leadership be viewed in 2018? Over this year, I will provide further excerpts from the book.

Over 2018, APPA’s agenda will continue to focus on key issues that impact on primary schools. Keep these in mind and take along your thoughts to the local principals’ association meeting.


With the theme ‘visionary leadership’, the 2018 APPA National Conference is for all primary school leaders and is being hosted by the three Western Australian principals’ associations – WAPPA (Government) CPPAWA (Catholic) and IPSHA-WA (Independent). This is the only national conference where the overwhelming majority of the delegates are primary school principals or senior leaders. What a great opportunity to talk leadership, shared ideas and innovative practices, and discuss mutual challenges.

Don’t miss registering here for what will be a great 2018 APPA Conference in The West.


The National School Resourcing Board (NSRB) announced its invitation for public submissions to a review of the socio-economic status (SES) score methodology used in determining the capacity of non-government school communities to contribute to the operational costs of their school.

For a copy of the issues paper and information on making an online submission, visit:

The closing date for public submissions is 5pm (AEST) Tuesday 20 February 2018.


APPA will be launching the inaugural National Principals Day at the National Advisory Council meeting in March. National Principals Day is set for Friday 3 August. APPA will be using the model developed by the Victorian Principals Association to assist other state and territory associations in planning events to acknowledge and show appreciation for primary school principals. We encourage everyone to put this day or week on the calendar. We will be forwarding to each association resource materials to help advertise and select possible events.


At the end of 2017, the Education Council decided that automated essay scoring will not be used for the marking of NAPLAN writing scripts. A number of schools will complete their NAPLAN assessment online in May this year. Year 3 writing will remain a pencil and paper test. We await the outcome!

APPA will continue to provide feedback and advice on the implementation of NAPLAN Online. For many schools already using online assessment, the move to NAPLAN Online will be relatively easy. However, due to results being used to compare schools and states (My School), APPA is advocating that the delivery and function of the test is fair for all children and all schools.

Location, technological capability and connectivity cannot be barriers to a successful experience. I would encourage any principal who has any concern to talk with their principals’ association and jurisdiction or system employers. If in doubt, check it out! Be careful not to assume your school is ready and that students will have the technology skills to manage the test. NAPLAN is testing literacy and numeracy, not technology skills.


ACARA has released details for the National Literacy and Numeracy Learning Progression. You can now download the National Literacy and Numeracy Learning Progressions in PDF by clicking on the Literacy or Numeracy Learning Progressions page and accessing the PDFs under Downloadable documents.

ACARA will also hold a stakeholder meeting on 19 February. APPA will provide a summary in the next edition of Connected Leader.


The 2017 Principal Health and Wellbeing Survey Report will be released on 21 February. The report’s author, Professor Phil Riley, met with APPA representatives and provided an overview of the report. We have also been working with Teachers Health on the communication strategy. A copy of the summary and key points will be provided to National Advisory Council (NAC) members.

With school principals increasingly prioritising student and staff wellbeing, the Positive Education Schools Association (PESA) is holding a conference in April this year. Visit the conference website for further information.


Teacher Registration: AITSL will be conducting a national review of teacher registration. Every state and territory stakeholder will be invited to provide submissions and be involved in consultations.

Early Career Teacher Induction App: A new and great resource to help with developing teachers new to the profession is the My Induction App. Definitely worth having in the toolkit.

Principal Preparation: APPA has been invited to provide feedback on AITSL’s range of professional learning resources for aspiring principals. They will be running a trial in the first half of 2018.


APPA continues to monitor the various developments with this proposal. At the November 2017 meeting, the following was reported:

‘Ministers noted a report from the Commonwealth Minister’s Year 1 Literacy and Numeracy Check Expert Advisory Panel. This report included advice and recommendations around the development and implementation of a national Year 1 literacy and numeracy check and an overview of what early years’ literacy and numeracy activities are already implemented at the jurisdictional level.

‘Council agreed that such checks are best utilised as diagnostic tools for teachers and should not be used for the purposes of national assessment or reporting. Ministers further agreed to discuss existing jurisdictional activities and initiatives and the findings of the Panel as part of a broader discussion at the December 2017 Education Council meeting, which will include the Chair of the Panel and other panel members as appropriate.’

Following the December meeting, no communication has been released, apart from the information on auto-marking for NAPLAN. We await further advice from the Education Council.


SchoolAid, Halogen and APPA will continue the partnership to support student leadership development and initiatives. Halogen organises student leadership days in the major cities. The SchoolAid Board supports schools in establishing Kids Ambassador Teams (KATs) that organise social action fundraising and awareness activities for students. For more information, go to:


APPA is partnering with EnhanceTV to enable classroom teachers to access to extensive range of AV resources to support teaching and learning programs. Free 12-month access is currently open but closes soon. Visit EnhanceTV to find out more.


The Department of Education and Training has agreed to a request by the Malaysian Ministry of Education to seek expressions of interest in the Pilot in 2018.  The Pilot proposes that up to ten individual Australian school leaders spend approximately two weeks with a Malaysian school leader during the school holidays in July 2018, with a reciprocal arrangement in Malaysia in August/September 2018.


They are seeking expressions of interest from principals and schools directly, by no later than close of business 28 February 2018.

The Pilot aims to enhance professional development, foster deep international connections for cross-cultural learning, and build long-term school and people-to-people links. Participants are expected to meet most of their costs, including airfares. However, it is proposed that accommodation and food will be provided by partner schools.

If you have any questions, or you would like to discuss the proposal in more detail, please contact the Partnership Development Team Director, Mr Stephen Trengove-Jones at or on (02) 6240 9632.


APPA is supporting these two initiatives with the aim to improve the physical health of our students.

The link for the Physical Literacy Standard can be found here.

Active Travel is being led by the Australian Health Policy Collaboration and is aimed at getting students to walk or ride to school and increase physical activity. For more information, go to the Australian Health Policy Collaboration website.


This council has one representative from each of the state and territory principals’ association and the president from each of the national sector associations. Our first meeting is on 8/9 March in Melbourne. The NAC enables members to develop national submissions and positions for APPA as well as providing an excellent opportunity to share practice from across the country and across sectors. I encourage all principals to put your hand up for this job.

Finally, I look forward to meeting principals and visiting schools during the year.

Best wishes,

Dennis Yarrington
President, Australian Primary Principals Association


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.

Meet Our Inaugural Recipient -

Recipient: Jane Moore       Principal: Mark Hansen

Ardtornish Primary School, St Agnes, SA

“Engaging in a discussion about reading and the joy that they can find in the right book has been key to students becoming self-motivated readers” – Jane Moore

“While Jane has championed amongst students a love and excitement for reading, it is the work she has done to assist teachers to promote regular reading that has been the x factor in underpinning successful learning across the curriculum” – Mark Hansen


Under the spotlight

February 2018

Noel Creece

Good luck to Noel Creece, the principal of Victoria’s first high rise primary school. Five-storey South Melbourne Primary School has capacity for 500 students.

Kerrie Jones

A NSW principal who followed remarks about sexual harassment and violence with a complaint about school uniform breaches has come under heavy criticism from students, parents and the media. In a statement issued by the NSW Department of Education, ‘The principal has acknowledged and apologised for any misunderstanding that these issues were spoken about together at the same time.’ The statements were made by the principal at a school assembly.

Marius Marx

With weekly yoga, personal training sessions and a massage chair on offer, it's not surprising that staff enjoy working at Pimpana State School, in Queensland. With happy staff, you have a happy school, says this South African-born principal.

Kevin & Jenny Mackay

What are the benefits and challenges of working with your spouse? Kevin and Jenny Mackay are respectively principal and assistant principal of Dandenong North Primary School, in Victoria.

Mickey Reynolds

American principal Dr Mickey Reynold didn't know if her students would laugh or cheer her on at the school's pep rally, ahead of a big sporting event. ‘As a principal, often times you’re willing to let students make fun of you,’ she said. ‘That's just part of the job.’

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

February 2018

How to start a speech

Whether networking or making a speech, start with a question or a statement that matters to your audience, advises public speaking expert Conor Neill. The principles of story-telling still apply to adults, he says.

It’s all about the people

Whether it’s corporate or public leadership, people management is a crucial skill. Although this report on a global leadership forecast is business-oriented, it contains some useful insights, especially for those education leaders who operate in a more commercial marketplace.

How to speak so people want to listen

Sound expert Julian Treasure demonstrates some useful vocal exercises and shares tips on how to speak with empathy,

How to deal with liars at work

Body language expert Carol Kinsey Goman explains why people lie in the workplace. She also shows how to spot the non-verbal cues of a liar and provides some strategies for dealing with dishonesty.

Right words to use to manage passive aggressive behaviour

Passive-aggressive behaviour can be one of the most difficult issues to deal with on a team. It's an insidious form of conflict because the concerns are masked and hard to recognise, let alone deal with.

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

February 2018

Duty of care

Bottled water will be provided to students at eleven West Australian government schools after elevated lead levels were detected in water at some campuses.

New laws proposed for online safety

The Carly Ryan Foundation is urging the Federal Government to investigate mimicking ‘domestic violence processes’ by creating an order that would make it illegal for bullies to contact their victims online. In the wake of recent student suicides, anti-bullying charities are campaigning for a criminalisation of trolling that would include giving child cyberbullies a social media order that would ban them from contacting their victims and using sites such as Facebook and Instagram.

Sikh family wins legal challenge

Melton Christian College has changed its uniform policy after it was sued for not allowing a Sikh child to wear a traditional head covering. Last year, the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal ruled in favour of the Arora family. The school was found to have violated the Equal Opportunity Act of 2010 that prohibits discrimination on the basis of religious conviction.

Enrolment rules create street campsite

More than a dozen parents spent the weekend camped in tents or sleeping in cars outside Ascot State School, in Brisbane, hoping to place their out-of-area children high on a waiting list for possible enrolment. Current rules mean that applicants are ranked numerically, in order of their arrival and submission of a form, from a preannounced day.

Teacher arrested after salary comments

An American teacher who was handcuffed and arrested after publicly questioning her superintendent’s pay rise has said she does not think the man who arrested her should lose his job.

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

February 2018

Figures on Tasmanian education

The Productivity Commission’s annual ‘Report on Government Services’ provides useful data on Tasmanian education.

Study on self-regulated learning in high performers

As part of the study ‘Realising the potential of Australia’s high capacity students’, conducted by the Assessment Research Centre in the Melbourne Graduate School of Education, 3741 Victorian government school students answered a 30-item multiple-choice questionnaire that was designed to capture their learning motivations and self-regulated learning strategies.

Report calls for transformation of education

‘Australia 2030: Prosperity through Innovation’, released by Innovation and Science Australia, details the strategic imperatives Australia must pursue to develop into a world-leader. The 116-page report makes 30 recommendations for education, industry, government, research & development and culture & ambition that can further support Australia’s innovation system.

Education research at the school level

An independent school in Ballarat, Victoria employs a Head of Research. In this article, Greg Ashman is interviewed about his role.

Report on competing stimuli

A recent study comparing brain function inside and outside (where there are more competing sounds) may have implications for open plan learning environments.

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

February 2018

Easy exercise routines to do at home

No time to go to the gym? Here are the best 10 YouTube channels for workouts at home. Please consult your GP before commencing any of these programs.

The health benefits of friendship

One can be lonely within a workplace filled with people. Socially isolated males, in particular, may risk serious health consequences. Take time to develop and nurture meaningful friendships. This article provides some useful tips for the rusty.

Rethinking work-life balance: use four metrics

There are common mistakes people use when evaluating their work-life balance. Eric Barker, the author of ‘Barking up the wrong tree’, reveals the four areas you need to fulfil in order to be happy.

How emotionally healthy are you?

Emotional health is defined by four markers: our degree of self-love, of openness, of communication and of trust.

How to tell if you’re not getting enough sleep

This video explains some of the less well-known symptoms of insufficient sleep.

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

February 2018

Building a culture of aspiration

Makybe Rise Primary School, in Western Australia, is working to create a culture of aspiration through a successful program developed in the USA.

Behaviour benefits of compulsory slippers

Letters have been sent home to parents at Ysgol Emmanuel Primary School, in Rhyl, north Wales, telling them that children in foundation class will have to start wearing comfier footwear. Students will be allowed to wear regular black school shoes for class outings but slippers will be mandatory in the classroom. 

The faux meteorite

Students at Somerset Primary School, in Tasmania, recently discovered that a [fake] meteorite had landed in the playground. Principal Paula Pearce said the large rock functioned as a hook to inspire pupils to develop creative projects.

The other Darwin

Who’s ready to put students on a self-driving school bus?

WeGrow to disrupt kindergarten students

The founder of New York’s WeGrow school for young entrepreneurs was motivated by the failure of the existing education system to cater for her own children. ‘These children come into the world, they are very evolved, they are very special, Rebekah Neumann said. ‘They're spiritual. They're all natural entrepreneurs, natural humanitarians, and then it seems like we squash it all out of them in the education system. Then we ask them to be disruptive and find it again after college.’

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

February 2018

Pasi Sahlberg

'Play is being squeezed out of Australian schools as politicians force more stringent academic expectations upon younger and younger children.’ The former director-general of the Finnish education system will shortly move to Australia, where he will take up a position at the Gonski Institute for Education at the University of NSW.

Nicky Ringland & Bruce Fuda

Without significant changes in pedagogy, schools will continue to struggle to teach digital technologies, despite new curriculums being introduced this year to most Australian systems.

Victorian opposition

If successful in November’s election, the Victorian opposition has announced that it will place far great emphasis on ‘concepts like the inherent dignity of the individual, religious tolerance [and] the principles of the western enlightenment – such as freedom of speech, equality before the law and government by consent.’ The party recently released its ‘school education values statement’.

Courier Mail

Queensland is the only state in Australia that does not have a compulsory or comprehensive government-funded swimming program in its primary schools. A metropolitan newspaper recently launched a campaign to have this changed, eliciting a response from the Minister for Education, Grace Grace.

Vikas Pota

According to the new director-general of UNESCO, Audrey Azouley, we must find ways of making the public understand that a failure to educate a child anywhere in the world will, in the end, create instability for us all – through irregular migration and the potential growth of extremism and conflict – whether we are in the developed or developing world. 

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.

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Money matters

February 2018

Reversal on funding cuts

Western Australia will reverse a number of recent education funding decisions, included the closure of the School of the Air.

First free for-profit school

Ofsted inspectors in England have praised the ‘inspirational’ efforts of the head teacher of the first free school run by a for-profit company, rating the school ‘good’ after an earlier assessment of ‘special measures’. 

Expensive property purchases

Education Queensland has spent more than $2 million on properties around New Farm State School, in Brisbane, to secure future space for its rapidly growing student population

Child labour-free school uniforms

Most schools aren’t aware their uniforms are made in countries where the children can’t go to school due to their duty to work to produce cotton. An Australian campaign for schools to insist on Fairtrade cotton is underway.

Comparative salaries

This recruitment website provides an interesting picture of comparative school principal salaries across different states and systems in Australia.

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.

Love the job

February 2018

Deborah Grossek

Principal, Glendal Primary School
Glen Waverley, Victoria

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

I am the principal of Glendal Primary School in Glen Waverley, which was established in 1971 in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne. Our students are drawn primarily from the neighbourhood area, with some families travelling from nearby suburbs to attend the school, depending on vacancies. We have almost 900 students and are limiting our enrolment to 35 classes in order to maintain our range of curriculum programs. The student population reflects the characteristics of the surrounding community, with a diversity of backgrounds and an increasing English as an Additional Language (EAL) background student enrolment.

The school buildings have been mostly rebuilt or refurbished since I started here as principal in 2007. Facilities include classrooms in main buildings and portables, an administration building, an arts centre, library and computer lab, science building and literacy spaces for Reading Recovery and English as an Additional Language (EAL). A full-sized gymnasium and a performing arts centre accommodate assemblies, musical performances, as well as music and physical education classes.

Specialist programs include Physical Education and Sport, Music and Performing Arts, Visual Arts and two Languages Other Than English (Mandarin in prep to year 6 and French in years 5 and 6) and a specialist Science and Technology/Robotics program across the school. Our school provides a very wide range of learning opportunities across the school, with an outstanding STEM program and high level robotics achievements, which include participation at national and international robotics competitions.

Support and enrichment programs are offered both within and outside school hours and our Global Relationships program includes a range of overseas sister schools relationships which incorporate international travel and a French immersion program in Noumea.

We have devoted considerable resources to intervention programs across the school, which also support students from an English as an Additional Language (EAL) background. The current student population is drawn from 33 different language backgrounds, including Chinese of which the majority speak Mandarin. Many others speak Sinhalese, Korean, Hindi and Tamil.

Our school community actively supports the school and parents value education highly. It really is a delight to lead the school community here at Glendal.

How many years have you been a school leader?

I have worked at the school leadership level since 1996 as a leading teacher and in acting and substantive assistant principal and principal roles. I bring to school leadership a long and diverse career in education, including teaching in three continents (South America, UK and Australia), in both private and government schools, from prep to year 11 and at Deakin University as a tutor.

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

I am very passionate about education and teaching, first deciding that I wanted to be a teacher when I was 12 (a long time ago!). I became motivated to become a school leader in the 1990s when I saw that I could have a greater influence over motivating students, improving their learning and increasing their engagement, by leading teachers and the school community rather than teaching just one class of students myself. I guess as an eldest child in my family I saw myself as a leader from an early age and, for me, leadership was initially was about leading children in their learning. Leadership is all about being willing to take on responsibility and to be the person who makes things happen, even if it means giving up being one of the group.

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

I came to Australia from the UK in 1988 as a secondary science teacher, having also spent 2 ½ years in Brazil, where I taught science and geography at a private British school in Sao Paulo. My three children were quite young when we arrived in Melbourne, which meant that my first experiences of education and schools here were as a parent who did not understand the Victorian primary school system. My first challenge as a new parent in Melbourne was having to ask what a lamington was. I find it easy to empathise with new parents and those who only want the best for their child but who, more often than not, just lack the appropriate knowledge or don’t understand the system. We make many assumptions as teachers, use jargon and can be inclined to forget what it is like as a new parent at school.

Once we had settled in Melbourne, I retrained as a primary school teacher to capitalise on my increasing interest in teaching children in general, rather than teaching one specific subject area. I was also keen to promote gifted education and introduce more science teaching to primary school children.

I became a leading teacher in 1996 at The Basin PS, with a focus on developing a science program and leading the Education Committee of School Council.

Some of my challenges included helping and motivating staff to teach science and working with a range of parents on school policy development. Prior to this, I had some experience in leading staff and parents; however, I enjoyed the learning curve and made the most of the opportunities. Being a parent myself, I have always felt comfortable working with parents. Being a school leader has enabled me to align with and promote a direction for our school based on best teaching and learning practice.

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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

February 2018

Deborah Grossek

Principal, Glendal Primary School
Glen Waverley, Victoria

(continued from previous page)

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

I would say that the most useful lesson I learnt as a new principal was to take a step back and think before making important decisions. I have a tendency to respond too impulsively sometimes and now I am mindful to take time in considering the short, medium and long-term implications of decisions, as well as setting of precedents and possible impacts on others. I use the acronym STEP – Stop, Take a step back, Evaluate, Proceed. I am a great fan of Stephen Covey’s ‘7 habits of highly effective people’, having been introduced to them by another principal, and often refer to ‘Beginning with the end in mind’ and ‘Think win win’, in particular.

What makes you smile at work?

In reflecting on this question it would be easy to focus on a signature moment or event but the reality for me is the accumulation of everyday moments and interactions with parents, students and staff that bring a smile to my face. Coffee with my leadership team always helps along with robust discussion and lots of fun!

In managing your staff, what are your most valuable skills and beliefs?

I believe in a positive approach and in developing and empowering staff. I start from the position that everyone is coming from a position of good intent and that everyone has something to contribute somewhere. The skill is in placing staff where they can be their best, empowering people to try new ideas and in supporting them. I find coaching strategies are very important and I encourage people to take responsibility for their own progress and decisions. I have introduced emotional intelligence development and improved teamwork, using the DiSC (by Integro) individual surveys on working styles. In addition, I have trained as a Stephen Covey ‘7 habits of highly effective people’ facilitator, enabling me to run the program with staff and indulge my passion for developing people.

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

I have experienced a great many rewarding and happy days as a school leader and it is difficult to isolate just one. In general, the events and situations that bring me joy are ones that people have worked really hard to achieve but don’t really expect a great result. A good example was when our young robotics team won the Strategy and Innovation Award in the First Robotics European Championship in Tenerife in 2016. It was just incredible, as they were our youngest team and had only qualified for a place in the National Competition on a Wild Card.

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Love the job

February 2018

Deborah Grossek

Principal, Glendal Primary School
Glen Waverley, Victoria

(continued from previous page)

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

The last Monday of term 4, 2013, was the toughest day I have experienced as a school leader. It is etched in my memory and, in fact, the whole week was tough. One of my school councillors had messaged me that weekend to say her son was in hospital but would be OK. On Monday we learnt that Ronak, in year 5, had experienced a severe anaphylactic reaction to a ‘natural’ coconut drink from Taiwan, purchased by his father, on the Friday evening. Even though the family did everything right at the time and rushed him to hospital, Ronak suffered heart attacks, and was in a coma. His family were notified that he would not survive. He was only 10 and he died that week when his life support was turned off. I had to inform staff at our Monday meeting and then the community, students in year 5 and the School Council. I worked closely with our School Council President, who was a huge support and we had counsellors at school all week, as Ronak and his family were very well known locally. Parents lit candles for Ronak and students made cards for his family. I remember walking around the school that week and coming across different groups of parents in tears, feeling so sad for the family and their loss, even those who didn’t know them. Ronak was an active member of the local soccer team and his family were friends of some of our staff. The family, supported by Allergy and Anaphylaxis Australia, were successful in their legal action against the coconut drink importer for negligence and false labelling on the can of drink, which had also contained milk products to which Ronak was allergic. The investigations into Ronak’s death, have resulted in new laws relating to food labelling being introduced this year. His death was quite tragic and touched our whole school community.

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

Quite a few years ago, we had a staff dress-up day where we all had to wear our pyjamas or night attire. Teachers do love to dress up. At the morning tea in the staffroom, my assistant principals and I noticed that we looked rather out of place and we were puzzled as to why everyone else was in their normal work clothes. The staff thought it was hilarious that they had successfully tricked us into being the only ones in pyjamas for the day!

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

I would say to make sure you have a fellow principal or someone on your leadership team with whom you can let off steam and engage in confidential discussions. Principals are good at supporting each other and a network of peers from whom you can get advice and support is essential. The VPA is an excellent forum for professional development and collegiate support and their conferences are especially invigorating. We could all easily work 24/7 as principals and it is important to set a limit to your working day, change into something comfortable when you get home and switch off for a while. I walk my dogs. I suggest putting your social events and personal time into your diary, thereby ensuring that all your time does not become consumed by school. Your own health and wellbeing is essential.

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?

I really enjoy leading my school and working with the people at Glendal. Sometimes though I just need to walk around the school and stop to chat with children, who always smile and have something nice to say. Remember that they look up to you. I think of the improvements I have made here, look at the trees and gardens and reflect on the influence I have had as an educator and leader.

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

I have my family, grandchildren, two dogs to walk, a lifelong interest in travel, hobbies and a husband and friends with whom to share enjoyable evenings out. These are important to me and I make time for them. I model work-life balance at school and insist on reasonable working hours, especially for our leadership team. This does not make us any less hard working but we are more effective.

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

I am very mindful of my diet, I exercise and visit my GP for regular check-ups. I also like to travel whenever I can, go out for dinner and drink wine and cocktails on occasion!

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

When I retire, I see myself engaging in the things I enjoy but don’t have time for at the moment. I hope to travel extensively, spend more time with my family and maybe help out in school leadership somewhere. I have quite a long list so I expect to be busy but at a slower pace than I am now.

Deborah Grossek
Principal, Glendal Primary School
Glen Waverley, Victoria


Managing Editor, APPA 'Connected Leader'

Debra J. Crouch
Mobile: 0413 009988

Connected Leader

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