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


July 2016

Dear Colleagues

As Term 3 in schools evolves, many will be focused on the various ‘weeks’ we celebrate during the term. In this edition, I wish to highlight a few and provide a comment or two.

We also will be watching and working with a re-elected government. The Coalition education policy was provided and APPA responded in a number of ways. APPA will be looking to meet very soon with the minister, his office and the department to discuss the policy and implementation of key aspects.

A special week this Term 3 will be the NAPLAN Online trial (aka) the Platform Trial and Readiness Test (PTRT). We know some principals were at information sessions before the term break and will be preparing to conduct the trial with their Year 3 and 5 students. I also appreciate the interruption this will bring to schools and learning programs. The key focus of the trial is to test the platform and technology.

APPA Board met with ACARA and the points were:

  • Looking at testing the platform and software. Readiness in regards to technology. Not looking to mirror the NAPLAN assessment as usual. Not all states involved. ACT and SA have indicated schools will be involved. A sample from WA and Vic will participate. NSW will not be involved. The test will have sample items covering maths and reading. A separate test will look at writing online.
  • Feedback will focus on technology and function, like use of drop and drag, etc.
  • The trial is to use students in Year 3 and Year 5 and gauge response, given they have completed NAPLAN this year. There will no achievement results for schools.
  • ACARA indicated it would do some trialling, looking at equating items across pencil and online modes. ACARA would also look at the scaling to ensure there is validity between types of tests.
  • In 2017, writing completed online will be marked by automation and in person. ACARA has established mitigation processes with the automated marking.
  • School will need to decide if ready. Schools cannot do Numeracy and Reading online and not writing. All done or not.

APPA raised the following points:

  1. Online writing needs to be fair in that it needs to be a similar experience for all students and equitable with pencil and paper.
  2. Writing online has raised the questions of the approach to the teaching of writing. ACARA is looking at the impact and implications for teaching if writing is tested online. APPA did reiterate our opposition to online for Year 3, given it would have major implications for the teaching and resourcing of writing, if done on a digital device.
  3. APPA’s position is that online writing should not be introduced until clear evidence is available that the benefits outweigh the consequences and comprehensive consultation with the profession has been completed.

APPA’s reference group will continue to meet with ACARA and present questions and concerns. I encourage every principal to write directly to ACARA posing questions and concerns to: And also raise them with your state or territory education minister.

NAPLAN Online will create a major change in primary schools. APPA is proposing that if we need national data on student achievement then sample testing, as is done with PISA and other international assessments, be introduced. We also see that a contemporary and 21st century learning program is not using mass testing to measure achievement and growth. Schools and teachers provide ongoing feedback to students to measure achievement.

The NAPLAN and MY School programs are not reflecting contemporary learning approaches and overall have not had any significant impact on school performance or change in student achievement (ACARA Media Release, Aug 2015). So why are we still funding ineffective programs? Surely we could use these funds for direct student and teacher support. Already in one state, schools will be required to redirect limited school funds for technology upgrades and hardware purchases to implement NAPLAN Online. If introduced, we can see students in Foundation to Year 3 needing access to digital devices every day and this cost will be passed on to parents. We have already seen media reports of the impact of the digital divide and intrusion access to the Internet is causing in schools (The Australian, 18 June 2016). APPA is asking all principals to talk with their community about the impact and is the direction we wish to take with education in Australian primary schools.

In 2017, schools will be either doing NAPLAN as computer or pen based which, in reality, will be two different tests, one an adaptive test on the computer and the other a pen. These two tests will then be used to compare schools. It is difficult at this point in time, with the available information, to be confident in the reliability of the tests.

APPA at this stage is not convinced that computer based marking of writing can pick up all nuances of Year 3 or Year 5 writing. The profession would need to be 100% confident that this would not disadvantage any school or student and at this stage we do not have that assurance. We also have no evidence of successful trials and believe it will lead to a decrease in creativity and imaginative writing. We will get formulae based teaching and writing, where digital skills will be the focus not writing.



This year we encourage everyone to leave the office work behind and ‘get reading’ with students. The website has great ideas and promotional items. APPA is working with Scholastic Australia on research that shows how the actions of the principal will influence the reading and literacy achievements of their students. It is not rocket science, to use a colloquial term, but we can implement some very simple strategies in our schools. And remember it’s mostly about example, attitude and values.


This year many will be swayed to focus on STEM or STEAM and get into Coding. The theme is Drones, Droids and Robots. How have the autonomous technology inventions impacted our lives? This could be a great focus for primary schools, especially as we grapple with technology overload and intrusion. When is some older technology just as effective in learning (pencil and paper) and interactive conversations in person versus online chats or video conferencing? APPA is keen to see support and resources being directed to principals and school leaders on effective strategies to lead an innovative and STEAM school. We know STEM is not a subject: it is an approach. We still need to teach the concepts and knowledge for students to demonstrate their understanding and application of learning.


This is the week you complete you Principal Health and Wellbeing Survey. That’s right; set aside time in a week during August to go online and do the survey. Information will come to leaders already part of the survey and APPA will provide further information.


APPA is supporting the Captain Courageous Foundation’s My Hero Day (July 29). Also, the Teddy Bears and Flowers National Response to the tragedy in Nice, France has APPA as a partner for the appeal by SchoolAid in the response to the tragedy. Go to the website for more information and how to get involved.


We are pleased to announce new partnerships with Teachers Mutual Bank and the launch of MyLifeMySuper through Catholic Super.

Teachers Mutual Bank will be supporting APPA with the focus on leadership resources for primary principals and aspiring leaders. A dedicated page on the APPA website will be developed and will include information on finance and budgeting for school leaders, resources for aspiring leaders and information on leadership programs.


While this focus was just recently held, the theme of Song Lines: The living narrative of our nation was well received. Schools might like to look at a resource focused on visual arts and Indigenous art from Western Australia. You can check out the lesson plans here:

I would like to bring to your attention a report by the Australian Government Productivity Commission on Indigenous Primary School Achievement. Cultural recognition, acknowledgment and support have been identified in the literature as fundamental to Indigenous students’ school participation and achievement. The report states:

The recent education literature suggests that the key to improving student achievement, for both Indigenous Australian and non-Indigenous students, is high quality instruction — including assessment of each child’s learning needs, identification of strategies to meet them and evaluation of the effectiveness of those strategies. Particularly important to high quality instruction are:

  • the effective use of data in assessing where students are at and evaluating the impact of teaching interventions;
  • high expectations (including a student’s expectations of him or herself);
  • positive student wellbeing — which facilitates engagement;
  • strong student–teacher relationships; and,
  • supportive school and system leadership, including with respect to professional development of the teaching workforce.

Best wishes,

Dennis Yarrington
President, Australian Primary Principals Association
Mobile: 0466 655 468


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.

Interviewees urgently sought for 2016 series of ‘Connected Leader’

Do you love your job?
Primary school principals across Australia, from Catholic, government and independent schools, are invited to contact the Managing Editor of ‘Connected Leader’, Debra Crouch, who is currently seeking interviewees for the remainder of the 2016 series of ‘Love the Job’ (written) interviews. To express your interest in assisting with this project, please contact Debra at: or 0413 009988.

Principals in the news

July 2016

Carmen Cefai

Blacktown North Public School, in NSW, opened its community garden on 28 June 28. Principal Carmen Cefai, who initiated the idea, explained that ‘a lot of parents are living in flats so they don’t get the opportunity to have a garden. We have a parents’ garden and a garden for the students to learn how to grow vegetables, what to grow and how to plant,’ she said. The program includes parents sharing the produce they cultivated among themselves before using it for home-cooked meals.

Michael Forrest

Michael Forrest has been appointed as the new principal of Duaringa State School, in Queensland. ‘I am looking forward to being involved in the community and challenging the students in the school and making learning enjoyable,’ he said.

Roderick Crouch

The principal of Maranatha Christian School, in Victoria, has been appointed as the new executive principal of Australian International School - Saigon, in Vietnam. Australian principals are warmly invited to visit the school for 2-18-year-olds, in District 2, Ho Chi Minh City.

Ross Sinfield

Phil Gould was recently invited to York Public School, in NSW, to farewell relieving principal Ross Sinfield, who is an avid rugby league and Penrith Panthers fan.

Robert Phipps

Robert Phipps, the principal of Hills Grammar, a K-12 school in NSW, died on 24 June. A statement issued by the school said: ‘He embodied a model of selfless service and leadership which continues to inspire the entire school community, but it is the man himself whom we will all miss so much.’

Interviewees urgently sought for 2016 series of ‘Connected Leader’

Do you love your job?
Primary school principals across Australia, from Catholic, government and independent schools, are invited to contact the Managing Editor of ‘Connected Leader’, Debra Crouch, who is currently seeking interviewees for the remainder of the 2016 series of ‘Love the Job’ (written) interviews. To express your interest in assisting with this project, please contact Debra at: or 0413 009988.

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

Opinion and analysis

July 2016

William McKeith

‘Our political leaders here and abroad are missing an opportunity to model and to give compelling, transparent and honest leadership to our young people and our schools,’ says the principal of  Inner Sydney Montessori School.

David Roy

‘Through children being home schooled, the money that would have been allocated to them for education essentially disappears. Given the consistent annual increase in home-schooling registrations, and the continual lowering of academic achievement in formal schooling, we can assume home schooling will only continue to increase,’ says this University of Newcastle academic. There are now around 10,000 registered children who are home schooled each year in Australia.

John Hattie

In a recent address at the University of Melbourne, John Hattie criticised what he describes as ‘cruising schools’, i.e., those which often serve more affluent students but add little value to their academic results. These schools are a major factor in Australia's declining performance in the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), he said. Professor Hattie also questioned the value of school choice, which he said had led to a ‘clogging of the motorways’ as students avoided their neighbourhood school in pursuit of alternatives.

Joseph Camilleri

Reviewing the recent federal election, this emeritus professor of international relations includes the education policies of major parties in his overall opinion that Australian politics has been ‘reduced to short-term remedies, meaningless rhetoric and endless spin.’ ‘Most of the critical questions’ in education were ignored, he says.

Pat Slattery

The founder of WiseOnes, a company which purports to be working with 30 Victorian government schools, has reportedly offered to provide online coaching for gifted students whose parents refuse childhood vaccinations. ‘I am concerned because we know how much more sensitive gifted children are due to their extra neurological connections. Giving them neurotoxins seems illogical,’ Ms Slattery is reported to have written. The post is reported to have been removed.

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Research, reports and statistics

July 2016

Sport and exposure to unhealthy eating messages

According to a recent study, more than 1.25 million children involved in sports programs across Australia are being exposed to ‘unhealthy’ messages from the food and drink companies that sponsor them.

Physical activity and brain health

A report on exercise and the physical health of 6-18 year-olds, by 24 researchers from eight countries, says that exercise leads to improved cardiorespiratory fitness which, in turn, improves brain development and intellect. In addition, the report found that physical activity can increase brain plasticity, or the brain’s ability to change and grow over time, which is conducive to learning, memory, and cognitive function.

Early maternal support and brain growth

A recent Washington University study has found that children who received the most support from their mother before school were found to have more growth in the hippocampus, which is associated with learning, memories and regulating emotions. Crucially, those youngsters who were more neglected when they were under six did not catch up, even when their mothers became more supportive in later years.

Study on principal preparation programs

A report recently released by the Illinois Education Research Council, in the USA, may have some points of interest for those engaged in the preparation of Australian school leaders.

The role of character traits in academic success

In a study recently published in the ‘Journal of Personality and Social Psychology’, US psychology associate professor Elliot Tucker-Drob has found that genetic differences among people account for about half of the differences in their character, and that the remaining variation in character was influenced by environmental factors occurring outside of the home and school environments.

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.

Education news

July 2016

WA to upgrade information system

Western Australia’s education system is set to embark on a $32 million program to replace its 27-year-old core student information system with a web-based platform

Support for lower school starting age for Tasmania

The Tasmanian Chamber of Commerce and Industry has welcomed the State Government’s proposal to lower the school starting stage. The draft Education Act, released earlier this year, proposes to lower the school starting age from five years to four years and six months.

Uncertainty over bus service for town camp students

Five years ago, Save the Children started a bus service for indigenous children living in six town camps near Darwin, boosting school attendance figures by 20%. Continued funding for the bus service is now uncertain.

Policy change impacts on provision for hearing impaired

South Australia's Education Department has proposed closing two of the state's six specialised school units for hearing-impaired children.

Student banned from wearing red Trump hat

This article describes a politically fuelled situation at an elementary school in the USA, several months before the national election. Australian readers will naturally compare this to the lead-up to the recent Federal election.

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

July 2016

How to stay calm consistently

Staying calm consistently requires you to keep a few very important things in mind, advises this family therapist.

More than just tiredness

Getting enough sleep is crucial for good physical and mental health. According to a new meta-analysis study, published in Biological Psychiatry, long-term sleep deprivation can do more than make us fatigued and irritable. Insufficient sleep on a regular basis can also cause physical changes in our brains and bodies and contribute to a host of chronic diseases and mental health issues.

Managing stress: protecting your health

Sustained over time, stress can undermine health in serious and sometimes deadly ways. In this Harvard University forum, expert participants examine what we know about the effects of stress on health, including heart disease risk, and about the role social status plays in exacerbating or mitigating these effects. In addition, panelists explore ways in which positive well-being, mindfulness, exercise and nutrition contribute to a more resilient, healthier lifestyle.

Three tips on how to stay calm when faced with an angry confrontation

Anger management expert Dr Leslie Seppinni provides some advice on what to do when faced with an angry, confrontational person.

A truly balanced life

Nurturing a passionate interest outside of school is a great way to achieve a truly balanced and positive outlook on life. In this inspiring story (and awesome photograph), we offer our congratulations to Sarah Hay, the deputy principal of Cecil Park Public School, in NSW. Ms Hay recently became the first woman to win the Grail of Chivalry. She is now ranked number one in the International Jousting League, a worldwide competition that includes both male and females.

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

Body Esteem Education – Not Just for Secondary Schools

Why body esteem education?

Children as young as 4 are already developing a weight bias – thin is good, fat is bad. It is no wonder then that for young people aged 6-19, body image continues to be a significant and growing concern (Mission Australia Youth Survey, BTN Happiness Survey).

It is easy to see then how body esteem, which relates to the thoughts, feelings and attitudes a person has in relation to their physical self, is closely related to self- esteem.

Primary schools do a fantastic job of developing the skills and strategies young people need to cope with the challenges of adolescence and transition to high school. Therefore, including body esteem education into already existing wellbeing programs can further benefit your students.

The Butterfly Foundation has offered Education Services around Australia since 2006 and is considered a reputable leader in prevention focused, body esteem education. Our sessions are evidence based and work to address the modifiable risk factors and protective factors that underpin the development of eating disorders.

How can Butterfly Education support your school?

  • For years 3-6, workshops and presentations with consistent, progressive and appropriate messaging and are mapped to the Australian curriculum.
  • Free to BE: A Body Esteem Resource for years 3-12.
  • Staff professional development on the importance of prevention and implementing strategies.
  • For parents, an interactive session to help families better understand body esteem and support the development of healthy body image in their children.

To find out what services are available in your state contact

Helen Bird – Education Administration
02 8456 3908

If you are concerned about someone contact
The Butterfly Foundation National Help Line 1800 ED HOPE (1800 33 4673)


Policy and innovation

July 2016

Revival of Indigenous language

A young Wurundjeri man, Mathew Gardiner, has been teaching the Woi Wurrung language at Melton West Primary School, in Melbourne’s outer west.

Worthwhile joint venture

A joint venture between the Bunuba community, in Western Australia, and Melbourne's Wesley College, sees Indigenous students spend two terms on country at the station before boarding for the remainder of the school year in Melbourne, where they experience city life and mainstream schooling.

Fingerprint scanning for students

A number of schools across the world are now scanning students for unique biometric data that is used to monitor their attendance, canteen purchases and library book use.

Goodbye to sugary drinks

Oberon Primary School, in Victoria, has been declared as a water-only school. Oberon is one of 11 primary schools in the Geelong area that have banned sugary drinks indefinitely, under a local H2Only campaign.

Parents complain about iPad scheme

Ashgrove State School, in Brisbane, is set to review its BYO iPad program for incoming prep students next year. Some parents have complained that there will be no screen-free option for five-year-olds in 2017, and that all children will have to bring their own $800 iPad to school.

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.

Professional skill-building

July 2016

Good leaders ask great questions

John Maxwell explains why it is important to ask yourself, and others, a number of intentional questions. ‘The unexamined leader is not worth following,’ he says.

Four behaviours you never want to see in a leader

While this advice is targeted at entrepreneurs, this presentation is useful in that it identifies four behaviours that should be avoided by all leaders.

How to speak so that people want to listen

Sound expert Julian Treasure demonstrates some useful vocal exercises and provides some advice on how to speak with empathy.

Be ambitious: how to be a powerful woman

In this video produced by the BBC, the UK's most powerful women share their experiences, advice and philosophy for a successful working life.

Shawn Achor: the happy secret to better work

In this TED Talk, psychologist Shawn Achor argues that happiness inspires productive work (and not the other way around).

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

July 2016

Budget blowout in NSW

An overhaul of the NSW education system's IT software has now blown out by $270 million and is three years behind schedule. Intended to streamline administration, the Learning Management and Business Reform project has been plagued by technical faults and long delays.

School to sell land and gain ‘intergenerational learning’ opportunities

Plans for a $60 million retirement village in Golden Grove, South Australia, have been submitted to Tea Tree Gully Council. Life Care plans to buy the land from Pedare Christian College and build 78 units, 24 serviced apartments and an 80-bed residential aged care home. Under the plans, students would be able to perform musical and drama productions at the village, train senior residents in technology, such as iPad lessons, volunteer and also gain experience in fields such as hospitality, health and aged care.

Funding for Exclusive Bretheren school

The level of government funding given to an independent school in Sydney has drawn criticism from government school supporters in NSW. The argument over comparative funding in this article is interspersed with critical comments about the religious values espoused by Exclusive Bretheren, who prefer not to eat or socialise with non-members and discourage young people from reading novels, watching TV and physically attending university. A press statement issued by the Plymouth Bretheren Church said that comparing private school funding with public school funding was ‘misleading and irrelevant.’ 

Private schools equally deserving

If Australians truly value the education system in this country and want to see it continue to improve, they should ignore narrow, cherry-picked funding analyses that seek to create division between public and private schools, says Ross Fox, the executive director of the National Catholic Education Commission.

Funding global change

The British government recently pledged £100m to support programs to get more of the world’s poorest girls into school. According to global estimates, 63 million girls of primary and lower secondary school age were out of school in 2013. ‘Education doesn’t just shape individuals, it shapes countries,’ said the UK’s international development secretary, Justine Greening.

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Love the job

July 2016

Sharee Gaiser

Head of Junior School, Oxley Christian College
Chirnside Park, Victoria Australia

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

Oxley Christian College is situated in Chirnside Park, Victoria. As a co-educational, multi-denominational K-12 Christian school, Oxley provides Christ-centred education that has its foundations in Biblical truth. It offers excellent educational opportunities from preschool to year 12 through an academically sound, balanced and stimulating curriculum. Oxley College attracts students from diverse cultures and backgrounds – including a number of students from overseas. The College campus is located in the Yarra Valley Shire, in eastern Melbourne. Set on thirty hectares of tranquil, semi-rural landscape at Chirnside Park, 25 km east of Melbourne, the school is readily accessible by public transport.

How many years have you been a school leader?

I commenced my current role as Head of Junior School at Oxley Christian College, in January 2014. Prior to accepting this role, I was a general classroom teacher at a local government primary school and held the role of team leader of years 5 and 6 and Literacy Coordinator for the whole school for a number of years. I also served as School Council President for six years at the same school.

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

I have always possessed a heightened sense of responsibility in any role I have held, whether that be as Secretary of the local preschool and netball club, or as School Council President at my children’s school. I don’t see myself as a born leader but recognise that the encouragement and confidence of others, as well as a ‘give it my best shot’ attitude, have positioned me well for leadership. A former colleague of mine encouraged me to apply for my current role, as Head of Junior School, three years ago. Principals I knew had advised me to have a 10 year plan for becoming a school leader and I knew that I would probably have to apply for many positions before being successful. This was not the case and this role for me is an unexpected match made in heaven. I hope I have many years ahead of me to refine my leadership skills and understanding.

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

My first leadership role was as a team leader of Year 5 and 6 staff at a local primary school. After a 14 year hiatus away from teaching, where I focused my energy on raising my four children, I was employed at a government school as a classroom teacher. Not only was I on a steep learning curve in terms of curriculum and assessment, I was also focused on being the best leader I could be to my team. This was a case of having to learn on the job and garner support from experienced leaders with whom I worked! I spent time getting to know the staff in my team and building trust and a common vision. Encouraging open and regular communication was critical and weekly team meetings ensured we collaborated and planned as a team. I was supported by the leadership team and provided many opportunities to build my leadership skills through professional development and leadership courses.

As a Head of Junior School in a new environment, the biggest challenge was becoming accustomed to the school, its vision and its staff. Again, building relationships and trust was key. Change is always a challenge to navigate and ensuring all staff were a part of the process was critical. My desire was to serve and support the staff in their role and to collaboratively initiate changes that had improved student outcomes as the focus.


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

July 2016

Sharee Gaiser

Head of Junior School, Oxley Christian College
Chirnside Park, Victoria Australia

(continued from previous page)

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

The most useful advice I was given by a long-standing Principal was to ‘not go anywhere alone.’ As a leader, we can often be the one that others assume have all the answers, but we don’t. Leadership can also be a very a lonely position. This advice has been paramount to my survival as a leader. I cannot afford to feel that I am alone or to act alone – there are other leaders and staff around to support and encourage me with their wisdom and experience. When initiating and facilitating change, I can’t be the only one leading it – everyone has a part to play and we all want to move in the same direction together. And, at the end of the day, I am human like the rest of us and I can’t do it all or know it all. Being part of a team ensures success and guards leaders against burnout.

What makes you smile at work?

What make me smile at work? The children, of course. That’s who we are there for and they make it all worthwhile. To see a child overcome a challenge or achieve a learning goal they have set, brings me such joy. To hear a child, who has experienced heartache or bullying in other environments say that they feel safe and can now blossom, brings me hope. I love having children share their work or achievements with me. Those are moments worth cherishing.

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

I believe that every individual is unique and treating others with respect and honour is critical to managing your staff. I have worked hard over many years to develop that ‘listening ear’ and to ensure that others feel heard and understood. I don’t need to be right and I value the ideas, experience and wisdom of others. I am highly organised and this has been a most useful skill in a busy learning environment. I don’t settle for second best and strive to ensure that whatever we do, we do well as a staff. Building positive relationships with staff, students and parents is imperative and I ensure that communication with all key stakeholders is clear and timely. Showing appreciation is also another valuable skill and saying ‘thank you’ and ‘well done’ goes a long way to helping build a strong team.

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

I think the last day of Term 4, in my first year as Head of Junior School, was my best day ever. Not because anything newsworthy happened but simply because I had survived my first year in the role. There was a sense of accomplishment in knowing that it had not only been a year of challenge and growth as a leader but also of celebration. This gave me incredible hope and focus as I moved into my second year in the role. Another moment that springs to mind was following the introduction of a revised performance and development process for the junior school. Staff did not initially consider this to be a positive process but the encouragement and feedback received when staff presented their goals for review, was noteworthy and has been a positive springboard into the next cycle.


Love the job

July 2016

Sharee Gaiser

Head of Junior School, Oxley Christian College
Chirnside Park, Victoria Australia

(continued from previous page)

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

Tough days happen. No particular day comes to mind but I would have to say that managing situations involving students and parents can sometimes be tough. We are there to meet the needs of all students at all times and sometimes the perceptions of parents can be quite single-minded, understandably so. There is a delicate balance between hearing the hearts of others and being wise in your response, and keeping the needs of the students at the core.

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

As a leader, I often have to be flexible and go with the flow. There are some things I am not cut out to do and I certainly know my limitations (that is why I am grateful I am not expected to run in teacher’s races at the athletics carnivals!) Being prepared to jump in and cover lessons I feel underqualified to teach – like Chinese or Art – can sometimes be funny. My biggest faux pas was booking two casual relief teachers for the same class on the same day. There were some very happy teachers that day, who were unexpectedly given an additional hour of time release!

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

I was encouraged to pace myself as a new school leader but to find one thing I could set in motion with the staff in term 1 and achieve within six weeks. This not only gave me a sense of purpose but also enabled staff to get to know me and my vision for them, the school and the students. Set daily priorities and allow space in your calendar for the unexpected. Maintain a healthy work / life balance and ensure you have set work times at home and stick to them. It’s okay to turn off the computer and the work phone and find things to do in the evenings and on weekends that bring you joy and refuel the energy tanks. Making connections and building networks with other leaders is beneficial and provides access to a wealth of experience and wisdom. Having a ‘trusted other’ to act as an impartial sounding board is helpful at times.

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?

One thing that keeps me going is that kids matter. Children are the adults of tomorrow and being in a position to affect the future through our youth is a wonderful position to be in as a leader and an educator. Never underestimate the power of your influence on, love and acceptance of another human being.

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

As a mum to four teenagers, achieving a positive work-life balance is paramount. I ensure that once I am home, the children and my husband know they are my number one priority and that their needs come first. I make sure that I complete any work in a timely manner and switch off my computer at a reasonable hour. Weekends are spent running children to their various sporting activities and scheduling in family time. I make sure I allow time for activities that bring peace and happiness such as quilting, reading a good book or spending time with friends.

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

Getting a good night’s sleep is so important and I generally achieve the recommended eight hours of sleep. Eating healthy, home cooked meals and having an exercise regime, even if it is just a walk around the block, helps immensely. Self-care and maintaining emotional and mental wellbeing is what guards a leader from stress and burnout. It is easy to carry additional burdens that drain you of energy and focus so having supportive family and friends around you will help. As a Christian, I find my faith in God and church life help bring things into balance and support my own health and welfare.

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

A fellow principal recently made the decision to retire and wanted to finish his teaching career where it started, in the classroom. He welcomed the opportunity to have his own class again as he handed over the leadership mantle to another. I believe that this would be a wonderful way to do life after principalship. I also look forward to the day when my husband and I are retired and can enjoy the fruits of our labour and life by travelling and continuing to support our adult children.

Sharee Gaiser, Head of Junior School, Oxley Christian College
15-49 Old Melbourne Road
Chirnside Park, Victoria 3116


Interviewees urgently sought for 2016 series of ‘Connected Leader’

Do you love your job?
Primary school principals across Australia, from Catholic, government and independent schools, are invited to contact the Managing Editor of ‘Connected Leader’, Debra Crouch, who is currently seeking interviewees for the remainder of the 2016 series of ‘Love the Job’ (written) interviews. To express your interest in assisting with this project, please contact Debra at: or 0413 009988.

Managing Editor, APPA 'Connected Leader'

Debra J. Crouch
Mobile: 0413 009988

Connected Leader

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.

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