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


July 2018

Dear Colleagues,

Welcome to Term 3. I hope everyone had a relaxing and enjoyable break. The year is certainly moving. We will be following with keen interest as the funding agreements between the Commonwealth and states and territories are negotiated. The Gonski Reforms will be integrated into the agreements.

I would like to acknowledge and congratulate Norm Hart on his appointment as Deputy Chair of ACARA and Mark Mowbray on his appointment to the AITSL Board. Both have served on APPA NAC and APPA Board, with Norm being the immediate past president of APPA. They bring a depth and breadth of experience as primary school leaders to these national organisations.

I am looking forward to the APPA National Conference at the end of this term in Perth. Have you booked??? Not too late to join over 500 primary school leaders in Perth. The organising committee have put together a great program around the theme of Visionary Leadership: inspire and engage.

Registrations for the conference here.

The APPA National Forum, on the Tuesday 17 September (1-3.30pm) will focus on school leadership with guest speaker AITSL CEO Lisa Rodgers. We will look at the Gonski recommendations on leadership, provide a position on aspiring leaders and finalise the National Professional Code of Practice for primary school leaders.

APPA Board

The APPA National Advisory Council and Board welcome Sally Ruston (IPSHA) who replaces the long-serving and insightful Graeme Feeney. The board recently met in Sydney at Teachers Health Fund. APPA Board discussed the K-12 Inclusion project, Gonski Report, ASIC Money Smart proposal and projects for schools, assessment and reporting paper, NAPLAN Review, Principals as STEM Leaders project, APPA Indigenous paper, Parliamentary Friends and APPA Conferences.

Principal Health and Wellbeing

APPA notes the increased activity by employers to address principal health and wellbeing. What practice have you put in place to support your health and wellbeing? We encourage principals’ associations to push the recommendations from the Back to Balance report, available on the APPA website. The annual Principal Health and Wellbeing Survey will again be conducted in term 3. We encourage everyone to complete the survey.


The APPA Board have collated the feedback from the NAC to identify action needed to progress the recommendations.

Key Areas of Action:

  1. Recommendation 1 requires further discussion (with school principals and teachers) to understand the intentions, and the quantitative and qualitative indicators used to:
    • determine and define a ’year’s growth’;
    • identify the areas / aspects of the curriculum that will be measured and how each of these will be measured;
    • build consistency in schools and between schools with national agreements; and
    • report student growth and achievement.
  2. Further major work is required to ‘declutter’ the curriculum, especially in the F-2 area, and give advice to teachers as to what should be prioritised in teaching programs.
  3. Create strong and effective community hubs within, and around, schools that strengthen a school’s ability to identify children at risk, develop strong links between community organisations, and enable the sharing of information and services.
  4. Identify and/or develop the tools for moderation and enhancing teacher judgement that provide evidence-based assessments to support assessment for reporting as opposed to assessment for learning.
  5. Develop a national readiness for learning strategy for 0 – 4 years.
  6. Review the requirements and structures to report school and student achievement.
  7. Systems and schools provide the time and resources necessary for teachers to collaborate and design targeted teaching and learning programs.
  8. Primary schools establish the position of Lead Teacher: Curriculum and Learning.
  9. Develop and trial an online on-demand tool that supports formative assessment and ensures every primary school has sufficient internet connectivity.
  10. There is the flexibility in professional learning offering and delivery to ensure it meets the needs of each school.
  11. Continue to improve teacher education courses so education attracts the best teachers and provides the resources and programs to retain our best teachers in the classroom.
  12. Develop a national narrative that values the role of principal and continues to embed the Australian principal standard (AITSL) and develop a pre-principal standard to support aspiring leaders.
  13. Provide resourcing and long-term pathways for supporting principals and aspiring leaders.
  14. Develop holistic identifiers of school performance that include academic, personal and social wellbeing.
  15. Undertake further analysis of the unique student identifier to address privacy concerns, and its purpose and function.
  16. Establish a working group with principals to further progress the independent research institution.


SchoolAid Board expresses its sincere thanks for the support of APPA. SchoolAid supports schools in establishing Social Action Teams (SATs) that organise social action fundraising and awareness activities for students. For more information go to: School Aid Appeal for Tathra bush fires raised over $30,000. I visited Tathra PS on the 2 July to present the donation with Warren Bingham (SchoolAid Chair) and Sean Gordon (CEO).



APPA and Scholastic will announce shortly the Reader Leader recipient for Term 3. I recently visited Woodlinks SS in Queensland, where Term 2 winner Lesley Gollen works, and was very impressed with the school’s approach to engaging the whole school community with reading. A great example how deep focus and consistency in teaching across the school has seen huge improvements in reading.


Building the Evidence Base for Improved STEM Learning (Principals as STEM Leaders – PASL) is funded by the Australian Government Department of Education and Training, under the Inspiring All Australians in Digital Literacy – Embracing the Digital Age measure of the National Innovation and Science Agenda (NISA). The PASL project responds to the need for a science, technology, engineering and mathematics skilled workforce to ensure Australia remains globally competitive. Principals are key to creating school environments in which teachers can succeed in improving STEM learning outcomes. PASL will support principals to effectively drive whole-of-school collaborative effort in STEM engagement, and STEM teaching and learning for STEM capability. This will involve participation in professional learning programs and engagement with tailored mentoring programs.

Project Outcomes: Led by the University of Tasmania in partnership with the Australian Catholic Un iversity and with the support of four additional universities and two peak principals' associations, PASL will deliver a set of three high quality and accessible programs of professional learning for developing the capabilities of principals for leading school-wide ongoing enhancement of STEM teaching and learning. The programs will draw from case studies of effective practice and will expand evidence-based approaches to STEM leadership and improving STEM capability of students.

We will invite school principals to complete an expression of interest as project participants and as Research Learning Partners. More information will be provided this term.


This exciting project will see primary school leaders encouraged to apply for a grant to undertake a school-based project around financial literacy. The program will be managed by APPA and will encourage schools to undertake innovative projects. The NAC will develop the focus for programs and more information will be released at the APPA National Conference.


APPA is looking for 24 schools across Australia to undertake a school-based project with a focus on inclusive practices. Funding is available. Information has been placed on President’s Desk.


The CREATE project is about building the data linkages between community agencies and government services for a community. It will involve the rollout of a wellbeing assessment tool called Rumble’s Quest. This tool is an online App type game. Students work through a series of challenges at the same time answering questions that relate to wellbeing. We are also working with Griffith University on developing resources to support principals working in low socio-economic communities.

All the very best for the term,

Dennis Yarrington
President, Australian Primary Principals Association


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

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

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

Congratulations to Lesley Gollan of Queensland’s WoodLinks State School, who is the Term 2 Scholastic National Reading Leader Award winner.

Principal Vicki Caldow noted, ‘Lesley is a reading champion who works across the school to develop and implement programs that empower teachers and invites the wider community to support students in practising and enjoying reading.’


Under the spotlight

July 2018

Erin Eade

Erin Eade is Mogo Public School's first Aboriginal principal. The tiny primary school on the NSW south coast has 37 enrolled students, with about 79 per cent identifying as Aboriginal.

Cherie Moore

Cherie Moore has been appointed as the foundation principal of a new school being built in Springfield West, in Queensland.

Logic Amen

The boundary between a school leader’s personal and professional lives has come into question in the USA, where an assistant principal has been criticised for the lyrics of his widely available rap music.

John Collier

In a recent school newsletter, the head of St Andrew's Cathedral School, in Sydney, wrote that he was ‘very displeased at the current level of agitation from a minority of parents’ and that he was having to deal with ‘too many parents who have verbally abused, physically threatened or shouted at a staff member.’

Tim Moe

After 13 years as principal, Tim Moes will leave the Mount Isa School of the Air to help set up a rural and remote centre for learning and wellbeing.

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

July 2018

Twenty-two qualities of great leaders

Twenty-two CEOs each contribute one quality to this list of qualities needed for great leadership. Not surprisingly, integrity, transparency and passion are amongst them.

Dealing with ‘Amy Attitude’

Here’s a strategy for improving the performance of employees whose default position is negativity.

Reprogram your body language

When you speak, your audience subconsciously places greater weight on the message conveyed by your body language. Ann Washburn explains how to improve your communication.

Using the velvet hammer

Difficult conversations are hard - knowing the right words to use to defuse inevitable tensions makes them easier, says Joy Baldridge.

Managing resistance to change

This short animated video explains resistance to change and makes some helpful suggestions.

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

July 2018

Hair troubles

In the same year as a forced haircut resulted in the resignation of the principal of Trinity Grammar, in Melbourne, a student in Japan is suing her school for damages after it told her to dye her brown hair black or face expulsion.

Forced to shave

The Queensland Council of Civil Liberties has publicly commented on a case where a 12-year-old boy, who had never shaved before, was directed by his school to shave before a class photo. The student cut himself in three places, requiring antibiotics.

Ready to risk prosecution

After NSW education officials failed to renewed Eagle Arts and Vocational College’s year 12 registration, the principal vowed to keep teaching currently enrolled students. ‘I’m prepared to risk prosecution and take the consequences,’ she said.

Police called after parking row

A brawl that erupted between two parents competing for a car park outside a Sydney school had to be dealt with by the police, after a nun, school staff and other parents failed to break it up. The brawl was reported as far away as New Zealand.

Broad trend towards litigation

In the context of the increasing social trend to litigate, individual schools have to undertake their own risk assessments and decide which physical manoeuvres are permissible and which are not. In this report, one school‘s decision to ban backflips has sparked an interesting debate on child safety and risk.

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

July 2018

The value of silence

According to a recent study by the Neuroscience Research Australia (NeuRA) and the University of New South Wales, silence provides a ‘micro-breather’ for the mind, allowing it to grasp and distill what it's experiencing. What are the implications of this for student learning in schools with large (and often more noisy) open-plan spaces?

Impact of exercise on learning

Researchers have found that student’s best responses to tests came after physical activity that was set at their own pace, as opposed to an exhausting exercise regime set to a particular standard.

The research - practice gap

Why is it that the findings of education research are not immediately implemented in schools (or not translated into practice at all). This article sheds some light on why professionals are often loathe to change established procedures and practices.

Conference on education research

The British Educational Research Association (BERA) has announced its programme and key speakers for what is the largest conference of its kind in the UK. BERA will bring over 700 delegates to this year’s event, which will be held at Northumbria University 11–13 September. The conference will welcome speakers from Australia, New Zealand, Israel, Chile and Singapore.

Researchers warn about health danger of ties

Are you a principal who wears a tie every day? According to researchers from University Hospital Schleswig-Holstein, in Germany, there may be scientific reasons for you to alter your professional attire as you get older.

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 2018

The secret to developing mental strength

Everyone has the ability to build mental strength, but most people don't know how, says Amy Morin. We spend a lot of time talking about physical strength and physical health, but much less time on mental strength and mental health.

Four universal responses to difficult people

Dan O’Connell provides four useful phrases that will buy you time to think and prevent angry people from ‘rattling your cage’.

Optimal mental health: eight habits to develop

Psychologist Dan Banos provides eight ways to achieve excellent physical and mental health.

Food and mood

Some recent studies point to a link between nutrition and the prevention and management of depression. This presentation advices optimal nutrition within a context of professional health management.

Correct posture for computer users

If you spend a lot of time sitting in a chair working on a computer, this ergonomic information may help your neck and back problems.

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

July 2018

Genius Hour

In this gifted children’s program at William/Ledger Elementary School, in the USA, students customising their own learning can access a wide range of experiences and experts via video link.

My Chinese Teacher

Year 4-5 students at St Mary Magdalene’s School, in South Australia, learn Mandarin by video conference, using a Beijing-based tutor.

Flexible calendar

This year, a school in remote Arnhem Land is trialling a flexible calendar, in which the structure of the school year takes account of the cultural commitments of the school’s Indigenous students.

School pride

Standing on the front steps, the school leadership team opens this heart-warming musical video that was designed to build pride of students in their US elementary school.

The daily chant

One of the first community building rituals principal Kristin Golden introduced to her new school was a daily chant. ‘It helps me believe in myself at the beginning of the day, throughout the day, and at the end,’ said one of the students.

My word

July 2018

Belinda Moore

‘If you are going to make me part with my hard-earned time or cash you'd better give me a very good reason,’ says this parent, who argues that parents would appreciate a wider range of options in supporting the resource goals of their children’s school.

Hamish Curry

While in Australia we continue to wrestle with making commitments to Gonski and we struggle with the fragmented layers of our own education system, China is well and truly ready to transform key aspects of its own education systems,’ says the Executive Director of the Asia Education Foundation.

Catherine Misson

‘Tomorrow’s women will need inner confidence to flourish in a globally-competitive world,’ says the principal of Melbourne Girls Grammar in this detailed interview.

Pasi Sahlberg

One of the things this Finnish-born educationist would do to improve Australian education is to ‘start formal schooling at age six at the earliest and plan the first grade so that it would be a smooth transition to formal schooling.’

Paul Watson

‘Eighteen years into the 21st Century we are still taking about [educational transformation] rather than putting it into practice,’ says Paul Watson. ‘Hopefully we are not far away from where we can stop referring to 21st Century teaching and learning as ‘innovation,’ he says.

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Money matters

July 2018

Proposed funding overhaul

A report recently released by the WA Primary Principals’ Association recommends changing the funding model which funds years 4 to 6 at a significantly lower rate than other years.

Rock concert for agricultural programs

Nearly three thousand people recently attended a rock concert held in rural Queensland. Proceeds from the Paul Kelly and Friends concert will go towards the agricultural programs at 50-pupil Dirranbandi P-10 State School.

Alleged financial misconduct

A Sydney independent school has terminated the employment of its head of fundraising, after an admission of alleged financial misconduct. The matter will be subject to a formal investigation that may involve NSW police.

Government students in Catholic schools?

Rather than build more schools as Melbourne’s population booms, a more cost-effective strategy might be to place government school students in nearby Catholic schools, suggests this writer.

Year-round school

Parents and school administrators at Buckcreek Elementary School, in the USA, have recently been debating the merits of a traditional school year, as opposed to year-round schooling, which fits more students into the buildings available. A multi-track year-round school, in which students are split into four tracks, can increase a building’s capacity by as much as 33 per cent.

Love the job

July 2018

Nicolee Eiby

Head of Junior School, Ipswich Junior Grammar School
Ipswich, Queensland

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

Ipswich Junior Grammar School is situated approximately 20 kilometres west of Brisbane, in the heart of Ipswich, and offers boys and girls a first class, non-denominational, independent primary education from kindergarten to year 6. Ipswich Junior Grammar School nurtures young learners to become future leaders by aiming to embed a love of learning alongside a distinctive set of values that guide the students to become the very best version of themselves.

As a school, we share our campus with Ipswich Girls’ Grammar School, which is girls-only for years 7 to 12. Our junior school offers a learning environment characterised by high expectations, quality, innovation and diversity, positivity, care and compassion, and personalised learning programs. 

As a top performing school in the Ipswich region, the school draws students from families located not only in its surrounding suburbs, but also from Brisbane, the Lockyer Valley and Scenic Rim regions. Our school population is culturally diverse, with a balanced profile of students with Indigenous heritage, and students from the Pacific Islands, China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

Our Junior Grammar teachers are highly experienced and well-qualified educators, trained in the Dimensions of Learning and the Art and Science of Teaching frameworks. We are particularly proud of our focus on Personalised Learning. Recognised by an independent ACER Review in 2017 as ‘Outstanding’ (ACER National School Improvement Tool Review Report), our approach to personalising the learning journey for each child, from prep to year 6, allows teachers, parents and children to deeply understand their learning goals and how they can successfully achieve these goals.

How many years have you been a school leader?

I have worked in primary school leadership for a little over 20 years, in a variety of contexts across the state of Queensland- from Queensland’s south-east metropolitan and rural sector, to the coast of North Queensland, and remote south-west Queensland. These diverse contexts have afforded me a wealth of learning opportunities. These school leadership experiences have extended from schools with a student population of a dozen children to more than 800 students, in state and independent sectors. I have enjoyed roles as teaching principal, head of curriculum, literacy coach, deputy principal, principal and now as head of junior school.

While these schools have vastly different school communities, the shared experience is all communities want the very best for their children. Universally, parents want the very best academic, social, cultural and sporting opportunities for their children.

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

My school leadership aspirations evolved organically - and possibly long before I became a classroom teacher or even before I studied education at university. My father is a retired school principal, and I was born into a home that was located within the grounds of a small rural school - as the principal’s residence. My very first experiences of life were of school life. I was always surrounded by school children, teachers and families from the school community. As a young child I enjoyed unfettered access to classroom environments and spent much of my early life - well before I was of school age- listening to teachers and classroom learning. Consequently, I unknowingly was learning about what it was to be a teacher from a very early age. I feel as though teaching and schools are a part of my DNA.

As a beginning primary school teacher, I was fortunate to be surrounded by a multitude of positive education and educational leadership role models, within and beyond my own family. The positive attitude of my role models was immensely inspiring, and I was always advised to constantly strive to improve my practice. My mentors inspired me to firstly be aspirational as a teacher - before looking beyond my classroom. To be the very best teacher I could be. And, I willingly took up the opportunity to teach a range of year levels, and multi-age groupings each year to challenge myself.

My motivation to grow myself into a school leader emerged as I was eager to have greater independence and autonomy within a school setting and new opportunities to explore and develop different skills. It was late in my fifth year of primary teaching that a promotional opportunity was offered to me in a small rural school and I grasped this opportunity with both hands.

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

My first school leadership role was as a teaching principal in a rural one teacher school in south-east Queensland. While the school itself was only an hour’s drive from Brisbane, the community was incredibly self-sufficient and cohesive, much preferring the company of their close-knit community than the outside.

Nothing really prepares a young teacher for the flood of new responsibilities of school leadership in a one-teacher school - teaching, administration, and community relations. It was my excitement and enthusiasm that allowed me to remain buoyant as I negotiated the new responsibility for developing and implementing curriculum, teaching and learning programs for students in all year levels from year 1 to year 7, with the assistance of one teacher aide. And, of course, the administrative responsibilities in managing all financial and human resources contributed to my rather steep learning curve. While I had worked with parent advocacy groups - Parents and Citizens Associations - prior to this role, it was a very new perspective as I learned to develop positive and productive relationships with sometimes challenging parent and community groups within my role as teaching principal.

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Love the job

July 2018

Nicolee Eiby

Head of Junior School, Ipswich Junior Grammar School
Ipswich, Queensland

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

I don’t believe that I could limit this to one useful lesson. I have learned so many useful lessons, and I continue to learn from other school leaders, class teachers, students and their families. The common lesson I have learned throughout the last 20 years, is mistakes will be made - by myself, by my staff, and members of our parent community - and it is okay. As a school leader it is important to me that I am gracious when I make mistakes, and when others make them. I believe it is important to acknowledge when things have not gone well - when the outcome is not ideal - and to apologise and work together to solve problems. It is through this honesty and humanity that school communities - parents, staff and children - can develop meaningful and trusting relationships.

In addition to taking responsibility, a very early lesson I learned as a school leader - is to always take the time required to consider my response to tough questions, or situations. Some of my hardest lessons were learned when I responded with too much emotion and took comments or complaints too personally. As school leaders, we invest so much of ourselves into our role, and our school, so this is a mantra I remind myself of daily - ‘Take your time’.

What makes you smile at work?

Throughout the day of the life of a school leader, there are so many opportunities to smile. Firstly, we get to work with the most enthusiastic and eager to learn demographic in society - young children. I smile each time the students of Junior Grammar greet me and my colleagues - in classrooms, in the playground and especially at weekly assembly. If only schools were able to bottle the joy of children! I smile when I am working with the staff after school, and I feel and observe the authentic engagement in professional learning - especially when it involves laughter. I smile when our Junior Grammar Supporters group are overwhelmed with offers to help at the sports day sausage sizzle. I smile when children are eager to share their learning progress with me, and specifically invite me to their classroom to demonstrate the achievement of their learning goals. I smile when I remember just how grateful I am to have the opportunity to be in my current role, Head of Junior School Ipswich Junior Grammar, a school I admired for many years.

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

Schools are made up of many elements, all of which are essential to creating a positive, harmonious, caring and efficient environment - for students, staff and parents. As a school leader, I value the role each person must play, from class teacher, teacher aide, clerical assistant, cleaner, grounds and facilities staff. Most of the schools in which I have worked, the only constant staff are the cleaning, grounds and teacher aides. Teachers and school leaders are transient and bring their ideas and enthusiasm. However, it is the constant staff who have deep ownership, care and belief in their school. As a school leader, and as a classroom teacher I believe that we must always be mindful of how important schools are to the community- past, present and future.

My extensive experience in diverse contexts has afforded me an understanding of diverse backgrounds, which has allowed me to develop my interpersonal and relational skills. It is these skills that have honed my ability to establish relationships and trust with students, staff and parents quickly. My extensive teaching and knowledge of curriculum and pedagogy across the primary setting has also been an invaluable skill in managing and leading staff in schools.

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

There have been many great days in my life as a school leader. However, the most recent ‘best day’ came at the end of the school year following my first year at Ipswich Junior Grammar School. It was the last day of the school year for students, and a day when the junior school performs their concert for the senior school - girls in years 7 to 12. As I watched on with staff, I became aware that I had completed my first year in my new role, in a new school, in a new sector. As I reflected, I became aware that all the ‘firsts’ in my new school were behind me and we had not only survived, but the school was flourishing. We had happy children, happy parents, and happy staff. It was truly the best day, and I think I finally let myself breathe that afternoon.

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Love the job

July 2018

Nicolee Eiby

Head of Junior School, Ipswich Junior Grammar School
Ipswich, Queensland

(continued from previous page)

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

The toughest days as a school leader are always the days where you need to communicate with the school community when there has been a tragic event impact on the school. These have been rare in my experience, however, I have been required to negotiate this challenging territory within my schools.

Informing the staff and community about the unexpected and sudden death of a prep student was deeply challenging. Managing my own sadness and disbelief, while also providing support to staff, students and parents, was extremely difficult. It did, however, teach me more about myself and the resilience and connectedness of school communities. School communities extend their support in times of need. It is always my hope that a school becomes an extension of a family and all members feel supported and cared for by this extended family.

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

The funniest thing that ever happened to me as a school leader is only funny in retrospect. In my first role as a school leader, my rural one teacher school was nestled on the eastern side of the base of a mountain, where we enjoyed two ovals which were separated by a gully, which, with heavy rainfall, became quite a rushing waterway. Each morning before school, the students would play on the top oval - nearest to the school building - after walking to school. Early one morning, in my first year at the school, I was startled by a chilling scream from the playground. I rushed out with the teacher aide to investigate the cause of the screaming and was met with a frightening sight. The students were attempting to feed our school guinea pigs and had discovered three snakes in various stages of consuming the guinea pigs. Of course, I was terrified. However, the children, who were well used to bush life, were just surprised and annoyed at the death of their well-loved guinea pigs. While I had rushed out to help the children, it was indeed the children who ended up helping me deal with the shock of discovering three snakes in our playground. The children thought my reaction was hilarious, and it took quite a while to live that down in the community.

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

Everything does get easier! The right responses to tough questions come more easily. Staying calm in the eye of a storm requires less effort. When I am feeling low energy levels, I spend more times in classrooms – doing walk throughs, sitting with children while they work, sharing a story in the library, visiting the school gym during PE lessons. Remembering why you work in schools and spending more time with children provides a great injection of energy.

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?

Maintaining an ‘attitude of gratitude’ is essential. I have learned over the years that actively practising gratitude and being mindful of both my thoughts and my words helps me to remain positive and not overwhelmed on difficult days. I encourage our staff to always find the ‘silver lining’ in situations and now they are reminding me of the ‘silver lining’ when challenges are presented. It is a privilege to work in a primary school and be a positive influence on children’s lives. Even when the days are difficult being mindful and grateful for this privilege is very motivating. And, of course, great coffee is always a terrific motivator!

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

A positive work-life balance is always a work in progress. The nature of schools is very much a series of peaks and troughs, in terms of the urgency of demands. I nurture a positive work-life balance by committing to long work days, but not taking work home each night. I will respond to emails until my family and I sit down to dinner each night. However, will take myself ‘off-line’ to enjoy the company of my three children and my husband during and beyond our evening meal. Of course, there are times when the work day may continue late into the evening, depending on school function commitments, however, it is important to plan around those expectations. An early morning shift at the gym, before work, also works wonders in managing my levels of stress. Everything feels better after a run!

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

I am unsure if this is a special measure, however, I do endeavour to actively encourage staff ‘talk’ in the staffroom before school and at lunch breaks to be ‘less about school and more about social interactions’. Of course, that doesn’t mean our staff are not committed to education while at school, however it allows teachers, teacher aides and myself to ‘lighten’ our day and enjoy each other’s company. It allows staff to know and understand each other and to build meaningful friendships and mutual respect. Invariably, everyone commences or returns to work with a smile and feeling ‘rested’. It is important that break times reinvigorate all members of staff.

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

I honestly haven’t thought beyond my current role. Right now, I feel so incredibly invested in my role as Head of Junior School at Ipswich Junior Grammar. I look forward to investing in myself with further study in the immediate future but am truly grateful to be exactly where I am right now, working in the best job in the world!

Ms Nicolee Eiby


Managing Editor, APPA 'Connected Leader'

Debra J. Crouch
Mobile: 0413 009988

Connected Leader

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

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


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

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