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.
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.
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.
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:
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: www.schoolaidtrust.com. 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
INSPIRING STUDENTS TO READ MORE, and helping them find the books they will love to read, takes a combination of dedication, inspiration and engagement. We know you bring the dedication to work every day and with our ‘Reading Leader’ portal we hope to help with both the inspiration and engagement to get more kids reading and kids reading more.
At Scholastic we encourage the borrowing of brilliance and through our “Reading Leader Award’ we are seeking out the very best for you to borrow from. Scholastic and APPA are providing a platform to recognise Reading Leaders across the country, so that their ideas and efforts can reach more students, and remind us all to help children every day with their reading journey.
Visit our “Reading Leader” portal for reading programs, professional resources, brilliant book suggestions and more. NO COST offerings, all designed to help you be a better reading advocate and connect your students with books they will love to read.
Congratulations to Lesley Gollan of Queensland’s WoodLinks State School, who is the Term 2 Scholastic National Reading Leader Award winner.
Principal Vicki Caldow noted, ‘Lesley is a reading champion who works across the school to develop and implement programs that empower teachers and invites the wider community to support students in practising and enjoying reading.’
Locally made ethical school wear
Through their own procurement policies local schools have the power to support an ethical Australian clothing industry and help prevent the exploitation of workers. There are local school wear manufacturers who are committed to making clothes locally the right way.
Ethical Clothing Australia is responsible for accrediting local clothing and footwear manufacturers to ensure that their workers are receiving their legal wages and entitlements, and working in decent conditions.
To find out more contact Ethical Clothing Australia to ask how we can assist your school to source ethically accredited school wear.
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:
PR1ME Mathematics—based on the world’s best practice used in Singapore PR1ME has been developed by Scholastic in collaboration with the Ministry of Education in Singapore.
How does it work? PR1ME: explicitly and systematically teaches the problem solving processes and strategies; uses consistent and carefully structured pedagogy; takes a carefully scaffolded, deep-dive into conceptual development; actively involves students in metacognition; and provides professional learning for teachers.
For 40 years, Scholastic Australia has been partnering with schools across the country to give kids access to books they want to read through Clubs and Fairs. In 2012, Scholastic gave Australian schools over $11 million worth of Scholastic Rewards. To find out how you can spend Scholastic Rewards on resources and save your budget, visit
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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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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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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
Debra J. Crouch
Mobile: 0413 009988
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