The APPA National Advisory Council (NAC) met recently in Canberra. At the meeting we welcomed new association representatives Malcolm Elliott (Govt Tas), Damaris Patterson (IPSHA ACT) and Peter Wilson attended on behalf of Leslie Single (Govt Qld). We acknowledged Brett Youd (Govt Tas) who has made a significant contribution to primary education and school leadership over many years. We will thank Brett at the August meeting in Adelaide.
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.’
The NAC worked in table groups on the 5 focus areas to identify action needed to progress the various recommendations:
Recommendation Area 1: Laying the foundations for learning
We need to enhance community school partnerships; improve a school’s ability to identify and intervene for children at risk; create stronger community hubs around schools; provide the tools that enable teachers to support student voice in learning; and communicate the services available to support schools with families at risk.
Recommendation Area 2: Equipping every student to grow and succeed in a changing world
We need to separate the assessment for reporting from assessment for learning; provide evidence-based assessment tools that serve the correct purpose; learning progressions should allow for integrated learning; review the curriculum to give advice to schools in identifying priorities for their students; improve the tools available for moderation and enhancing teacher judgement; develop a national strategy for 0 – 4yrs; and conduct a review of the reporting of school and student achievement.
Recommendation Area 3: Creating, supporting and valuing a profession of expert educators
Provide additional time for teachers to collaborate and design targeted teaching and learning for students; resource each primary school with a lead teacher in curriculum and learning; develop an online on-demand tool to support formative assessment that is trialled in schools before being released; provide every primary school with sufficient internet connectivity; provide flexibility in professional learning access that meets the needs of the school; continue to improve teacher education courses so education attracts the best teachers; and provide the resources and programs to retain our best teachers in the classroom.
Recommendation Area 4: Empowering and supporting school leaders
Develop a national narrative on the expectations and the role of principal; continue to embed the principal standard; develop a pre-principal standard to support aspiring leaders; define in plain English what autonomy looks like for a principal; decrease the number of initiatives and support schools in identifying and implementing what improvement strategies they need; provide resourcing and long-term pathways for supporting aspiring leaders; and build collaborative leadership clusters across schools.
Recommendation Area 5: Raising and achieving aspirations through innovation and continuous improvement.
Develop holistic identifiers of school performance that include academic, personal and social wellbeing; further analyse the requirements of a unique student identifier to address privacy, its purpose and function; and establish a working group with principals to further progress the independent research institution.
Best regards,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.
APPA and Scholastic announced the National Reading Leader Award recipient for Term 1. This is to acknowledge the commitment of school leaders to improving children’s reading. Congratulations to Sandra Hodge-Neill from Hawker Primary School (ACT) and Principal, Mandy Kalyvas.
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.
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Describe your current school, its students, the demographics of your school community, and any special challenges and/or strengths.
Good Shepherd Catholic Primary School, in Amaroo, Canberra, is in its 17th year, having opened in 2002. The school has 27 classes from kindergarten through to year 6, with a current student population 0f 706. Good Shepherd School is in the growing area of North Gungahlin.
Good Shepherd Primary School prides itself on being a warm, welcoming and inclusive school. We strive for excellence, aim to provide students with solid academic foundations and recognise the individual needs of our students. Good Shepherd promotes the Catholic faith within a sound educational context.
Parents, as primary educators, working in partnership with parish and school, create a faith community which inspires its members to live as Jesus, the Good Shepherd, lived. Teachers nurture each child's gifts, academic growth and faith formation. Teachers also prepare students to become conscious of, and responsive to, cultural diversity.
The challenges faced at our school include the rapidly growing enrolments with limited room and funding restraints, both at local and federal level. Our strengths are being a vibrant multicultural community, a committed staff and parent community, being the largest ‘mini-vinnies’ school in Australia and one of Australia’s leading ‘cheerleading’ schools. .
Briefly describe your career path before becoming a school principal. How many years have you been a school leader?
I have always wanted to be a primary school teacher. I had a couple of teachers in my primary school days that must have ignited a spark! I even did my year 10 work experience as a teacher! Being raised in a committed Catholic family, and being a committed Catholic myself, studying to be a Catholic primary school teacher at Australian Catholic University was a no-brainer for me and something that I was deeply passionate about.
I commenced my first teaching role at St Edmund’s College, Canberra, in 1992 as a year 4 teacher. Since then, I taught in another ACT Catholic school before being appointed as a Religious Education Coordinator (REC). I was REC for seven years, in two ACT Catholic Schools.
In 2006, I was appointed principal of St Michael’s Primary School, in Kaleen. In 2011, I was appointed principal of St Francis of Assisi Primary School, in Calwell ACT. In 2017, I was appointed principal of Good Shepherd Catholic Primary School, Amaroo where I am still leading this energetic community.
I’ve been in school leadership for the past 21 years and principal in ACT Catholic schools for the past 13.
What motivated you to become a school leader (and when)?
I obviously saw myself as a leader when I first started teaching, as I was leading my students, assisting and helping them in their learning. An opportunity came to ‘act’ in a leadership role and I took this opening and loved how I could not only assist students in my class but challenge and support staff in their roles as well. I completed a Masters of Education degree and Masters of Educational Leadership at ACU and this helped me to take the step into leadership full-time. Supporting and challenging all members of the community - students, parents, parish and staff - is something I am deeply passionate about.
What was your first leadership role, where was it located, and what were some of your early challenges as a new leader?
My first role in leadership was in 1997 as Religious Education Coordinator at Sacred Heart Primary School, in Pearce, ACT. Reflecting back on that time, there were many challenges as I embarked on school leadership.
Juggling the classroom role and a leadership role can be challenging. Your emphasis is on the students in your class but then you have others to focus on, too. I must admit I found this challenging at times: juggling the roles, finding time for both and ‘balancing’ work and outside school life.
The role of REC in a Catholic school is complex. You are not only dealing with staff, students and parents but also the parish priest and local parish. Being the face for everyone is challenging but it taught me a lot about how to deal with all sorts of people and gave me the experience to lead a school in the future.
Finally, I had a very young family at the time and what I remember was juggling the ‘work-life’ balance and turning up to work with limited sleep! I remember once walking over to the church to meet the parish priest and I was found asleep between two pews!
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As a new principal, what was the most useful lesson you ever learned from a more experienced principal colleague?
Paperwork is important, but your community is more important!
Be visible - spend time in classrooms, on the playground and in the staffroom. By all means, get the annual report in, the strategic plan completed and the budget finalised and handed in on time - but if your community need you, those things can wait.
What makes you smile at work?
I am always smiling at work and this shows to others you are happy, confident and enjoy what you are doing. It exudes confidence to others. I love my job (most of the time).
Students visiting and showing work, staff laughing and enjoying themselves, getting thank-you emails or notes from parents, seeing a student achieve a goal or overcome a struggle . . . all of these make me smile.
In managing your staff, what are your most valuable skills and beliefs? What should beginning principals strive to avoid in this area?
I believe I am an open and available leader and allow staff to see me if they have concerns. I believe I allow staff to have a say and it’s important to consider their views when making decisions.
My advice to beginning principals is not to react straight away or make a hasty decision based on one complaint or suggestion. Speak with others, get an informed view and consult with your leadership team before making a well-considered decision.
What was the best day you ever had as a school leader?
I have had too many to choose from!
Back in 2013, the school I was principal at celebrated its 25th anniversary. As part of that celebration we applied to Guinness World Records to break the ‘longest hi-five’ chain in the world! To successfully break that record as a school community, and proudly hang a ‘Guinness World Record’ in the front office was a great community day!
There is rarely a day I am not energetic and excited to go to work.
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What was the toughest day you ever had as a school leader?
I have had many tough days but, thankfully, they are few and far between. Some of them are related to parents (complaints, abuse, heated emails), others with staff issues, and many with students.
I will never forget attending the funeral of one of our students who died suddenly from a brain tumour in the second week of my first principalship.
Those are tough days.
The toughest day I have ever is when I was doing after-school duty and a father came to me and said he wanted to meet with me and it was urgent. He was obviously agitated and upset so I organised a teacher to take over my duty and I sat in my office with this upset man and his two children.
I had no idea what was coming next.
He said he wanted me in the room to support him as he informed his children that their mother had passed away - suddenly and unexpected during the day.
I will never forget that meeting: the tears and screams, the hugs, the heartache.
The father said he needed me and he couldn’t do it alone.
What was the funniest single thing that ever happened to you as a school leader?
I have had many! I like dressing up for the students at Book Week, Walkathons and Christmas. The students see a lighter side of you as a school leader.
The funniest event was my first day in a new school as Religious Education Coordinator. I organised an opening staff prayer - it was just after the Canberra bushfires in 2003. I wanted to prepare a reflection and prayer on the tragic events that affected so many Canberrans. I organised a large wok, filled it with sand, put methylated spirits in it and lit it as staff entered the room.
It looked magnificent and set the tone for the reflection.
By the time staff had sat down, the flame was out. So . . . I poured metho on top of the wok!
The stage wooden cladding was on fire, the cloths surrounding were alight and the whole staff were up stamping the flames out! It couldn’t have been a worse start to a new school . . . but funny looking back!
What tips would you give new school leaders about staying positive and keeping their energy levels high?
Being visibly happy and displaying enthusiasm is important. For me, it shows the staff you are enjoying your role.
It is important to ‘switch off’. Have a break during holidays, have some nights or weekends when you don’t work and re-charge. Although I am not great at this, I try and have one afternoon a week when I leave relatively early to spend time with family, go for a run or assist with my children’s sport.
If you could name just one thing that kept you going to school every day, even on the really difficult days, what would that be?
I know in my role I make a difference to students, their families and the staff.
How do you achieve (or are trying to achieve) a positive work-life balance?
The recent Principal Wellbeing Survey results tell us that there is growing concern about principals’ occupational health, safety and wellbeing. It is important that school leaders ensure they have balance, otherwise the role can be far too consuming.
I have an extremely supportive family. I have a supportive leadership team. I have a committed, highly competent and hard-working staff. They certainly assist me in ensuring I don’t try and do everything.
I try and achieve a positive work-live balance by having breaks from school work, by ensuring I spend quality family time, by participating in sport and fitness activities and spending time with friends and family.
What special measures do you take (if any) to protect and nurture your own health and welfare?
I am lost without participating in fitness activities and getting my heart-rate up. I play Oztag each week and run 20 to 30 kilometres a week. I feel I’m on top of things at work when I am physically active and getting plenty of sleep.
What do you see yourself as doing with your life after the principalship?
I honestly cannot see myself doing anything else at this stage. I have been a principal for 13 years and love what I do. When I was appointed my first principalship at 34 years of age, people constantly asked me what will I do later on. I am very happy in the role and believe I make a difference to families, staff and students and can’t see myself doing anything else. I know it is a calling for me and I am grateful I can do something that I believe I am good at, that I make a huge difference to so many people’s lives and that I love.
Principal, Good Shepherd Primary School
Debra J. Crouch
Mobile: 0413 009988
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