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


June 2018


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.

The NAC also discussed the key first recommendation that schools focus on individual achievement and achieve at least one year’s growth throughout each year of schooling.

APPA welcomes further discussion with school principals and teachers to understand the intentions, and the quantitative and qualitative indicators to use to determine a ’year’s growth’; the aspects of the curriculum that will be measured and how this will be measured; and, how we can build consistency in and between schools in some sort of national agreement.

Further work is needed in decluttering the curriculum and ensuring clarity on what is one year’s growth. Student reports will need redesigning to incorporate the learning progressions and growth indicators. Employers need to provide long term support and professional learning to ensure this initiative is embedded in every school. Teacher education providers will need to revise their curriculum to include this changed approach to teaching and learning in schools.

APPA will continue the work with state and territory associations on our response to the recommendations of the Gonski Reform Report.

PROFESSOR FRANK OBERKLAID – Early Childhood and Readiness for Learning

Prof Oberklaid provided a presentation to the NAC on the latest research on impacts to child development. It is challenging for schools as intervening at school age is at a time when brain plasticity is reducing. We can influence the environment within which a child develops and learns.

He pointed out the impact of adversity and prolonged activation of stress on literacy and school achievement. Research demonstrates that adult problems have roots in early childhood development. A key point is what we are expecting primary schools to do to compensate for what happens in the early years. We need early and sustained intervention before school and during those early years of learning. Prof Oberklaid noted a lot of parents don’t know when they should be concerned about the mental health of children. A big concern for principals is the children we worry about are those who get to school and no one quite knows about them. They may, for example, have a subtle language difference. He also identified the fragmentation of advocacy, of government policy, of services in this area as impeding the work to support children and families.

A key point presented was the economic argument for ‘flipping’ the current model is strong – “We should be pouring money into young children and it should be considered an investment not expenditure.” A proposal to establish Child and Family hubs with access to health professionals will enable access to support for children and families.

He referred to work by Dr Julius Richmond, in that for a sustainable solution we need knowledge, political will and a social strategy for the 21st century. It’s an ethical imperative.

DR HILARY HOLLINGSWORTH on School Reports: communicating and reporting on progress and achievement

Dr Hollingsworth asked NAC “For whom are reports produced – the parent or the child?” and there was great discussion on this question. This may be one for school staff to work on at the next staff meeting.

NAC provided feedback on the estimated costs of producing reports in their schools. This was used to start the conversation and research project around the impact of student reports, resourcing this work and value for investment on student learning. A series of articles will be published on this topic in ACER’s Teacher. Research findings are due to be published in December. APPA is looking to collaborate further on this project.


The topic this year was Building a National ‘Readiness for Learning’ Strategy. The event was welcomed and acknowledged by Nicolle Flint MP and Andrew Giles MP. Education Minister Simon Birmingham spoke briefly, and Andrew Giles MP spoke on behalf of Tanya Plibersek as she was unwell. Professor Frank Oberklaid (Pediatrician, Royal Melbourne) spoke on the importance of acting on the research and that we have an ethical imperative to do so.

APPA President, Dennis Yarrington spoke about APPA’s Thrive with Five initiative.


APPA discussed NAPLAN Online rollout for 2018. General comments and observations received from the NAC included:
  • Huge amount of administration was required beforehand. This lasted for a 2-3-week period.
  • No IT specialists available to set up what is required to conduct NAPLAN Online testing.
  • There were incidents where the PC froze mid test, which meant the children had to have the test re-issued. The stimulus material was different to the first attempt.
  • Need to follow a set sequence for the tests.
  • Kids seemed way more engaged.
  • A school was without their library for 9 days due to the NAPLAN set up.
  • iPads: the set up took a lot of time. When typing, the iPad had no blue tooth keyboards, so the children were typing on screen.
  • It was noted that children who do not have access to PCs at home, which would allow them to practise typing, may be disadvantaged and what would be the impact.
  • There was general response that the ‘paper’ test seemed harder or aimed at a higher level than in previous years.
  • Issues still exist with the writing test. You can’t see the process i.e. the trial and error behind the writing.
  • APPA will prepare a paper for ACARA to identify areas for improvement.
APPA NAC reaffirmed its position on NAPLAN and NAPLAN Reporting. APPA supports the call for a review of NAPLAN reporting.

Teacher Registration Review

NAC received a copy of the APPA submission and a summary of the APPA Teacher Registration Review survey.

The following points were noted during the discussion:
  • The most common message in the feedback was the request for national ‘consistency’.
  • The Education Council meets in June and September. There will be some testing of the recommendations put forward.
  • The review is looking to establish some consistency in several areas such as recognition of level (provisional, etc.), English speaking ability, consistency of qualifications.
  • Support is needed to enable principals and supporting teachers’ time to complete the reports for provisional teachers moving to full registration.
  • The challenge of trying to assist relief teachers through the accreditation process.
  • The term ‘fit and proper’ as problematic – what does that mean? Do we mean aptitude as well? Social and emotional competence?
  • There was support for the move to get Early Childhood Teachers recognised.


The introduction of the Teacher Performance Assessment for final year students completing their teacher education course was discussed. APPA is still concerned over the alignment and relationship with the 4th year practicum and role of the supervisor and principal in completing the final report.

NAC was advised that all schools should have a partnership agreement with an Initial Teacher Education provider. Principals wishing to view a sample agreement can contact their NAC representative.


APPA will continue to work on this proposal with amendments to the layout and clarity over the alignment to the Principal Standard. Discussion held on who would be captured in this proposal i.e. vice/deputy principals, aspiring leaders or solely principals. This is seen as capturing all primary school leaders; however, the initial group would be those members of state or territory principals association. NAC will finalise at the August meeting in preparation for presenting to the 2018 APPA Conference delegates.


APPA will work with the University of Tasmania and other partners in developing and implementing the Principals as STEM Leaders (PASL) project. This will run over the next 3 years. We will be looking for school principals as project participants and as Research Learning Partners. More information will come out later this term.



An essential part of leadership is to let people know they are important and appreciated, as well as how they are making a difference. In Michael Bunting’s Book, The Mindful Leader (2016) he talks about the importance of recognising strengths in others and providing feedback about their work.

Research quoted by Bunting (2016) found that nearly 100% of respondents said that when they get encouragement it helps to stimulate and sustain performance. Leaders who develop and foster a culture that is supportive, connected and caring, tend to attract people. As Bunting stated, ‘when you are treated with kindness, you feel open to treating others in the same way.’ (2016, p 140)

We know great leaders bring out the best in others and they have the ability to connect. If you don’t feel connected with your leader, how can they inspire you or push you beyond your limits?

Bunting believes that a key aspect of a supporting environment is ‘deep listening’. Another very important behaviour is demonstrating gratitude. As Bunting states, ‘Gratitude is the magic elixir that has the power to transform all negative thoughts, emotions, perceptions and experiences into positive, uplifting, joyful ones.’ (2016, p146)

Gratitude makes us feel good. Psychologist Robert Emmons believes people who cultivate, and practise gratitude are 25% happier than those who do not. In a study by Emmons and others (Bunting 2016) they found that people who wrote down what they were grateful for in their life became more alert, more enthusiastic and more energetic than those who wrote about good and bad things in their life.

Bunting believes that gratitude, appreciation, recognition and encouragement are ‘…the oil that greases the wheels of organisations.’ (2016, p147) They increase trust and foster cooperation. This leads people to perform better and enjoy their work.

Leaders who can consistently reinforce values, standards and goals through recognition, encouragement and gratitude will have people committing to the organisation and giving their best. Expecting people to do their job based on expectations and the pay cheque alone will get compliance and minimum engagement. We have the ability to be great, and effective leaders know that ensuring we feel valued, important and cared about, see others reach beyond expectations and strive to give their best. Michael Bunting’s book, The Mindful Leader (2016) finishes with how you can transform to be a mindful leader and challenge your leadership behaviour and habits. I will leave to you to discover the last chapter.

Best regards,

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.

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.


Under the spotlight

June 2018

Shelley Darcey

The principal of Eumungerie Public School Shelley said her dream (for an outdoor learning area) would now come true when her nine-pupil school received a $5000 donation from Variety NSW Bash.

Karen Spiller

Karen Spiller recently received a Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) for her service to women and education. Mrs Spiller is principal of John Paul College, in Brisbane.

Kim Hawes

The principal of Queanbeyan Public School, in NSW, was recently recognised with a Nanga Mai Award for Outstanding Leadership in Aboriginal Education.

Damian Lloyd

This West Australian principal has moved from a small district high school setting to a 240-pupil primary school in Manjimup. ‘I look forward to becoming part of the community with my family,’ he said.

Georgiana Enanga Sanga & Eric Ngomba

The danger faced by school principals in politically unstable locations can be extreme. This news item from Cameroon reports on the fate of two principals who were abducted in late May. While one has been released with machete wounds, the other (at the time of writing) is still missing.

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

June 2018

Leadership and butterflies

When it is time to hold back on providing professional advice?

Great leadership: two rules

Peter Anderton takes us on a whistle stop tour of leadership over the last 16 centuries and tells us why everything you ever need to know about leadership comes down to only two rules.

Leading change with humble audacity

Today's leaders have a huge weight to carry as they are asked to build (and often re-build) systems of greater value, sustainability and contribution. Approaching this work with the behaviours and beliefs of the past often causes a tremendous amount of suffering within organisations, says strategic transformation expert Nancy Giordano.

Simplification as the key for change

Self-created complexities often prevent us from getting to the meaningful work that truly matters, says Lisa Bodell.

Designing time: meaning, not management

How much time do you and your staff waste each year in superfluous, meaningless meetings?

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

June 2018

Student injured at camp

Workplace Health and Safety Queensland officers are investigating an incident at a school camp site, north of Brisbane, after a 14-year-old became entangled in high ropes, sustaining serious neck and facial injuries. At the time of writing, the year 9 student remains in a critical condition.

Assault allegation

An unnamed 57-year-old female teacher has been arrested following allegations that she assaulted six children at a Sydney primary school.

Interstate extradition

A former school gardener has been extradited from Queensland to face historical child sex abuse charges related to allegedly grooming and assaulting young boys in the Kimberley region more than 40 years ago. The man has been charged with 30 child sex offences for the 14-year period, including four counts of rape.

Religion in education: the legalities

This informative article explains the international agreements and national laws that currently underpin religion in Australian schools.

Potential discrimination complaints

South Australia's Equal Opportunity Commissioner, Niki Vincent, has written to independent and faith-based schools asking them to allow girls to wear shorts and pants, if they so choose. She said the failure to offer gender-inclusive uniform policies could breach equal opportunity and anti-discrimination laws. Dr Vincent said that some schools, with gender-based uniform policies, were opening themselves up to potential discrimination complaints.

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

June 2018

Demographics of selective schools

Analysis of My School data shows that students at NSW selective schools are considerably more advantaged than students at other nearby schools. They are overwhelmingly attended by the most educationally advantaged students and, in many cases, dramatically unrepresentative of the suburbs in which they are located.

Declining interest

This article contains some worrying figures on the decline of first preference applications for teacher preparation courses.

Impact of heat on test scores

A new working paper by Canada’s National Bureau of Economic Research, a non-profit economic research organisation, draws a direct line between overly hot classrooms and poor academic performance. Test scores started to fall as outside temperatures rose above 21 Celsius.

Floor plans and collegial support

It really does matter where you physically locate struggling or beginning teachers. Research by two US professors demonstrates that the alignment and distribution of classrooms affects teacher-to-teacher interactions.

Demographics of school performance

A global study has found that schools with 20 per cent or more of pupils from poor backgrounds see lower attainment for all children.

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

June 2018

Middle-age and job strain

This discussion draws on various studies in an interesting discussion of the links between age, job strain, self-perception, cardiovascular disease and psychological disorders.

Identifying extreme burnout

Former lawyer Lori Ann Wardi realised the extent of her burnout when she found herself wishing for poor health just so she could avoid going to work. Find out what she did to build an alternative life.

Strive for inner joy

‘The reality is that you’ll never love 100% of your job,’ says Lisa Quay. ‘Literally no one loves every part of their job – and that’s okay,’ she adds.

Daily stretching routine for relaxation

This sets of stretches aides with flexibility and relaxation before sleep.

Mental health benefits of walking

John Arden explains how walking can be an immediate anti-depressant. Walking increases endorphin production and neuron development, helping to reduce depression and anxiety.

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

June 2018

Spotlight on Confucian Classrooms

Thirteen New South Wales government schools offer a ‘language and culture learning’ program funded by the Chinese Communist Party. Critics are calling for a review, suggesting that the program may have an agenda that is inconsistent with democratic values, historical accuracy and free speech.

Three-dimensional zebra crossing

Boulia, in central-west Queensland, is the first Australian town to introduce a three-dimensional zebra crossing, where white blocks appear to rise up from the road. ‘If we put it around our hospitals and our schools, it'll just jog people's memory that they're in a school zone and really think about where they're driving,’ said the town’s mayor, Rick Britton.

Resilience Builder Program

At Cresthaven Elementary School, in the USA, some fifth-graders undergo a course called the Resilience Builder Program. Created by psychologist Mary Alvord, RBP is a form of group therapy designed to help students who are struggling with trauma, cognitive disorders or anxiety caused by things like bullying or moving schools.

Trial of robot teachers

remote-controlled robots are being introduced to a number of homes and schools in rural north Queensland, giving isolated students the chance to interact face-to-face with their human teachers in real time.

Learning progressions

This is the fifth article in a helpful blog series on learning progressions.

My word

June 2018

Mark Scott

The head of the New South Wales education department predicts that Naplan testing will be made ‘obsolete’ by more sophisticated, individualised student assessment methods.

Vincent Ciccarello

The managing director of the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra says the state of music education in South Australia is at ‘crisis’ point.

Phil Seymour

The NSWPPC president says the Gonski 2 recommendations are a move in the right direction. However, in its review of the curriculum, he stresses it will be important for the NSW Education Standards Authority to closely collaborate with education professionals.

Nick Kelly

‘Whilst some jurisdictions have done much to try and increase support for early career teachers through policies such as mandatory mentorship and induction, it seems (anecdotally) that the quality of the support that is offered becomes highly varied at the school level.’

John Simpson

School leaders will be studying what unfolded at Melbourne’s Trinity Grammar (after a student’s hair was cut) for many years, according to educational governance expert, John Simpson. Independent schools have become multimillion-dollar entities and must therefore comply with the same governance principles as small-to-medium-sized companies, he says.

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.

Call 1800 816 224 for your SPECIAL OFFER as an APPA member.

Money matters

June 2018

Marketing drives name changes

A growing number of WA schools, including some primary schools, have changed their name. Name changing can be an effective market repositioning strategy for schools operating in a competitive environment, says Curtin University’s Scott Fitzgerald.

Literacy grant for NT school

Pine Creek School has received a grant from the Foundation for Rural and Regional Renewal. The money will be spent on literacy programs for Indigenous students and their families.

Request for information denied

Queensland's Department of Education recently refused to reveal how much it receives from the Commonwealth Bank for allowing the company to run its school banking program in the state’s schools.

Ethics and fundraising

This story about the president of the USA visiting an injured child in hospital lies at the tangled intersection of school shootings, re-election politics and fundraising. It raises several interesting considerations, not least of which is the ethical basis of fundraising.

Questions to ask

This discussion of the activities of charities in schools, sparked by research conducted in Wales, points out a number of serious considerations all schools might discuss before ‘signing up’ to support a particular charity. Schools are warned not assuming that any kind of charitable engagement is unquestionably worthwhile.

Love the job

June 2018

David Austin

Principal, Good Shepherd Primary School
Amaroo, ACT

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!

(continued on next page)


Love the job

June 2018

David Austin

Principal, Good Shepherd Primary School
Amaroo, ACT

(continued from previous page)

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.

(continued on next page)


Love the job

June 2018

David Austin

Principal, Good Shepherd Primary School
Amaroo, ACT

(continued from previous page)

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?

The students.

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.

David Austin
Principal, Good Shepherd Primary School
Amaroo, ACT


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.