Welcome to this edition of Connected Leader and Term 2. I hope you all had a great break and found some ‘me’ time. I know many will be focused on getting NAPLAN done, especially those going online.
APPA kicked off with the Gonski Report leading the headlines and lots of media attention. We saw Education Council meet and questions about the future of NAPLAN were raised. A review is in the wind with even one state minister calling for the scrapping of it, and others calling for a change in reporting.
Teacher registration is under review and APPA has provided a submission. Thank you to the principals who could attend the consultation meetings and to those association executive members who completed the APPA Survey. School funding continues to be on the agenda and we await the outcome of the School Resourcing Board review into the formula for capacity to contribute.
During this time, APPA has join a consortium led by the University of Tasmania to conduct a research project and develop a professional learning package on Principals as STEM leaders. I look forward to sharing more information at NAC and inviting principals and schools to join the project.
The National Conference is being held in Perth 18-21 September.
We have local, national and international speakers presenting around the theme of Visionary Leadership: inspire and engage. For those who can arrive earlier, we have excellent school tours on the Monday 17 September, covering a range of topics and across all sectors. On the Tuesday we have the annual APPA Forum. This is a great way to interact with other national delegates and have your direct input into APPA’s policy approach. This year’s forum will include finalisation of APPA’s professional Code of Conduct for primary school leaders and policy on school leadership development.
As stated before, the APPA National Conference is the only event focused on primary school leaders. So, IF you cannot attend, send your deputy, assistant principal or aspiring leader. Representation at your national conference is representation of the primary voice: Make your voice be heard and register here.
The report is now available on the APPA website. APPA’s media release provided an initial response and also noted that many of the recommendations in the report align with the themes presented in APPA’s submission to the panel. The important aspect in moving forward with reform is the engagement of school leaders and teachers in the development and implementation of the recommendations.
I am particularly pleased to see the acknowledgement in the Report of the key role of the principal as instructional leader and how changes to the role have placed at times overwhelming demands, expectations and responsibilities upon principals without the necessary resources and tools to achieve success. We need to provide trust and support to our school leaders in making decisions about the teaching and learning required for their community.
APPA strongly supports the emphasis on collaboration rather than competition, not just in schools but across schools, as a way of achieving better outcomes for all students.
The report reaffirms the primary school focus on early learning and noted that many primary schools are already utilising the learning progressions in their day-to-day practice. While early days, APPA looks forward to being a collaborative partner with governments and education jurisdictions in progressing the reform recommendations. APPA also recognises that adequate resourcing will be key to ensuring transformational recommendations are embedded in our primary schools. The NAC will work on a more detail response at the next meeting in May.
We look forward to the ongoing conversations and consultations regarding reforms to education. Hopefully, it will be more than climbing international test ladders. Our leaders, teachers, students and parents deserve more. Working in collaboration with schools will achieve greater outcomes.
As a member of the panel, I reiterated the important role of the principal in any initiative to improve teaching and engaging students in STEM education. The report has a number of recommendations that connect to primary schools. I encourage every principal to share the report or at least the executive summary with staff and the community. While many will have a view on STEM or STEAM, the important point is for all schools to look at how the curriculum and capabilities focus in your school is preparing our students for today’s society.
As part of the National Science and Innovation Strategy, the government has funded a project to support principals and schools in building capacity and competence for STEM related learning and capabilities. The project is called Principals as STEM Leaders and will be led by the University of Tasmania. More information will be provided to schools over the term with a launch in early term 3.
SchoolAid Appeal for the Tathra Bushfire. APPA thanks the many schools and individuals who have donated to this appeal. We have raised over $31,000. I will be contacting Tathra Public School and discussing with them how this money can help the rebuild and support families impacted by the fire.
Many schools will implement the NAPLAN Online test for the first time. We hope all technology and connectivity works and the experience leads to a better outcome for students. APPA supports a call for a review of the reporting of NAPLAN and a move away from competitive reporting and misuse of results. We need a collaborative environment where all schools are supported and not determined by postcode or background. Our schools should not be treated like an athlete at a sports’ competition.
APPA also endorses the call for assessment practices that support the contemporary learning approach currently in schools. A ‘one-size fits all’ approach is not working for all schools. We encourage principals to discuss with parents the reporting of student achievement and growth.
Recently you may have seen or heard the discussion on how many hours teachers are working and should they work more time in school term breaks. It is timely to have this discussion, given the recommendations of the Back to Balance report. How much unnecessary work is being done? Only you can make this call! If you take something on, for whatever reason, then what gets put on hold or dropped all together? A good time to look at assessment with reports due at the end of the term. What is helpful and what is not? How could you report differently, while still providing valuable feedback to your students and parents on their child’s achievements and growth? I was always asking, given the many hours we spend on report comments, that only get read by some, if this is the best use of our time for reporting. APPA will be initiating a review of school reporting. How can school reporting reflect the contemporary teaching and learning approaches being implemented in schools today? How much information do parents want and how do they access reports? And how much do schools need and how much do systems need? Student reporting is just one aspect of our role that is demanding on resources, time and staff. APPA will look to hold a national conversation later in the year.
Scholastic and APPA have announced Lesley Gollan from Woodlinks State School, Collingwood Park, QLD as the Term2 winner. Murray Hawkins form Scholastic will present the award on 28 May at a school assembly. Congratulations to Lesley and Woodlinks State School!
The WoodLinks State School Story - Celebrating reading is important to the community of WoodLinks. As the Head of Curriculum, 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.
Clear and constant communication between the school leadership team and classroom teachers to families and students ensures that everyone knows that this is the explicit focus of the school. Engagement in reading has increased and the community feels more connected to the school through reading. WoodLinks opens classrooms every term to parents to observe and participate in reading sessions. This has proved very popular and powerful with parents and caregivers.
Lesley coordinates the daily morning reading club and daily guest reader. Students, teachers and parents are involved in the reading club and students are given incentives to attend each day, such as bookmarks, books and wristbands. At the end of each term, students are awarded a certificate to celebrate their attendance. Guest readers have included the Mayor, local members of parliament, parents, teachers, teacher aides and students. Lesley also works with teachers to ensure that there is an explicit focus on the teaching of reading in every classroom from prep to year 6. Teachers are provided with reading coaches and opportunities to watch other teachers work and are given feedback and support to improve their practice.
As part of the WoodLinks Prep Transition program, Lesley works with parents to unpack all aspects of the reading program to ensure that they can help support the prep students and give them the best start to their education. Prep data has shown a huge improvement in the last 12 months with 80% of students reading at or above benchmark (PM7 or above) at the end of 2017. Student data across the school has shown significant improvements, due to the explicit approach to the teaching of reading across the school.
The success at WoodLinks is being achieved through the efforts of many, with Lesley laying the foundations and supporting every aspect of the journey.
The Mindful Leader, by Michael Bunting, presents a focus on how leaders can enable and inspire teams to accomplish what we could never achieve alone. Bunting points out that others won’t give their full effort if they think their leader does not care about them or want them to know more about them. The more our leadership efforts are about us, the less effective we are. Kouzes and Posner (Bunting 2016, p111) describe the act of enabling others as (1) fostering collaboration by building trust and facilitating relationships, and (2) strengthening others by increasing self-determination and developing confidence. Research by Kouzes and Posner (Bunting 2016, p.111) shows that, ‘when leaders enable others to act, their people are more than 30 per cent more engaged in their workplace.’ Sounds logical and not new, but the challenge is how do you implement this as part of your leadership approach?
Bunting goes on to describe that with a mindful leader approach, generosity and compassion are key elements to achieve the above. Generosity is moving from command and control mode to coaching and mentoring mode to bring out the strengths of others. We learn to lessen control and to give people space, autonomy and responsibility to step up and contribute more. Generosity is not about giving money or time, but rather about giving cooperation, respect, attention, care and efforts to our colleagues and others. It’s about working to get the best out of others. Mindful leaders practise compassion. This means they have the curiosity to find out how others tick and what motivates them. Compassion is sharing the suffering with or to suffer together. When we are compassionate we connect to others and feel their pain. ‘We surrender to the intelligence of watching and listening, and reality informs us of the next step as we act from our deepest wisdom. Leaders who can act from this place are a gift to their teams and stakeholders.’ (Bunting 2016, p.118)
Leaders share their challenges and acknowledge inadequacies, seeing others as unique and have something to contribute. Through compassion we can foster connection and collaboration. Compassion is not being weak or soft: it enables tough conversations, because we can conduct them without anger and we hold people accountable with transparency and intent. Giving honest feedback, if done compassionately can be the kindest thing we can do for people. Working with people to change and improve their work, builds connection and engagement with the organisation. Leadership is not about being tough or nice. Its both. Bunting believes that leaders working with people can have engaged employees and be seen as caring, collaborative and capacity builders. They hold people and themselves accountable. This empowered accountability does not operate with fear, anger or compliance, but with awareness and clear agreements. Agreements are transparent, and expectations have clarity. Leaders share the goal of what the organisation is trying to achieve. People know their role and are accountable for their performance and the performance of the organisation. They become empowered to solve problems for themselves. The reality is, as Bunting (2016, p.132) states, ‘the more we help others to shine, the brighter we all shine together.’
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.
St Paul’s Catholic Primary School is a very multicultural urban school in Darwin. Heat is our greatest challenge, with every day of the year basically above 30 degrees. The student and staff populations are very transient, with very few of our students going all the way through school. The school has a great community, with everyone relying on each other as they do not have much family support.
How many years have you been a school leader?
I have held leadership positions in schools for around 20 years.
What motivated you to become a school leader (and when)?
I think the chance to make a difference motivates me as a leader. I became quite passionate about student wellbeing and that has driven me throughout my career and into leadership.
What was your first leadership role, where was it located, and what were some of your early challenges as a new leader?
My first leadership role was as a behavioural management team leader at a college in Alice Springs. I was quite an inexperienced teacher, leading a more experienced group, so that had its challenges. Also, I had a senior staff member who was not very supportive. I remember one meeting where that person corrected student work as I was reported what our group had been doing.
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NEW resilience and wellbeing program
Dusty and Friends is a great resource for learning and building resilience in children. Game ON highlights the importance of being calm and prompts children to see how consequences result from actions. A popular resource in Early Stage 1- Stage 1 classrooms, children identify and relate to different characters. The program aligns with the Australian Curriculum and works well for Stage 3 in a peer support model. Available for immediate download through the School For Living website.
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As a new principal, what was the most useful lesson you ever learned from a more experienced principal colleague?
The best advice that I received was, you cannot micro-manage everyone and you have to let people make mistakes. I had another principal advise me that everything takes time.
What makes you smile at work?
Greeting the students at the start of the day, I love how they come to school every day, excited.
In managing your staff, what are your most valuable skills and beliefs? What should beginning principals strive to avoid in this area?
I am quite often described as calm, so remaining calm is something I am usually able to maintain. I am also a bit lateral in my thinking, so I can be open to trying most things. I am a strong believer in team and we have made a real effort to work in teams across the school.
What was the best day you ever had as a school leader?
I don’t know if I have one that stands out more than others, but we had a great day at school the other morning when we had a Ride to School day a week after Cyclone Marcus. We were the official school for the Northern Territory, so we had a lot organised. Police, neighbourhood watch and the army were involved and pancakes were cooked for all the families. Cyclone Marcus had caused damage everywhere, but we ended up having the most bikes we had ever had on a Ride to School day. Our students and families just showed their resilience. There was just a great buzz in the air.
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What was the toughest day you ever had as a school leader?
Attending the funeral of one of the mothers of one of our ex-students, that was tough. Seeing the sadness in those students’ eyes was heartbreaking.
What was the funniest single thing that ever happened to you as a school leader?
Going to a community event where free bikes were given out to under-privileged kids from the local schools. Unfortunately some of the bikes got stolen during the event by some other under-privileged kids. Although I should not laugh, it was quite funny.
What tips would you give new school leaders about staying positive and keeping their energy levels high?
I had great advice this week from someone this week: ‘Focus on the end game.’ That helps when times are tough.
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?
Students. Despite all the difficult HR moments, difficult conversations, and so on, I quite often tell myself that I am in there fighting for the students. So, if I get a little wounded on the way, I am there for a greater cause.
How do you achieve (or are trying to achieve) a positive work-life balance?
Networks. I have a professional network, family network and social network, although they do cross-over at times. It is important to keep connected to people for different reasons.
What special measures do you take (if any) to protect and nurture your own health and welfare?
I only read emails at school and advise my staff to, as well. I let my community know, as I found I was reading emails just before I was going to bed and then I would not sleep. My school board was very supportive.
What do you see yourself as doing with your life after the principalship?
I can see myself getting into an advocacy role. I have a huge passion for supporting students from poverty and giving them a better chance.
Principal, St Paul’s Catholic Primary School,
co-Vice President of the Australian Catholic Primary Principal Association,
Australian Primary Principal Board Member
Nightcliff, Northern Territory
Debra J. Crouch
Mobile: 0413 009988
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