The 2014 APPA National Conference, Creating the Future Together, held recently in Sydney, was a resounding success on many levels. I encourage all of you to read the keynote papers that will soon be available through the APPA website. You will be challenged to reflect on your practice and uplifted in your work as a result. I am sure I speak for every delegate at the Conference in sincerely thanking the Conference Co-convenors Rob Walker (AGPPA), Julie King (ACPPA) and Narelle Barker (IPSHA) and their hardworking Committee. They provided a conference program of 'international standard' as Phil Harding the NZPF President described it to me.
At the AGM, held in conjunction with the Conference, a number of special resolutions were passed that will change APPA's governance arrangements. In order for APPA to operate at the level of effectiveness we expect, and to comply with legislation regulating the operation of national organisations, our Association is now to become a Company Limited by Guarantee. The resolutions were passed unanimously. Transition arrangements are in place. Secretariat will become the Board and National Executive Council (NEC) will be renamed National Advisory Council (NAC). These changes recognise the evolution of APPA's governance structures over the last five years.
Also at the AGM there were three awards of Life Membership. Rob Hoff (IPSHA South Australia) was recognised for his distinguished contribution to primary education. He has served on the APPA National Executive Council over the past decade in two formal periods. The first as Federal President of IPSHA, holding observer status from 2000 to 2002, and then as the South Australian IPSHA nominee for seven years from 2005 to 2011.
Rob's contribution demonstrates a wealth of experience as principal of primary schools in both Queensland and South Australia.He has a very clear understanding of the cross sectorial strength of the Australian Primary Principals Association and is a passionate articulator of primary issues.
His wide range of connections across the Australian educational context was a feature of his service to APPA. For seven years he also served on the PAI (formerly APAPDC) Board as an APPA nominee. He was again a strong advocate for leadership development and served as Vice Chair of the Board for two years. It was in his service on the Board that he was noted for his collegial approach across the sectors. Indeed, that service was highly regarded.
In more recent years, he enjoyed serving as a co-convenor for the Adelaide APPA Conference in 2011.
Steve Portlock (AGPPA South Australia) was recognised for his distinguished contribution to primary education. He has served on the National Executive Council for six years. In that time he served in the capacity of Deputy President of APPA and on the Secretariat.
Steve's contribution has demonstrated a wealth of experience both as a principal and from the perspective of President of the South Australian Primary Principals' Association (SAPPA), a role he filled with distinction. He has a very clear understanding of the cross-sectorial strength of APPA.
His ability to lead and develop strategic planning was valued by all as a feature of his significant contribution.
For two years he served on the PAI Board as an APPA nominee. His period of service on the Board was marked by his collegial approach across the sectors. Similarly to Rob Hoff, that service was highly regarded.
In an organisational context he also enjoyed serving as a co-convener for the Adelaide APPA Conference in 2011.
Geoff Scott (AGPPA New South Wales) was recognised for his distinguished contribution to primary education. He provided strong, insightful and intuitive leadership in his role as a member of the National Executive Council during over six years. As President of the NSWPPA, Geoff brought significant insights to APPA contributing to it becoming the respected and influential professional association it is today.
Geoff has had significant influence in providing both input and advice in the development of submissions and advice to federal governments. He has also, in consultation with the executives of the association, provided sound guidance and advice to principals throughout the nation when the need has arisen.
In 2008, Geoff was awarded a fellowship of Australian Council of Educational Leaders (ACEL).
APPA has advocated strongly for many years against the publication of NAPLAN data in ways that accentuate the high stakes elements of the tests, particularly the questionable use of students with statistically similar characteristics data to compare the performance of schools. I used an APPA session at the Conference to discuss our position that publication of NAPLAN data on the My School website does not advance transparency, accountability or school improvement. Delegates agreed and unanimously resolved, ‘To take individual and collective measures to remove school and comparative NAPLAN data from the My School website.’ APPA will provide information on its strategies and suggestions for action at the school level as a result of this resolution.
Dennis Yarrington, Principal of Harrison School, Australian Capital Territory, was confirmed as APPA President-elect for 2014 - 15 at the Conference. Dennis was the founding principal of Harrison School. In building the school to its current enrolment of 1405 Foundation to year 10 students, he has led the school in its focus on values based contemporary learning. Over a successful career spanning both government and non-government school education, he has been a teacher, consultant and principal. I wish Dennis every success as he leads APPA to a position of even greater influence on primary education and school leadership in Australia.
Besides my wife Nancy, there are a number of people I must thank for their support and encouragement over the last four wonderful years. Michael Nuttall has been a close friend and confidante throughout my term. As our Executive Officer, I always had complete certainty that APPA's reputation was enhanced by his every action. I relied on his advice and almost always acted on it without question. I know Dennis will be able to rely on Michael's support. Nicole Toumpas and Rose Nuttall have ensured the business of running APPA was attended to in a timely and effective fashion. I have admired the way they worked in our team and I really valued their loyalty. Leonie Trimper and the PALLIC team in Adelaide are on the brink of a breakthrough that will see APPA gather new evidence about what works in teaching Indigenous students to read. I am grateful for their vision and persistence.
There are too many members of Secretariat and NEC to mention by name, but I am grateful to each and every one of them for their friendship and support. I must recognise the work of Gabrielle Leigh (AGPPA), Peggy Saab and Dave Edwards (ACPPA) and Keith Dallywater, Sally Ruston and Deb Dalwood (IPSHA) who, as National Sector Presidents, have given strength to my arm as I advocated on your behalf. Their wisdom and courage have served primary education very well indeed.
Thank you all. It has been an honour and a privilege to serve as APPA President and to be counted among the ranks of Australian primary school principals.
All the best,
President, Australian Primary Principals Association
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Provide a brief description of where you currently work as a school leader.
Lakes Grammar - An Anglican School is an independent, co-educational school on the Central Coast of New South Wales. We are one of the four Anglican schools in the Hunter region which come under the auspices of the Newcastle Anglican Schools Corporation. Lakes Grammar is a K – 12 school which was established in 2004 and has approximately 950 students, 500 of whom are in the junior school.
How long have you been a school leader? What/where was your first appointment?
I was fortunate enough to have a really inspirational principal, Anne Mulcahy, when I began my career. Anne gave me the opportunity to spend some time in leadership roles in my first few years in teaching and the encouragement to become an assistant principal and pursue leadership in my fourth year of teaching. She was a fantastic leader who was really gifted at recognising the strengths in everyone and building up capacity in all of her teams. She showed a lot of belief in everyone and gave me a lot of trust and responsibility.
When, and why, did you originally want to become a school leader?
My grandfather, Arthur Jordan, was a principal of a number of primary schools in New South Wales in his career, beginning with a number of small schools on the north coast of NSW, and then later at Lithgow, Kurmond and Oakville. I was fortunate enough to grow up with my grandparents. I have really enduring memories of former students coming back as adults to visit my grandfather. He’s taught some of these former students at Lithgow, in their primary years, and they had since gone on to sit their Leaving Certificate, as a result of his encouragement. This made a really lasting impression on me. How worthwhile was a job where you could make a positive impact on someone else’s life.
What makes you smile at work?
The children never fail to get a smile out of me. It is great to share their experiences in the classroom and the playground and be with a great, supportive team of staff and parents who are committed to the best for each child.
The smiles and enjoyment on the children’s faces as they are discovering their niche at the school make each day worthwhile. Watching children develop their personal strengths and talents throughout the school day – whether this be be learning to play an instrument, debating, enjoying community service and supporting charities, being part of a sporting team or performing at concerts and festivals – is a delight. Just seeing the students, and talking to them about their interests, growth and goals, is a buzz.
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What are you most pleased about in relation to your staff?
The hard work, commitment and passion that they all show in doing the best they can for the children. We are a really dedicated and hard-working team who are always looking for new ways to innovate and grow. Lakes Grammar is really focused on developing strong, caring and productive relationships with each of our students and their families.
What was the best day you ever had as a school leader?
Recently, we held a KidsMatter launch day to kick-start the KidsMatter program in the junior school. We are working hard to keep building our sense of community. To have so many families and community members come to the school and join in with the children in our celebrations and activities was amazing. It is great to feel that type of buzz in the air!
One of the most enjoyable days - but also days of mixed emotion - were on trips where I took groups year 6 students to visit disadvantaged Aboriginal communities in far north Queensland. The time we spent with the Aboriginal children in their schools and in their communities was magical. To share some of their life experiences, and to see the disadvantage and prejudice that our indigenous peoples still suffer from, is just heartbreaking.
As an inexperienced principal, was the most useful lesson you ever learned from a more experienced principal colleague?
The most important things you can have are common sense, a love of children, integrity, an understanding of how children develop and knowledge of curriculum. To that I’d add a passion for God and His word.
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What is the funniest thing that has ever happened to you as a school leader?
Kicking the football around with some year 2 boys at lunchtime recently, I managed to split my pants and had to scrounge some safety pins from one of my co-ordinators to patch myself up before parent-teacher interviews that evening.
A number of years ago, I was asked to give a pep talk to a large group of beginning teachers at Rooty Hill RSL. I accidentally locked myself in my storeroom getting changed and had to ring a colleague who was doing bus duty to get me out. I almost missed the whole thing!
What tips would you give beginning school leaders about staying positive and keeping their energy levels high?
Maintain a work-life balance, as much as possible. Take the time for your family, particularly if you have young children – it’s time you don’t get back. Remember that the children are the most important thing and always make your decisions based on what is best for them.
At the end of the day, being a school leader is about people and your relationships with children, the staff and families. Make time to get to know people. Between 9am and 3pm are the times when kids are there. You can play a part in working as a team to improve their school experience. Leave the emails until later.
If you could name just one thing that kept you going to school every day, even during tough times, what would that be?
Remember why you started. Don’t take the role and opportunity to do something positive for children, their families and your staff, for granted. Every day that you go to ‘work’, be thankful that you get to do something you love. Don’t show up complaining about not wanting to be there. You’re there (hopefully) because you love it. Put as much as you can into every day, as if it was your final day as a leader. When you eventually reach the day that you do retire, and you can only watch, then you will know how much you love something you once took for granted.
Head of Junior School, Lakes Grammar: An Anglican School, Warnervale, New South Wales
Debra J. Crouch
Mobile: 0413 009988
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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 Vivid Word and Image design, 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.
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