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


November 2016


Well, Term 4 is flying by and I feel the pressure rising to get everything done before Christmas. I hope your year has had many highlights and there is plenty to celebrate at year’s end.

In this last 2016 edition of ‘Connected Leader’, we have some research highlights from the Scholastic: Kids and Family Reading Report; a brief report on the International Symposium in Toronto on Principal Health and Wellbeing; and a special acknowledgment of recently awarded APPA Life Members.


Congratulations to Norm Hart (QLD), Gabrielle Leigh (VIC), Dave Edwards (SA), Sally Ruston (NSW) and Steve Breen (WA) on receiving APPA Life Membership. At a Parliament House event attended by some 35 parliamentarians from both sides of the House and Senate, the Hon. Mr. Simon Birmingham, Minister for Education and Training and the Shadow Minister for Education, Tanya Plibersek, presented the APPA Life membership awards. Norm, Gabrielle, Dave, Sally and Steve have made an outstanding contribution to primary education through their leadership and work for APPA and their respective associations.


In late 2015, Scholastic, in conjunction with YouGov, conducted a survey to explore family attitudes and behaviours in Australia around reading books for fun. I will highlight just some of the findings at this point. For further reading, go to: The key findings Include:

The State of Kids & Reading

  • More than half of children aged 6–17 (58%) believe reading books for fun is extremely or very important and 60% of kids also say they love reading books for fun or like it a lot.
  • Just over one-third of children aged 6–17 (37%) report they are frequent readers, with kids aged 6–8 being the most likely to read 5–7 days a week.

What Makes Frequent Readers

  • Frequent readers (those who read books for fun 5–7 days a week) differ substantially from infrequent readers (those who read books for fun less than one day a week). For instance, 91% of frequent readers are currently reading at least one book for fun, while 80% of infrequent readers haven’t read a book for fun in a while.
  • There are three dynamics that are among the most powerful predictors of reading frequency for children aged 6–17: How often a child is read books aloud; a child’s reading enjoyment; and a child’s knowledge of their reading level.
  • For children aged 6–11, additional predictors of reading frequency include where they read books for fun, parental involvement in encouraging reading, and how early they started being read books aloud.

Reading Aloud at Home

  • Across ages, the overwhelming majority of children (86%) say they love(d) being read books aloud at home or like(d) it a lot—the main reason being because it is a special time with parents.

Reading in School

  • Children aged 6–17 who are given time for independent reading at school are more likely to be reading currently and frequently, and are more likely to enjoy reading books for fun and believe it is important compared with those who are not; this is especially true for older children.
  • Two-thirds of children aged 6–17 (66%) say that at least a few times a year, their principal encourages reading books for fun, with principals providing the most frequent encouragement to kids younger than age 12.
  • Children whose principals encourage reading books for fun are more likely than those without encouragement from their principal to read frequently, to think reading is important, and to love reading books for fun or like it a lot.

What Kids Want in Books

  • An overwhelming majority of kids aged 6–17 agree that their favourite books – and the ones they are most likely to finish – are the ones they pick out themselves.

Print Books in a Digital World

  • One-third of children aged 6–17 (33%) have read an eBook, with kids aged 12–17 being the most likely to have done so. The majority of children aged 6–17 (79%) agree they will always want to read print books, even though there are eBooks available.


The International Symposium, held in Toronto, Canada, saw delegates came from Canada, USA, Ireland, Australia, Finland, Italy, Slovenia, United Kingdom, and Aruba. The Symposium aimed to create a leadership network informed by research and group discussions that begins the development of advocacy strategies for effective professional associations.

Joanne Robinson from OPC welcomed delegates and described the Symposium as a way to focus the learning and to address a major challenge for associations in their support for principals.

‘The answers are in the room, we just need to work out what the questions are?’ said Joanne.

A presentation from Dr Katina Pollock and Dr Karen Edge, Global Trends for all Generations, looked at work demands and wellbeing. Key impacts include:

  • Principal work intensification
  • Increasing public discussion of work-life balance
  • The state of public confidence in education
  • Key challenge is staff relations.

‘I Love My Job But...’ a presentation by Dr Katina Pollock highlighted the results of a survey conducted with a sample of leaders. The leaders had responses that talked about loving the work and job. However, comments came with a ‘but’...

  • Role has changed
  • Increasing expectations
  • Increasing technology
  • Dealing with parents
  • Increasingly stressful

Dr Karen Edge’s Bright Lights, Big Cities and Generation X Leaders: The quest for sustainable careers and work-life balance presented research from the Global Cities Study. Gen X career path and approaches to leadership are different to past models. Gen X, as leaders, have a ‘mix match’ with their leadership approach to the traditional structure of schools. They have grown their leadership in collaborative structures that can be in conflict when appointed to a different school. A key issue coming through is work intensification.

Karen had delegates consider these questions:

  • How do you attract the next leader or person to fill your role?
  • Are you actively nurturing aspiring leaders? (Next generation want fast paced learning, scenarios and interaction with peers.)
  • Are we shoulder tapping and encouraging next teachers to be leaders?
  • Role model: Do we make the role attractive.
  • What is the perspective from policy developers? (Role of stakeholders in advocacy.)

Delegates from Australia who were members of APPA met briefly and shared some ideas for follow-up action (Professional Association Action Plan). Suggested actions included holding a national symposium in Australia with the aim of developing a framework and strategy for principal health and wellbeing; adopting a declaration on principal health and wellbeing signed by all associations with a copy provided to every principal; a joint declaration signed by employers and relevant principal associations; and, every association meeting to have an item on health and wellbeing. APPA NAC will further discuss the ideas and provide an action plan for 2017-18.

APPA 2017

In this final edition for 2016, I quickly outline several key priorities on the agenda for 2017.

  • APPA developing a framework that identifies, for employers, departments, schools and principals those enabling factors that support Principal Health and Wellbeing and address role intensification.
  • Supporting professional learning for our exiting leaders and teachers in explicit teaching of literacy and numeracy and the integration of STEM/STEAM into primary schools.
  • Reviewing the curriculum in Initial Teacher Education to ensure it is reflective of the requirements for graduating teachers to be classroom ready.
  • APPA working as a key stakeholder in the development of national framework for principal preparation that will accredit our next generation of leaders to lead schools with inclusive cultures where students are part of a global learning community.


At the end of this year we farewell a number of outstanding members of the APPA National Advisory Council – Gabrielle Leigh, Steve Breen, Mel Bolwell, Pam Erfurt, Grant Bock and Alex Cameron. Over the course of the year we also saw Deb Dalwood and David Cannon complete their terms. Each has committed much time to APPA, their colleagues and their schools and associations. Their contributions have been greatly appreciated and leave a worthy legacy.

Finally, thank you to all who have led our primary schools and primary school communities. Our work at APPA is founded on what each of you do ‘on the ground’ and strengthened by your commitment to your students, your staff and your colleagues.

Enjoy your Christmas and maybe a good book could be worth considering!


Dennis Yarrington
President, Australian Primary Principals Association
Mobile: 0466 655 468


Are you a Masters student looking for a research project to help principals?

Michael Hawton, psychologist and teacher, who runs the Tough Conversations workshops nationally (see registration form) is seeking an educator who is currently undertaking a higher degree to evaluate the impact of professional development in reducing principals’ stress levels. The research would need to be done ‘at arms’ length’ from the programme developers. There is good anecdotal evidence from the 200+ school leaders, who have already completed the program, that it is benefiting members of our association. But, it is important to build the evidence base. There may be some opportunity to liaise with Associate Professor, Phil Riley, who is willing to discuss any design issues. So, if you’re looking for a topic and you want to do some applied research, please contact Michael Hawton on 0422 214 430. Michael can describe the topic and its parameters.

Interviewees urgently sought for 2017 series of ‘Connected Leader’

Do you love your job?
Primary school principals across Australia, from Catholic, government and independent schools, are invited to contact the Managing Editor of ‘Connected Leader’, Debra Crouch, who is currently seeking interviewees for the remainder of the 2017 series of ‘Love the Job’ (written) interviews. To express your interest in assisting with this project, please contact Debra at: or 0413 009988.

Under the spotlight

November 2016

Mike Ennis

The principal of MacGregor State School, in Brisbane, has been appointed as the new principal of Aurukun School. The Western Cape school has had an extremely difficult year, marked by closure and the evacuation of teachers.

Fiona Milne

The principal of Athena School, in Newtown, Sydney, is at the centre of a public discussion about allegations that her school is linked to the Church of Scientology.

Ian McDonald

The principal of St Laurence’s College, in Brisbane, has announced his retirement at the end of the year. Mr McDonald is proud of the Catholic school’s culture of international aid. He recently returned from the Mekong Delta, in Vietnam, where students undertake a two-week immersion program, as part of a wider community effort to build houses and, in partnership with Mater Hospital, provide some medical assistance.

Matthew Holdway

The principal of Theodore Primary School was recently named as School Leader of the Year at the ACT Public Education Awards. Matthew Holdway’s philosophy for his school is ‘whole child, whole school, whole community.’ His school has been a pilot for the Schools for All program.

Jenny Manuel

The principal of Wilmot Rd Primary School, in Victoria, was recently awarded the Outstanding Primary Principal Award, as part of the Victorian Education Excellence Awards program. ‘It is the school and the team that got me there; I didn’t do it all on my own,’ she said.

Interviewees urgently sought for 2017 series of ‘Connected Leader’

Do you love your job?
Primary school principals across Australia, from Catholic, government and independent schools, are invited to contact the Managing Editor of ‘Connected Leader’, Debra Crouch, who is currently seeking interviewees for the remainder of the 2017 series of ‘Love the Job’ (written) interviews. To express your interest in assisting with this project, please contact Debra at: or 0413 009988.

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

November 2016

The five habits of strong women

The author of ‘Carry on warrior’, Glennon Doyle Melton, accepts that strong women are all completely different. However, she adds, they share the same habits that keep them strong. The difference between being ‘nice’ and being ‘kind’ is important, she says.

How to make better decisions

Decision scientist Joe Arvai explains how we make decisions, drawing parallels between construction principles and how we process information using a building code of goals, options, outcomes and trade-offs.

Defuse difficult people

Nina Godiwalla, CEO of Mindworks, explains how to change your reaction to a difficult person at work in order to create a better situation.

The surprising secret to speaking with confidence

Caroline Goyder Caroline shares the story of how she moved from stage-paralysis to expressive self.

The ‘when, feel need’ principle

Some people find it difficult to say exactly what they want, says behavioural investigator Vanessa Van Edwards. ‘Bold-ify’ your language, remove the ‘qualifiers’ and explain your feelings to get an optimal result, she advises. Learn the ‘when, feel, need’ formula to achieve your goal.

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

November 2016

Child custody and school choice

This case from Queensland, where a boy did not attend school for almost two years, highlights the potential consequences of court orders that give school choice to one parent only.

Out-of-court settlement

A Darwin parent who took Leanyer School to court, over allegations that she had been denied ‘the full value’ of the NT Government’s Back to School Vouchers, was recently awarded an out-of-court settlement of $579.

Royal Commission hearing

This report on hearings at the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse highlights the diverse concerns of all stakeholders, past and present, in disturbing events that are yet to be legally resolved.

High Court ruling on school inspection issues

The British High Court recently found that school inspectors were wrong to penalise an unnamed Islamic faith school because of their view that segregation of boys and girls constituted unlawful discrimination. However, the same court allowed Ofsted, the school regulatory body in England, to publish the rest of its inspection report, placing the school into special measures, after books giving tacit approval to domestic violence were found in the school library.

Pathologist revises report

The mother of a seven-year-old Rowville Primary School student, who died while on a school excursion, is proceeding with a negligence lawsuit. This is despite a recent finding by the Victorian Coroner that, after a revised pathology result, he cannot rule out, or conclude, that snake bite was the cause of death.

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

November 2016

Relationship behaviour of male and female teachers

This ‘Journal of School Psychology’ report says that while female primary teachers form closer relationships with girls, male primary teachers form similarly close relationships with boys and girls. ‘The findings challenge society's presumption that male teachers have better relationships with boys than women teachers.’

Different brain changes in response to trauma

According to a new brain-scanning study, from the Stanford University School of Medicine, the brains of adolescent girls and boys change differently in response to traumatic stress.

Figures on child hunger in Australia

One in five Australian children go to bed hungry sometimes, according to a study conducted by Flinders University, in South Australia.

Call for lowering of starting age for preschool

We've looked across the international research literature. We've spoken to preschool teachers and child development experts in Australia and there's an overwhelming consensus that two years of preschool gives children the best start,’ says Dr Stacey Fox , from Victoria University.

Link between childhood bullying and adult obesity

A new study published in ‘Psychosomatic Medicine’ suggests a link between childhood bullying and adult obesity. Researchers studied data from an older, long-running study, including over 2,000 twin children born in the UK from 1994 to 1995. The children were tracked from birth until they were 18-years-old, allowing researchers to compare rates of becoming obese and overweight among children who reported being bullied and those who hadn’t.

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

Modern learners experience the discord and melody of an ever-changing score while modern leaders are charged with conducting an orchestra of many diverse instruments and unifying them in harmony. This conference will explore the attributes of agile, innovative leaders who leave a legacy tuned with purpose.



Dr Muhammad is one of the most sought after education consultants in North America and currently serves as CEO of the highly regarded New Frontier 21 Consulting. As a middle school teacher, assistant principal and principal, he earned numerous awards both as a teacher and principal. Anthony is recognised as a leading expert in the fields of school culture and organisational climate. His work and passion for changing cultural dynamics have seen him work successfully with schools across the US and around the world.


Dr Fox is a modern day ‘wizard-rogue’, author and leadership adviser. With expertise in motivational design, Jason shows forward-thinking leaders around the world how to unlock new progress and build for the future of work. Named Keynote Speaker of the Year by Professional Speakers Australia, he delivers fresh thinking to instil the curiosity so needed for future relevance, purpose and growth. His clients include Fortune 500 companies, he’s the bestselling author of The Game Changer and his research has featured in the likes of Smart Company, BRW and The Financial Review.


Holly Ransome is the CEO of Emergent, a company specialising in the development of high performing intergenerational workforces, exceptional leadership and sustainable social outcomes. Working with corporations, governments and non-profit organisations, Holly is renowned for generating innovative solutions to complex multi-stakeholder problems. She coaches and professionally mentors leaders around the world and, in 2014, was appointed to chair Australia’s G20 Youth Summit. In 2016, she Co-Chaired the United Nations Global Coalition of Young Women Entrepreneurs and became the youngest ever female Director of an AFL Club.


Dr Murgatroyd is an expert on innovative policy and practice, the author of some 40 books and a frequent contributor to radio and news media. As a skilled communicator with the simple goal of improving performance, Stephen makes a difference to organisations through challenge, change and innovation. He is the new CEO of the Collaborative Media Group, a company focussed on providing organisations with creative technology solutions to their performance challenges, by using social media technology, consulting, mentoring and video production facilities.


Linda Kaser and Judy Halbert are co-leaders of Networks of Inquiry and Innovation and the Aboriginal Enhancement of Schools Network. They have served as principals, district leaders and policy advisors with the Ministry of Education in the areas of innovative leadership, district change, rural education, literacy and Aboriginal education. They are the co-directors of the Centre for Innovative Educational Leadership at Vancouver Island University and also Canadian representatives to the OECD international research program on Innovative Learning Environments.


The Royal ICC, or better known as the Brisbane Showgrounds, is just 1.6km from Brisbane CBD, 15 minutes from Brisbane Domestic and International Airports and is in easy reach of the Gold and Sunshine Coasts.

Address 600 Gregory Terrace, Bowen Hills Brisbane, QLD 4006.

Parking is available at the Royal ICC for a fee of $12 per day at various locations.

Trains Bowen Hills and Fortitude Valley railway stations are less than a 10 minute walk from the Royal ICC.


There are a number of accommodation options within easy walking distance to the Royal ICC:


Early Bird Registration to the 2017 APPA National Conference will open in Term 4, 2016.
Full registration to the APPA Conference includes the welcome function, opening ceremony, all conference sessions, the conference dinner and entertainment.


The APPA 2017 National Conference is organised by a committee made up of APPA and national sector principals association representatives based in Queensland, and representatives of QASSP, QCPPA and IPSHA – Qld. The Committee looks forward to bringing together another hugely successful conference in Brisbane 2017.

QASSP is delighted to be appointed Conference Organisers of the 2017 APPA National Conference. For more information about this conference, please contact Magdalene St Clare, QASSP Business Manager and APPA Conference Manager on ph (07) 3831 7011 or email


    A recent independent study by Associate Professor Catherine Attard from the Western Sydney Unversity showed that students who used Matific in their classroom improved their overall test results.

    In fact, the quantitative data collected indicated an overall improvement of 34%.

    One of the most significant outcomes that emerged from the data is that Matific assists learning. The size and structure of the Matific episodes allow students to maintain better focus on very specific mathematical concepts and skills, and this focus is maintained specifically because of the way the episodes are structured.

    Matific is an online maths resource for students in K-6. Matifics’s pedagogy, interactive games and rich content really does make for the perfect teaching and learning environment.

    Register your school for a 30-day trial in 2017 and see for yourself why 9 out of 10 Australian teachers would recommend the program to their peers.

    You can even lock us in for your 2017 Professional Development day!

Balancing act

November 2016

The disruptive power of exercise

The author of ‘Healthy brain, happy life’, neuroscientist Wendy Suzuki, explains how a personal commitment to aerobic exercise impacted on her mood, memory, social life and brain function.

Seek help

Recollecting the build-up of stressful events that preceded the death of her husband, principal Lynda Thompson concludes that no job is worth a life. The ‘Age’ article provides three telephone numbers that can be used by people experiencing difficulties.

Exercise and nutrition for middle-aged adults

Dr Stella Volpe points out that it is never too late to start becoming an active and healthy individual.

Medical checkups: why they matter

Preventative health checks are highly beneficial in the long-term management of your health, explains this doctor.

The ‘five musts’ of a sustainable exercise program

An Australian resident in the UAE explains how to make exercise and fitness a regular way of life. Fancy equipment is not always necessary, he says. Michael Haddin amuses his TED Talks audience by providing five simple exercises that can be done without going to the gym.

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

Body Esteem Education – Not Just for Secondary Schools

Why body esteem education?

Children as young as 4 are already developing a weight bias – thin is good, fat is bad. It is no wonder then that for young people aged 6-19, body image continues to be a significant and growing concern (Mission Australia Youth Survey, BTN Happiness Survey).

It is easy to see then how body esteem, which relates to the thoughts, feelings and attitudes a person has in relation to their physical self, is closely related to self- esteem.

Primary schools do a fantastic job of developing the skills and strategies young people need to cope with the challenges of adolescence and transition to high school. Therefore, including body esteem education into already existing wellbeing programs can further benefit your students.

The Butterfly Foundation has offered Education Services around Australia since 2006 and is considered a reputable leader in prevention focused, body esteem education. Our sessions are evidence based and work to address the modifiable risk factors and protective factors that underpin the development of eating disorders.

How can Butterfly Education support your school?

  • For years 3-6, workshops and presentations with consistent, progressive and appropriate messaging and are mapped to the Australian curriculum.
  • Free to BE: A Body Esteem Resource for years 3-12.
  • Staff professional development on the importance of prevention and implementing strategies.
  • For parents, an interactive session to help families better understand body esteem and support the development of healthy body image in their children.

To find out what services are available in your state contact

Helen Bird – Education Administration
02 8456 3908

If you are concerned about someone contact
The Butterfly Foundation National Help Line 1800 ED HOPE (1800 33 4673)


Something different

November 2016

Return to strict discipline?

A report on a recent study, published in the ‘International Journal of Educational Management’, says that strict, high-discipline countries are the highest performing countries academically. The lead author of both studies, Associate Professor Chris Baumann, from Macquarie University, suggests that Australian classrooms should return to the stricter disciplinary approach that was pushed out by ‘permissive’ education in the 1970s. 

Innovative learning environments

What sort of learning environments does your school have? Are you making the best use of your teaching space? Jo Earp interviews Associate Professor Wes Imms, from the the Melbourne Graduate School of Education, and Lead Chief Investigator of the Innovative Learning Environments and Teacher Change project.

Meet nano-tutor Jill Watson

According to Professor Ashkok Goel, from Georgia Institute of Technology, AI (artificial intelligence) systems for education are becoming easier and cheaper to build. He said there was now a ‘grand challenge’ to use AI to transform teaching, not only in teaching computing science but across all areas of learning.

‘Pink’ helps to revive ‘sleeping’ language

A robot called ‘Pink’ is being used at Maitland Lutheran School, in South Australia, to assist with the revival of a ‘sleeping’ indigenous language. ‘It’s also showing that we are really only limited by our imagination into ways we can embed Aboriginal and Torres-Strait Islander history and cultures into teaching and learning,’ said education consultant Monica Williams.

Parents and students vote to end homework

Three-out-of-five parents and four-out-of-five students at Inverlochy Primary, in northern Scotland, recently voted to terminate homework. Instead, children will be encouraged to play, read and learn independently.

KidsMatter Primary is a proven mental health and wellbeing framework for primary schools. It provides expert knowledge, tools and support to help schools grow healthy young minds and care for children’s mental health. KidsMatter is backed by the expertise of Principals Australia Institute, beyondblue and the Australian Psychological Society.

My word

November 2016

Justin Campbell

‘If education funding is to continue to increase more than GDP, Australians deserve a return on that investment. The past decade would suggest increased centralised control will not deliver those returns. It's time for a libertarian education revolution’, says this economist and executive committee member of Liberty Works.

Phillip Heath

‘I have a growing suspicion that the way Australian culture is expressing itself, and it's not only boys schools promoting machismo, but the lack of awareness informed through another experience is diminishing some of our young people as they move through to university, and they are missing opportunities to learn respect,’ said the principal of Barker College. The Sydney school has announced that it will become fully coeducational by 2022.

Philip Grutzner

Carey Grammar School, in Melbourne, has announced that female students will have the option of wearing pants and shorts to school, in addition to the current option of dresses and skirts. ‘I think this is in keeping with the progressive nature of our school,’ said Philip Grutzner. The school’s Gender Equity Team recently explored uniform options, and feedback from the school community was considered, before the final decision was made.

Michael Wilshaw

According to the outgoing chief inspector of Ofsted, schools in England receive no recognition for their ‘incredible achievement’ in helping immigrants integrate successfully into society. ‘In Germany, France, Finland, Italy and Switzerland, for instance, children of immigrants do far worse in school than their native peers. Not so in England. Our schools are remarkable escalators of opportunity. Whatever cultural tensions exist outside of school, race and religion are not treated as handicaps inside them. All children are taught equally. And contrary to tabloid claims, non-immigrant children do not suffer, rather the reverse. Schools, it turns out, are great forces for social cohesion.’

Dennis Yarrington

The Australian Primary Principals’ Association wants all Australian children to become eligible for school if they are aged five before the end of April. APPA president Dennis Yarrington said: ‘It is confusing for families ... especially those who move across state and territory boundaries.’ Mr Yarrington said a standardised cut-off date would give families with children turning five in the first term an opportunity to decide whether to start school that year or wait.

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.

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The problem – school leaders are feeling the effects of other people’s emotional distress

The 2011–2014 Principal Health and Wellbeing Report showed a number of factors contributing to principal stress levels. Conversations with staff, parents and students were highlighted as among the most fraught and challenging encounters faced by principals and deputies.

From the report:

There is an urgent need to establish an independent authority to investigate three types of offensive behaviour identified as consistently occurring in schools: 1. adult-adult bullying (occurring at 4-times the rate of the general population); 2. threats of violence (occurring at 5-times the rate of the general population); and, 3. actual violence (occurring at 7-times the rate of the general population).

Systematic attention also needs to be paid to the professional learning of principals and deputy/assistant principals, and presumably teachers, in the emotional aspects of their roles and the emotional investment of parents in their children, which may underlie the high rate of violence and threats principals and deputy/assistant principals are experiencing. In-service provision of education on the emotional aspects of teaching, learning, organizational function, emotional labour, dealing with difficulties and conflicts in the workplace, employee assistance programs, debriefing self and others appears to be urgently needed.

A solution – run workshops for school leaders to assist them in how to better handle tough conversations

APPA partner, Parentshop, has been holding a series of Tough Conversations workshops nationally since 2015 to better equip principals and school leaders with a well-honed method for managing and resolving conflict. Over the past 12 months more than 400 leaders have benefited from the course. Each workshop provides practical steps for holding tough conversations with parents, staff and students.

From 2017 onwards, we are expanding the reach of our workshop audience to pre-school and lower primary school leaders. You can see what leaders have thought so far about Tough Conversations by clicking on this link.

The job – become a Tough Conversations trainer

An opportunity exists for a recently retired principal/leader to teach colleagues around the nation how to manage tough conversations with parents, staff or students.

As a lead trainer, your job would be to:

  1. Initially shadow Michael Hawton or Dr Rob Steventon – lead trainers in this field – so that you can present these workshops independently in 2017-18.
  2. Make yourself available to attend training / workshop days led by Michael or Rob (for which you would be paid a stipend, accommodation and travel expenses).
  3. Be willing to work to an already-in-use script and PowerPoint presentation.
  4. Observe behaviour during, for example, role-plays, and noting presence/absence of desired behaviours.
  5. Demonstrate practices, engage all participants and be willing to role-play.
  6. Be very organised – by preparing well, keeping to commitments (turning-up at the right place on the right day) and maintaining a tight schedule for the day, so that everything is covered. (You will be supported by our events coordinator, who is ‘all-over’ the events- logistics!)
  7. Give both corrective and affirming feedback after role-plays.

How to apply

Expressions of interest are sought from experienced, recently retired school leaders, who would be willing to consult with Parentshop (under contract) to teach fellow leaders conflict resolution skills taught at this workshop.

To apply for this position, you will need to address each of the five selection criteria:

  • Demonstrated adult-to-adult teaching ability.
  • Experience in managing tough conditions (we’ll ask you about this at interview).
  • Demonstrated interest or well-read background in conflict resolution (again, we’ll ask you about this at interview).
  • A motivation (bordering on a passion) to help principals reduce their stress levels.
  • A capacity to travel to training events nationally and throughout the year.

Psychological knowledge and qualifications would be well regarded.

Contact Michael Hawton to discuss if you’re interested in finding out more about this role. Michael’s phone number is 0422 214 430.

Applications need to be sent to:

Applications close on 31 October, 2016.

Interviews for this position will be held in November 2016 with a start from early 2017.

Michael Hawton and Parentshop are valued APPA partners


Money matters

November 2016

Private school enrolments growing

According to Australian Bureau of Statistics figures, independent primary school enrolments have grown by 29% from 2006 to 2015, while government and Catholic school system enrolments have experienced 11 and 12% increases, respectively. This article provides some interesting figures on the wide range of fees paid for primary schooling in different contexts.

Teaching children financial literacy

The Commonwealth Bank’s Start Smart strategy now includes a pilot program which uses virtual reality technology to teach year 1 and 2 children to differentiate between a ‘need’ and a ‘want’.

Pioneers in Philanthropy

Six contributors, including David Gonski, will personally donate $750,000 over the next five years, which, together with another $750,000 from the Commonwealth Bank, will make up a $5.25 million gift to not-for-profit group Schools Plus. The six benefactors, to be known as the Pioneers in Philanthropy, will fund about 75 projects in disadvantaged schools over the next five years.

Mining royalties help to pay for lunch

For the next three years, students attending school in a remote community 800 kilometres north-west of Alice Springs, will enjoy a healthy lunch provided by a community trust. The Northern Territory Government funds the staff and the kitchen equipment, but the food funding will also come from local sources, via the Granites Mine Affected Area Aboriginal Corporation. The corporation receives mining compensation payments from a gold mine in the Tanami desert.

Call for more inner city primary schools

An independent report commissioned by the City of Sydney has found that, by 2025, the number of primary school-aged students in its jurisdiction will double. Although some commentators argue that sufficient money has not been put aside for new inner city schools, a NSW Department of Education spokesperson said the State Government was ‘making a significant investment in education infrastructure in the City of Sydney local government area.’

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Love the job

November 2016

Mrs Susan Walker

Deputy Principal, Sacred Heart College
New Town, Tasmania

Describe your current school, its students, the demographics of your school community, and any special challenges and/or strengths.

I am one of two deputy principals of a coeducational college that ranges from kindergarten to year 10. While the focus of my role is specifically in the primary campus (K-6), I am a senior member of the college leadership team and will undertake college principal responsibilities when required to do so.

Sacred Heart College has a student population of approximately 950. Students are drawn from all social demographics, rural and urban, and from different cultures. We are a highly inclusive college, providing support for a broad range of learning and social/emotional needs, as well as having a high Humanitarian Entrant and EAL enrolment. The college has representation from over 35 different cultural backgrounds.

Our Josephite Catholic College is one of Hobart’s oldest, educating children from as early as 1888. Our central ethos and charism focuses on the values of love, compassion and justice. The multicultural and inclusive character of the college is definitely considered to be a major strength. In saying that, we do recognise the numerous challenges we face in ensuring the provision of appropriate resources and support in answering those needs.

How many years have you been a school leader?

I have been in my current position for the past six years. Prior to that, I held various leadership positions, both here and at other primary schools, over a period of about 10 years.

What motivated you to become a school leader (and when)?

When I returned from living overseas for a short time in 2004, I worked through a lengthy period of particularly challenging teaching. I came to realise that I might have something to offer in the way of furthering educational change and school improvement. I also worked with two different principals in different time periods, and both were particularly inspiring. I decided to undertake further study in a Master of Educational Leadership, which I completed in 2009. This study, and the work I’ve done with the principals, proved to be incredibly valuable learning that I continue to draw upon to this day.

What was your first leadership role, where was it located, and what were some of your early challenges as a new leader?

I had various acting roles before I undertook a permanent leadership position as assistant to the role I currently hold. Some of my early challenges were in coming to understand the responsibilities inherent in the roles and recognising that any vision or school improvement ideas I held were actually valid and had potential. Positive listening and communication skills were honed very quickly, as was an understanding that my colleagues actually looked to me for guidance and support in their endeavours, and that I had to be authentic in understanding their perspectives and needs, as well as my own.

When I began my current role as deputy, the College was also on the verge of undergoing major and much needed rebuilding and structural changes in the primary campus. The challenge for me was to look at our learning environments and teaching structures with fresh eyes and have major input into the college’s school improvement processes. It was a fantastic opportunity to be a ‘big picture’ thinker and help develop historic and traditional buildings into what are now highly effective open learning and teaching spaces. We have also developed wonderful nature-based play areas and collaborative, shared teaching teams in each year level, from kindergarten to year 6. We have exciting new furniture, too, which has been very well received.

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Love the job

November 2016

Mrs Susan Walker

Deputy Principal, Sacred Heart College
New Town, Tasmania

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As a new principal, what was the most useful lesson you ever learned from a more experienced principal colleague?

To listen intently and not react, become defensive or judge. To not take things at a personal level and to show empathy wherever possible. To be approachable and try to understand first, before trying to help or be understood yourself (one of the habits of highly effective people).

What makes you smile at work?

The welcome I receive from students, parents and staff. The happy ‘Good morning’ that greets me every day.

In managing your staff, what are your most valuable skills and beliefs?

I like to think of myself as a team member, rather than a manager. In doing this, I think that I help to empower all staff to be leaders, in their own way. I have heard that I am very approachable and I make a point of valuing everyone’s ideas and suggestions, even if I do not always agree with them sometimes. I always try to reach compromise and/or consensus, wherever possible. Team membership is the most important belief that I have. I believe that everyone I work with has gifts and talents they can contribute as part of a team. The building of positive relationships is of paramount importance.

What was the best day you ever had as a school leader?

It is very difficult to name one best day, as I have been very fortunate to have had many. I guess the answer would be when everyone has worked towards a particular project or an educational change and it has been successful. It might be a special event, new buildings, curriculum projects or accreditation . . . the list is endless. There are always celebrations when something has gone right or when something has been well received by the college community.

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Love the job

November 2016

Mrs Susan Walker

Deputy Principal, Sacred Heart College
New Town, Tasmania

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What was the toughest day you ever had as a school leader?

Again, I think the answer is the same as question 8. There have been many tough days to overcome, but I think the most prominent are when you are called upon to show pastoral support when things have gone wrong. This is usually the case when dealing with the high level behaviours of students who are struggling, both socially and emotionally. And, as part of that, it is challenging to show the highest possible pastoral care to parents, and sometimes staff, when required. But I always have the mantra that behaviours happen for a reason and an essential part of our leadership role is to try to identify and understand those reasons and then try to put strategies in place to assist in overcoming them. Most of the time it works, but sometimes it doesn’t.  That’s when you need to take a deep breath, understand that you have done your best, and move on.

What was the funniest single thing that ever happened to you as a school leader?

Fortunately, I laugh a lot with my colleagues and our students and we are always up for harmless fun during the school day. I think the funniest times are when I laugh at myself, especially if I’ve made a gaff during important assemblies or events where parents are present. It’s great to see parents and students laugh along with me when I start to laugh at my own mistakes.

I also love to dress up whenever the opportunity presents itself, such as in Book Week each year, and find that the children love seeing their principal in costume. There have been some very funny episodes with those costumes, too!

What tips would you give new school leaders about staying positive and keeping their energy levels high?

Build a solid team around you and always remember that you are not on your own. There is always someone to seek advice from and they may be able to share a much clearer perspective. Talking about things always makes even the biggest issues seem smaller. Solving all of the problems is not your sole responsibility. Also, accepting that you may not have the answer is essential – but someone else might and a part of leadership is seeking out that person.

Another thing that I have found helpful is to maintain your classroom practice, where possible. I actively teach for a small part of each week and find that this not only keeps ‘my reason for being’ in the role front and centre, but also allows me to maintain my teaching skills, while at the same time putting new pedagogies into practice. After all, I cannot ask or expect our staff to practice something that I am unwilling or unable to do myself.

Also, always be mindful of maintaining ‘your own time’. This might take some practice at first. However, if you can be firm with yourself and take time out that is guilt-free, then this goes a long way to maintaining a healthy balance and keeps you smiling as you face those tough days.

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 Josephite charism of our College: to ‘Never see a need without doing something about it.’ The sense of service that is embedded in our school. Sometimes we do get a ‘thank you’ for some assistance that we might have offered and my response is always the same… ‘You’re more than welcome. It is all part of what we do.’

How do you achieve (or are trying to achieve) a positive work-life balance?

I have to admit that this has been a challenge over the past few years. However, I have found that as I have gained more experience in the role, I have started to lower the expectations of myself to more realistic levels and to understand that no one is irreplaceable. Taking time out away from school, to pursue whatever interests I find relaxing, has been essential. Lately, it has been in working on personal writing projects. I also play golf regularly and socialise with my family and friends. I love to travel, too, so will take opportunities when I can to experience different cultures and people.

What special measures do you take (if any) to protect and nurture your own health and welfare?

Recent challenging personal life experiences have taught me that there are much bigger things at play in my life than ‘just work’ and that, while it is very important to give of yourself as much as you can, you also have to protect yourself so that you can give your best. Relaxation and exercise have become very important. Meditation and long walks, playing golf, gardening and being present for family and friends have all helped to keep me grounded and healthy. I still have a little way to go in building ‘guilt free’ habits but am happy with the progress I have made so far.

What do you see yourself as doing with your life after the principalship?

Hopefully, that is a little way off yet, but initially I will want to continue to make valuable contributions to the College, or wherever else I might be working -  maybe through teaching in learning support or in staff development.  After that, in helping out in community projects through the college and parish.

And then ... I hope to focus on my family, to write and continue to travel. Maybe I’ll be able to combine all three!

Mrs Susan Walker, Deputy Principal
Sacred Heart College, Hobart, Tasmania


Interviewees urgently sought for 2017 series of ‘Connected Leader’

Do you love your job?
Primary school principals across Australia, from Catholic, government and independent schools, are invited to contact the Managing Editor of ‘Connected Leader’, Debra Crouch, who is currently seeking interviewees for the remainder of the 2017 series of ‘Love the Job’ (written) interviews. To express your interest in assisting with this project, please contact Debra at: or 0413 009988.

Managing Editor, APPA 'Connected Leader'

Debra J. Crouch
Mobile: 0413 009988

Connected Leader

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