Australia’s future depends on an educated population that is responsive to a changing world and the challenges it brings.
I hope this Connected Leader finds you well and the challenges of the end of year events and celebrations are energising and rewarding.
This article will highlight the key areas as presented in the submission to the Gonski Review Panel. Our emphasis was on identifying opportunities and making recommendations that can provide the policy and practice direction for addressing the needs of schools and communities across Australia. Two important points were made:
The following has been developed in consultation with the APPA National Advisory Council (NAC). The NAC is comprised of a representative from each of the state and territory principal associations covering Government, Catholic and Independent primary schools.
What do primary schools need?
There is a strong expectation that schools respond to the demands of the workforce and address society’s problems. Although this has been debated widely within the profession, and across the community, there is great confusion on how this should occur. The solution is also compounded by a ‘one-size-fits-all’ assessment priority that has been in place for the past ten years.
APPA is aware of the challenges facing authorities and communities on attracting and retaining leaders. APPA’s recent research “Back to Balance: How policy and practice can make primary principals highly effective” 14 highlights the increasing workload and compliance requirements impacting on principal health and wellbeing. Changes to policy and practice are required to improve the health and wellbeing of our leaders, and attract teachers to leadership positions.
Parent engagement and community partnerships are very much part of the contemporary education setting. There is strong and growing focus on the vital connection between school and home in supporting the learning of children.
APPA contends that the My School website has not demonstrated or contributed to any significant change to school performance. School comparisons on the My School website sit alongside a flattening of results and a reported narrowing of the primary curriculum.
APPA is supportive of continuous learning by schools to ensure children are achieving success and growth. However, the focus should be on empowered accountability not compliance accountability.
APPA has recently completed a major survey and report on Policy to Practice. The report, Back in Balance: How policy and practice can make primary principals highly effective (APPA 2017) identifies that the key to ensuring we have effective leadership is trust and support for our school leaders. Trusting and working with principals and teachers to be empowered to lead their school’s teaching and learning will be the difference between successful reform and more of the same.
Schools need autonomy with curriculum priorities to enable context to be a key component of teaching and learning. Assessment and reporting should be aligned to the school’s need and purpose.
Education must become a long term, bi-partisan approach not interrupted by elections or politics. Our school communities need certainty in a changing world. APPA is very cautious of any drop-in solutions from other countries and believes that, while we can learn from other systems, many of our solutions can be found within our country.
APPA believes a key priority for the panel is to ensure that any educational reforms provide equity for all students, no matter their location, context or family circumstances.
With best wishes for the remainder of the year,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.
Meet Our Inaugural Recipient -
Recipient: Jane Moore Principal: Mark Hansen
Ardtornish Primary School, St Agnes, SA
“Engaging in a discussion about reading and the joy that they can find in the right book has been key to students becoming self-motivated readers” – Jane Moore
“While Jane has championed amongst students a love and excitement for reading, it is the work she has done to assist teachers to promote regular reading that has been the x factor in underpinning successful learning across the curriculum” – Mark Hansen
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.
Oxley College is a co-educational non-denominational school in the Southern Highlands of NSW. The school was established in 1983 for students in years 7-12 and the k-6 section only opened in 2012. The College ethos is based on Christian values with the aim of providing enlightened education that would rival the best schools of Sydney to allow local families the opportunity to provide their children with a high quality education without having to send them away to boarding school. Oxley College is well known as a leader in implementing the teaching and learning strategies of Visible Learning to maximise the impact for our students. It is an inspiring place to work and learn.
How many years have you been a school leader?
I was fortunate to join the staff of Oxley in 2015 as the first Head of K-6. This was my first role as Head.
What motivated you to become a school leader (and when)?
I have been affectionately referred to as a ‘teacher tragic’ and it’s a label I wear with pride. I wanted to be a teacher for as long as I can remember and I still love it as much as I hoped I would way back when. I also consider myself to be an idealist and so when you have strong sense of how education could, and should be, my sense is you feel compelled to bring those ideas to life. For a long time, my ideal school was a hypothetical notion, but then I was fortunate to teach at St Catherine’s in Waverley, an amazing school and one that inspired me to think that there should be more schools where joy and wonder and a genuine love of learning is nurtured in everything that happens. As a leader, I’ve come to appreciate that not just our students, but our teachers deserve to work in this kind of an atmosphere, as well.
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 in that amazing school that I mentioned. I was the deputy responsible for curriculum and gifted education. My challenge was in living up to the task of sustaining the excellent work that had occurred before I arrived, by the talented leaders and teachers who had created this haven I had found myself in. In practical terms, it was about enacting theory in practice and allowing educational priorities to win out over the many new administrative imperatives. Time management and effective communication remain as key challenges to be managed so that the important work of mobilising others for the good of our students can continue unimpeded.
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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?
I’ve learnt from several leaders to develop the belief that courage is the single most important attribute of leaders. It can’t be manufactured but has to be conscientiously cultivated through our own research and reflection to provide the conviction to follow an ambitious and strategic vision. There are so many influences, stakeholders and imperatives that can chip away at a leader’s confidence, in favour of avoiding risk, emphasising compliance and ensuring administrative procedures that we can succumb to mediocrity and merely maintaining the status quo. Please don’t be mistaken, I don’t believe these things should be ignored; safety and security of students is our most important task, but it is the minimum benchmark. The contemporary world is so dynamic and so rapidly changing that, if we are not keeping pace with it, we are falling behind. Education is one of the most complex professions there is due to the fragility of each child, the variety of stakeholders, the breadth of relevant knowledge and the significance of the task of preparing the next generation of future-makers. We need confidence and commitment to be sure-footed in the paths we take.
What makes you smile at work?
I love that notion of asking, ‘What makes your heart sing?’ For me, it is those days when you see students empowered and self-determining. It might be as quiet as the kindy child who shares that it is their first day getting off at turning circle and walking in by themselves, or taking a friend to the office to ensure the adults provide the much needed band-aide or ice pack. Later, it is the older student who has embarked on an inquiry process and then comes into class one day and, without actually saying anything, walks taller and stronger and you can sense that they really hope you don’t need to spend too long talking today as they have learning they need to get on with. Their plan has become clear, they’ve taken ownership of their learning and they respectfully need us to get out of the way. Our role is to prepare independent, self-motivated adults and these small moments are visible steps along that journey.
In managing your staff, what are your most valuable skills and beliefs?
I’m not sure it is a skill but I always try to keep it real with my team. I try always to deal in truth, and to be honest and transparent. I guess my belief is that if we are thoughtful in our leadership it is easier to give reasons for decisions and even to justify unpopular or inconvenient requests. I try to be humble and open to negotiations or questions, to delve into the grey of life and explain the complexity as much as possible. I’m not much into rules but value principles and reasons. In becoming a leader I’ve found a new respect for every member of a team, I see now that the leader is not the top of the team, they just fulfil a different function than others but one that is no more important.
What was the best day you ever had as a school leader?
I can’t recall one best day. I think as a leader my success lies in the success of others and the small and big wins that happen every day in a school. As a school, we’ve done a great deal of work to transform the learning landscape in our classrooms. We’ve taken the roof off our expectations for students, expanded opportunities for student choice and voice and the achievement and level of engagement has been profound. Every teacher in our team is open to learning and I feel so proud of what they achieve and inspire in their students every day. The great thing about this is the feedback that inspires future success, the teachers celebrate the students but also the students’ achievement and response to learning experiences provide immediate and positive feedback to the teachers who see the impact of their actions every day. This makes every day a vibrant and inspiring experience.
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What was the toughest day you ever had as a school leader?
The tough days would be common to every leader. Those are the days when we are called on to support those children, families or colleagues in crisis. It takes an emotional toll to support others when you have no or little power to effect a positive outcome. The strength comes in small but significant ways; knowing that our nurturing community provides support, sometimes even unknowingly, or normalcy for a child for whom that is the most valuable thing at the time. It is the cost of the intense privilege that comes from working with families on an intimate level from time to time. When families are able to share their experiences with us, we can see a faint glimmer of light in their time of darkness that can be fanned by a sense of working together for the good of a child in need.
What was the funniest single thing that ever happened to you as a school leader?
I can’t recall one funniest thing and I sense I’m a little too passionate about learning to be funny myself but we do like to foster a sense of fun. We have a number of teachers who are good at laughing at themselves, with children and colleagues. We laugh a lot when we are tired and silly at the end of a term. Our SRC organises termly events for friend-raising, as well as fundraising, and there is fun to be had in these. There is also an emerging theme of chickens. I was nominated to contribute to our major college fundraising, Pin Oak Fair, last year by wearing a chicken suit on the dunking machine and we regularly end the term with a whole-school chicken dance in assembly. I am only just now putting the two feathery events together!
What tips would you give new school leaders about staying positive and keeping their energy levels high?
I find myself frequently referring to Daniel Pink’s book ‘Drive’. It is about motivation and he believes we need three things; competence, autonomy and purpose. I’m big on purpose. If I feel philosophically aligned with what I’m doing I can maintain my commitment to the preferred and non-preferred aspects of a task but I’m not disciplined enough to do something without that sense of purpose. Secondly, I don’t underestimate the value of my team. At Oxley, I am part of a wonderful College executive team as well as our k-6 team. Laughter and camaraderie keep things in perspective and maintain a sense of support. On a practical level, there is always someone on the team who keeps things buoyant if your resolve or resources are found wanting from time to time.
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?
Children. Children being children.
How do you achieve (or are trying to achieve) a positive work-life balance?
This is definitely in the ‘trying to achieve’ category. It’s the tragic idealist in me that can always find something else to do in any role I’ve held. It has to be about the pull factors towards other sources of satisfaction and joy; friends, family, home and holidays. My next task is to put some time aside to place the stones into my life’s jar of pebbles and sand to make sure I put first things first. This is definitely a work in progress. Yoga is a long-standing but small first step.
What special measures do you take (if any) to protect and nurture your own health and welfare?
As I grow more confident in the role, I sense I am trusting my intuition more, listening to my heart and following my intuition. This helps in fostering a sense of calm and stillness.
What do you see yourself as doing with your life after the principalship?
This isn’t clear for me yet. In my third year of school leadership, I’m still living in the present and enjoying every moment!
Head of K-6
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 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.
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