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


October 2014

Dear Colleagues,

The release of the Curriculum Review Report and the Government's ‘Initial Responses’ early this week created great media interest in primary education. I will comment on a couple of opinion pieces that appeared in the ‘Australian’ newspaper after this brief response to the recommendations.

The Government has identified five key themes in the Report recommendations:

  1. resolving the overcrowded curriculum
  2. improving parental engagement around the curriculum
  3. improving accessibility for all students
  4. rebalancing the curriculum
  5. reviewing ACARA governance.

As has been previously written in this column, APPA's submission to the Review focused almost exclusively on the theme of overcrowding. Naturally, we are delighted that both the Review Panel and the Australian Government have indicated this issue must be addressed as a matter of priority. On this and the associated issue of 'reconceptualisation' of the curriculum, APPA will argue strongly for the voice of the profession to be heard before any decisions are made. To believe, for example, there are only two ways to skin a curriculum cat strikes me as somewhat optimistic. I would expect much wider debate before this matter is settled.

The provision of documents and other resources to assist parents to understand the content taught in each year of primary school is an initiative primary principals will obviously welcome. APPA will advocate for any materials to be descriptive rather than diagnostic in nature and for advice to parents about working in partnership with teachers to be unambiguous.

The theme of accessibility for all students to the curriculum is important to APPA and we would expect to participate in any process designed to improve it. The curriculum provisions for students with disabilities for example must not be a ‘bolted on afterthought’ to the Australian Curriculum. However, APPA's advocacy priority in this area will continue to be to influence all Australian governments to ensure adequate resources are available to support the students with disabilities in our classrooms. This is much more than a curriculum review theme!

APPA’s submission to the Review certainly touched on balance in the curriculum. We believe there are examples of the Cross-curriculum Priorities being applied in a manner that is tenuous at best. Any work that addresses the nature and application of Cross-curriculum Priorities in the primary school must include input from APPA. The General Capabilities – strongly endorsed in our submission – must be given greater importance in the revised Australian Curriculum. APPA sees the involvement of successful primary educators in this work to make it a reality.

ACARA's governance and its remit have not assisted nationally consistent implementation of the Australian Curriculum. Any changes to structure that allowed ACARA to act on behalf of all education systems and to provide evidence of what works best in curriculum provision and student assessment would be welcomed by APPA. We continue to have confidence in ACARA's ability to lead nationally consistent approaches to this work.

Turning now to the public debate. Minister Pyne in his opinion piece in the ‘Australian’ said, ‘Having a national curriculum enables efficiencies in development and implementation through the sharing of learning and teaching resources. It makes clear what all Australian students should learn and the quality of learning expected as they progress through school. It signals to teachers what is to be taught and informs parents what should be expected from the education system regardless of where they live.’

APPA agrees with Minister Pyne. An Australian Curriculum makes sense. Arguing for greater autonomy in his opinion piece, Stephen Elder, Executive Director of Catholic Education Victoria, said of his submission to the Review Panel, ‘We recommended the scope of the Australian curriculum be limited to a maximum of 80 per cent of available teaching time, enabling flexibility for individual schools or jurisdictions to provide local and topical content, including religious education and the opportunity for deep learning.’ APPA agrees with Stephen Elder. The Australian Curriculum must not require all the time or resources available to primary schools for implementation.

Lest it be thought that APPA isn’t sure where it stands on this issue, let me say this. There is no forced dichotomy here. It is not a national curriculum or a school-based one. There is room for both national consistency at the core and school, even classroom, curriculum provision to enrich it. APPA will work tirelessly to ensure that the processes established to address the review panel recommendations result in a stronger curriculum for primary students and their teachers.

All the best,


Norm Hart
President, Australian Primary Principals Association


Principals in the news

October 2014

Paul Zernike

Milton State School principal, Paul Zernike, wins the admiration of education colleagues for cycling 84km around Brisbane, with 1000 other riders, in support of a number of Queensland charities.

Melissa Powell

Melissa Powell, currently head of International School of Western Australia in Perth, has been appointed as the new principal of Clayfield College, in Brisbane.

Christopher Sexton

Victorian principal Christopher Sexton has formally relinquished his position at Wales Street Primary School after a lengthy investigation into an asbestos-related incident. Mr Sexton will now take up ‘a new opportunity’ with DEECD.

Colin Minke

Colin Minke, the principal of Tatachilla Lutheran College, in South Australia, will take on the leadership of Immanuel Lutheran College, in Queensland, from term 2 next year.

Len Christie

The principal of Beechboro Primary School, in Western Australia, has distributed an inspiring letter to his students following the release of the recent NAPLAN results, telling them the tests are ‘unable to measure all of what it is that makes you the valued person that you are.’

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Opinion and analysis

October 2014

Christopher Pyne

ABC Radio interviewed Federal Education Minister Christopher Pyne about the recently released report on school curriculum.

Joy Burch

‘We can't change curriculums every time we change governments,’ said the ACT’s Minister for Education, Joy Burch. ‘I have confidence that the national curriculum has been developed wisely. But that said, there is always time to go back and have a look to make sure we get it right.’

Tony Bryant

The principal of Silverton Primary School, in Victoria, is concerned by the Federal Government curriculum review’s suggestion that critical and creative thinking no longer needs to be embedded in all subjects.

Ron Glatter

Those interested in alternative education governance models being considered in other countries will be interested in this negative commentary on a recent proposal to manage some UK schools by legal contract.

Henry Grossek

The Principal of Berwick Lodge Primary School is concerned about Victoria’s agreement to cooperate with the Federal Government’s plan to create 1500 ‘independent public schools’ by 2017. ‘We already have the highest level of independent schools in the developed world and, on the basis of OECD results, we aren't near the top at the moment’, says Mr Henry Grossek.

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Research, reports and statistics

Oct 2014

Home schooling on the rise

Figures from Education Queensland’s home education unit show that there were 157 home schooled students on the Sunshine Coast last year. This year, the number has risen to 220..

Father's education linked to school achievement

According to a report from the UK’s Office for National Statistics, children are seven and a half times less likely to be successful at school if their father failed to achieve, compared with children with highly educated fathers.

Statistics show high level of inactivity

Research shows that four in five children do not meet national guidelines of one hour of physical activity per day, while only one in five secondary school children and one-third of primary school children walks or cycles to school.

Contaminated playgrounds

Research published in the journal ‘Environmental Research’ explains how children may be exposed to contaminants (especially the neurotoxin, lead) in some play areas.

Psychological factors critical to school success

Personality, confidence and other psychological factors are just as influential as innate intelligence when it comes to educational achievement, British researchers have found.

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Education news

October 2014

Federal Government curriculum review

The Federal Government-commissioned report into school curriculum has been released. The review recommended ‘rebalancing the curriculum’ to ensure that what students were being taught was appropriate and that there were no gaps in content across key subjects.

Alleged staffing irregularities

As a result of an investigation into alleged staff recruitment irregularities in Queensland’s Department of Education, Training and Employment, a 59-year-old woman from Parkwood and a 60-year-old Mermaid Beach man have been issued with Notices to Appear, on one count each of misconduct in relation to public office.

Death threats

The principal of the Maronite College of the Holy Family, in Harris Park, Sydney, called police after an incident in which men made general death threats from a car outside the school. Witnesses reported that the small triangular flag featured Arabic words similar to ‘There is only one god and Muhammad is the prophet’.

Armed intruder

Police were recently called to al-Faisal College, in Minto, Sydney after a man allegedly armed with a knife entered the school ground, asking if he was in a Muslim school and threatening a teacher and some students.

Florida student asked to wear 'shame suit'

A complaint under the USA’s ‘Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act’ is being launched after a Florida student was asked to wear what her mother describes as a ‘shame suit’, i.e. a ‘dress code violation outfit’ that included an oversized neon yellow t-shirt.

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Balancing act

October 2014

Eight mental health self-saboteurs

Here are eight common ways that many of us self-sabotage our mental health, without even realizing it.

Choosing a better lifestyle

Data from Newcastle University, in the UK, suggests that ageing is not predetermined (at least to some extent). Research increasingly suggests that, for most of us, the genetic hand we are dealt at birth accounts for only one-quarter of what determines how long we live.

Healthy lifestyle and cancer risk

Adopting multiple healthy behaviours may significantly reduce the risk for bowel cancer, according to a recent study by the German Institute of Human Nutrition Potsdam-Rehbruecke.

Anger management techniques that work

Don’t be someone else’s emotional puppet. Dr Christian Conte presents two practical anger management strategies.

How your brain can turn anxiety into calmness

Physician, author, speaker, researcher, and consultant Dr Martin L. Rossman discusses how to use the power of the healing mind to reduce stress and anxiety, relieve pain, change lifestyle habits, and live with more wellness.

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Policy and innovation

October 2014

Policy change after chemical accident

Changes will be made to the way science experiments are conducted in Queensland Catholic Education schools after 57 students were treated for chemical burns to their faces and arms earlier this year.

Importance of computer coding

The Federal Government will spend $3.5 million improving computer coding education in primary and secondary schools, as part of its 'Competitiveness Agenda'. ‘We must recognise basic coding as a foundation skill and build it into the national curriculum,’ said the President of the Australian Computer Society, Allan Patterson.

New ICT support portal

The NT Department of Education is rolling out an ICT support portal called iCentre, which will bring together data from separate DoE systems (currently used to manage ICT) into one portal. The new system will enhance the DoE’s capabilities to deliver ICT support to 40,000 staff and students in 245 schools across the NT.

Leader in school solar power

Mazenod College announced on 7 October that it has commissioned Australia’s largest rooftop solar photovoltaic (PV) installation for a school, totalling 270kW and 1000 solar panels, on its campus in Mulgrave, Victoria.

Naughty box and special taxi

Not all innovations are automatically understood and/or supported by all members of the school community, as US elementary school principal Michael Granado discovered when he introduced two new discipline strategies.

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Professional skill-building

October 2014

Never forget a face

This animation from the BBC’s ‘Brainsmart’ program provides some practical advice on how to remember people’s names.

Three powerful tips to beat procrastination

Arina Nikitina provides three extremely powerful techniques used by most successful people to beat procrastination.

How to dream big and live without limits

Want to be the best principal you can be? Brian Tracey lists three strategies for your desired success.

How to speak so that people want to listen

Communication expert Julian Treasure demonstrates some useful vocal exercises and shares tips on how to speak with empathy.

Power posing

Social psychologist Amy Cuddy explains the influence of one’s body language and various poses on self-perception, and therefore, the outcomes of a social situation.

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Money matters

October 2014

WA schools worse off after funding cuts

Education funding cuts will leave 90 per cent of Western Australia’s public school students worse off, claims the State School Teachers' Union.

Growth of federal funding

Budget forward estimates show federal funding will increase by a further 40 per cent to government schools and 17 per cent to non-government schools in real terms by 2017-18. This by far exceeds growth in enrolments in either sector,’ reports Jennifer Buckingham.

Rising cost of school camps

NSW Primary Principals' Association president, Geoff Scott, said the cost of excursions had ‘shot up in recent years and it was not uncommon for week-long camps to cost more than $1000.’

End of Education Maintenance Allowance

Victoria's most disadvantaged schools will receive $42.5 million in 2015 to replace the Education Maintenance Allowance, which is set to expire.

Rising cost of boarding fees

The Isolated Children’s Parents’ Association (ICPA) Queensland’s annual state conference is being held this week in Townsville. ICPA President, Andrew Pegler said families and communities continue to struggle with the rising cost of boarding fees and lack of suitable government policies.

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Love the job

October 2014

Dennis Yarrington

Principal, Harrison School
Canberra, ACT

Provide a brief description of where you currently work as a school leader.

I am currently Principal of Harrison School, in the ACT. The school is a preschool to year 10 campus, with over 1400 students. I opened the school in 2008 with 335 students (P-6). We added a year from 2011 to fill the secondary campus.

How long have you been a school leader? What/where was your first appointment?

My school leadership journey began as an executive teacher and consultant, before taking on principal roles. I have been a school principal for 14 years. I had the opportunity to be acting principal at a small country school in central New South Wales, before being appointed to a school in Orange. The small school welcome was working out what the shovel behind the door was needed for in the school. Our office manager said when the kids see a snake they call for the Headmaster (term used at the time) to ‘deal with it’. Thankfully I survived the year without having an unwanted visitor in the playground.

When, and why, did you originally want to become a school leader?

After my experience in the small school, I decided to take a serious look at school leadership as I had enjoyed, and received great satisfaction, from leading a community.

What makes you smile at work?

I think the comments from children about the world and their perspective on events make me smile the most. They remind you of what is really important.

(continued on next page)


Love the job

October 2014

Dennis Yarrington

Principal, Harrison School
Canberra, ACT

(continued from previous page)

What are you most pleased about in relation to your staff?

I am pleased that I have developed the skills to deal with a wide range of people and strategically inspire people to take up ideas and implement them in the school community.

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

Each day is always different. My best day would be the first day of my new school in 2008, when I declared to all the students, parents and staff, that our new school was open for learning.

What personal and professional attributes helped you through your worst day as a school leader?

This is where I draw strength from my values and beliefs to deal with the challenges I face as a school leader. The attributes that help me include a positive mindset, the ability to remain calm and then to focus on a solution that will allow us to move forward.

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

I remember discussing the process of decision-making with my mentor, in the early years. The advice I was given was to make sure your decision is based on your values or beliefs, and also connect to the vision of the school.

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Love the job

October 2014

Dennis Yarrington

Principal, Harrison School
Canberra, ACT

(continued from previous page)

What is the funniest thing that has ever happened to you as a school leader?

It has been fun being part of the staff item each year at the annual school concert. Each year I arrive at the rehearsals and get directed to my part. One year, the theme included the song ‘Thriller’ and I was expected to do the Michael Jackson ‘moonwalk’. Well, we had people believing it was MJ and so our parents were so impressed. One even put the item on YouTube. This is my only claim to fame.

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

My three tips would include remembering why you are doing this work (visit a classroom daily); secondly, keep yourself fit and healthy (eat well and exercise), and thirdly, have a passion outside school (not in education).

If you could name just one thing that kept you going to school every day, even during tough times, what would that be?

The thing that keeps me coming to school is the chance to influence, or make a difference, to the life of a student. I also enjoy working with the people at school.

Dennis Yarrington,
Principal, Harrison School, Canberra, ACT



Managing Editor, APPA 'Connected Leader'

Debra J. Crouch
Mobile: 0413 009988

Connected Leader

Connected Leader Copyright ©. Australian Primary Principals Association 2014. This whole publication, created as a deliberately selected compilation of internet-based resources, may not be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise without the prior permission of the Australian Primary Principals Association (APPA).

Connected Leader is an official publication of the Australian Primary Principals Association. In close collaboration with APPA, Connected Leader is designed, produced and edited, specifically for APPA members, by Debra J. Crouch, Managing Director of 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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