I write this having just come back from a hugely successful APPA National Conference in Brisbane. We’ll soon get the ‘official’ feedback based on app comments and, from the many conversations I’ve held with delegates, I have no doubt Brisbane will rate up with APPA’s best. See below for more on the Conference and well done to all!
The full report of the APPA Policy to Practice survey report, titled Back to Balance: How Policy and Practice can make Primary Principals Highly Effective, was presented at the APPA National Forum by project leader Norm Hart. The final report and preliminary report, Infographic page and other papers will be available on the APPA website. The document, Key Elements for Growing and Sustaining Leaders, was further discussed at the APPA Forum, with the final document to be released at the start of Term 4.
The APPA National Advisory Council and APPA Conference delegates soundly endorsed the following statement:
Principals of thriving school communities create and build a culture of shared leadership, quality teaching and high expectations for student learning. They engage and work with others to ensure a respectful and inclusive environment for students, staff and all members of the school community. Supporting the health and wellbeing of our principals is an essential ingredient to successful schools and engaged school communities.
Australia’s primary principals are increasingly faced with diverse challenges that impact daily on their health and wellbeing. In recognising that every school needs a highly effective school leader, it is paramount that principals are given the trust and support they need to lead their schools well.
Increasing work demands, excessive accountability and compliance requirements, and unrealistic expectations on schools should not be at the expense of a principal’s physical, mental or emotional health.
Effective leaders develop and model high levels of adaptive leadership skills – flexibility, resilience, creativity and agility. They also demonstrate a positive health and wellbeing outlook and encourage it in others.
Principals associations embrace the obligation to strengthen the profession, develop our school leaders, and promote practices that support their health and wellbeing.
A signed copy will be sent to all members and I strongly urge you to seek endorsement from your employers and jurisdictional leaders.
A copy has been given to the Education Minister, Simon Birmingham, who acknowledged APPA’s leadership in this area.
Well, what a great conference. It had everything from tingling moments at the Welcome to Country to invigorating and stimulating presentations and fantastic networking sessions.
A huge THANK YOU to the Queensland conveners, Trudy Moala, John O’Connor and David Turner, and organising committee members (Karen Pearce, Stephen Montgomery, Debbie Hansen, Leanne Griffiths-Baker, Lee Gerchow, Bruce Langes and Andy Gordon) for their work done in developing and preparing for the conference.
The committee was coordinated by the energetic and hardworking Conference Manager, Magdalene (Mags) St Clare, with support from the QASSP team.
And while I’m talking conferences, check out the APPA Conference 2018 at:
The report is out and it seems the Minister is still keen to introduce. The State and Territory Education Ministers have not endorsed the idea. The Australian Primary Principals Association does not believe we need a national assessment or standardised phonics test. We would see an emphasis and focus on the teaching of strong reading and literacy skills by all teachers across Australia.
And, secondly, schools are already undertaking their own intervention assessments as part of their literacy program. Teachers are constantly assessing and looking at what their students are achieving, what they are needing and quickly putting into place intervention strategies. We don’t want to wait till the end of term 3 to find out if a student is needing some type of intervention. Schools are constantly monitoring and we have a much more informed teaching workforce in our primary schools, that are aware of students at the end of that first formal year. Schools are very much aware of what is needed to address students in need and we would see that a national one size fits all approach is not going to benefit students or teachers across Australia.
We are also very concerned, as we’ve seen already by NAPLAN and My School, that competition and the production of test results does not show any type of impact in improving literacy and numeracy results. We would argue that collaboration and teachers working together with parents and their community are going to have a much better long-term outcome. APPA will be sending to all members a position paper outlining our concerns and alternative options for improving reading outcomes.
The first winner was announced at the National Conference in Brisbane and congratulations goes to Jane Moore from Ardtornish Primary School in South Australia. Also at the presentation was the principal, Mark Hansen. (Jane and Mark pictured with Dennis)
Murray Hawkins from Scholastic is working closely with us in promoting this exciting program to encourage and inspire kids to read.
The APPA Term 3 report is now available on the APPA website.
I wish everyone a restful Term break and great start to Term 4,
Best wishes,Dennis Yarrington
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.
Presbyterian Ladies College is a single K-12 site. The ELC caters for girls and boys from six months to four and five-year-old pre-prep programs. The Junior School is from prep to year 6 and the senior school, years 7 to 12, is for girls only. Boarding is available from year 7. Student demographics are quite diverse, with many local students having an Asian background, as well as some international students. Over time, the school has achieved a consistent record of high academic results. Our school mission establishes a clear direction to educate women for leadership, service, lifelong personal development and learning.
How many years have you been a school leader?
I held a Leading Teacher role in a primary school for six years and I have been head of two junior schools, both girls’ schools, one for eight years and, currently, at PLC for six years.
What motivated you to become a school leader (and when)?
As my career progressed, I found that I had taught at every year level of the primary school and had held a number of specialist teacher positions. I felt a sense of responsibility to lead, and that I had the experience, energy and drive to be able to take on a more substantial leadership position. I was in my early 40’s at this stage, after having had some family leave. Being able to affect a whole-school culture is what initially motivated me to become a school leader; setting agendas for improvement and planning for their achievement as a team.
What was your first leadership role, where was it located, and what were some of your early challenges as a new leader?
My very first leadership role was when I was 12, as a year 6 student, when I was selected to attend a camp at Somers as the only student from my primary school. The main challenge was acting alone. It was a 10-day camp and some children went home because they were homesick. I worked hard so that it that didn’t happen to me. From that early age, I learnt how to be friendly with new people, how to build partnerships in unknown settings, how to use my initiative and how to be open to new ideas and ways of doing things.
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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?
Don’t sweat the small stuff; it could get worse! It’s hard as a new leader to know when to act and when to wait. As you gain experience and confidence, you understand what the consequences of a response or action might be and learn to wait more. ‘Let me think about that’ is a helpful phrase to practise.
What makes you smile at work?
Other people smiling back at me and enjoying so many moments where we laugh together and care for each other, sharing the joys and challenges of every day. The synergies that occur when there is a strong school culture make everyone smile together.
In managing your staff, what are your most valuable skills and beliefs?
Every staff member is an individual and I accept that they have a life beyond work. I believe my staff all know that I expect great teaching from them but that I also will support them through what life challenges they may face. It’s being able to go through the ebbs and flows of each staff member’s life that grows a staff that is strong and connected. Trust and confidence in each other is a belief that is regularly conveyed. I believe that to manage the ongoing change we continually face in education, and for this change to be adopted, it needs to be owned by all. For whole-school approaches to be effectively embedded, I must be patient and wait for teachers to try things out and see what works for their year levels and for the children. In managing my staff, I pride myself also on knowing the work, knowing the people, understanding what effective learning and teaching looks like and being able to model good teaching myself. I don’t think I have to have all the ideas. Staff are encouraged to generate ideas that help us to achieve our academic /strategic goals. By supporting and affirming them publicly, they understand that they are valued professionally as they continue to enrich the teaching and learning programs of our school.
What was the best day you ever had as a school leader?
There are so many best days, here is just one. The girls had to vote, out of three staff, for one of them to dress up as a school girl. I won! When I stepped out into the corridor in school uniform, the joy and laughter was just amazing; they were just so excited that I would do it for them! Of course, my uniform was perfect, shoes shining and hem length correct. Fun days like this are just wonderful to share with children and parents. They allow me to demonstrate humility and create a sense of community. That makes me smile as well!
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What was the toughest day you ever had as a school leader?
The death of a student, parent or staff member is the hardest, when you can’t solve the problem and you can only be a part of the journey. In these situations, you can only be guided by each specific situation and a willingness to walk alongside those most affected, where that is appropriate.
What was the funniest single thing that ever happened to you as a school leader?
For Book Week we were dressing as a character from one of our favourite books. I decided to go as Charlotte the spider, from Charlotte’s Web. The office arranged for my costume and when it arrived they said that they could only get a cockroach costume but that it looked so similar to a spider, the girls wouldn’t notice. As soon as I stepped onto the stage, the girls started calling out, ‘A cockroach, Mrs Penberthy is a cockroach, you’ve got six legs, a spider has eight!’
What tips would you give new school leaders about staying positive and keeping their energy levels high?
As the leader, you don’t have to own all the problems; some problems need to be owned and solved by others. Go away on quiet holidays, a long way away sometimes, and get a renewed perspective.
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?
I have two things. Love the work is my first one (you have to really love the work to keep getting up every day) and, secondly, break the day down into ‘what am I going to achieve today?’ Always have a plan. If you don’t achieve your goals on that day, there is always tomorrow.
How do you achieve (or are trying to achieve) a positive work-life balance?
I have strong family and church support and encouragement, as well as very good cleaning and ironing assistance. I try not to stretch myself too far outside of work and home during term time, leaving lots of energy to do the job required!
What special measures do you take (if any) to protect and nurture your own health and welfare?
Sleep usually solves most problems and the new day always seems brighter. If a problem seems overwhelming, I try to break it down into what I can action and control and what is possibly out of my control, and try not to worry about it. Harder to do than you think!
What do you see yourself as doing with your life after the principalship?
Hmm, good question . . . not ready to answer that yet!
Head of Junior School P-6, Presbyterian Ladies College, Melbourne, Victoria
Debra J. Crouch
Mobile: 0413 009988
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