There’s always plenty of news on the APPA front. Here’s some to help you keep informed.
The APPA National Advisory Council recently met in Adelaide and elected Malcolm Elliott from Tasmania as President and re-elected Phil Seymour from NSW as Deputy President. I congratulate both on their election and look forward to a smooth transition.
We welcome Minister Dan Tehan to the role. We look forward making connections and meeting with the minister soon. We are hoping he will attend the National Conference in Perth. I take this opportunity to acknowledge the work Minister Birmingham has done in Education, especially with teacher education, school leadership, primary principal representation on national boards (ACARA and AITSL) and joining with APPA NAC on many occasions for discussions.
By the time you are reading this we will be in Perth with colleagues for the APPA National Conference. The National Forum on Tuesday 17 September will focus on school leadership development with guest speaker AITSL CEO Lisa Rodgers. At the Conference, we will release APPA’s National Professional Charter for Primary School Leaders. The Charter establishes a common understanding of the professional practice for primary school leaders.
It’s open and you should complete it!
The survey involves all principals, assistants and deputies in every sector of every Australian state and territory. It is continuing in response to ongoing concerns that the increasing complexity and workload demands of school leadership roles are impacting on the health and wellbeing of Australian school leaders.
APPA NAC has developed a ‘Readiness for Learning; Thrive with 5’ flyer that will be released at the conference. The 5 aspects are Play, Talk, Read, Eat well and Sleep. We hope this will be included in school newsletters and available for parents. We will be developing a short and sharp focused version of the 5 aspects for readiness for learning.
This campaign has certainly gained momentum. We are thrilled with the donations coming in from many schools and individuals. The amount is currently well over $50,000 with a big donation form Suiss Bank. One comment from the website: “Saints Peter & Paul Primary School, Garran, ACT had a fun day dressing up as farmers to help support the Hay and Hampers for Hope Campaign.” Thanks to everyone at Saints Peter and Paul in Garran ACT.
For more information go to: https://schoolaidtrust.com/project/drought-hampers-and-hay-for-hope
Principals as STEM Leaders
Building the Evidence Base for Improved STEM Learning (PASL). The PASL project team met with principals at the University of Tasmania in Launceston to review and develop the modules for the program. The program will present modules to 7 clusters across Australia in Term 1, 2019. We will be seeking interested principals to join a cluster with further information coming out soon.
ASIC Money Smart Program and school project
This project will be launched at the APPA National Conference in Perth. Principals will be able to apply for grants of up to $5000 for projects aimed at improving the financial literacy skills and knowledge of teachers, students and parents. An application form and grant information will be available on the APPA website on Wednesday 18 September.
Recently I attended the Combined Principals’ Conference in Tasmania and the South Australian Primary Principals Association (SAPPA) conference. Pasi Sahlberg was a key note speaker and I share the following points from his presentation.
He posed these two questions: What are the challenges in Australia and what to do with them? What is within your power to change in your school?
Key points included:
Pasi noted that Australia spends 3.9% of GDP on education well below the OECD average. So therefore, ‘Increasing funding for disadvantaged schools and students is fundamental to reducing educational inequality and improving educational excellence in Australia.’ Pasi also pointed out that the problem with Australia schools is there is too much control which therefore reduces empowerment.
He sees there is a serious concern over the priority of learning. We need to build ownership of learning, meeting the needs of learners, sample testing for big data and providing career guidance.
Curriculum should include a national perspective, incorporating the local and school priorities. He believes school curriculum should be developed by the school.
Pasi spent some time discussing the key global issues in primary education. As you can see there is alignment with the same challenges we have in Australia.
Pasi has moved to Australia to work at the Gonski Institute at the University of New South Wales. Some thoughts for your discussion with staff and principal colleagues.
I look forward to meeting many colleagues at the APPA Conference in Perth. I wish everyone a safe and relaxing term break coming soon.
With farmers suffering through what many are calling the ‘worst drought in living memory’ SchoolAid has today launched its ‘Hay and Hampers for Hope’ campaign.
The campaign is calling on 10,000 schools around Australia to donate $100 each, and in doing so raise $1 million to go towards hay for drought-affected livestock and hampers for farming families that are struggling with meeting their living expenses.
SchoolAid founder and CEO Sean Gordon said: “Farming families are often the last to ask for help and the first to lend a hand. ‘Hay and Hampers for Hope’ is about harnessing the collective power of Australia’s youth to help those who have given us so much, both economically and culturally. If you’re a young person and you’re distressed by these images on the news of starving sheep and farmers doing it tough, get involved because there’s now something you can do about it.”
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.
Congratulations to Lesley Gollan of Queensland’s WoodLinks State School, who is the Term 2 Scholastic National Reading Leader Award winner.
Principal Vicki Caldow noted, ‘Lesley is a reading champion who works across the school to develop and implement programs that empower teachers and invites the wider community to support students in practising and enjoying reading.’
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.
Berwick Lodge Primary School, of which I am the founding principal, was established in 1990 in the rapidly growing City of Casey in the south-east of Melbourne. The school has a Student Family Occupation Education (SFOE) Index of 0.4, with a predominantly English-speaking community and 3.80 % of students defined as being ‘at risk’. Enrolments are stable at around 630 students, with over 70% attending from beyond the school’s local neighbourhood.
While enrolments are stable, the school’s very small local catchment area presents an ongoing challenge, in that the level of funding available to the school is closely tied to enrolments. Related to this challenge is the fact that Berwick is home to a significant number of private schools, with competition for enrolments being robust, to say the least.
A particular strength of the school is the diversity of the high quality programs on offer. These include robotics and coding, radio, film-making and overseas travel for students. Another feature of our school of which I am very proud is our strong connection with the local community. One example of this is the unique adult education partnership we have with Eastern College, whereby we have collaboratively developed and deliver a multi-faceted Certificate 3 Education Support course at our school. This course provides a pathway back into the workforce for parents of school-age children, most of whom are mothers, via a variety of teacher aide roles.
How many years have you been a school leader?
In total, I have been a school leader for 36 years, across four schools.
What motivated you to become a school leader (and when)?
My initial motivation was to work in West Gippsland, near where I grew up and my family and many friends lived. That was in 1970 and things were very different in state education. That was my first year after graduating and it was not uncommon for graduates to be appointed to one-teacher rural schools. For me, that school was Neerim North Primary School, which had just 14 students. Leadership per se has always appealed to me – for example, captaining sporting teams in my youth days was a role I welcomed. Later, beyond Neerim North Primary School, in my classroom and specialist teaching roles, I was inspired by the impact that outstanding school leaders had both at their schools and, in some cases, systemically. They made a valuable difference to so many lives and the challenge of doing this really appealed to me.
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 principal of Neerim North Primary School, a one-teacher rural school in dairy farming country, 20 kilometres from Warragul. It was so different then – firstly, our training was undertaken at teachers’ colleges, with a far greater emphasis on the practicalities of teaching. For example, we received considerable training focused on leading and teaching in rural schools. Therefore, from the perspective of having a workable suite of beginning skills and knowledge, we were well-prepared. However, looking back, being the principal of a one-teacher school straight out of teachers’ college was quite daunting in every respect. Inexperience of itself, coupled with the fact that I was on my own at the school and learning on the run, presented me with challenges.
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As a new principal, what was the most useful lesson you ever learned from a more experienced principal colleague?
The best lesson I learned from a more experienced principal colleague was the importance of being able to switch off from work when I leave for home at the end of the day. School leadership can become an all-consuming activity that can very rapidly lead to burnout.
What makes you smile at work?
Many things do, but most of all the children who make me smile the most. Their laughter and enthusiasm is so infectious.
In managing your staff, what are your most valuable skills and beliefs?
I was asked a different, but related, question by a parent of a prospective student some months ago. My answer is still applicable. I believe that the role of the principal, in leading staff, centres on the achievement of firstly, building a team that collectively covers all the areas of expertise and skills needed to provide the children with the best possible, comprehensive education possible. Secondly, having achieved that, it is ensuring that they are in no great hurry to leave. My most valuable skills in this regard would be my communication, motivational and team building skills. I am fortunate to be possessed with a well-developed sense of humour, a skill that can lighten those leaden days that befall all workplaces from time to time.
What was the best day you ever had as a school leader?
That is a really tough question. Because they have been so many and so varied in nature, that it is difficult to quantify difference between so many great days. I’ll settle on the first day of term 4, 1990 because this was first day that the children at Berwick Lodge Primary School were able to access the grassed areas of their new school. As a new school, with the construction work behind schedule, we had spent term 1 as guests of the already crowded Berwick Primary School. In moving to our new school site at the commencement of term 2, we spent the next two terms with the children severely restricted outside, having only two hardcourts and concrete pathways on which to play while we waited for the grass to grow. We had balloons and streamers and quite a party planned for Day 1 of term 4. I’ll never forget the joy of the children as they streamed onto our oval, frolicking with gay abandon, after the ribbon was cut.
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What was the toughest day you ever had as a school leader?
The day after one of our school captains was tragically killed in a car accident. We were all in a state of utter shock and finding a way to get through that day was so very difficult. At her parent’s request, part of her funeral was conducted at our school. That was the second toughest day I’ve ever had as a school leader.
What was the funniest single thing that ever happened to you as a school leader?
That was long, long ago in my very first year as principal of Neerim North Primary School when I received a request on Education Department letterhead, requesting a very comprehensive audit of the internal measurements of our student outhouse toilets, toilets that were, in fact, pre-septic tank! Under some duress, I completed the task, completed the audit pares and sent them back to the Education Department. It was at a weekend party attended by colleagues that the topic of this audit was raised. I was the only one required to undertake the audit and one of my colleagues, ‘curious’ about the matter, asked me if I could remember who I sent the audit report to. Of course I couldn’t remember, but promised to check the following Monday and let him know. Much to my chagrin at the time, when I checked the name of whom I had sent the report to - it was none other than Mr R.U. Daft!
What tips would you give new school leaders about staying positive and keeping their energy levels high?
Keep in touch with the people for whom you are in the teaching profession – the children. They will keep you positive on the darkest of days. Find ways to tap into your creative side in your role – that’s a great antidote to the sapping nature of our ever-expanding compliance and accountability requirements. Don’t be a micro-manager. Build a strong culture of distributed leadership across your school, that’s very energising in itself, quite apart from providing you with time for your life outside school.
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?
My work is purposeful and important.
How do you achieve (or are trying to achieve) a positive work-life balance?
I have always had other interests and hobbies outside of work – family, sport, writing and travel. Between them all, they provide me with a very positive work-life balance.
What special measures do you take (if any) to protect and nurture your own health and welfare?
I don’t actually take any special measures in this regard. I am able to compartmentalise quite well, meaning that I do not spend an inordinate amount of time worrying about work matters when not at school and I have a wonderful staff with whom to share the challenges and joys of our work. I also lead an active and healthy lifestyle, and always have.
What do you see yourself as doing with your life after the principalship?
I will continue to enjoy my family life, travel and follow my passions in writing and radio.
Henry Grossek, Principal, Berwick Lodge Primary School
Debra J. Crouch
Mobile: 0413 009988
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