Wednesday’s 2016 report into occupational principal health and well-being showed that across many states, support from governments and communities continues to stagnate, or at worst, go backwards.
Recognising this, the Catholic Education Diocese of Parramatta (CEDP) is boosting its support through innovative programs to improve the well-being and safety of its school leaders.
CEDP executive director, Greg Whitby, told The Educator that the innovative support measures the Diocese is rolling out for its principals are part of holistic approach that is helping not only school leaders, but students and families, too.
“There is strong support within our diocese to create better and more lasting support programs and structures for principals so they are able to be successful in their role as school leaders while maintaining their own well-being,” Whitby said.
“With so many competing priorities, resourcing will always be a challenge but we remain committed to doing everything possible to maintain the wellbeing of school leaders.”
Whitby said that one program, called the System Leaders’ Day (Big Day Out) provides an annual opportunity to bring together all system leaders to share ideas, collaborate and build connections with other school and system leaders.
Robert Nastasi, the new principal of Emmaus Catholic College – located in Kemps Creek, NSW – told The Educator that while principals can feel overwhelmed at times, a crucial aspect of the role is being “relational and present” with their community.
“As principals we are taught to be servant leaders and this is vitally important,” he said.
“We are often afforded with time and opportunities for reflection around our own faith formation and our vocation as teachers and principals to help support our dual moral purpose of being Catholic and being Catholic educators – the underpinning of why we do what we do.”
Nastasi said he has felt greatly supported through induction and orientation programs that provide significant and ongoing practical applications to the role, through professional development, sharing, collaboration and mentoring.
“The establishment of principal network groups/clusters and meetings with a focus on professional formation and dialogue with colleagues around best practice in leadership and education are of immense support and CEDP has wonderful structures in place here,” he said.
He added that having a mentor principal “who is always just a phone call away” makes a meaningful difference amid the pressures inherent in the role.
“Principal Masterclasses and conferences are a great source of nourishment in that these allow for networking, collaboration and learning with fellow principals,” Nastasi explained.
“Part of these includes developing a suite of skills via workshops; scenarios and professional reading to further enhance our capacity as leaders in schools.”
Nastasi pointed out that there is also a great level of human resource support from the office via purpose specific teams trained to support principals in areas of conflict resolution, student/staff well-being and improving the learning outcomes of students.
“The provision of employer assistance programs and professional counselling services is real, evident and greatly appreciated when addressing any personal or work related issues.”