Principals and the pillars of educational excellence

by Brett Henebery04 Mar 2015

When the values of a principal are aligned with that of their school, amazing things can happen, says Barker College principal, Phillip Heath.

Heath, who is also national chair of the Association of Heads of Independent Schools of Australia (AHISA), said schools are “complex organisations” where a wide range of tasks are interwoven in the principal's role.

However, Heath says that enhancing your impact as principal can be as adopting certain key attributes:

Commitment, respect and courage.

“All the principals I admire have a deep commitment to making a difference in the lives of their students,” Heath wrote in the Sydney Morning Herald.

“This commitment entails having high expectations for all students, and ensuring that all teachers hold consistently high expectations of students, too.”

The second attribute on Heath’s list is respect.

“The principal must respect the dignity of all those in the school community, be they students, staff members or parents,” Heath said, adding that listening is just as important a part of respect as any other.

“When I became Head of Barker College in 2014, I began by listening to the views of all those in the Barker community. To reinforce the seriousness of my willingness to hear what students had to say, the legs of a chair were sawn off to create a ‘listening chair’ for my office.

“The chair allows me to sit at the same level as the children and has become a potent symbol of the importance of active listening for the whole school community,” Heath said.

As for the final attribute, courage, Heath is unequivocal.

“It takes great mental courage to relentlessly pursue improvements in teaching and learning, to hold people accountable to their best possible selves and to help them achieve their absolute best rather than settle only for what is ‘good enough’.

“It is the passion to inspire young minds, hearts and souls on their journey towards becoming fully and authentically human that makes the role desirable and possible.”

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