New strategy helps principals make a difference

by Brett Henebery11 Oct 2017
The most successful sporting teams usually have the best coaches.

Clubs provide the resources and support for the coach to prepare the players to be in peak physical and mental condition to perform in the hope of positive results.

Our school principals are much like coaches of great sporting teams. We need to give them the support they need to get the best results needed from their “teams” - the teachers and students under their management.

The NSW Government’s Schools Leadership Strategy offers increased funding support to help principals get the best teaching and learning outcomes from their teachers and students.

The strategy offers $50 million in flexible funding to employ extra support staff like business managers as well as a team of trained officers to lighten the compliance burden in areas such as work, health and safety inspections.

There will also be a mentoring program and scholarships for overseas study to build on the knowledge these outstanding individuals already have.

The strategy, developed with ongoing consultation with representatives of principals themselves, also includes the creation of a new leadership institute to train up future principals as well as provide skills for existing ones.

It’s a big package of initiatives designed to truly empower principals to be instructional leaders in their classrooms and playgrounds.

There’s no more important leadership role in modern Australia than that of the school principal.
Never before has so much been asked of the women and men who fulfil this role.

Our community places an increasing expectation on our schools to ensure that our next generation is not only educated in the core skills or reading, writing and maths, but also in developing students with life skills for outside the classroom.

The sobering truth is that our public school system is one of the last institutions that still retains the community’s trust.

Schools continue to be the centre of communities and offer stability and opportunity for all students.

Principals are expected to carry a heavy load at the forefront of responding to these expectations. The Schools Leadership Strategy is about doing what we can to ensure that even with all these expectations, good teaching and learning continues to be the central focus.

Six years ago, the NSW Government introduced the Local Schools, Local Decisions policy, which recognised that principals are best placed to make the decisions that affect their school community.
Too often, school decisions and policies were being decided on behalf of principals by people with no knowledge or understanding of the individual school or its students.

While most principals welcomed the greater authority to make decisions at their school, it also meant we asked them to do more than ever before. An unintended consequence of this policy was an increased administrative burden.

Nobody wants to see principals’ time being used to count the number of trees in the playground or spending hours on burdensome computer programs inputting data.

We need our principals to be leaders of the classrooms, inspiring students and teachers - not managers behind a desk filling in paperwork.

Coaches of great sporting teams would never be left stranded behind a desk to complete piles of paperwork while their team runs onto the playing field.

School principals have achieved their position because they are great educators with years of experience at the forefront of classrooms figuring out what really works.

Principals, given the opportunity and resources, can provide the extraordinary educational leadership we need to make our schools perform at their best.

Field Marshall William Slim, Governor General of Australia in the 1950s, had some helpful insights into what leadership is about.

Field Marshall Slim, a British military commander, saw battle in both the First and Second World Wars. His time fighting with ANZAC troops at Gallipoli, as well as multiple battlefield injuries, added to his credibility as a leader in Australia.

“There is a difference between leadership and management. Leadership is of the spirit, compounded of personality and vision; it’s practice is an art,” he said.

“Management is of the mind, a matter of accurate calculation – its practice is a science. Managers are necessary; leaders are essential.”

Effective, empowered principals are essential to make our schools perform at their best. We need to encourage our best and brightest to be motivated to become principals and lead schools to greatness.

We need to give these individuals the support and time they need to ensure they are focused on leading teaching and learning – while leaving administrative tasks to administrators.

Education Minister Rob Stokes
 

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