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Back to class as next-generation principals learn the secrets to good leadership

The School Leadership Institute has rolled out its first offering with a focus on developing the skills of educators who aspire to run their own schools.

Aspiring principal Joanna Henderson from Banora Point Public School

Deputy principal at Banora Point Public School Joanna Henderson, is delighted to be part of the Aspiring Principal Leadership Program

The next generation of public school leaders was sent back to the classroom this week when they began the inaugural Aspiring Principals Leadership Program.

The flagship program is the first offering of the School Leadership Institute, established as part of the NSW Department of Education’s School Leadership Strategy released in September last year.

Fifty-two teachers from across NSW were involved in the two-day leadership seminar that marks the start of a 12-month program, which includes eight leadership seminars, online learning, one-on-one coaching and ongoing support from a principal facilitator as they lead an inquiry and innovation process in their school.

School leadership impacts student achievement

The Secretary of the NSW Department of Education, Mark Scott, said the School Leadership Institute would support school leaders to develop the skills to lead teacher and student learning.

“Research shows school leadership is second only to classroom instruction as the most powerful in-school influence on student achievement,” Mr Scott said.

“Highly effective leadership is required to ensure our teachers equip students with a love of lifelong learning and the knowledge and skills to thrive in a fast-paced, changing world.”

Speaking at the opening session of the program, Deputy Secretary, School Operations and Performance Murat Dizdar said the leadership program was about giving aspiring principals “confidence in your capacity to lead”.

Mr Dizdar said there would be strong demand for a new generation of leaders over the next decade with 200 positions needing to be filled at the end of this year “through retirement alone”.

World-class leadership program

Newly appointed School Leadership Institute Director Joanne Jarvis said participants in the program were selected through a highly rigorous process.

“Our aim is to ensure that we deliver a world-class program which is informed by international and national research,” Ms Jarvis said.

“We are thrilled we have secured support from renowned leaders in this field from around the world, including Distinguished Professor Emeritus Viviane Robinson, Professor Andy Hargreaves and Professor Alma Harris.”

The course, which has been co-designed between the School Leadership Institute and the University of Wollongong, with significant support from Ann McIntyre, international expert in leadership development, is underpinned by three frameworks developed specifically for the program.

The frameworks are derived from local and international research and include: Leadership Mindsets, Leadership for Learning Analysis, and Leadership for Inquiry and Innovation.

Praise from program participants

Aspiring Principal Leadership Program participant Joanna Henderson, deputy principal at Banora Point Public School near the Queensland border, said she was delighted to be selected for the program as it would ensure she was ready to lead when a principal position was offered.

“I acknowledge I don’t know everything and this is a great opportunity to be involved with people at the same point in their career,” she said.

Marton Public School assistant principal Ananda Horton said she had already found the course “enriching” after just one day.

“It’s such an amazing opportunity to learn from quality leaders and build your capacity,” she said.

“My journey is always propelled by public education values and trying to do the best I can for my students.”

Mentors will support and nurture aspiring leaders

Kotara High School Principal Mark Snedden was part of the original Department of Education study into principal workload and time use that found 40 per cent of principals’ time was spent on administration rather than on teaching and learning.

It was the findings of that study which propelled the Secretary, Mark Scott, to announce a new leadership strategy for the department.

Mr Snedden was part of the selection panel for the inaugural intake and has joined the leadership program as a principal facilitator.

His role is to support and nurture five aspiring leaders through the 12-month program.

His own experience when taking on a leadership role more than a decade ago was that it “was difficult to find your feet as well as balance all the complex needs”.

Mr Snedden said he was excited by the initiative and believed it was the right direction for the department to be moving in.

“The reality of the job is it is relentless ... but no day is boring and you are in a position to have the most impact on educational standards in your community,” he said.

NSW Secondary Principals’ Council president Chris Presland, who will also take on a mentoring role in the program, said there was “enormous excitement” about the program among participants and the wider education community.

“Research tells us quality leadership is the number one factor in determining the quality of teaching,” he said. “So this investment will undoubtedly pay dividends.”

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