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Principal preparation the key to student success

The next generation of public school principals has been formally inducted and supported through mentoring to lead and manage their schools.

Emily Corcoran

Called to the office: Woonona East Public School principal Emily Corcoran.

Around 120 new principals and long-term relieving principals are in Sydney this week for an intensive induction conference which marks the beginning of a two-year support program to enhance their leadership capability and support continuous school improvement grounded in evidence-based practice.

Emily Corcoran is one of the new principals, who started this term at Woonona East Public School in Wollongong.

Ms Corcoran grew up in Wollongong, where she attended university, and has taught and led public schools in the Illawarra.

“From day one of my [teaching] practicum I felt an extremely strong and passionate connection to the needs of students, the importance of teaching, and the impact teachers have on students – their academic development and their wellbeing,” she said.

Early in her career she took on leadership roles, such as coordinating technology in her first school, Keiraville Public School, and recognised she had the skill set to lead with capabilities such as organisation, communication, relationship building and emotional intelligence.

“I saw the reward of hard work, I had outstanding models of leadership and I wanted to be part of the conversation about decisions that impact both the school and the students.”

Ms Corcoran was appointed assistant principal at Figtree Heights Public School, relieved there as principal, and was relieving principal at Scarborough Public School.

The first day at Woonona East meeting the 190 students, staff and families, followed extensive prior research on the school and an analysis of student data.

As a school leader, Ms Corcoran said she aimed to build trust with staff, students and families, take the time to listen, model best practice, professionalism and integrity.

Her vision for her school is that “every single one of my students is consistently being the best version of themselves, both in education and holistically, and has the courage to reach their potential”.

The principal induction conference, part of the NSW Government’s 2017 School Leadership Strategy, has a focus on instructional leadership, including how to evaluate the impact of teaching on student progress and provide effective feedback; to define a school’s vision and promote high expectations and continuous improvement; management and leadership skills to effectively run a school; and higher-order leadership capabilities such as strategic thinking and leading innovation and change. These induction focus areas all link to the recently released Principal Role Description.

All new principals are allocated an experienced principal as a mentor for two years and are supported by an expanded number of Directors, Educational Leadership, who work side by side with an average of 20 schools.

NSW public schools receive an extra $50 million a year in flexible funding to assist principals to reduce their administrative workload so they can focus on leading teaching and learning.

Ms Corcoran said the combination of support from her department mentor, her Director, Educational Leadership, and colleagues in the Wollongong North Network gave her confidence and reassurance.

To unwind after hours from the demands of school leadership Ms Corcoran said she was a strong believer in “switching off” and surrounding herself with happy and positive friends and family.

“My job brings me a lot of joy,” she said.

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