School's in for central office staff

NSW Department of Education senior executives and new office staff will spend a week in public schools to gain insights into how they can better support teachers.

A man reading with two students. A man reading with two students.
Image: NSW Department of Education Secretary Murat Dizdar with students at Toongabbie East Public School.

Senior executive and new office staff from the NSW Department of Education are going ‘back to school’ to ensure they have their finger on the pulse when making decisions impacting public education.

Secretary Murat Dizdar said the School Experience Program would require all new central office staff to spend a week in a local primary or high school as part of their induction.

The Department’s senior executive team will also experience a week inside the school gates for this term.

Mr Dizdar was at Toongabbie East Public School on Tuesday as part of his week in schools. His day included attending a Kindergarten class, a staff meeting and shot put practice in preparation for the school’s athletics carnival.

Mr Dizdar attended a public school, is a parent of public school students and was a public high school social science teacher and principal.

“For every new employee that comes on board we want to welcome them and have them undertake that week-long immersion inside the school,” Mr Dizdar said.

“You might be writing a finance policy and have vast expertise in that, but you may not be acutely aware of how that can impact on the administrative staff in a school, or the leadership of a school. I want our work to be sharp and focused, to be supportive of what happens inside a school.

“What I know having been a teacher and a principal in this system, if you visit for an hour, of course, you’re going to get a glamourised version. But if you spend a day, let alone an entire week, there is no glamourised version.

“Having spoken to partners inside education, they’re really welcoming of this initiative. They know this will help break the divide and bring schools and the Department closer together.

“We’re all products of the school system but for some of us, it’s been quite a while since we’ve been in the school gates.”

A man throwing. A man throwing.
Image: Mr Dizdar practising shot put while Education Minister Prue Car watches on.

Executive Director Employee Relations, Donna Wilcox, is one of the first executives to undertake the program. She spent a week immersed in the activities of Orange Public School.

“The main purpose of the program is so office support staff can actually understand how important our teachers are,” she said.

“It’s a perspective that I really, really needed for my job.

“You always know what teachers do, but what I hadn’t fully appreciated was how hard they work and how many different things they do on top of their classroom duties.

“It’s given me really good context and perspective, so when I’m back in my office, I’ll be making decisions with an eye to the time I spent at the school.”

Program participants will watch lesson planning and delivery in action; sit in on students learning in classrooms; take part in administrative tasks and staff meetings and observe other day-to-day activities such as playground duty and excursions.

Mr Dizdar is confident schools will give program participants an authentic and illuminating experience.

“That’s what we’re asking for and that’s what the people I work with in support structures want,” he said.

“In fact, I’m having people write to me saying ‘I’m not new to the organisation but can you unleash me to do it as well’.”

Around 10 central office staff per week are expected to participate in the program.

A man in classroom of students. A man in classroom of students.
Image: Mr Dizdar teaching a class at Toongabbie East Public School.
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