Strengthening connections: principals show the way

A program helping principals better support their school communities has won a Resilient Australia award for NSW. Sven Wright reports.

People standing on a stage in front of a banner and screen. People standing on a stage in front of a banner and screen.
Image: Simone Walker, Deputy CEO of NSW Reconstruction, with Jacynta Moylan, Helen Parker, Chris Miller and Andrew Jones from the Regional, Rural and Remote Education Policy team.

A program helping to build principals’ capacity to support their staff, students and the wider community has won a Resilient Australia award.

The awards were established by the Australian Institute of Disaster Resilience and are overseen in NSW by the NSW Reconstruction Authority, with the ‘Principal Connection Days’ winning the state title.

The Executive Director of Regional, Rural and Remote Education Policy, Ben Ballard, said the win highlighted the foresight of those who had devised and run the program, which was developed with Headspace.

“Between drought, bushfire, floods, a mouse plague and of course COVID-19, many of our regional, rural and remote schools have had a tough few years,” he said.

“The need for support of this kind was identified through our engagement with school leaders.

“The Principal Connection Days are one of the ways we are delivering on the Rural and Remote Education Strategy by making sure our school leaders in regional areas have access to contextually relevant, face-to-face professional learning.”

Established in Ballina for schools affected by the 2022 North Coast floods, the model was extended to a further six regional venues this year: Moree, Batemans Bay, Broken Hill, Deniliquin, Forbes and Lightning Ridge, plus a further two events in Ballina.

The Ballina sessions attracted more than 300 participants across four separate events, and a further 156 attended the remaining workshops.

“Some of our remote schools are a significant distance from regional centres and are run by a single teaching principal. The simple act of connecting with peers in person can be incredibly valuable and decrease feelings of professional isolation,” Mr Ballard said.

The workshops took place over two half days to allow time for school leaders from remote locations to travel.

Feedback from the additional six regional venues was overwhelmingly positive, with 95 per cent of respondents stating they felt better prepared to guide schools and the wider community through challenging circumstances.

The workshop series was funded through the NSW Government’s North Coast and Western NSW Flood Funding Package, and was open to principals and school leaders from regional primary, secondary and central schools.

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