Get to know our three Principal Champions and hear what they have to say about the program

To lead a school toward greater success, principals need to centre the needs of both students and teachers. The leadership displayed at our Educational Pathways Program (EPP) schools is a great reflection of this. At the recent EPP conference, 3 principals from our participating schools were recognised for their efforts in providing quality career education for their students and were named the program’s first Principal Champions.

To quote John Maxwell, “A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way”, and it couldn’t be more suited to the program’s first Principal Champions; Richard Finter, Kirstine Gonano, and James Ostermann. Each lead schools with unique student and community needs, and work to achieve the highest level of career education and vocational training support for their students.

Our Principal Champions are based across the state, stretching from Liverpool in Sydney’s south-west to Newcastle in the Hunter region, and over 650 kilometres to our north-west to Lightning Ridge.

When Kirstine Gonano was appointed the role as Principal of Liverpool Girls High School this year, she brought with her a wealth of knowledge and experience in the vocational education and training (VET) space, having previously been the Relieving Principal at one of the program’s pilot schools, Campbelltown Performing Arts High School. Liverpool Girls is a vibrant, multicultural girls high school with over 89% of students coming from a language background other than English, which comes with its own unique set of challenges. Liverpool Girls High School currently has 2 SBATs and Kirstine intends to grow the engagement of her students with VET in 2023.

“Programs like the EPP that provide students with skills in their industry of choice are incredibly important and empowering.”

James Ostermann’s school Callaghan College Jesmond Senior Campus is located in the program’s Hunter and Central Coast region, and is a co-education secondary school serving 700 students in years 11-12. The school has a strong track record in VET, with 89 SBATs, making up 23% of the Hunter Central Coast area, and an additional 35 EVET (externally delivered VET) students. The campus has a strong connection with industry partners to provide a unique Apprenticeship Incubator Program (AIP) that enables students additional opportunities to gain targeted industry skills and experience on a job site.

“The EPP celebrates the success of VET students as equal to a traditional pathway and as a valid and aspirational career and learning journey.”

Richard Finter is based in Lightning Ridge which is a small outback town in north-west NSW, known for its opal mining. Richard has been Principal of Lightning Ridge Central School for 4 years, a school with approximately 330 students (K-12) from 24 ethnic backgrounds Even as a smaller school, Lighting Ridge still boasts an impressive 5 enrolled SBATs this year.

“The EPP has opened up a whole new world for our kids. It opens their minds and shows them there are opportunities beyond Lightning Ridge.”

We recently sat down with each of them to talk about their schools, how they create positive change and what it means to be a Principal Champion.

Tell us a little bit about yourself

James: I’m currently the proud Relieving Principal at Callaghan College Jesmond Senior Campus. I’ve been at the school for 7 years and was the Deputy Principal at the junior campus before embarking on this opportunity at the senior campus. I have a background in science so VET was something I began learning once I was in a leadership role. I have a great level of appreciation for what vocational education does for young people. I'm passionate about successful pathways and how schools can support and guide students to be engaged citizens and be confident in their chosen career path.

Kirstine: I’m the Principal at Liverpool Girls High School and I'm passionate about the opportunities that public education provides through personalised learning opportunities for our students. Programs like EPP equip students with the skills and options to pursue post-school pathways of their choice that align with their passions and strengths. While students are at school, I believe it's essential to provide them with high quality careers education so they have the knowledge and tools to choose a meaningful career path.

Richard: Since 2002 I've worked in both regional and remote schools like Mudgee High School and Gulgong Public School, plus some short stints in other rural schools around the state. I’m originally from Wollongong but have been living the country life for a while now. It's very satisfying, but there are also challenges which come with the remote lifestyle.

What do you like about the EPP?

James: The idea that it’s got such a significant level of support around it on a regional level. When EPP came along our school already had 76 SBATs, but the program has helped us grow this number even more.Through the Head Teacher Careers and SBAT Engagement Officers, we’re able to target specific industries in need and build strong relationships with local industry. The EPP also provides additional support for our current careers teachers which is invaluable.

Kirstine: I like the coordinated and targeted approach to careers education support. The EPP provides a wide range of programs, such as immersion in TAFE NSW and post-school work environments. I value the fact that the Head Teacher Careers role is supporting the careers advisers in schools so that we can deliver careers education to all students.

Richard: The suite of the 8 initiatives. There really is something in there for most students. The YES+ program gives a great taste of an industry. Students can complete a course and have an experience which makes them recognise that they don’t want a career in this industry, which is just as important as recognising what industries they are interested in. I also love that support is provided external to our school which is really crucial. The EPP is assisting in overcoming some of those challenges of isolation and remoteness. It’s the range of things that kids can do through the EPP which I like the most.

What are you excited for in the future?

James: I have a genuine belief that accommodating the needs of our students and supporting them through their chosen pathways is essential for our future education. Celebrating a successful pathway is more important and relevant now than ever.

Kirstine: Now that the program has been scaled it's exciting that more students get to experience the EPP across a greater number of schools. I’m excited about the additional support from programs like Back in the Game.

Richard: The program is only getting bigger and better. I’m excited to work more closely with TAFE NSW and continue to develop our relationship. The potential of getting a teacher physically in front of our kids rather than delivering online is extremely exciting. I want to see greater retention to keep our students in school and go on to be successful in the workforce.

  • News
Return to top of page Back to top