Middle Leaders

Middle leaders – assistant principals and head teachers – play a crucial role in teaching and learning in NSW public schools. They have a direct impact on teaching and learning, manage teams and influence student outcomes within and beyond their classrooms.

The SLI offers several programs and initiatives to support NSW public school middle leaders and develop their leadership knowledge and skills. Below a group of participants and facilitators share what they gained from taking part in one of those offerings, the Middle Leadership Development Program.

Participants talk about putting the MLDP learnings into practice

From MLDP has mostly come from reflection. And thinking of I guess the concepts about leadership and how it applies through our day-to-day practice. And also how we can assist our colleagues as well to engage in that reflective practice.

I’ve really enjoyed the key themes of identity to start out. And understanding that as a leader you have to have a self-awareness of how you lead yourself, before you can lead others. So I found that really inspirational as a starting point, and understanding your moral purpose. And looking at the role statement of the middle leader has really aligned where my moral purpose fits in with the program, and it’s helped me build that and grow with that.

Basically I’ve been using the learnings, the readings, the discussions that we’ve had. I’ve been actually examining the stuff that we’ve been talking about. Building on my capacity, developing my confidence. We’ve also been doing other stuff as head teachers, other learning, and using that in conjunction with this, it’s just made me a more confident leader. I feel that I have more influence.

During the process I’ve actually had a school change. So I’ve gone from a very small school in Bargo of 257 students where I was an AP on class. And it actually, first of all it gave me the confidence to be able to go out and actually apply for an APC&I role which I don’t think I would have done. I know when I first joined an AP role it took 15-16 years and a big kick in the butt to get there. But doing that, this course has given me the confidence, it made me really be reflective and go is this all I can do? Is this all I can be and can I do more? And I ended up moving to another school in a new role.

MLDP facilitators discuss how having a facilitator enhanced their learning

Having a facilitator has definitely benefitted me in my leadership and my learning. I think having a mentor is something that's needed and it's different to having a coach versus having a facilitator who's a mentor like Alison. She's walked the walk and she's talked the talk and it's non-judgmental in that space. I feel I can sort of come to Alison with a question around sort of middle leadership, whether it be sort of my influence in that space or there be sort of a question that I might have.

What is that impact? And she's always able to bring it back to sort of a point you know, around student focus. You know, how do they relate to the kids? What's the impact it's having and why? Why are we doing this? And it's been really powerful in that front. And I think, Alison, she is very humble in her approach, being a facilitator.

She sort of lets everyone talk and sort of Nelson Mandela style. She'll be the last one to sort of have a voice in that space. And yeah, definitely, you know, I suppose those hidden curriculums of being in the Middle Leadership Development Program where we're in a professional learning community of middle leaders, but guided by someone who has a capacity to sort of drive whole school change and make you feel valued and cared for as a middle leader.

Having a facilitator as part of the middle leadership program has been the best thing for myself and my growth. Having the opportunity to have our sessions together in our small team, to ask questions, to feel that have that psychological safety has really improved my own growth as a leader. But it's also influenced me seeing how others operate through their own experience and being able to share my experience in a comfortable setting has been really worthwhile.

I think for me as well, building on how seeing other contexts influences the way that you lead. I know my facilitator is an experienced principal from a Sydney context, whereas I'm from a regional context. And so looking at first of all how that different level of leadership works in a metropolitan setting and how I can apply the learning from my facilitator to not only my practice in a regional setting, but also to the colleagues around me in the facilitated group.

I think for me as well, we've touched base a lot of times throughout the week in terms of we might experience a leadership challenge and we might touch base by email and just say, Hey, what do you think that you would do in this scenario? What some of the learning from the program that we can apply here? And then what's the outcome or the impact on colleagues and students?

Facilitators discuss their highlights of taking part

I do see myself as a systems leader, and what I wanted to experience was what would it be like to be able to lead a team that's not within my school? And I wanted that to be a challenge for me. I actually felt like I was a part of a team that wasn't my team. I felt like I could add value into an executive team that wasn't my team.

And part of the content where we have academic partners from the University of Wollongong and the University of Newcastle. I had some philosophies that underpinned my leadership and what I thought but then I was able to ground that in the research and in the professional learning that we were gaining to solidify what I'd learnt. So it made what I had led in my previous setting,

it wasn't just the Helen way, it's grounded in something and I got to experience that with a remarkable executive team. And to build that relationship and trust with another team was really satisfying for me.


  • Teaching and learning

Business Unit:

  • School Leadership Institute
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