Parents cast doubt on new principal role

Kemblawarra Public School's P&C Association is concerned that changes to how principals in small schools are classified will have a negative impact on the school.

The NSW Department of Education is introducing a new classification structure for primary school principals, in which those in charge of small primary schools with a budget less than $1.04 million have the option to be reclassified as "associate principals", with non-teaching matters handled by a principal at a larger school in the area.

This change, which is scheduled to begin in 2016, mostly affects schools with fewer than 159 students. In the Illawarra, there are 13 schools with between 26 and 159 enrolments, including Kemblawarra Public.

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Although the decision for a teaching principal to become an associate principal is one made in consultation with the school community, Kemblawarra's P&C president, Jeanette Charlesworth, is still concerned the plans will undo the good work their principal has done.

Her organisation has written to the P&C Federation and the NSW Teachers Federation about its worries.

"She [the principal] has turned troubled kids around; we hardly have any suspensions or bullying any more," she said.

"With a small school, we need a headmaster or mistress; we need them desperately, because they get in contact with the kids and they feel they can talk to them about anything."

Mrs Charlesworth said having a principal from a larger hub school overlooking Kemblawarra would make it harder to schedule time with the principal and she was concerned the school would have less say over the allocation of funding.

But NSW Primary Principals' Association president Geoff Scott said schools had no reason to worry, because teaching principals would not be forced to become associate principals, with changes only made if the school thought it was best.

He said the association's initial reservations about the plan had been addressed in the current version.

"I think initially parents were a bit concerned the changes were too drastic, but they have been pared back a lot.

"Schools will have the final choice."

A Department of Education spokeswoman said the new structure recognised the complex make-up of schools.

"Students' and parents' access to principals will not be lessened by the proposal," she said.

File picture.

File picture.

"The decision to move to an associate principal would mean that the associate principal would be able to spend more time engaged in face-to-face teaching, providing consistency and continuity for students, and less time out of the classroom undertaking administrative work."

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