Illawarra schools welcome support for principals to focus on leadership

GOOD MOVE: Woonona High School principal Belinda Wall, pictured with students, welcomes the State Government's new school leadership strategy. Picture: Robert Peet

GOOD MOVE: Woonona High School principal Belinda Wall, pictured with students, welcomes the State Government's new school leadership strategy. Picture: Robert Peet

Principals at Illawarra schools have welcomed moves to get them back educating at the expense of associated bureaucratic and administrative tasks.

Revelations that principals spend less than a third of their days educating students prompted the State Government to spend big on a new school leadership strategy which puts the focus on principals as educational leaders, not school administrators.

This has pleased Belinda Wall, the Secondary Principals Council president for the Illawarra/South East region.

Mrs Wall, who is also Woonona High School principal, said the radical plan will stop principals from drowning in paperwork and allow them to do what they love most – play a leading educational role in ‘’improving student learning outcomes’’.

Under the strategy announced by NSW Education Minister Rob Stokes on Monday, government schools will be funded to appoint business managers, similar to those in well-heeled private colleges, to take on the bureaucratic load.

The shake-up includes a new leadership institute to train and identify future principals and $50 million a year to enable principals to focus on core duties such as curriculum planning, student progress, teaching quality, and student wellbeing.

Mr Stokes said principals should be free to use their expertise as educational leaders and focus on improving outcomes in classrooms.

‘’The additional $50 million in school support funding will assist principals to employ extra support staff so they have more time for instructional leadership,’’ he said.

‘’Schools could, for example, employ a business manager or share one across a number of schools.’’

Schools could, for example, employ a business manager or share one across a number of schools. - NSW Education Minister, Rob Stokes

The plan follows findings in an independent study that found school principals are spending too much time on management and administration tasks and not enough time on improving teaching and learning.

The study involving principals at 119 government schools found principals’ workload had increased in recent years with responsibilities in areas like planning, policy, finance, compliance, risk and work health and safety.

Fixing plumbing, organising cleaning, minor asset repairs, tree audits, and troubleshooting technology are just some of the tasks principals have had to complete.

‘’Certainly our time has been taken away from educational leadership,’’ Mrs Wall said.

‘’This plan will free up principals to spend more time on things they want to spend time on, predominantly on educational leadership, making sure that teaching and learning is the absolute focus of all that we do and being the instructional leaders in the school as opposed to having their time consumed with management matters.’’ 

Key elements of the strategy include:

  • An additional $50 million a year in flexible school support funding to free up principals from administrative activities so they can focus on instructional leadership;
  •  A new leadership institute to develop and support school leaders and those preparing to take on leadership roles;
  • Coaching and mentoring for new principals and support for existing principals who request this support;
  • 20 scholarships a year for principals to participate in internationally renowned leadership programs;
  • A new team of trained officers to remove the compliance burden off principals and undertake annual work, health and safety inspections.

The first flagship course will be a 12-month development program starting in 2018 for aspiring principals.

The strategy was produced in consultation with the NSW Primary Principals Association and the NSW Secondary Principals Council.

‘’This is something we’ve been asking for so principals can be very pleased to hear that the Minister is going ahead with this strategy,’’ Mrs Wall said.

‘’We look forward to implementing it successfully in all schools.’’ 

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