Breaking new ground in Australian education, Anna Sever brings an extraordinary blend of passion and innovation as Haileybury’s Deputy Principal.
With a rich background spanning prestigious independent schools across Australia and challenging environments in London, Sever is redefining educational boundaries. Her tireless drive for digital transformation has unlocked high-quality education access beyond geographical limits.
A believer in perpetual learning, Sever's impressive credentials include an MBA from Melbourne Business School and studies at Harvard and NYU’s Stern School of Business. Her initiatives, including organising large-scale teacher events at Haileybury Pangea, showcase her commitment to addressing teacher shortages and reshaping the educational landscape.
When it comes to how Sever envisions the future of Australian education, flexible arrangements for teachers play a leading role. She says teachers should be allowed to start later and work virtually on certain days – an approach that would accommodate personal commitments like parenting, making teaching a more attractive career. Sever also emphasises promoting the value and impact of teaching to senior students, highlighting the rewarding and significant role of educators in shaping society and individual lives.
Below, The Educator speaks to Sever about the transformative changes this vision could bring to teaching, learning, work-life balance, and wellbeing more broadly.
TE: Regarding your proposal to change teaching timetables for a more flexible start, how do you anticipate this affecting overall teacher well-being and effectiveness in the classroom? Additionally, what are the potential challenges in implementing this system, and how can principals mitigate them?
There needs to be a spectrum of flexibility for teachers and there is an incredible impetus to create this because need to think differently about how we attract teachers to the profession. Other industries offer one, two or three anchor days per week when employees have to be in the office and this allows them to better manage their home life and work life. In terms of flexibility for teachers, Haileybury Pangea, Haileybury’s online school, is an incredible option because teachers can work from anywhere, provided they get a VIT registration. You can still deliver a high-quality education, have a connection with families and students remain at the heart of every decision. If schools want to attract and keep the best and brightest teachers, they are compelled to do things differently to attract them.
TE: You envision schools offering teachers the option to work both virtually and on-campus. How do you see this hybrid model influencing the dynamics of student-teacher interactions and learning outcomes? And what infrastructure or support systems need to be in place for such a model to be successful?
This year we’ve had 44 hybrid teachers across Haileybury and Haileybury Pangea. They might come on campus in the morning and teach at Haileybury Pangea in the afternoon – either on-campus in the plug and play booths around the school, or they teach those classes from home. A great teacher is a great teacher and that means having great relationships with students — online or on campus. In terms of infrastructure students and teachers need a laptop with camera and compliant with minimum specifications, good internet access, a noise cancelling headset and a strong learning management system. We redeveloped our pedagogy for online delivery. You need a parent portal so parents can have visibility of their child’s timetable, curriculum and how they are progressing. To manage child safety, we have a duty of care module and a home learning environment checklist to make sure the child’s learning environment is set up properly.
TE: You highlighted the importance of work-life balance, especially during teachers’ key life events (such as parenthood). How can schools better support this balance without compromising educational quality, and what role do policies play in institutionalising such support?
Why restrict a talented workforce who cannot necessarily get to an office for a full day, but in many cases want to be engaged in the workforce and looking after their baby at the same time? If we can make this work, everybody wins. Workplace culture has a huge influence. Does a school want the best people in their workplace and how do they support that? I returned to Haileybury when my daughter was 13-weeks-old and I breastfed her in board meetings. Nobody batted an eyelid because they wanted my brain at work and if that meant breastfeeding in meetings, so be it. We have to think differently about how we appoint people into positions of responsibility, too. If the most talented applicant is a parent who can’t yet return to school fulltime but will in the near future, managing that transition is in everyone’s best interests.
TE: You also advocate for talking to senior students about the value of being a teacher. How can schools effectively integrate this into their curriculum/programs, and what are the most important messages that should be conveyed to inspire students to take up a career in education?
Our CEO | Principal, Derek Scott, talks to students about education at any opportunity – from leadership assemblies to graduation valedictory dinners. We expose students to great role models in education through Old Haileyburians who achieved high ATARs and who chose education and they talk to current students about their career. We need to tell the gift of the role teachers play in society more broadly. On a macro level, students need to understand that if they become teachers, they have a significant impact on the country. One of the most important things for Indigenous Australians is to get a great education. Imagine helping to change the trajectory of somebody’s life because you had a hand in getting them a great education.
TE: Your experience working with a selectively mute child in London certainly demonstrates the profound impact teachers can have. How can school leaders foster an environment where teachers feel equipped (and empowered) to address such challenging situations? And what kind of professional development or resources would you recommend for teachers to handle similar cases effectively?
All teachers care deeply about children and the relationship they have with students. My success with that child wasn’t through any professional development, albeit important. It was because I gave him my time, care, patience and kindness and I never gave up on him. That’s an innate quality in teachers. But to make teachers feel equipped for those kinds of situations, it is incumbent upon schools to provide professional development so teachers feel confident and when a certain situation presents in a class, they feel empowered to manage it. Bringing in experts to speak to teachers and offering practical sessions and strategies can all make a difference. Helping teachers understand their students fully is the greatest professional learning you can deliver to help teachers and students be successful.