What kind of year can principals expect in 2017?
Chris Presland, president of the NSW Secondary Principals Council (NSWSPC) told The Educator that while he did not expect 2017 to be very different from 2016, there were some “crucial issues” that would be “played out over the next few months”.
“The main one of these is of course the Federal Government's commitment to the full implementation of the Gonksi agreement,” Presland – who is also the principal of St Clair High School – said.
“This is a watershed moment in the history of school funding in Australia and the outcome will affect all schools for a long time to come.”
He added that “nothing short of full implementation” of the model was acceptable to NSW principals.
“We hear some politicians saying that money isn't the answer – well try running a school when you don't have enough of it,” he said.
Looking ahead, Presland sees little relief in terms of principals’ workloads. He said this includes the increasing number of work tasks, shortages of specialist expertise and unreasonable timeframes and deadlines.
“In terms of day to day work, sadly, I think the workload on principals will intensify even further. This is a major issue for all of us, and partly the fault of a society that just expects schools to increasingly deal with a wider range of social issues,” he said.
Presland added that school leaders now need to do so much “parenting” that it is taking time away from their “core purpose of delivering quality teaching”.
Despite officially being on holidays over the break, many principals and teachers spend time attending to paperwork and liaising with contractors who are on site to handle maintenance issues.
“We do of course get a break, especially between Christmas and New Year, but for principals we are on call all the time,” he said.
“Interestingly, even our Department schedules meetings during the "holidays" - I have three of them at the State Office this week alone.”
However, Presland said none of the above should be seen as complaining as it's accepted as being “part of the job”.
Increasing workloads was one of the concerns highlighted by findings from last year’s Australian Principal Health and Well-being Survey, which indicated that Australia’s principals are the victims of stress at a rate 1.7 times higher than the general population.
In terms of the resources and skills most in demand for school leaders in 2017, Presland said there was “no doubt” that the greatest resource was a quality teacher
“That won't change,” he said.
“The capacity to understand both the science and art of teaching is what it's all about. For school leaders, the flow-on from this is the need to be able to provide high quality, ongoing professional learning for teachers and that takes time, money and expertise.”
Presland’s comments come ahead of the 2016 Australian Principal Occupational Health, Safety & Well-being Survey Report, due out next month.
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