Dumping Minister would be a ‘travesty’ – principals

One state’s principals have come out in support of their education minister, who they consider to be the nation’s best.

NSW Education Minister Adrian Piccoli and Roads Minister, Duncan Gay, are expected to be removed from the NSW ministry following the Nationals’ disastrous performance in the recent Orange by-election.

Phil Seymour, president of the NSW Primary Principals Association (NSWPPA), told The Age that any move to cut Piccoli from the educational portfolio would be a “travesty”.

“I am in my 40th year of teaching. I have never met a minister like Mr Piccoli before. He gets it, he gets education,” he said.

“It would be a travesty if he didn't continue the work he is doing.”

Under Piccoli’s leadership, the NSW Education Department has maintained a close working relationship with the state’s principals, who are among the nation’s best supported by the bureaucracy.

In an interview with The Educator in October, Piccoli acknowledged that school leaders were too often juggling multiple tasks at once, some of which were distracting them from their core responsibility of school improvement.

“Principals are very conscientious people. They want to do everything. They want to do the teaching and learning and performance management, but they also want to call the plumber and do the photocopying.”

“This is an issue that occupies my mind a lot. We’re trying to reduce the workloads of principals but also make sure their’ health and well-being is supported at the same time,” he said.

Piccoli said the Department was looking at giving principals permission to step back from the “lower order work” in order to devote more time and energy to teaching and learning.

“We’d like to give them the permission, as well as the resources, to ditch some of that stuff and focus on teaching and learning. After all, that’s why they’re there,” he said.

Last year, former NSW Secondary Principals Association president, Lila Mularczyk – who is now the director of secondary education at the NSW Education Department – told The Educator that Piccoli presided over the nation’s “best funding model”.

“NSW, without fail, has the best resource funding model of any other country. It is a big call, but it’s substantiated,” she said.

Mularczyk added that an important strength of the state’s education system was that its Minister listened to, and worked closely with, principals.

“Our association wants to hear what we believe about implementation and reform, and our Minister is exactly the same. He [Piccoli] wants to hear from us,” she said.

“The Minister creates forums where there is consultation and he does that with the Catholic and Independent schools, as well as parent associations and unions that represent those groups.”

Trevor Cobbold, national convenor of public school advocate group, Save Our Schools (SOS), told The Age that Piccoli’s departure would have national implications for education funding reform.

“It would be a disaster,” he said.

“Piccoli is the best education minister we have had in 30 years, and I don't mean just in NSW – Australia wide.”