Labor unveils plan for 'National Principals Academy'

Labor unveils plan for

Thousands of principals will get advanced leadership training under a new Australia-wide initiative floated by federal Labor.

In a statement yesterday, Deputy Opposition Leader and Shadow Education Minister, Tanya Plibersek, said the plan recognises the “dramatic impact” that school leaders can have on the performance of students.

A recent expert review found that high performing school leaders add between two- and seven-months’ worth of growth in student learning in a single year.

Training offered by the proposed Academy will focus on advanced leadership, teaching and learning. The training will be available to current and aspiring school principals, as well as other school leaders.

“Access to training is inconsistent across Australia. Not enough principals are receiving the specialised training they need.  Fewer than one in four new principals complete training before they start,” Plibersek said.

She said Australia is also facing a looming shortfall of school principals.

Almost three quarters of Australian principals are over 50 years old, and between 2008 and 2013, the proportion of principals over 60 grew by 10 percentage points – to 18%.

Plibersek said there is an “urgent need” to identify and train more principals and support them well.

“That’s what Labor’s new National Principals’ Academy is all about. It will give thousands of Australian principals advanced leadership training and development,” she said.

Labor will work with school systems and the profession to deliver the initiative and also provide a range of courses, from standalone subjects to programs that run up to two years.

Plibersek said organisations with a “proven track record in school leadership education” will be able to tender to deliver these courses.  Where successful courses are already being delivered, the Academy will seek to support and build on those.

Additional course content will be designed by experienced principals, and other experts.

Private schools welcome plan

The Association of Heads of Independent Schools of Australia (AHISA) welcomed Labor’s announcement, with AHISA’s CEO, Beth Blackwood, saying the Association was particularly pleased that the national principals’ associations will be consulted about the Academy should Labor win government.

“The involvement of the profession is vital if such a venture is to be successful in supporting the development of principals,” Blackwood said.

Blackwood added that she would be interested in seeing a National Principals’ Academy invest in simulation technology to enhance online professional learning for principals.

“Some overseas universities are already using sophisticated simulation software for targeted professional development of teachers,” Blackwood said.

“There could be a place for such technology to help principals hone their techniques in coaching staff or creating high performing teams, for example.”