Leadership essentials: What matters most for education 2022?

Leadership essentials: What matters most for education 2022?

Throughout The Educator’s Leadership Essentials series, we have been asking sector leaders from across Australia’s education landscape about what can be done to make meaningful improvements in key areas such as duty of care, legal compliance, and risk mitigation.

In this article, we look at what matters most for Australian education in 2022 and reveal the key priorities of system leaders as they embark on a new school year.

Andrew Pierpoint, president of the Australian Secondary Principals' Association (ASPA) says many principals are highly focussed on creating an environment that is about ‘getting back to normal’ – for staff, students, parents and the broader school community.

“To necessitate this, a conscious and intended agenda of not tackling new initiatives and letting the school and community ‘take a breath’ for a period of time is very important,” Pierpoint told The Educator.

“The skill of the school leader is to know when the time is to address new initiatives in the school – an equally important part of recovery. I am very confident that Principals in our secondary schools will strike the correct balance.”

Catholic Secondary Principals Australia (CaSPA) president, Ann Rebgetz, said a high ranked leadership priority will be ensuring there is always strong leadership at the helm.

“This means investing in developing the leadership capital of the senior leadership team of the school and ensuring that all are leading strategically and as a team,” Rebgetz told The Educator.

“Again, in being strategic, developing capacity of Middle Leaders and Teachers will have far reaching effects. The blueprint and vision of the school needs to be clear to facilitate all being on the one page.”

Rebgetz said commitment to the ethos and culture of the school inclusive of the faith of the community will provide impetus, collaboration and focus to achieve the local, national, and global goals for schools, taking into account their specific contexts.

“Understanding culturally diverse learners to create a more equitable society enabling potential to be maximized underpins all that we do. Leading well in resourcing is again crucial to outcomes.”

Association of Heads of Independent Schools of Australia (AHISA) president, Beth Blackwood, said there has been such rapid technological and social transformation this century that all school leaders in some form or another have had to work in the present while investing in the future.

“COVID-19 accelerated that change. I expect to see further innovations emerging this year in accommodating student agency and student voice – for example through self-directed learning,” Blackwood told The Educator.

“As well as fresh approaches in teaching and learning, we are likely to see experimentation in schools with trends that are having a big impact in post-school education, such as micro-credentialling and digital passports.”

In terms of school operations, says Blackwood, independent school principals are likely to be prioritising every aspect of staff wellbeing and development.

“Accommodating shifting expectations and life situations among teachers has been underway for several years, but has been made more complex by COVID,” she said.

“We are likely to see workforce issues – whether in recruiting or retaining staff or in meeting timetabling requirements – challenging principals in all sectors.”

Matthew Johnson, president of the Australian Special Education Principals Association (ASEPA), said systems and sectors need to reassure parents that special schools will continue to be allocated the appropriate resources to adequately staff and support students in the long term.

“Our schools and leaders need pre-service teacher preparation providers to consider making special education subjects compulsory within initial teacher preparation programs to provide our students with the quality and qualified staff that they need and deserve,” Johnson told The Educator.

“Our leaders need to be allocated sufficient funding and time to ensure professional development is in place for teachers and the support staff within special schools if inclusive education is to be achieved for all. Finally, systems need to ensure principal and leader wellbeing within the specialist education sector be made a priority for research and provided with tangible resources and supports.”