Meet the man helping principals put a spring back in their step

Meet the man helping principals put a spring back in their step

As any principal knows, effective leadership is the key ingredient to a school’s success, but when the Covid-19 pandemic hit, many leaders were forced to fight the good fight with one hand tied behind their back.

As someone who has dedicated his life to helping educators thrive, Happy School creator Steve Francis swung into action, launching a program that is helping get struggling teachers and leaders back on their feet.

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Francis is no stranger to the challenges that teachers and principals are facing. He has been the principal at a number of schools, including a one-teacher school and a large metropolitan school in Queensland. Francis also headed up an international school in Hong Kong.

“Effective leadership is so important in schools. I am concerned that COVID had a huge impact on schools and in particular leaders,” Francis tells The Educator.

“So often I find that leadership teams are so busy dealing with issues, solving problems and looking after others that they rarely get to focus on their own development and in particular, their alignment as a team.”

In February 2022, Francis launched the ‘School Leadership Sprints’ to promote great teachers into leadership roles.

The series of 20 short sharp videos are designed to develop and align leadership teams and aspiring leaders. Typical topics include: High Functioning Leadership Teams; Mastering Difficult Conversations; Time efficient Line Management Processes; Leading Effective Change; and Differentiating Your Leadership.

More than 100 schools across Australia and New Zealand have subscribed to access this valuable resource.

“The challenge for leaders and leadership teams is that they are time poor. They are often so busy dealing with operational issues they rarely get to be strategic or to work on their alignment as a team,” Francis tells The Educator.

“The School Leadership Sprints are designed as very short, sharp videos, less than 10 minutes on one specific, important leadership issue. They can be integrated into the leadership team meeting, once or twice per term, to prompt discussions and decisions that will align the leadership team.”

Francis said the Sprints can also be used by individuals or aspiring leaders for on demand professional development.

“The response from schools has been huge and the feedback extremely positive.”

When asked what he believes should be the main supports for the teaching and leadership professions in 2023, Francis said a strong focus on wellbeing will be key.

“Teacher wellbeing is such an important issue. You can’t have a great school without great people. We are struggling to retain our superstars let alone attract people to the profession,” he says.

“As a society we need to increase the respect we hold for the teaching profession. If you asked parents, what is the most important thing in their lives, 99% of them would say their children. They are more important to them than their house, their car or anything they own.”

Francis said the work of teachers and leaders in Australia’s schools is important because they are professionals that have the opportunity to change lives, every day.

“That’s important work that should be respected,” he says. “Our Happy School program is designed to help staff in schools help themselves to manage their wellbeing. I don’t believe that it is the leader’s job to ‘fix’ staff wellbeing.”

Francis said staff need to take responsibility for the decisions they make.

“The Happy School program is designed to help staff. The leader’s role is to focus on the school culture by providing the best possible environment for the magic to happen in schools and that is in the classroom,” he says. “The School Leadership Sprints are designed to help leaders to optimise their school.”

Steve Francis was recently named as one of The Educator’s Hot List 2022 winners.