Opinion: The best principals focus on leadership

The quality of teaching is the most important factor in student learning, as is the quality of school leadership.

It is important to remember that the quality of teaching and school leadership in Australia is of a very high standard, despite the inequitable funding system and the false view that our education systems are failing.

If this failure scenario was accurate, then how do you explain the fact that education in Australia is one the biggest growth industries contributing to our GDP?

Adequate resourcing of our schools is an important factor and cannot be discounted. Catering to the needs of all students does not happen without adequate resourcing.

Education funding in Australia is known globally as being one of the most inequitable systems among OECD countries. We cannot sustain our high education standing in the future if the funding inequity continues.

Effective schools focus on the education of the whole child, which goes beyond the high stakes and narrow curriculum focus of NAPLAN and the unhealthy preoccupation we have about this quantitative data defining successful schools.

I agree with Trevor Fletcher when he says that school leaders need to be accessible and visible. This is easier said than done.

Principals in schools without the capacity to delegate (which is the case in most primary schools) are the ones who deal daily with complaining parents, student behaviour, counselling, facilities issues, data analysis, staffing issues, industrial regulations, critical incidents and everything else that causes principals’ inaccessibility.

In recent years the role of the school leader has shifted increasingly from educational leadership to school management involving a high administrative workload and frequent mandatory meetings away from their schools.

Is it important for principals to network and learn from each other? Absolutely.

Meeting with colleagues and keeping up to date with effective teaching and learning practices at reputable conferences is one way of ensuring ongoing effective educational leadership.

Most effective principals are focused on leadership succession and they encourage their staff to experience school leadership — an ideal time for this is when principals may be absent at meetings and conferences.

Distributed leadership is when there are opportunities where other staff can step up, within a culture of trust and respect, and where the strong culture of the school is sustainable without the constant presence of the principal.

Pam Kent is the president of the SA Primary Principals Association.