For school leaders, professional development is becoming a key priority as schools adapt to a rapidly changing technology, education and demographic landscape.
In particular, the COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated that adapting to change is perhaps the most important quality a school leader in 2021 can possess.
Budding Catholic principals in the Diocese of Sale recently gathered for a three-day workshop designed to improve their skills and knowledge.
The Diocese of Sale Leadership Program (DOSLP) is a development opportunity for Catholic school staff currently in middle leadership positions or considering leadership. Now in its second year, the program has thus far been attended by 78 budding school leaders.
Maria Kirkwood, Director of Catholic Education for the Diocese of Sale, said that building leadership capability at all levels is a high priority in education.
“Since the inception of DOSCEL in 2018, support for school leaders has been a key area of focus,” Kirkwood told The Educator.
“We have exponentially increased the number of educators participating in formal leadership development programs at all career stages, from aspiring leaders right through to those with many years of leadership experience”.
Kirkwood said the DOSLP is just one element of the Diocese’s comprehensive Leadership Development Framework.
“We anticipate that our investment in leadership will have many positive outcomes, including an improvement in learning and wellbeing outcomes for our students,” she said.
“Another benefit that we are already seeing is increased capacity of our deputy principals to take on acting principal roles when required”.
Kirkwood said acting as principal is a “terrific opportunity” for deputies to demonstrate their skills and build on their leadership experience.
“We have great confidence in their ability to fulfil those duties with appropriate support structures in place,” she said.
It’s no secret that the intense workloads associated with principalship are a put-off for many educators who might otherwise choose to become a senior school leader. Kirkwood said attracting a new generation of principals is another emerging issue that is taking on greater importance as many schools struggle to fill key leadership positions.
“We know that without dedicated support, the gaps in knowledge and experience between teachers in classrooms and those in leadership positions can seem insurmountable,” she said.
“To tackle these gaps, DOSCEL has developed targeted programs for every stage of school leadership. We provide training and ongoing, practical support for aspiring and established school leaders throughout their careers. The DOSLP is one of several initiatives in this area”.
Kirkwood said educational leaders in DOSCEL schools enjoy regular, facilitated gatherings of collegial networks, which aim to build capacity in dispositional leadership and mindset, along with knowledge of best practices in all areas of learning, teaching and religious formation.
“We also employ experienced School Leadership Consultants, who provide one-on-one coaching and support,” she said.
“I was pleased to share my own leadership journey with some of our aspiring leaders recently, and other senior members of my team also make themselves available at various times”.
Kirkwood said the Diocese is encouraging future leaders by highlighting potential pathways to leadership, and also remind them of the importance of prioritising their wellbeing along the way.
“The leadership development opportunities we offer are tailored to build our educators’ technical understanding of leadership, integrity, and self-awareness in the context of Catholic education and in line with the AITSL leadership standards”.