Principal-in-residence program an Australian first

Principal-in-residence program an Australian first

A new program is being rolled out to strengthen connections between Victoria’s 1,500 schools and their internal staff.

The principal-in-residence program, launched by the Victorian Education Department this week, aims to improve departmental culture by bridging the gap between principals and education bureaucrats.

One of the motivating factors behind the program was the findings of an Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission (IBAC) report earlier his year which showed that $240m was wasted on an online project designed to connect students, teachers and parents at Victorian public schools.

The revelation prompted some Victorian teachers to call for improved collaboration and communication between principals and bureaucrats – a call that is now being answered by the state’s Department.

Victorian Education Minister, James Merlino, told The Educator that the Principal in Residence program was created as a pivotal leadership role to work collaboratively across the Department. 

“They act as the interface between central policy areas and program design and operations,” he said. 

“This allows them to provide insight and advice, as well as leadership, information and guidance that supports the implementation of school improvement and the Education State initiatives.”

Merlino said it is important that there is open communication between the Department and its principals. 

“The Department is keen to draw on the experiences of Principals, teachers and ancillary staff and to bring those experiences into the discussion about policy development,” he said.

Antonio Park Primary School principal, Karen Patten, has been embedded as a recent principal-in-residence with the Department.

Patten told the ABC that she is all too familiar with the burgeoning workload of principals.

“Principals are really, really busy people. We work with our communities and we work with other schools in terms of networks and in terms of improving our practice," she said.

Patten said that is important that the Department focuses not only on the business management aspect of running a school but whether or not the programs being rolled out in classrooms are having a real impact on teaching and learning.

“I've seen a number of people develop policy and programs for schools and they don't always see how they land, or the actual impact on the kids in classrooms," she said.

“There is a real energy and authentic intent in terms of getting to know schools a whole lot better”.