The body representing South Australia’s primary school principals has floated the idea of giving school leaders a term off for every four years to focus on educational research and improve their own well-being.
Under the proposal, the leave would be on top of regular school holidays, which run to 12 weeks each year, and long service entitlements.
South Australian Primary Principals Association (SAPPA) president, Pam Kent, told The Educator that principals want the opportunity to develop or refine knowledge and practice that can enhance teaching and learning.
Kent – who recently returned from an international conference in Toronto, Canada – pointed out that Catholic principals and Canadian colleagues said the benefits are considerable, “both personally and professionally”.
“Accrued study leave is not currently in place in government schools because it has never seriously been negotiated and of course there would be a cost to this condition, albeit a minor cost for the benefits,” she said.
“The time to research a particular issue such as effective pedagogy has positive spin-offs for their schools as well.”
Kent added that another benefit was the likely incentive for aspirant principals as more and more teachers are reluctant to be school principals because they perceive the role as being too demanding.
Principals ‘directly impact test scores’
In June, a report on the effectiveness of principals revealed how school leaders are having a direct impact on the learning outcomes of students.
The research – by the University of Melbourne – was the first of its kind in Australia and based on Education Department data including literacy and numeracy results and detailed parent and staff surveys.
It detailed how principals who set clear strategic objectives, encourage professional interaction among staff and promote professional development for teachers significantly raise student achievement levels.
Using unique public school data from the Victorian Department of Education and Training, the report – led by Dr Mick Coelli from the Faculty of Business and Economics at the University of Melbourne – analysed the role of principals in determining student achievement as measured by standardised test scores.
The research found that principals who involved staff in delivering clear objectives and provided growth opportunities saw a rise in test scores and overall performance.
“We see principals in schools for more years than other related studies so can get closer to estimating their ‘full’ effect on student achievement,” Coelli said in a statement.
“More effective principals can raise student performance by as much as 0.22 of a year of learning.”