The successful program getting middle leaders ready for the top job

The successful program getting middle leaders ready for the top job

Assistant principals and head teachers are being encouraged to apply for the largest professional learning program for middle leaders in the country.

The Middle Leadership Development Program is tailored specifically for the needs of the 12,000 assistant principals and head teachers in NSW public schools. 

It is run by the NSW Department of Education’s School Leadership Institute (SLI) and provides targeted professional learning to middle leaders, while helping lift student achievement by developing the capabilities of the leaders who have a direct impact in classrooms. 

The Director of the SLI, Joanne Jarvis, said supporting assistant principals and head teachers in NSW public schools ensured leaders remained motivated and connected to colleagues and their students.

“Middle leaders are the leaders who can have a direct impact in the classroom and who connect classroom teachers with more senior leaders – their role in our schools is so important,” she said.

“They are acknowledged as teaching and learning experts, and positioned between teachers and school executive, are increasingly being tasked to lead school professional learning to improve classroom teaching and learning practices.”

Jarvis said the SLI is committed to making sure potential future middle leaders can be identified through the Institute’s School Leadership Identification Framework and in developing and supporting those leaders already in their roles.

The Middle Leadership Development Program launched in 2022 with an initial cohort of 215 participants.

It is a 12-month program co-designed by the SLI alongside academics from the University of Newcastle and University of Wollongong.

Applications for the next cohort of participants are now open with the program set to start in Term 1 2024.

Participants in the program engage in a mix of conferences, online sessions, self-paced e-learning and other activities. 

The program also provides principals and deputy principals with the opportunity to enhance and reflect on their own leadership practice by becoming facilitators.

‘Middle leaders are pivotal to a school’s success’

Unlike the role of principal, there is no shared definition of middle leadership in Australia. Yet, the impact they have on teaching and learning is profound.

In 2022, the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL) launched a partnership with the Queensland Department of Education to develop and trial professional standards for middle leaders. The partnership was launched after AITSL received feedback from the profession that there is a gap in support for middle leadership development across Australia.

“Across many of our 9,600 schools, middle leaders are vital when it comes to maintaining and driving improved school performance, often holding specialised leadership roles that draw on their teaching experience and expertise,” Mark Grant, CEO of AITSL The Educator.

“When middle leaders share their knowledge, it benefits not only their colleagues but students as well. Covering pedagogical, program or student-based leadership, middle leaders are pivotal to a school’s success – the backbone of expertise and support for classroom teachers, working collaboratively to create high-impact learning opportunities for students every day.”