The year in review: ‘Significant inroads’ for NSW principals

The year in review: ‘Significant inroads’ for NSW principals
The 2017 Australian Principal Occupational Health, Safety and Wellbeing Survey found that principals are experiencing workplace demands that are 1.5 times higher than the general population.

To address this, NSW Primary Principals’ Association (NSWPPA), in conjunction with the NSW Secondary Principals Council (NSWSPC), established a working party to look at how the two organisations can provide administrative support to principals.

So how has the role of school principal in NSW progressed in terms of managing expectations and delivering educational excellence over the last year?

Below, The Educator speaks to NSW Secondary Principals Council president, Chris Presland, who reflects on the biggest issues and triumphs for the state’s school leaders in 2017.

TE: In your view, what kind of year was 2017 for NSW principals?

As always, it has been pretty challenging, but having said that it was also very successful. We made some very significant inroads into the need for additional systemic support to be provided for principals. The research relating to the increasing workload and pressure on principals has been well documented and for some time has seen little response. This year, however, we have really brought these issues to the fore and we have finally seen a significant support package mapped out for the next 18 months. This includes additional administrative support, additional curriculum support, and the creation of a new Leadership Institute. Apart from that, I am always amazed at the capacity of our principals to keep focused on the needs of their staff and students – and they do a fantastic job.

TE: Could anything have been done differently in terms of support and resources to make the year more manageable for NSW principals?

There's always more that could be done to support principals. The increasing focus on compliance driven initiatives places a lot of pressure on people and detracts from the main game. However, in NSW we are very hopeful of an improvement in support in 2018 via the recently announced School Leadership Support Strategy.

TE: What do you see as the main challenges and opportunities in the year ahead for the state’s school leaders?

Leading learning in a complex and changing environment. We still find a tension between developing the kind of skills and capabilities in our students that will stand them in good stead for the future, and the pressure on producing results in a high stakes testing environment. It's not an either / or proposition, but the political imperatives created by a PISA and NAPLAN focus can get in the way of developing a truly innovative, creative and futuristic education system. Beyond that, the whole area of support for the management of mental and emotional health is a continuing, significant and increasing concern for our society as a whole.​

Related stories:
A principal’s outlook for 2017
Principal well-being: the states making a difference