Earlier this month, principals, school leaders, researchers and education sector representatives from across Australia converged at a roundtable to discuss ways to improve support for current and future principals.
The Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership’s (AITSL) School Leadership Roundtable was part of ongoing national efforts to ensure aspiring and current leaders have clear and rewarding career paths, and the support they need to maximise their impact on student outcomes, no matter where they work in Australia.
Below, The Educator speaks to AITSL CEO, Mark Grant, about the Roundtable, high-impact school leadership practices and what lies ahead for the profession in 2020.
TE: In your view, what should be the most appealing aspects of the School Leadership Roundtable for an Australian school principal?
MG: The focus of the School Leadership Roundtable has been on strengthening school leadership development and principal preparation; an important priority for AITSL as we strive to support the teaching profession at every career stage.
Having principals come together to discuss the challenges they face is part of ongoing national efforts to ensure aspiring and current leaders have clear and rewarding career paths, and the support they need to maximise their impact on student outcomes. High-quality school leadership is critical to delivering the best outcomes for Australian learners. Great principals have enormous impact and regularly report high levels of job satisfaction – but the role is challenging, demanding, ever-evolving and subject to rapid and broad changes.
TE: You said the Roundtable will “build on the significant work on systems, sectors, jurisdictions and school contexts across the country to better support current and future leaders”. Can you point to some recent work that has been particularly outstanding and effective in this context?
MG: One of the great successes of the School Leadership Roundtable has been an increased focus on leadership development and principal preparation across Australia. Every jurisdiction is tackling how to best prepare our future leaders. Recent initiatives in Victoria, Tasmania and NSW show evidence of this investment. In Victoria, the Unlocking Potential program offered by the Bastow Institute provides principals with the confidence, skills and professional knowledge necessary to create school cultures that provide high-quality educational opportunities for all students.
The Principal Preparation Program offered by the Tasmania’s Professional Learning Institute supports aspiring principals to further develop their leadership capabilities and preparedness to undertake the role of principal. Similarly, the Association of Independent Schools NSW Leadership Centre’s Flagship program develops self-awareness and deepens knowledge and leadership skills for senior leaders moving towards principalship. The holistic program includes mentoring, shadowing and 360-degree feedback. AITSL seeks to complement this work through the School Leadership Roundtable by supporting a nationally coherent and standards-based approach to high-impact school leadership development.
TE: Drawing from your interactions with school leaders, what is the principal profession most in need of in 2020, and how will AITSL be helping them meet these needs?
MG: By working with the profession, AITSL has identified three opportunities to strengthen school leadership development and principal preparation.
AITSL will continue our work with jurisdictions to unearth how a nationally coherent and standards-based approach to high-impact school leadership, leadership development and principal preparation that can help improve outcomes for Australian school students. Such an approach should include the flexibility to adapt approaches to suit local contexts and priorities, and focus on how we can better:
- prioritise high-impact school leadership practices into leadership preparation programs
- support the development of structured career pathways for school leaders, including to better understand the skills and capabilities required at all levels of school leadership
- increase equity of access to high-quality leadership development and principal preparation experiences, particularly for those in regional, rural and remote settings.
We also know that school leaders want easily digestible evidence. The Australian Teacher Workforce Data initiative led by AITSL will provide the data that will help better support future research, policymaking and planning.