In October, Robyn Evans took up the new role as president of the NSW Primary Principals Association (NSWPPA), an organisation that represents more than 1,800 public primary schools across the state.
While Evans’ appointment came months after the lockdowns that forced schools to move their classes online, she was already Vice and Deputy President of the NSWPPA, a position from which she was able to glean critical insights from the state’s primary school leaders during the pandemic.
Amid dizzying change and colossal upheaval across the entire education system, principals did “an extraordinary job” during 2020, says Evans.
“All schools remained open with principals leading and supporting their students, staff and communities through bushfire, floods, drought and the COVID 19 pandemic,” Evans told The Educator.
“We have been frontline workers every day and have taken on every challenge put to us. Teaching and learning continued through it all dual platforms – face to face and from home”.
Evans said principals, executive, teachers, school administrative support staff, students and their school communities should be applauded for this.
“The care, compassion and support offered individually and collectively is something to behold,” she said.
“The provision of effective tools, resources and support to schools including curriculum advisors and school counsellors have long been called for from the NSWPPA.
Evans said the Auditor General’s Report and CESE research into Local Schools Local Decisions [LSLD] confirms this.
LSLD was launched in 2012, by the NSW Department of Education to give the state’s public schools more authority to make local decisions about how best to meet the needs of their students.
However, a scathing report released in April this year by the NSW Auditor-General found that the Federal Education Department never had sufficient oversight of the local use of needs-based funding, nor any clear targets set for needs based equity funding or standardised reporting of outcomes from funding.
Under the NSW Government’s new Schools Success Model, designed to replace LSLD, schools will be given individual targets benchmarked against similar schools for HSC, student growth, phonics, attendance, NAPLAN, wellbeing, Aboriginal education, and pathways.
Schools that exceed their targets will provide a database of best practice – with the Department of Education to explore whether their teaching methods can be scaled across NSW. However, schools that fail to meet their targets will trigger intervention – with the Department providing additional support.
The move has sparked widespread concerns about how the targets will be achieved when many schools lack sufficient resourcing. Some of the most prominent voices in NSW education hit out at the model, saying there is no research to back it up.
Evans said the School Success Model needs to focus on how the Department of Education is building the success of schools.
“Principals, leaders, teachers and communities would welcome that support to ensure individual student targets are met,” she said.
Principals are leading and managing their schools with the human and physical resources and finances available to them”.