Future-Proofing Education with Innovative Leadership

Mooloolaba State School Principal Peter Wilson discusses his dedication to improving education by supporting teachers, leveraging digital technology, and enhancing student mental health.

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Kylie Speer [00:00:09] Hello and welcome to the educator TV I'm Kylie Speer. Thank you for joining us for the latest installment of Educator Insights, our inspirational education leadership series that takes a deep dive into the current state of education in Australia. Joining me today is Peter Wilson, Principal at Mooloolaba State School. Peter has been a member of the Queensland Association of State School Principals since his first principalship in 1995, and believes that primary schools need to invest in teachers to enable them to continue to improve, and ultimately benefits not just their students, but society as a whole. Welcome to you, Peter. And thank you so much for joining us today. 

Peter Wilson [00:00:55] It's a pleasure Kylie. 

Kylie Speer [00:00:57] Well, firstly, Peter, in your role and career as principal, what is it that you're most passionate about? 

Peter Wilson [00:01:04] I look, it's obviously the kids, and how well the kids are achieving. But I think in order to do that, we need to support and invest in our teachers and provide them with the currency and the upgraded skills to do what they can best do to help our kids in the best way to help shape the future citizens of our country, I suppose, but also in the global context, or, of course, the world as well. Unfortunately, at times, I think primary education hasn't quite addressed that particular area. And I think that that's something that I would like to see our governments combine and invest more effectively or more in the primary education, but particularly in how we can support our teachers to ultimately become better teachers. 

Kylie Speer [00:01:52] Peter, the education landscape in Australia is transforming rapidly, can you talk us through the changes you're most affected by and how you're approaching their adoption? 

Peter Wilson [00:02:05] Obviously, the biggest change and the constant change is digital technology. And, you know, our interview is an example of that, that this wouldn't have happened a couple of years ago, so. And what we've got to do then is address the fact that our kids are growing up in this era, and teachers haven't grown up in this era. So we've got to, again, provide those skills and experiences and ways to utilize new technology that benefits people, instead of just turning them away from education and learning. And how we can capitalize, I think on digital technology and learning, but also to increase engagement in school because we're losing some engagement. One of the other prevalent issues and becoming increasingly more so is mental health, particularly anxiety within our students. Having said that, it also exists as we know, in the broadest society, which includes our teachers, and our parents as well. So how we deal with that in in a school environment. And I think because primary school, and particularly in Queensland, primary school is the only government institution that's in every single community in Queensland. So therefore, we've got an both an opportunity and an obligation to make sure that we assist that community as a whole as well as the kids within our school to become effective citizens in the future. And that's utilizing things like digital technologies, working on mental wellness, as well as academic rigor. So there's a whole lot surprising dispersal of factors in there. 

Kylie Speer [00:03:43] Peter, as you've just mentioned, health and well being and diversity and inclusion practices have never been as top of mind and vital as they are right now. How does the lower bar state school approach this area with your students? 

Peter Wilson [00:03:58] Look, I think one of the great things about this school and I've only been here, this is only my second year and that the biggest change I noticed in this school from most other schools I've been in is whilst we're really good with academic achievement, and academic rigor, most of us are doing the best that we can. I think the thing that helps us in this particular setting is a variety of extracurricular activities that we offer in the staff here offer out of their own time, and that provides one yes, that that sense of balance and wellness but also provides opportunities for those students who aren't academic to shine. It provides opportunities for teachers, staff, parents and students to see others have success in other ways. So and those sort of activities at this school involve involvement in a debating competition. involvement in ifl boys and girls soccer boys And girls, rugby league boys and girls, our instrumental music program, our music program and our choir, our running club, our surfing excellence program. And skateboarding program we've just started. And all of these things have just been built over time. And some have been certainly, individual teachers have really pushed them. But other teachers have got behind that, and community gets behind that. And I think the community recognize the importance of having those options for kids. And it's important also in my role as the principal, and I think my colleagues, as much as the deputy principals are very visible in that space as well. So I think the community needs to see that we support not just Maths and English, which is essential. But it's also those extracurricular things. Yeah, I think that's probably for that question. 

Kylie Speer [00:05:59] That all sounds amazing. And, Peter, let's go back to the subject of technology, the topic of AI is an increasingly complex one, what are your thoughts on how to best work with it going forward? 

Peter Wilson [00:06:13] To be honest, I'm not really sure. And to be honest, that that that's something that were not fighting with. But we're trying to find out a little bit more about how to use AI most effectively, I think that the thing that we need to really understand is that we have to use AI, it's not a choice, whether we're going to or not, it's just how we do that effectively, and how that benefits our kids the most, but also does it in a fashion that  builds upon the skills of our teachers. Rather than detracts from the skills of our teachers. I think teachers remain important in in an AI environment. There are some things I believe AI will be able to do to take some load off teachers that I would hope will translate in us being able to even more effectively differentiate for the individual needs of kids, at times with the assistance of AI, but AI is not just in teaching, it's around us in absolutely everything we do so it's inevitable. 

Kylie Speer [00:07:17] With so much on your plate, How can teachers and principals be best supported by relevant stakeholders to ensure you're adequately equipped to do your job? 

Peter Wilson [00:07:28] Alright, the first message there is that I think it was in 2011, Dr. David Gonski, did his report into how much funding was required for schools to operate. And I believe it's at a minimum standard. And that that figure is 12 13 years old now. And at this point, Queensland state primary schools, I think, might have just been Queensland State schools completely our resource to 80% of that level. So we really need our state governments and federal governments to come together and say, How can we resource state education at 100% of what was the minimum requirement, so that that's the biggest thing I think needs to happen. The other one that then is aided by that, if you like, and particularly in a primary school setting, is having experts on site to help teachers further develop their pedagogy, work with them in their planning, work with them in their teaching, to help them become better at what they do. So those positions depending on which jurisdiction, you mean, something like a head of curriculum, or a coach position. And I suppose when I compare primary schools in Queensland, to high schools in Queensland, I'd see high schools get an allocation of a half a position as a head of Korea, Head of Department position for every 100 students. In primary schools, if you've got, I think it's between 303 125 Kids, you get an allocation of I think, a point five or point six out of curriculum. The rest of us don't, most of its fun that in some fashion, using directing other funds there because we believe that's important. But in my school have nearly 800 Kids, we've got one head of curriculum, we're currently working point eight. That's really not enough to work with the 32 classes, and all specialist people we have to help them implement the curriculum as effectively as possible. 

Kylie Speer [00:09:38] So finally, Peter, what's your number one recommendation or request right now to effect positive change in education? 

Peter Wilson [00:09:47] That we made 100% of the school resourcing standard set by David Gonski. 

Kylie Speer [00:09:53] Indeed, well thank you so much. Once again for your time today, Peter. It was lovely speaking with  

Peter Wilson [00:10:00] You too. 

Kylie Speer [00:10:02] And thank you of course to our viewers for watching the latest episode of Educator Insights we look forward to seeing you again soon.