Principal’s role gets national nod

A national agreement on what makes a good school principal and what a principal's job entails has been described as "an historic move".

Federal, state and territory education ministers recently endorsed the National Professional Standard for Principals, developed by the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL).

In response AITSL described the ministerial endorsement as an "historic move".

The endorsement, at the Standing Ministerial Council on School Education and Early Childhood, came after a series of pilot studies, the largest of which involved 240 NSW public school principals.

The principals involved in the pilot series were a cross-section of new, experienced, male and female principals in primary, secondary, large, small, metropolitan, outer-metropolitan and rural schools.

More than 70% of the principals who took part in the NSW pilot strongly valued the standard as a very useful guide for the development of their leadership capacity and the development of the leadership capacity of others.

According to the department's director of professional learning and leadership development, Ann McIntyre, the idea behind the standard was to "articulate very clearly what it is good principals need to know, understand and do to make the greatest difference with their work".

"Everyone's got a view of what an effective school leader is ... and everybody makes judgments about the quality of leadership, but on what basis are you making those judgments," Ms McIntyre asked.

"What is important about the development of a principals' standard is that it's the opportunity for the profession to clearly articulate the critical elements of effective school leadership."

She said principals, who participated in focus groups and a detailed online survey, found it an "authentic and accurate" description of their role and what was important in that role.

The draft standard was developed by AITSL after broad consultation across Australia, including with professional associations such as the NSW Primary Principals' Association and the NSW Secondary Principals' Council.

It was informed by the work of Professor Dame Pat Collarbone, a leader in managing sector-wide change in education in the UK.

Ms McIntyre said the standard set out what principals were expected to know, understand and do to achieve excellence in their work.

"The standard will, for the first time, unify the profession nationally by describing the professional practice of principals in a common language and in making explicit the role of quality school leadership for improved student outcomes," she said.

"For principals in NSW public schools what matters most is the achievement of their students and they see very clearly that the professional learning within the school is a key driver for the continuation of improved outcomes within their school."

Ms McIntyre said research showed "almost all successful leaders draw on the same repertoire of basic leadership practices and that the national standard for principals articulates these practices".

The standard is based on three leadership requirements:

  • vision and values
  • knowledge and understanding
  • personal qualities and social and interpersonal skills;

and five key professional practices:

  • leading teaching and learning
  • developing self and others
  • leading improvement, innovation and change
  • leading the management of the school
  • engaging and working with the community.

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