It’s long been recognised that the job of school principal is one of the most challenging and complex of them all.
Recognising this, the NSW Department of Education established The School Leadership Institute in 2018 to provide critical support for current and emerging school leaders through world-class, evidence-informed and future-focused leadership programs.
One of these programs is the Principal Induction Conference (PIC), which has been deepening principals’ understanding of their role, supporting principals in meeting their accountabilities, and building collegial networks across NSW and beyond.
The PIC also provides the opportunity for established principals to support the leadership development of new and emerging leaders while also enhancing their own knowledge and understanding.
Joanne Jarvis, Director of the School Leadership Institute said the Institute’s focus in 2023 remains the ongoing development of high-level leadership capabilities that build leaders’ confidence to lead effectively and have a positive impact within their school context.
“This supports their wellbeing and strengthens system leadership,” Jarvis told The Educator. “It is vital to instil in leaders a strong commitment to the ongoing development of self and others.”
Jarvis said engaging with the wide range of leadership development programs and resources that are offered by the School Leadership Institute is being embraced across the system.
“We now offer a wide range of programs and resources for leaders at every stage, from classroom teachers to experienced principals and Directors, Educational Leadership,” she said.
“These are underpinned by core principles that are essential for all leaders such as moral purpose, a commitment to action and a belief that we can make a collective difference to students.”
Wrap around support for leaders
Jarvis said the PIC focuses on multiple aspects of principalship to ensure wrap around support for new school leaders.
“Principalship is complex so although their role description, which defines the key accountabilities of the role, is discussed during the induction conference, we also explore the complexity of school leadership, which highlights the need for principals to be adaptive and nuanced in their context,” she said.
“During the PIC, newly appointed principals work closely with experienced principal facilitators as they explore how they can remain focused on themselves as the lead learner and the means by which they can create collaborative cultures that enable everyone to learn.”
Jarvis said while it’s unlikely for principals to extract themselves completely from responsibilities that fall outside of their direct role, the Institute addresses this reality by ensuring ongoing development through the Growing Great Leaders (GGL) program.
“The GGL continues to support newly appointed principals’ leadership development and focuses on the development of the capabilities of new principals, enabling them to work effectively in their unique contexts, alongside colleagues and communities.”
‘A strong sense of hope and optimism’
Jarvis, who was present during the recent PIC, said she relished the positive messages that were shared by participants.
“There was most definitely a strong sense of hope and optimism. They heard a heartfelt speech from the Secretary, Murat Dizdar, about how much he valued their role as educators in smashing through the barriers of inequity as we strive to provide a world-class education for young people,” she said.
Jarvis said the inductees would “take heart” in knowing they will enjoy an ongoing relationship with the School Leadership Institute as it continues to support their development.
“They will most certainly know that they will work collaboratively with colleagues with support from experienced principals, facilitators, mentors from SLI programs and Principal School Leaders and Coach Mentors,” she said.
“One of my personal highlights was re-connecting with a former student from Engadine HS, Nathan Vanderway, now a newly appointed principal; and the sister-in-law of another ex-student, at his table, who is now a principal. It was quite lovely and special for me.”
The future is bright for new leaders
Emma Le Marquand, Principal of Blaxland High School was one of the Principal Facilitators at the PIC. She worked with six newly appointed principals who are responsible for the growth and success of large comprehensive high schools.
“We started by reflecting on Jane Goodall’s quote ‘You have to decide what difference you want to make’ to really think about who we want to be as principals,” Le Marquand told The Educator.
“Digging into our values we had time to learn how to use the supports available to us as part of the largest education system in the country to really influence student outcomes.”
Le Marquand is confident the new leaders are off to a strong start in their leadership journey, adding that they are “filled with integrity, passion, intelligence and empathy.”
“They will absolutely work tirelessly to make sure their schools are beacons of excellence in public education and their students are thriving.”
Empowering agents of change
Deborah Milgate, Principal participant and Principal of Manildra Public School, found the conference to be an uplifting and empowering experience.
“The PIC has been a great platform to engage with other newly appointed principals as we all embark on our leadership journey,” Milgate told The Educator.
“This has created an additional group of principals that I can connect with beyond my school network. I was also supported by a very knowledgeable Principal Facilitator who offered deep insight and understanding about our roles as a leader of education.”
Milgate said she was excited to be provided with the opportunity to positively impact the outcomes for our students, staff and community.
“I am excited to put into practice the leadership mindsets that will allow me to be an agent of change and an advocate for public education.”