Our Schooling Futures: Stronger Together
Principals were at the nexus of the Tomorrow’s Schools reforms of the late 1980’s. They work at the convergence of governance and management as the managers of ‘self-managing’ schools in a competitive environment. These reforms underestimated the size of the job of running a school as a stand-alone entity and the amount of practical support needed.
Two questions to address for principals in reviewing the current state of the system are:
• What is the job ‘the system’ wants school principals to do?
• What support needs to be in place to enable them to be effective in this role?
The report by the TSIT recommends a fundamental shift in philosophy from ‘self-managing schools’ through to a model of collective responsibility. Many of the recommendations impact directly on the principal’s role so it is important that principals have clarity about what is proposed and how it is likely to affect their work.
Potential to provide valuable support for principals
It appears from the recommendations that the day to day role of principals and staff within a school will be broadly similar to now. The main difference will be the way in which the principal relates to the rest of the system through the Education Hubs. There is an expectation for a wider responsibility to education in area as well as to the school they are based at.
The ability to access services via the hub has the potential to provide valuable support for principals. Being better able to share best practice and reduce duplication by accessing other expertise and experience seems to address a frustration in the current system. In addition, principals taking up roles in Hubs or being seconded to share experience more widely will expand the career opportunities for principals.
Principals must be prepared to let some things go
If the recommendations are implemented principals must be prepared to let some things go. This will require them to trust others in the system to take greater responsibility. It could also present a challenge to shift from what can be an intense loyalty to a particular school to a wider allegiance across a network of schools.
Whilst it is important to consider if the reforms are likely have a positive impact on equity, quality of learning, and well- being of students and staff, alongside this we should also consider the effect on principal’s work.
I look forward to your feedback to enable SPC to respond to recommendations and represent your views.