EB must reflect responsibility of school leaders' role
Queensland Teachers' Journal, Vol 124 No 1, 15 February 2019, page no. 14
The Promotional Positions Classification Review has highlighted the need to recognise the huge changes and burgeoning complexity the roles of school leaders have undergone in the quarter of a century since they were last evaluated, and the QTU is insisting that the next EB includes a revised classification and salary structure for classified positions. Here QTU principal members explain what they do, the stresses involved and what they hope to see in the future.
Being a principal in a remote rural community means much more than giving strategic direction, being an instructional leader and working with staff and students. I am also involved in many local committees and organisations and our school plays an important role in the local interagency network in our community.
Living in a small town means that volunteering time, being available to assist staff and community members on weekends and often during vacation times, and responding to phone calls from region, state government security and BAS are common occurrences in addition to routine school hours. I often choose not to leave town on the holidays and the expectation from the community is that I am therefore available to go into the school, be a part of the local disaster management group and attend community meetings and events during my vacation time.
Even though we now have mandatory online training, the localised information that relates to our community, cultural awareness and ‘survival’ in a remote rural community is most important for all new staff and must be done in addition to the online training. I find that I spend many hours recruiting staff, inducting them into our school and community, and giving them the information and skills necessary to make their time with us happy and successful. Welcoming new staff to the community before the school term begins usually includes airport pickups and trips to the shops until cars arrive and being a general tour guide.
The welfare and support of staff is a major part of my role. Many of our teaching staff are graduates and many have never lived out of home before. Much time is spent not only supporting their teaching and professional needs, but supporting mental health and welfare needs, social concerns, and housing issues. Many of our non-teaching staff also require support at times when there are issues in the community that may be affecting them or their families, and I am called upon to offer assistance.
I see my role in supporting the welfare of students as very important; however, in our community I often work with parents and extended family, offering support, referring them to specialist agencies and working alongside them to assist them and their children with attendance and school engagement.
Supporting attendance and student engagement and working with a range of agencies is also a regular part of my week. I host meetings to case manage students and bring agencies together to co-ordinate support so that we are not duplicating what is being offered to families.
As well as the many legislative requirements, departmental expectations, workplace health and safety responsibilities and financial areas of responsibility, much of my time is spent ensuring that our community sees our school as a welcoming place that will support their children academically, socially and with welfare and health.
Each school and community is different and I would hope that the PPCR will recognise the complexities and responsibilities that school leaders face within their roles each and every day.
Principal, Normanton State School
Being executive principal of a P-12 college has been a career highlight. It has also been one of the most complex challenges of my 15 years as a principal. Much of that complexity comes from the nature of the P-12 structure and our diverse cultural platform.
While curriculum and pedagogical leadership are my natural focus, this role distances me a little from these aspects of teaching. It’s been important to learn to facilitate others while keeping some involvement in the classroom. Time is required for long-range strategic planning, facilitation of collaboration and communication, as well as the project management necessary to ensure that we can operationalise our plans. Complexity across P-12 ramps up for facilities, human resource allocation and budgeting; such is the challenge. But it does take time to engage and contemplate, frequently outside school time, and weeks can easily be 65 hours.
I believe strongly in work-life satisfaction, as I think I gave up “balance” when I became a principal. Community expectation is that principals are available and responsible for all aspects of students’ lives, and frequently with regard to community events. This is never more so than for international students, and our college has a large cohort of 75, requiring weekend and evening attendance to events on top of P-12 engagements, which might occur on four out of five nights in busy times.
The PPCR is a timely opportunity to recognise the complexity of principalship and the impact it has on the principals and their families. There is no doubt that the responsibilities and challenges have become much more intense since I began my journey and since the last major shift in principal remuneration, but it is less about the latter and more about that recognition of responsibilities shouldered. This is a high pressure, intense, high energy position and I love the role, but it is consuming, exhausting, can be overwhelming and it is always a challenge. All of that needs to be acknowledged so that dedicated people continue to aspire toward principalship for the benefit of all of our students in state education.
Executive Principal, Calamvale Community College
I feel privileged to be the principal of an environmental education centre and am a passionate leader of teaching and learning in our outdoor residential camp setting. Outdoor and environmental education centres are dynamic settings, delivering programs to regularly changing groups of client school students and staff. My role is as a teaching principal, and it is a challenge to balance the demands of teaching with the time required to fulfil the administrative/operational requirements of managing a residential camp.
In a typical week, I am an instructional leader for both my own staff and visiting school staff, fulfil a teaching role, ensure a safe and supportive learning environment for all students and staff, manage finance, infrastructure and human resources, attend meetings, and ensure that legislative, departmental and workplace health and safety guidelines and procedures are in place. As our centre is on a lease in a national park, there is an extra layer of compliance and legislation that I need to be across.
Having staff and students “on camp” means long work days, and I am on call 24 hours a day for as long as the group is in residence. I am responsible for the wellbeing of everyone onsite from the time they arrive until they leave, which includes supporting visiting staff who are managing their students for a much longer time frame than the usual school day. I usually leave my office after 6pm when the busyness of the day is winding down, but it can be considerably later, as issues can arise when students are away from their familiar home environment.
I would like to see the PPCR recognise the diversity of complexities that occur in different educational settings, which contribute to diversity, intensity and complexity of the principal role in those varied settings. Ultimately, the principal is accountable for every aspect of operation of their centre or school, and the remuneration received should reflect this level of accountability and responsibility.