Principals face the biggest overhaul in history

I was in discussion with a primary school principal and he had just come from a meeting with his supervisor. This principal had not met his 'targets'. He said this meant he would now spend even more time in his office. But what disappointed him most was that he would now get even less time working with and for his staff and students.

Rob Stokes announced $50m schools overhaul so principals can spend more time on education

The problem is many school leaders have reached their tipping point. A successful implementation of this initiative may just be the solution we've been needing.

Is there a light at the end of the tunnel? This initiative is about schools being funded to employ business managers to take 'administrivia' away from principals so they can focus on what matters most. This seems like a great idea.

Any thoughts on this? Or do you have other ideas to address the problem?

Please contribute.

James Phelps

NSW schools: $50 million shake-up so principals can spend more time on education

SCHOOL principals face the biggest overhaul of their role in history following revelations they spend less than a third of their days educating students.

Instead of delivering the curriculum most principals find themselves hopelessly bogged down with a variety bureaucratic and administrative tasks, such as counting the number of fire extinguishers in their school and tree audits.

But under a radical plan to stop them drowning in paperwork and allow them to get back to educating, government schools will be funded to appoint business managers, similar to those in well-heeled private colleges, to take on the bureaucratic load.

Education Minister Rob Stokes will announce today that $50 million a year will be committed to the shake-up, which is aimed at getting school leaders back to their core duties, including curriculum planning, student progress and teaching quality.

A time use study conducted by Deloitte for the NSW Department of Education has found that principals in the state’s 2200 government schools spend just 30 per cent of their day on teaching and learning.

Principals’ workloads across NSW are now at tipping point as they are forced to spend most of their time fixing plumbing, organising cleaning, doing repairs around their school and troubleshooting technology problems.

“Principals have been running around their schools counting trees and fire extinguishers — business managers can do that,” Mr Stokes said.

The workload demands on school leaders have been exposed by several systemic failures — including the sacking of Coonamble High School permanent casual teacher Paul Withers.

Education chiefs were forced to step in after it emerged he had taught Year 11 and 12 students the wrong maths HSC course for seven months.

Three-quarters of principals surveyed by Deloitte said their workload was difficult or impossible to achieve.

“You start to build a tolerance for leaving things undone,” one said.

And another said: “Being a principal is one of the most dangerous jobs today.”

Mr Stokes said that a new school leadership institute will be created to train and identify the best future principals, who will receive coaching and support to stop more schools from failing their children.

A new team of trained officers also will be put together to remove the compliance burden on principals, including annual work, health and safety inspections.

Mr Stokes said principals should be free to use their expertise as educational leaders and focus on improving outcomes in classrooms.

“The research is clear that the most effective principals are strong, instructional leaders who are constantly seeking to improve teaching quality and student results,” he said. “The additional $50 million in school support funding will assist principals to employ extra support staff so they have more time for instructional leadership.”

The president of the NSW Primary Principals’ Association, Phil Seymour, said the overhaul would enable principals to “break the shackles of administration and enable us to focus on improving student learning outcomes”.

“Principals are bogged down by ‘administrivia’ and management, which has taken us away from our key role in leading learning in our schools — we all feel guilty about that. Schools will now have flexibility to employ a business manager or get more admin support,” he said.

The leadership institute’s programs will be developed with school leaders in partnership with experts and universities.

The first flagship course will be a 12-month development program for aspiring principals starting next year.


There is nothing more important in a school than the leadership.

Unbelievably, at the moment school principals are unable to do their job properly as education leaders. They don’t even have a clear measure of their effectiveness in a school.

A study by Deloitte for the NSW Department of Education has unearthed some of the reasons why — and identified serious deficiencies in the way our schools are run.

Principals, arguably among the most important people in the community as they hold the future of the next generation in their hands, are paralysed by bureaucracy, administration and red tape.

Disturbingly, the Deloitte report reveals they only have limited training and on-the-job support despite the breadth and complexities of the job in the digital age.

Among the revelations thrown up by the research is a fascinating statistic: in the course of a six-hour school day a principal will attend to 45 separate tasks — more than 40 per cent of them taking less than five minutes.

As school leaders flip from issue to issue, attending to often mundane administrative problems, the pressure on their time is reaching breaking point. Stress levels have gone through the roof due to workload expectations and many principals are questioning their own competence.

Well-informed parents today are researching education issues affecting their child and a school often before the principal is able to, putting yet more strain and time pressure on heads to respond. The health and wellbeing of school leaders is taking a hit.

This is why the plan to ease the burden on principals, allowing them to get back to their main job of educating, is so welcome. The new leadership institute charged with training and identifying future school leaders is the other key plank in the reforms announced today.

Our schools, and children, deserve no less.

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