The first cohort of aspiring principals completed DEECD’s new Unlocking Potential (UP): Principal Preparation program
last week. The group commenced the program in February and finished with a session that included a powerful closing message by Bruce Armstrong, Executive Director, Leadership Professional Practice and Accountability Division, Early Childhood and School Education Group.
Bruce explained the importance of a world-class principal preparation program in the Bastow career stage development process, and the fact that the inaugural program attracted aspiring leaders “with knowledge, passion and skill - exactly the type of people we want as principals”.
Bruce described the UP program as providing “the nexus between theory and practice”, as well as an opportunity for aspiring principals to reflect on their practice, pursue their vision, gain perspective and seek feedback about their performance.
This exciting new program is part of a long-term, career-stage leadership strategy that enables the Department to prepare aspiring principals and high potential leaders to manage the complexity, expectations and increasing accountabilities of the principal role. With the necessary mindsets and leadership practices, principals can achieve significant school and system improvement.
Bastow is partnering with Monash University to deliver this innovative program. There is a rigorous selection process to ensure that the applicants selected are those most likely to benefit from the experience and succeed in a principal role. Upon completion, participants are eligible for credit towards a postgraduate degree.
Debby Chaves, Acting Principal at Parkdale College, enrolled in UP to find out if she was ready for the next step in her career and whether a principalship was the best professional pathway for her.
“The course gave me a deeper understanding of how leaders behave and what adds or detracts from successes within a school, as well as confirming that principals are more than just a figurehead - they are the spark that implements the changes that lead to school improvement,” says Debby.
Over the 12 months, UP participants experienced diverse and nuanced learning opportunities related to their current contexts, including problem-based learning to explore real-life school dilemmas and work-based learning to support the application of theory and concepts. They also participated in a residential component, were supported by a professional coach and completed a school internship alongside an experienced principal.
It is this multimodal style of delivery that appealed to Neil O’Sullivan, Leading Teacher at Avenel Primary School, also part of the first group to complete the program.
“There was a practical two-week internship and professional coaching that was targeted at developing emotional intelligence. There was also a very rigorous academic component,” explains Neil.
“The integrated nature of the course helped me to learn in a holistic manner; it provided a clear logical sequence of development, delivered over a timeframe that allowed me to progress in my understanding and for my ideas to mature. The blend of theory, practice and personal coaching is extremely powerful.”
Both Debby and Neil appreciated the opportunity that UP gave them to deeply reflect on their own vision and values, as well as appreciate the knowledge, skills and personal qualities essential for being a good leader.
“The program challenged my thinking around leadership and the habits that we develop that hold us back,” says Debby. “You are given the time to reflect on how you would lead a school and how you would take a school community with you on the journey.”
The program is also a unique opportunity for participants to share and collaborate with other aspiring leaders, who, according to Neil, are “serious, professional, collegiate and likeminded people who are all inspired by education”, as well as develop strong and supportive networks and connections.
In his closing message, Bruce Armstrong also stressed the importance of principals having people around them to “inspire us to be our better selves”, as well as forming powerful networks and communities of people that can be relied on and trusted.