Sharing wisdom to inspire system excellence

News; Innovation

​​​​​​​​Bastow’s new WISE: Principals as System Leaders program was launched on Monday 25 July 2016 by James Merlino, Victorian Minister for Education, in the presence of over 200 of the state’s most experienced leaders, including network chairs, SEILs, principal representatives from network executives and senior regional office professionals.

​​Bastow Director Neil Barker, Tom Daly, Marilyn Koolstra, Minister James Merlino, John Richmond and Mary Hutchison​
L-R: Bastow Director Neil Barker, Tom Daly, Marilyn Koolstra,
Minister James Merlino, John Richmond and Mary Hutchison

As a key Education State initiative with $2.7 million committed over four years and $0.7 million ongoing, WISE is designed to support principals who are in system leadership roles to build on existing strengths and successes, learn from each other, and share experience, innovations and knowledge with other schools and networks, while continuing to lead and manage their own schools.

As well as principals, SEILs are participating in the program, linking and supporting the Communities of Practice approach.

Education Minister James Merlino believes that collaboration and ‘working beyond the boundaries of schools’ is essential to improving student outcomes, reducing disadvantage and the disparity between our schools and improving teaching quality.

‘Where we can make a difference statewide is when we work together to share best practice, collaborate to solve problems and hold each other to account.'

‘Our expectation is that network leaders share data, share experience and share knowledge about school performance and work together as networks to continually improve.’

According to Mr Merlino, WISE will support our education leaders to inspire and motivate others to join forces and learn from each other.

The program is based on research that clearly shows close collaboration between schools can result in significant school improvement in terms of student outcomes. For example, a similar leadership program in the UK (National Leaders in Education) resulted in a 10 per cent improvement in primary student results over 2 years.

For the next 9 months, the first cohort of 54 participants will immerse themselves in ideas, research and thinking around system leadership – all highly relevant and applicable to their experience and role as system leaders.

Minister James Merlino with WISE participants​

According to Garry Embry, WISE Project Manager, the program is a unique opportunity for ‘cross-seeding of ideas and approaches’ both within and across networks.

Leaders can develop their knowledge of school improvement, share their experiences, ideas and practices, and collectively resolve school and network improvement challenges.

‘Each network of schools, led by their network chair, chooses a specific improvement challenge to work on throughout the year,’ explains Mr Embry.

For Tom Daly, Upwey High School Principal and Dandenong Ranges Network Chair, this is exactly how education systems ‘go from good to great’.

‘It’s not just about principals working together, but also schools working together and it not being a top down approach, it being an all levels approach,’ says Mr Daly.

‘Everyone in an area has to be responsible for the learning outcomes for the students in that area, and that’s what’s great about WISE and what the government is doing through Education State – they are acknowledging that system leadership has to be at all levels.’

Mr Daly sees WISE as a way for network leaders and principals to ‘build their skills and have a better understanding about what system leadership is’, as well as reflecting the government’s recognition that the way to move forward is to empower people by improving their capacity to ‘effect positive change across the system’.

‘It’s taking school improvement to the next level and building on everything we have learnt to date, and for anyone who’s been around for the last 25 years of education reform in Victoria, it makes perfect sense as the next piece of work we need to do.’

While Marilyn Koolstra, Principal Valkstone Primary School, agrees that WISE is heading into new territory, she believes that it’s also about ‘harnessing the skills and talents that already exist in our system’.

‘It's about using our experience and success to support other schools and areas that are looking to improve their performance,’ says Ms Koolstra.

‘It's about leaders teaching leaders and schools supporting schools. It’s about strengthening collaboration and supporting teacher and leadership growth across the system to, ultimately, lift student outcomes.’

For more information: WISE: Principals as System Leaders program