Evolve: New Principals Case study

Peter deWacht

Principal of Bayswater West Primary School

For the principal of Bayswater West Primary School, Peter deWacht, the opportunity to help a new principal to grow as a school leader was irresistible. Peter seized the chance  to coach Latham Burns, a new principal at Abbostford Primary School, as part of the Bastow Evolve: New Principals Program with enthusiasm. Little did he know how much the course would challenge and benefit himself as well as Latham.

​​​​“I would absolutely recommend this course,” says Peter. “The program challenged me to reflect on my own practice and who I am as a principal at the same time as I challenged and supported Latham.”

Evolve develops new principals’ leadership skills by working on their personal capacity as well as their professional practice and technical management skills. Each participant is matched with an experienced principal who provides customised coaching throughout the program. Activities such as webinars, a residential program and workshops extend the learning achieved through coaching.

For Peter, the highlight of working with Latham was being part of his change and growth as a principal, helping him to move from focusing on the technical side of his professional practice towards a more school vision-based approach.



Evolve: New Principals programyV6Z9OXt-SUhttp://www.bastow.vic.edu.au/Lists/Videos/DispForm.aspx?ID=65Evolve: New Principals programPrincipals Peter de Wacht and Latham Burns reflect on their learning from Bastow Institute's Evolve: New Principals program./Captions/yV6Z9OXt-SU.vtt<div class="ExternalClass922521FEF91C4FEF97D086878024B65C"><div>​- I'm Latham Burns. I'm the Principal of Abbotsford Primary School and I have undertaken the Bastow Evolve course for the past 18 months. </div><div><br></div><div>- Hi I'm Peter de Wacht. I'm the Principal of Bayswater West Primary School and we've been part of the Evolve program.</div><div><br></div><div>- As part of the Evolve course, participants are required to have a coach and I was very fortunate to be paired up with Peter. Peter was someone who I didn't actually know and that was at my request because I wanted someone who was different to me, who didn't know my background or my experiences and I felt coming from that objective point of view he'd be able to challenge me a lot more and also question my thinking and I think the relationship has been highly successful in that respect because I have been challenged, somewhat uncomfortable at times but in a really good way and I have really valued that partnership with someone who has a very similar philosophy and holds very strong values like I do. </div><div><br></div><div>- Early on in the piece we were focusing on the technical side of his professional practice but that lasted for a short amount of time as we moved to more of a vision based approach so we were looking at how can he take his community from where it was to become an even better community of learners so watching him grow that vision over time, supporting him, acting as a reflective mirror so that he could take on those challenges was the most exciting part of the project.</div><div><br></div><div>- The course has helped me develop myself as a leader. I hadn't been a principal before so that's why I undertook course. It enabled me to form connections with people outside of my network and to build on my capacity through interactions with them and also teach me some of the essential parts of the role of a principal particularly around the vision building aspect, the focus on teaching and learning and also some of the technical aspects as well. </div><div><br></div><div>- I think the mentoring process for a new principal is vital. Having someone that has been in the role for a little while and can talk about their experiences, help you to think about your own is incredibly important. The issues that a principal faces on a daily basis are vast and it's important that you've got someone that's walking alongside you helping you to grow, helping you to evolve so that you can become the best professional you can be.</div><div><br></div><div>- I would strongly recommend the Evolve course to all new principals. It enables them to really reflect on their practice, it enables them to form connections with other colleagues and it's a lot of fun.</div><div><br></div><div>- I'd absolutely recommend the course it's one which is beneficial to both the new principal and the principal that's been in the role for a while. What it does is it takes your skills and builds on them. What it does is it makes you think about who you are as a principal and how you can help others within the system, so yes absolutely I get behind the course anytime.</div></div>

​​Principals Peter deWacht and Latham Burns reflect on their learning from
Bastow Institute's Evolve: New Principals program.

“We looked at how he could lead his school from where it currently was towards becoming an even better community of learners,” says Peter. “It was exciting to see Latham become very attuned to student, staff and community needs and to really focus on setting his school’s direction and learning agenda.”

Peter quickly realised that Latham had the energy and motivation to drive improvement in his school. But he also saw that he could offer Latham the deeper skills that would help him to make more considered decisions and allow him to engage his community along the way.

Taking the time needed to carefully consider the way things shift and move in a school community before making changes was a process that Peter and Latham discussed at length. Peter is well aware that many new principals come in like “bulls at a gate”, wanting to change the world inside six months.

“When I first met Latham he presented as a dynamo, ready to take on any challenge put in front of him,” says Peter. “The growth I saw in him happened as he learned to slow down a little; listen carefully to the many ‘voices’ a principal must hear as part of the decision-making process; and to think deeply about issues before making decisions and acting on them. Doing all this without losing his natural energy and enthusiasm was an important aspect of his growth as a leader”.

For Peter, the process of coaching Latham made him really think about how he himself made decisions.

“Only then could I communicate how I arrived at them effectively to Latham. At the same time I gained invaluable insights about improving my own leadership.”

For other experienced principals considering participating in the Bastow Evolve Program, Peter recommends that they make sure the coaching relationship is a professional and collegiate one from the start and that they focus on improving their own practice as well as that of the new principal.

“You also need to find the time and space in your busy agenda to make the relationship a priority,” says Peter. “And most importantly, make sure there is plenty of good coffee!”

For more information: Evolve: New Principals​