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Leading change at College Street Normal School

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College Street Normal School Principal, Ross Kennedy, discusses leadership, including his belief that principals must lead curriculum change from the front and support teachers to constantly improve and grow professionally.

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'Nevertheless, our general conclusion from this BES ... is that school leadership is likely to have the greatest positive impact on student achievement and well-being when it prioritises the quality of learning, teaching, and teacher learning in ways that attend to both academic and social outcomes.'

School Leadership and Student Outcomes: Identifying What Works and Why Best Evidence Synthesis

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If we are really serious about genuine change in schools, we have to look at the various facets of the role of the principal. There are three parts, the administrative part, which we all have to do, the management part, and the leadership part of being a principal. That is the part for me, which we sometimes don’t seem to do quite well. We principals have to step up and genuinely lead. So that we are quite authoritative and knowledgeable about curriculum so we can actually lead from the front. 

At this school there is a heavy emphasis on constantly improving the quality of classroom instruction and that is one of my prime focuses as a principal. There is a lot of research that shows that if we improve the quality of classroom instruction that will flow on to enhancing pupil learning outcomes

One of the most powerful support systems we have here is ‘triples’. Every six weeks each teacher in the school is observed and critiqued by two others, their syndicate leader and the acknowledged expert in the area they have set their goals. After the observation the three teachers sit down to have a post observation meeting and reset their goals. The professional growth we have seen through this process has been amazing. Some have even talked about a level of dissonance because they know every six weeks they will be observed and critiqued. So the pressure is always there but it is a nice manageable pressure. 

Teachers are definitely supported to grow professionally. It is okay to be a novice but it is not okay at College Street to remain a novice. You are expected to do something about it with the support of other teachers on the staff. 

One of the other things that is powerful here is that at the end of every term every syndicate is released to plan their inquiry units for the next term. If you are a new teacher to the school or a beginning teacher it is a wonderful opportunity for professional development. Almost despite themselves teachers are learning a huge amount from others more experienced when sitting around the tables for those two days. 

Another thing that is really important is that it is okay to make mistakes here. Teachers are encouraged to have a go, to take risks, to trial things. It is only through that we are going to grow professionally and get better at what we do. We encourage teachers to think about their practice. To help them think we set up all these forums for rich conversations for teachers to sit together and talk about their practice and so they help each other to become better practitioners.

Updated on: 12 Jun 2009