Principal interview with Grant Kennedy as he reflects on key learnings from his time in the EDvance program as part of Cohort One. Read his insights and see how the EDvance program continues to support his work as a school leader.
Principal Interview: Grant Kennedy
North Balga Primary School
Q: What have been some of the most valuable elements for you from the EDvance program?
A: The Leading for Learning Framework (Dempster) was central to the work we undertook at North Balga Primary School. With our constant focus on using this Framework and with the ongoing support of EDvance, I believe it was a key strategy to understanding what was most important in our school context and ensuring that these key domains were the drivers of improving student learning. It made it clear that each of the domains has relevance and importance to student success, allowing the ability to identify and prioritise key strategies for improved student learning, linked back to our broader moral purpose.
Secondly, the opportunity to access an experienced and knowledgeable mentor was important, especially as within the EDvance program there is flexibility to use this support as the principal and school seem fit. Rose Moroz was key in challenging me and my leadership team to think of alternatives to problems. It was great to have a mentor that understood the context of the school and was just as invested in the success of the students as my staff and myself are.
Finally, the importance of distributed leadership and this is now the ‘norm’ at North Balga Primary School. This is an area, I truly believe is essential. My staff are willing, competent and have an enormous amount of initiative, and it is my role to activate and facilitate these characteristics to the benefit of improved student learning throughout the school and in preparing pre-school children within the North Balga community.
Q: What are some key ideas from EDvance that you’ve applied in your school?
A: The importance and necessity of whole school approaches not only in curriculum and teaching but also the conditions for learning. Whole school approaches in curriculum are essential for improved learning which is evident in the school’s NAPLAN data, but whole school approaches to for example, behaviour, student health and classroom environment are just as important to positive progress.
The requirement for professional learning to be targeted and relevant to the school’s Business Plan. It is essential for all staff to be focused on the school’s targets as outlined in the Business Plan, to ensure that professional learning is targeted and well-resourced and leads to desired outcomes in student learning and wellbeing.
The importance of community in creating a culture in the school that is welcoming and vibrant (and the huge amount of energy that this requires in a low socio-economic school) but involving community in the classroom, in decision making and allowing them a voice develops the culture that supports improved student learning.
Q: What is something you wish you had known earlier in your career?
A: That we should always make the time to keep learning, through professional learning, reading, networking and collegiality, no matter what stage of our career we are at. Education is constantly changing and we need to ensure that as teachers, educational leaders, facilitators or managers we maintain our instructional leadership knowledge and leadership knowledge in general to perform our role effectively.
Q: What is the best piece of advice you’ve received about being a principal?
A: To look after myself! Having recently attended wellbeing professional learning facilitated by Kaya consulting on behalf of the Department of Education, I acknowledged that I had not been consciously looking after my own health and wellbeing. With one or two changes, such as setting an alarm to remind me to get up from my desk and walk around or spending recess and lunchtime in the Staff Room, with these minor changes, I am now making a more conscious effort to ensure I look after myself.
Q: What is the focus of your school improvement journey, two years on from finishing the program?
A: The Admin team recently engaged with the Fogarty EDvance School Transformation Framework at a half-day workshop presented by Ingrid Sealey, as we had not had opportunity to engage with the Framework in Cohort One. During that workshop, we used the framework to pinpoint our stage of improvement and decided that we were at the top end of Stage 2. We recognised that we had worked through many of the Stage 1 strategies and incorportated them into our practice. We are now doing the same with Stage 2 strategies and many from Stage 3. We used the Dempster model to brainstorm our strategic position and will use this information to drive the development of our new Business Plan that we will be writing to guide us from 2018 to 2020.
Q: What habit or saying from your Mentor has stuck with you?
A: Challenge yourself to think of an alternative solution. It may not be the solution but it will broaden your thinking and expectations.
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