As the 2020 school year has rapidly approached, many school leaders will already be attending to the significant task ahead of planning for and providing effective leadership. Whilst some readers may think that leadership is simply a part of the job for principals, it’s worth remembering that education in today’s world is filled with ever-growing challenges and responsibilities. This means that principals and others in leadership roles need to be constantly aware of the changing educational landscape and be ready to respond appropriately. Coupled with insight from quality PD courses and research, Sentral can provide a solid foundation for your school’s leadership strategy. Let’s see how that might work.
One way for principals to develop new insights on emerging leadership issues is to attend a leadership program, such as that offered by The Principals’ Centre at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. It’s a “centre dedicated to the support and development of principals and other school leaders”, and “has attracted thousands of educators from across the globe to its professional education programs, inspiring today’s school leaders to be outstanding in their roles” (Harvard Graduate School of Education). If you’re in Sydney or can easily get to Sydney, then you’re in luck. From 13 -16 January 2020, the centre is offering a course hosted at the University of Sydney Business School titled “Leadership for School Excellence”. Those fortunate enough to attend will be presented with hard hitting objectives, including language such as “high expectations for instructional quality”, becoming a “more effective school leader”, “being informed by relevant school data” and “increasing engagement” to name a few. This course sounds like hard work.
Courses like these come at the right time, for as recent research shows, school leaders and principals are indeed under pressure in several areas. Take for example findings from the TALIS 2018 survey, conducted by the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER). What’s that?
“The OECD Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS) collects internationally comparable data on the learning environment and the working conditions of teachers and principals in schools across the world. It offers teachers and principals the opportunity to provide their perspectives on the state of education in their own countries, allowing for a global view of teachers, the education systems in which they work, and the successes and challenges faced by teachers and school leaders”. (Australian Council for Education Research)
The report is comprehensive, and a full analysis is beyond the scope of this article. However, let’s take a look at a few salient points. The report states that,
Almost two-thirds of Australian principals cited high workload and level of responsibility in their job as issues that substantially limited their effectiveness. Principals of schools with a higher proportion of socioeconomically disadvantaged students were more likely to report a lack of principal support such as higher levels of teacher absenteeism, lack of support from parents or guardians, and lack of shared leadership within the school. (Australian Council for Education Research)
There’s a lot packed into that statement. This of course is a high-level view and may not accurately reflect your local school context. However, reversing those issues might seem insurmountable and that’s why courses such as those offered by Harvard are so pertinent in today’s education climate.
Sentral helps drive effectiveness
So how does a school management platform help to address issues like those mentioned above? Surely leadership is done by the people and not the software. Yes, that’s absolutely correct. For example, in a recent podcast interview with Kylie Fabri, Deputy Principal at Callaghan College Wallsend Campus in Newcastle (a Sentral school), Kylie made very clear that it was the people who ultimately made the difference, but that achieving the outcomes was made that much simpler and effective with the right tools at hand. And that’s why Sentral plays such a vital role at Callaghan.
Consider these findings from TALIS 2018.
A little more than one-third (34%) of Australian principals’ working time was spent on administrative tasks and meetings, while one-quarter (25%) of their time was spent on leadership tasks and meetings. Prior OECD research identified curriculum and teaching-related tasks and meetings as a key component of instructional leadership and supporting teaching. (Australian Council for Education Research)
According to those surveyed, more than half a principal’s time is is spent on administration and meetings with some leadership included. That’s a fairly substantial proportion. Now imagine if that time could be reduced, or at least made more efficient. The time freed up could then conceivably be used for ‘curriculum and teaching’ related tasks which have been shown to be a key component of instructional leadership.
Sentral Administration reduces burden
The Sentral Administration module ensures that your school’s student data are complete and secure. Student profiles are intuitively presented to the user resulting in fast access to required information. The ability to find, access and appropriately share information significantly reduces the time taken to manage a number of tasks such as communication, wellbeing and activities. With a centralised system of information, school leaders have access to all necessary information within the one environment.
Sentral Finance streamlines payments
Closely related to student records administration is the handling of payments for items such as fees, events and activities. Sentral Finance introduces a level of integration and control that enables superior oversight and functionality. Complex family situations and households are handled seamlessly with advanced rules and billing notifications. Together, a properly functioning administration and finance system has the power to make a significant positive impact to the functioning of every school.
Sentral Wellbeing improves community
Consider these findings from TALIS 2018.
Incidents related to school safety are a particular concern to Australian principals compared to the OECD average. Intimidation and bullying of students is a particular issue, with 37 per cent of principals reporting that this occurs at least weekly in their school. Also of concern is the relatively high incidence of intimidation or verbal abuse of teachers or staff. Twelve per cent of Australian principals reported that this happens at least weekly, compared to three per cent on average across the OECD. The incidence of cyber-bullying, measured for the first time, was also relatively high compared to the average across the OECD. (Australian Council for Education Research)
The Sentral Wellbeing module provides a comprehensive system for recording events related to students’ wellbeing and enables a range of staff to collaborate as appropriate. Whether contacting parents, or checking the validity of student accounts of events, Sentral provides the resources to accurately track and record all necessary information. This creates an environment where staff and school leaders can feel confident that they are working with the most up-to-date information on all wellbeing concerns.
Whilst surveys like TALIS sometimes provide findings that we’d rather not read about, they also contain many positive results. In addition, they remind us that education is continuously evolving and that educators need to evolve with it if Australia is to provide opportunities for excellence in teaching and learning. Sentral recognises that in a climate of increased accountability and regulatory compliance, time spent on teaching and learning is a critical priority. It’s what drives Sentral to continue to innovate and evolve with the industry it serves. Through its commitment to the educational needs of Australia’s children, Sentral will continue in its core mission; to help teachers and students be the best they can be.
Australian Council for Education Research. (2019). TALIS 2018, The Teaching and Learning International Survey. Retrieved from https://research.acer.edu.au/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1006&context=talis
Harvard Graduate School of Education. (2020). The Principals’ Center in Australia: Leadership for School Excellence. Retrieved from https://www.gse.harvard.edu/ppe/program/principals-centre-australia-leadership-school-excellence