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Part Two

Systems, Policies and Networks

Assuming the principal is the 'ship's captain' their first responsibility lies in ensuring they have the right level of commitment, knowledge and energy in their officer group to allow smooth passage and safe harbour. In Remote Community Schools as in all schools, successful passage relies on team understandings, co-operation and everyone reading from the same navigational chart.

Clear Understandings of System and School Policy

Besides a demonstrated understanding of curriculum and teaching strategies, teachers and non-teaching staff need to consistently apply agreed school policy and system policy. The principal should take the opportunity to re-visit and review policy with staff as often as time permits. From the largest city school to the smallest RCS the same advice applies…do not assume anything.

Staff's clear understanding of system and school policies will strengthen the school's ability to provide a sustainable and high level program of learning. The demands of a RCS are complex enough without inconsistent application of agreed policy.

There are system policies and procedures in place which are designed to assist Principals to make clear decisions regarding schools' operations and procedures. An obvious example would be the use of government vehicles. Another would be staffing levels and most importantly, financial management. Your team will appreciate you sharing these requirements and that you value their contribution.

It is not intended to pursue specific Departmental Policies in this module. This information can be found in the appropriate section of the Department of Education [WA] web site. However, it is important to stress that regardless of the remoteness of the RCS, the same policies apply in terms of accountability and a 'policy flexibility' pathway would be ill-advised.

Sharing your Knowledge with the Team

As either the new person in the school or addressing a new staff, the Principal should demonstrate a sound understanding of system policies and requirements. This is an important element of the school's initial School Development Day. It is an opportunity for the Principal to demonstrate his or her commitment to the system in which they are working and the ways in which the school team can reflect on and achieve system targets.

In preparation for staff discussions it would be wise for the Principal to familiarize themselves with:

  • The School Annual Report
  • Staffing Allocation sheets
  • School Grant documentation
  • The School Development Plan and relevant documentation
  • School Improvement Reports and information
  • Minutes of recent P and C and School Council Meetings if appropriate
  • Newly developed school policies
  • Assessment Reports eg NAPLAN and teacher judgements.

[Refer WAPPA L3 A Guide to the First Year]

In a RCS setting the Principal should become conversant with any minutes and agreements reached with the school community in terms of the School Community Partnership Agreement. There will be significant aspects of the agreement which will impact on the school's operations and students' development. Some schools may be further advanced than others with the agreement and at varying stages of development. At this point it is a system requirement. If Principals are in any doubt as to their school's position a call to the Regional Manager of Aboriginal Education would be advisable. All Regions will have such a person, Acting or Substantive.

Setting up Networks

Flying the flag for Aboriginal education. Flying the flag for Aboriginal education.
Connections are critical for any Principal, but especially for those Principals isolated in Remote Community Schools
[Dare to Lead; Surviving to Thriving]

Not withstanding the exciting challenges and rewards in RCS's all school leaders grow professionally and personally if they have the benefit of collegial connections. The Dare to Lead paper Surviving to Thriving provides examples of how to and where to make these connections from the remoteness of the Kimberley or desert schools. It lists Peer, Local, Regional, Central and Other connections and invites you to introduce yourself to Principal buddies, consultants, the Dare to Lead Team in WA [DTL] and the WAPPA Professional Learning facilities.

Follow the prompts at www.daretolead.edu.au to From Surviving to Thriving.

The West Australian Primary Principals Association [WAPPA] also provides a mentor service for member Principals wishing to link with more experienced colleagues who can provide some guidance where necessary through a telephone conversation or emails. RCS Principals wishing to explore this opportunity should telephone WAPPA on 08 6380 1755 or the WAPPA Support Line on 08 9388 8437.

School Policies

Know your school policies, school plan, accountability requirements and funding arrangements. You are responsible for the management of resources
[Dare to Lead]

The Principal must be supportive of standing policies and be able to justify them to the staff and community. What works in the main is that clear boundaries have been set which can be justified as in the best interests of students. Policies should be applied fairly and consistently. In all schools children will respond appropriately to fairness and consistency, similarly with the school community. Some policies will not please all, particularly in matters of behaviour management and attendance. Again the firm but fair principle applies.

All school policy should reflect the system positions and again it would be wise for Principals to update their knowledge by visiting the departmental web site to ensure the requirements are being met.

In – school Learning Networks.

Effective principals create a culture of continuous learning for adults tied to student learning and other school goals.
[National Association of Elementary School Principals; USA; Standards for What Principals Should Know and Be Able To Do]

Not withstanding the demands of every day teaching and associated workload Principals should encourage a culture of adult professional learning within the school and its community. It is important for the principal to be seen as a learner by modeling a desire to continually update his / her knowledge base in the provision of the educational program. Principals can show the extent to which they value their staff by creating learning networks within the school through shared PL opportunities for teaching and non-teaching staff.

If principals were successfully providing the culture and climate for continuous adult learning we would see principals who:

  • Provide time for reflection as an important part of improved practice.
  • Invest in teacher learning.
  • Connect professional learning to school learning goals.
  • Provide opportunities for teachers to work, plan and think together.
  • Recognise the need to continually improve the principal's own professional practice.

[Taken from NAESP USA]

Often a RCS setting will involve perhaps just two teaching staff and a sometimes variable number of ancillary staff depending on the availability of appropriate personnel. It is no less important however that a focus remains on personal professional development. When the initial shock of the over-whelming demands on leadership has abated and life has somewhat normalized, developing networks with colleagues in similar settings and environments becomes crucial in overcoming the isolation factor.

Flash video title -Key Principles
  • A strong leader builds a strong team.
  • The staff has a positive approach to their duties.
  • They have a good understanding of their duties.
  • They have a sense of TEAM and shared goals.
  • They have open, collegial communication processes.
  • They maintain professionalism even in adversity.
  • They take collective responsibility for individual, class and school improvement.
  • They support each other and are in turn supported by their principal.
  • They all have high expectations of student learning.
[Acknowledgement to Features of an Effective Kimberley School]
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