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Mallard Speech Principals Professional Development

3 April 2002 Speech Notes

Principals Professional Development Course, Kings College

It gives me great pleasure to be here today.

In my mind, planning for this course started more than three years ago when I was working on the Labour Party policy for education. We disagreed with the direction of the previous government that required more and more funding for professional development to come from school operation grants. We believed that some more central resourcing for core training and advisory services would ensure better integration between pre-service, in-service and advanced teaching studies, better quality control, and more certainty that funding will be spent on professional development.

Continual focus on professional development among teachers and principals is not only beneficial to the school you are working in at the time – but also to the sector as a whole.

For principals the centralisation is even more important. Your principal role not only requires you to be the professional leader in the school, but also an integral member of the school’s board of trustees and the management responsibilities that come with that. I know principals who recognise the importance of professional development for their staff, but neglect themselves. It’s often for selfless reasons – you would sooner allocate the resources for the children or other staff. It’s often a time issue – there is never enough time to fit it around all the other responsibilities you have.

But the principal is the critical factor in the success of a school. From an education standards perspective, if we can help principals do their job better – we will make a huge difference to the quality of education across all our schools.

I think support in the early days is the most crucial time for that support. The step up to being a principal is an enormous professional challenge. Many experienced principals have described to me the struggle of the first few years. After a few years, they look back and think: “If I knew then what I know now, it would have been a lot easier.” I believe that if principals are better prepared, we will have better schools and better learning.

That is why you being here is so important. Of course this course will not provide all the immediate answers, but I hope that along with the other initiatives, it will really help make your jobs easier, and make you more successful at your jobs.

You are fortunate to be taking part in a programme designed and delivered by people steeped in educational leadership.

I’m told that school cultures that support better teaching and learning is high on the agenda.

So too is the challenge of building a collective school vision - and how to use strategic and annual planning to achieve this.

Getting hard information about the learning taking place in your schools and using this to improve teaching practice is also a key discussion topic.

Your new laptops should be a big asset here. And may I say thank you to the many principals who sent me e-mails when you received the laptops. I appreciate all constructive feedback – but I especially welcome nice notes.

We know principals make a huge difference to a school.

Your role as the key professional in the school means the tone and performance of a school is often down to you.

But the role of a principal is a complex one, requiring a delicate balance of both leadership and management skills.

The question I encourage you to keep in mind is: how you can positively influence the learning of students in the schools you lead?

Even if you are not directly interacting with students in the classroom, as principals you are in a unique position to influence what happens.

Principalship is a subtle and complex role.

You will affect your environment through a network of daily interactions as well as through establishing structures and processes.

It is a highly social role, calling on you to balance the day-to-day with the long term.

You will be challenged to view what you do and every decision you make from the point of view of its impact on teaching and learning.

You will need to be aware of your own practice and be able change your practice if necessary.

It’s a role that enables you to continue to make a difference in student’s lives.

I know that this group brings an enormous range of experiences.

Some of you will never have been involved in educational management and leadership, others will have come through middle management positions and have extensive leadership and management experience.

You also come from very different school contexts.

One of the challenges of this programme is to meet your diverse needs and recognise the particular challenges you face in your individual workplaces.

I acknowledge it is a big ask.

One of the key resources both during this training and in future years will be the enormous talent in front of me. I hope that the contacts you make this week will be available to you for the rest of your careers.

As the first group on the course, your feedback about the programme as it progresses will be especially important.

It will help to improve and shape the programmes for participants in the future.

Congratulations on your new appointments.
I wish you well for this week and for your future careers.


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