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Mallard Speech: 1st-Time Principals’ Induction

First-Time Principals’ Induction Programme

Trevor Mallard Speech to First-Time Principals' Induction Programme, Kingsgate Hotel, Wellington

Thank you for the invitation to join you here today. I really appreciate the opportunity to talk to New Zealand’s newest principals about educational leadership and the future of our schools.

I hope you are enjoying the ride so far. I have received very good reports about the impact that this induction programme is having on new principals. Old hands often tell me they wish they’d had this experience.

You have become principals at a very exciting time for educational leaders in New Zealand.

Some great initiatives are underway to support principals. We are looking forward to what teaching and learning will involve in the future, and how we can best equip our educational leaders to excel.

Key to this process is the development of the Schooling Strategy.

Input from educational leaders like yourselves will be crucial in doing this.

We have analysed the feedback on the initial discussion document, Making a Bigger Difference for all Students, and appreciate the time people have put into responding.

The second stage of the development of the strategy will identify priority areas within the themes of quality teaching and engaged families/whānau and communities – the things government thinks we need to focus on in the next five years.

You will have the chance to let me know if you think we’re on the right track, and what needs to happen to make improvements in these areas.

Smart use of technology will help us get to where we want to be.

I encourage you all to make regular use of Leadspace and New Principals Online.

If you make it the home page on your computer you’ll automatically see new updates when you log on in the morning before any teachers, parents or students get a chance to distract you.

You will be interested in a programme I saw in action recently at Wellington Girls College which really impressed me because it was such an effective and incredibly novel approach to using information communications technology (ICT).

Tech Angels works within the college to help teachers, while also improving student learning outcomes.

The Tech Angels are students who offer their time to coach and support teachers in their use of ICT, mentor their peers, and attend to computer-related problems in class or across the school.

In return, the angels receive extra ICT training and technology support from a tertiary education provider, Natcoll Design Technology, and staff at CWA New Media.

It’s a great programme that is delivering benefits all round.

While new technology creates challenges for some of us, it offers great potential.

This leads me to the question of how you, as educational leaders, fit into the schools of the future.

How can we help you to develop your leadership skills in a way that enables you to adapt to the technological advances, changing demographics and pedagogical challenges you will be facing as principals?

Obviously the First-Time Principals Induction Programme is an important first step and I hope that you are finding the programme rewarding.

The Principals’ Development Planning Centres aim to support you once you have completed five years as a principal.

They provide principals with an opportunity to work with their peers to consider and evaluate their professional skills and knowledge.

At the end of the process we expect that each principal will have a personalised professional development plan and support to implement its recommendations.

I imagine this process will raise some important and possibly contentious questions, like what an educational leader will be like? Are educational leaders only those who hold formal leadership positions, or are there educational leaders at all levels in schools?

It will also ask us what a good educational leader does, and how we best support our leaders to reflect these capabilities in their work?

As principals you will play a key role in developing and supporting the culture, ethos and character of your school. A school's culture is reflected in many ways - from its professional reputation - such as its success in raising education standards for its students, its success in music or sport, to the way a schools' students act inside and outside the school grounds.

Schools have their own mottos, and school songs, many schools have their own haka, they have their own uniforms and their own traditions in terms of academic or sports prize givings, sports days or annual concerts or plays.

That all tells me that schools are perfectly well placed to also develop their own special "kawa" or protocols in areas such as powhiri, where visitors are formally welcomed. I do think that it's important that schools develop protocols around these issues which are appropriate for the school community as a whole.

We expect the school system to promote the equality of all students, and I am particularly mindful of the hard fought battle of women for equality across society and the economy.

Last week I was privileged to listen to Mareta Taute from Sacred Heart College in Wellington when she was welcomed back and congratulated by her school. Mareta was the runner up in a national Maori speech competition.

Yet what ran through my mind was the number of powhiri I attend at co-ed schools where female students - unlike at Sacred Heart College - are relegated to a supporting role.

While it is important to respect the traditions and place of mana whenua, it is important that this is not at the expense of the ideals and traditions of New Zealand education and its commitment to equality for all.

I think we also need to strike an appropriate balance between the time available for a welcome and the time to be spent with staff and students when dignitaries visit schools.

It is disappointing when welcomes leave too little time for interaction with the school community, and this does happen from time to time.

There is another unrelated matter that goes to the heart of your responsibility. We have a growing number of immersion or bilingual units within our mainstream schools. And overall they have been doing a really good job - some for nearly 20 years.

However, it has come to my attention that in a small minority of cases principals have not been able to supervise these units effectively because they have been shut out of the classrooms because they cannot speak Maori.

This is unacceptable. Principals have to be able to exercise leadership across the school.

You have responsibilities for the education that your students receive in these units, you have a responsibility to spend time in them, to monitor teacher performance and to ensure your education objectives for your students are being achieved.

I want to spend a brief time also touching on another aspect of education that I’m becoming increasingly concerned about - and it goes also to my other responsibility as Sport and Recreation Minister.

Research is telling us that the overall physical activity levels of children and young people are declining. A growing proportion of children and adolescents are insufficiently active to gain health benefits, and surveys have clearly tracked this trend.

In 2001, 13 per cent of young people aged between five and 17 years of age were sedentary, compared to 8 per cent in 1997.

Only 62 per cent of those between 13 and 15 years of age reported being active in 2001,that is doing more than two and a half hours of physical activity a week, compared to 74 per cent in 1997. Physical activity rates for young Maori are also down, from 75 per cent in1997 to 66 per cent in 2001. Pacific youth are among the most inactive, with only 52 per cent being active on a regular basis.

The developing picture is not good - not the least because of the effects this has on children's health. I would really urge you to think seriously about this issue, and do all you can within your schools to encourage physical activity.

Before finishing, I would like to let you know the outcomes of the Working Party on Primary Principals’ Appointments.

The Working Party considered the appointment processes for primary principals, with a view to achieving agreed guidelines.

We all know that the most critical decision a board makes is the one which all of your boards have done in the past year or so - the appointment of the principal.

Given this level of importance to schools and the challenges inherent in all appointments, the parties agreed to a ‘good practice’ process for primary principal appointments.

I am pleased that this ‘good practice’ process has been agreed upon collaboratively. Once it has been widely promulgated, I hope it is able to help boards in this very important aspect of their work.

I hope that your time here at the second residential is enjoyable and rewarding. I wish you all the best in leading your schools to achieving great things!

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