I will remember this year in education for… the capacity of principals to keep a relentless focus upon student learning outcomes and doing what's best for their school, regardless of so many other distractions and pressures. I also think it's a year where we are reaching the "tipping point" in terms of the unrealistic expectations our society has of what schools are expected to do. I think (and hope) that we are entering a time where there is a more balanced approach and a greater level of praise for the extraordinary achievements of our schools.
Our proudest achievement at the NSW Secondary Principals' Council this year has been… in 2017, in partnership with our Primary Principals' Association, our organisation has made some very significant inroads into the need for additional systemic support to be provided for principals. The research relating to the increasing workload and pressure on principals has been well documented and for some time has seen little response. This year, however, we have really brought these issues to the fore and we have finally seen a significant support package mapped out for the next 18 months. This includes additional administrative support, additional curriculum support, and the creation of a new Leadership Institute.
I think the biggest issue for our members in 2018 will be… leading learning in a complex and changing environment. We still find a tension between developing the kind of skills and capabilities in our students that will stand them in good stead for the future, and the pressure on producing results in a high stakes testing environment. It's not an either/or proposition, but the political imperatives created by a PISA and NAPLAN focus can get in the way of developing a truly innovative, creative and futuristic education system. Beyond that, the whole area of support for the management of mental and emotional health is a continuing, significant and increasing concern for our society as a whole.
What I’m really looking forward to in the coming year is… seeing our politicians, media and bureaucrats recognise and articulate the terrific achievements of our schools. There seems to have been an accepted proposition that our teachers and schools are failing. That's rubbish and it needs to be called out. Everyone knows we all have challenges adapting to an increasingly uncertain future, but our teachers are at the forefront of dealing with this and they need to be acknowledged. I look forward to seeing some of our political leaders and media figures championing the work of our schools!