Welcome back to the beginning of a new year. It feels like there are so many things currently happening in our leadership space, finding a place to begin our kōrero for this term brings many challenges. No doubt your relaxing summer reading may have been spent turning the pages of the Tomorrow’s Schools Taskforce review - Our Schooling Futures, Stronger Together l Whiria Ngā Kura Tūātinitini.
This has some significant implications for educational leaders as new governance structures and leadership terms are proposed. As Professor Martin Thrupp and Dr Katrina McChesney, from the University of Waikato highlight in their recent NZARE blog there are some critical considerations for those engaging in leadership and governance.
It might be useful to reflect on some of the key aspects and keep these ideas at the forefront of our minds. Anecdotal evidence and recent research tells us that educational leaders are faced with immense pressure in their ever-expanding roles. The recommendation of abdicating some responsibilities to hubs (for example, property management, finances, health and safety and generic policy work) has the welcoming possibility to shift principals’ workloads from a focus on ‘administrivia’ and permit greater focus on pedagogical, strategic and indeed educational leadership! Such a change might be well received and entice others into leadership. Further recommendations from the review suggest Education Hubs would appoint principals to a particular school on a five year contract to allow “opportunities for principals/tumuaki to gain experience in a variety of school settings and to contribute where their expertise is most needed across the community of schools”. Acknowledging recent feedback from principals’ groups, there is also the notion that the rates of principal’s salary would be founded on ideals of school complexity and challenges, rather than the current situation of school size. Further points highlight changes to the appointment processes for principals, with the recommendation that these would be instigated and completed by Education Hubs, with boards of trustees having the final say on principal appointments.
WHAT IS AN EDUCATION HUB?
“‘Education hubs’ have been mooted as a solution to issues in our school system - but how would they work?
A radical new report has recommended replacing regional Ministry of Education offices with the hubs, which would take over most of the powers held by school boards of trustees.”
This certainly draws our attention to notions of enduring and sustaining leadership within and across contexts. To sustain and embed change, we know that the phenomenon of leadership, in its multiple shapes and guises, is never the mandate of a single individual. It involves interactions with others and the forming and reforming of relationships in situated and unique sites. As such, the relational features within organisations matter (Giles, 2019). Knowing this, and understanding that change begins as local actions spring up simultaneously in many different areas, relational leadership practices which prioritise cohesion and connectedness are essential. Wheatley and Frieze (2014) remind us, that “if these changes remain disconnected, nothing happens beyond each locale. However, when they become connected, local actions can emerge as a powerful system with influence at a more global or comprehensive level”. Our challenge as educational leaders will be to deepen and grow our awareness of these recommendations, remain attuned to changes as they occur, and not be seduced by one-size-fits-all approaches that ignore the particularities of local circumstance.
A focus on leadership in order to grow diverse and competent school leaders, practising and aspiring, is fundamental to system reform. It is entirely appropriate that leadership be positioned front and central, and that national consideration be given to co-ordinating leadership development pathways. Included in the Taskforce Report are leadership advisory roles and multi-site principalship, opportunities that merit careful and critical consideration, from both recruitment and training perspectives.
Understanding the resources and tools we can draw on to support and grow our understandings of leadership practice in the unique and evolving contexts of New Zealand schools become essential. The Leadership Strategy for the teaching profession of Aotearoa New Zealand (2018) is an important starting point and provides a holistic and relational response to re- envisioning leadership in Aotearoa New Zealand. It is geared towards positioning leadership as a collaborative and collective action which is accessible to everyone in the profession. Alongside this strategy is a support document The Educational Leadership Capabilities Framework outlining core educational capabilities for teachers and leaders. Being explicit about leadership and how it might manifest across different contexts gives leaders the freedom to explore new ways for developing leadership capabilities and is welcomed by many.
As an organisation working within the New Zealand educational context, we are constantly inquiring into the ways in which we collectively and collaboratively work alongside leaders in schools, kura, ECE centres and kohanga reo to support and grow leadership in its multiple forms. We are also very conscious of the immense challenges leaders face within and across differing social and cultural contexts. Contributing to the ongoing conversations about this is important.
Last week, the Review Taskforce commenced regional consultation hui in New Plymouth and will travel the country seeking community responses until the end of March. As kaitiaki of our children’s educational futures, it is imperative that our voices are heard. If we are to pursue a socially just vision of education in which each child achieves their full potential, voices of profession, voices of students, and voices of parents and whānau must ring loud and strong. Not just the voices of those who favour a protectionist status quo and command most media attention, but the voices of those who are concerned for everyone’s children, in addition to their own.
As we commence a new school year and establish new learning relationships with students, whānau and colleagues, we MUST also make the time, individually and collectively, to establish a thoughtful and considered position on this proposed new policy shift. The opportunity to dramatically shape the course of New Zealand schooling is a both a privilege and a responsibility that rarely presents itself.
Despite many of us perhaps suffering from ‘review saturation’ I urge you to generate discussion within and across your professional networks, and to attend the consultation meeting in your local area. For those unable to attend local meetings, there are other ways to contribute to this nationwide kōrero:
- Online at consultation.education.govt.nz/tsr/survey2019/
- Via email to firstname.lastname@example.org
- By telephone: 0800 FOR TSR (0800 367 877)
CONSULTATION CLOSES ON 7 APRIL. TUKU KŌRERO! SPEAK UP! BE HEARD
NZEALS National President