Hundreds of principals from across the state’s west gathered at the Dubbo RSL Club on March 7 for a forum with leaders of the NSW Department of Education.
The forum is one of a series around the state being led by department secretary Mark Scott, who said he was keen to listen to principals’ concerns and solutions.
The challenges facing schools in rural and remote areas was high on the agenda.
“I’m in the business of hearing from them,” Mr Scott said. “They’ve got a lot of experience and expertise on the ground. One of the questions I ask at these meetings is ‘what don’t you think I know? What do I really need to understand in terms of making key decisions for this department?’
“I find the contribution and expertise of principals invaluable in helping us shape the future direction of NSW Education.”
Principals from the Parkes Shire, Dubbo, Narromine, Gilgandra and Wellington attended the forum, which was one of 10 held across NSW.
Principal School Leadership and former Parkes East Public School principal Michael Ostler took the opportunity to speak at the forum, commenting on the dilemmas facing rural principals who are unable to access the services of school counsellors to support their students.
“The department is working on strategies to overcome this shortage of available qualified counsellors and I was encouraging this process as a matter of urgency,” he said.
“The forum was an excellent opportunity to hear our department secretary as well as the two deputy secretaries speak about department directions and goals, and how they were going about supporting the school system to implement these in schools.
“As principals one of the key messages was about working smarter rather than harder and making the most of available department resources, while making key decisions in consultation with school communities for the betterment of all schools.
“It was a significant event in that principals were given the opportunity to interact with the senior executive at a regional event rather than having to travel to Sydney for this to occur.
“The principals in attendance appreciated the opportunity to be heard.”
Support for Indigenous students, and the more than 100,000 government school students with a disability, was also high on the agenda.
Mr Scott commended the work of the NSW Aboriginal Education Consultative Group and programs like Connected Communities, Clontarf and Girls Academy, and said more research was needed to prove what worked, and implement the effective programs more broadly.
“We’re talking a lot about the kind of services and support schools need to be more effective, how we support teachers with curriculum, how we support teachers with the challenge of some students they have in their care,” Mr Scott said.
“It’s a very good discussion about the practical solutions we need to provide on the ground to help every school improve.”