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Stepping into principals’ shoes

School, business and community leaders benefit through school-community relationships when they participate in Principal for a Day.

The benefits of strong school-community relationships flow to industry and the corporate world as much as to schools, through the sharing of resources and expertise, and the development of useful networks.

School-community relationships also help business and educational leaders to develop ongoing partnerships. Such benefits often begin, and develop, when school, business and community leaders participate in Principal for a Day.

Principal for a Day, a partnership between ACER and the Victorian Department of Education and Training, provides business and community leaders with a first-hand experience of the strengths and challenges facing Victoria’s schools.

According to Michael Ullmer, Director of Lend Lease and Woolworths, ‘Principal for a Day is a very important program, and all business leaders should be encouraged to participate. It gives a real insight to the challenges we face in helping all students realise their potential, and what we as business leaders can, and must, do to help.’

Leanne Eames, ACER Senior Project Officer for Principal for a Day, said the program is a rewarding experience for both parties.

‘The event sees business and community leaders shadow school principals and take part in the day-to-day activities of running a school, including in-depth management discussions, taking classes with students, talking with parents and staff, or even doing yard duty,’ Ms Eames said.

‘School principals have the opportunity to compare leadership perspectives and develop ongoing partnerships, while industry leaders can forge links with schools and the students in them who represent the next generation of potential employees or clients.’

Members of government at all levels, business executives, and CEOs from philanthropic and not-for-profit organisations are among the pool of Principals for a Day who are expected to participate in this year’s program.

Last year’s Principals for a Day included James Merlino, Victorian Minister for Education, Tim Wilson, Human Rights Commissioner, Michelle Plane, CEO of Netball Victoria, Matt Comyn, Group Executive of Retail Banking Services at Commonwealth Bank, and Marina Prior, soprano and musical theatre actress.

Tracey Gibson, CEO of UnitingCare Gippsland, participated in 2015 and said the program connects services and schools in a way that enables an understanding of the issues that both school principals and service leaders share. ‘There are many similarities in the issues we face as leaders, such as performance, teamwork, managing change, culture and accountability,’ Ms Gibson said. ‘This was one of the best days I’ve had at work.’

Anita Weber, State Manger in Victoria of the Beacon Foundation, enjoyed learning more about the school community and the work of a principal. ‘We had the opportunity to discuss approaches to leadership and staff development which I found really valuable and great takeaways for me to apply to my work as a manager in the not-for-profit sector.’

Schools participating in the Principal for a Day program also benefit from the expertise and resources of the corporate world.

Michelle Roberts, Principal of Mordialloc College, has participated in the program each year and continues to find the experience worthwhile. Ms Roberts said having a different Principal for a Day each year provides students and staff with a range of different perspectives.

For Fay Agterhuis, Principal of Point Lonsdale Primary School, the strength of the Principal for a Day program is that it enables ongoing relationships with business that can add value to current and future work. ‘Principal for a Day is a great opportunity to collaborate and use business leaders as sounding boards and advocates for the work of schools,’ Ms Agterhuis said. ■

Pictured, Principal for a Day participants in 2015, Lynne Kemp, Principal of Merri Creek Primary School, and Christine Evely, Education Manager at ACMI, at Merri Creek Primary School, Melbourne.

Further information:

Principal for a Day will be held on 8 September 2016. To register your expression of interest or for more information, visit www.principalforaday.com.au

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