'Teaching and learning fall by the wayside': principals

Principals will be able to employ business managers to look after the day-to-day running of schools after new research revealed they spend too much time on administration and organising repairs and not enough time on improving teaching and learning.

The NSW education minister Rob Stokes will on Monday announce a new leadership strategy for public school principals which will include training school leaders as well as providing funding for them to focus on curriculum planning, student progress, teaching quality, and student wellbeing.

It comes as new research, commissioned by the NSW Department of Education, found that principals spend 40 per cent of their time managing their school and almost three-quarters said their current workload was "not at all achievable".

Consultants Deloitte surveyed principals at 119 NSW public schools in term two this year, with most reporting that it is difficult to fulfil their roles as educational leaders because they spend a large proportion of their time on administration

This includes tasks ranging from finding tradesman to fix plumbing, organising cleaning and minor asset repairs to tree audits and troubleshooting technology.

The Local Schools, Local Decisions policy, which was designed to give principals more autonomy, has contributed to their increased workload, the research found, along with increased expectations from the community.

"Changes in technology have meant that principals are now able to be accessed more easily and frequently than ever before by the school, the department and the broader community through a variety of channels such as email, the school's website, text messages and social media," the report said.

Many principals involved in the research stressed that their workload was a major issue, and said running the school often came at the expense of education.

"Most teaching and learning will fall by the wayside," one principal said. Another said: "I wish this can become a role that is sustainable with good health."

Mr Stokes said principals should have time to use their expertise as educational leaders and focus on improving outcomes in classrooms.

"School leaders are critical to shaping the future of our children and young people," Mr Stokes said.

Mr Stokes said principals' workload had increased in recent years and they now had responsibilities in areas like planning, policy, finance, compliance, risk and work health and safety.

He said the new strategy would include $50 million a year to help principals employ extra support staff so they have more time for instructional leadership.

"Schools could, for example, employ a business manager or share one across a number of schools," Mr Stokes said.

The strategy will also include a new leadership institute to develop and support school leaders, as well as coaching and mentoring new principals.

There will also be 20 scholarships a year for principals to take part in internationally renowned leadership programs and a new team of trained officers to undertake annual work, health and safety inspections.

The story 'Teaching and learning fall by the wayside': principals first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.

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