Reflections on a year just finished – what changed and what’s ahead.

Photo courtesy of Bayside leader

At the end of a school year I generally get a little reflective – after a day or two on holidays that is and after I’ve spent some time catching up on the uncompleted tasks – which I just have.

Well my first reflection is that the general pace of change and community expectations have continued to increase. The “public accountability race” has been ramped up with more online school data for the community. The link to the Victorian Government’s site with increased data on school performance is their response to the accountability agenda. As principal I was asked to set some context around the Victorian data for Elsternwick Primary and now as a community we await the ‘raw data sets” from the Commonwealth Government’s online site next year. The real test on the usefulness of published data sets on school performance is who will use the either government’s sets and if there is a private or public agenda?

Elsternwick Primary has just completed a  major school review which took 12 months which included the setting of a new strategic plan priorities for the next 4 years. The improvement goals over the next 4 years include:

  • improving mathematics outcomes for students
  • strengthening teachers use of assessment for learning data to try and personalise learning for students
  • using technology to engage with learners and their parents [refer Ultranet link below]
  • supporting teachers to be more reflective about their instructional practice using a new E5 framework developed by DEECD.

Approximately 1/6 of our teachers are engaged in some study in 2010 connected with three different universities and a new Victorian leadership institute opened this year. These improvement targets are challenging and will require changes in the way we work together to achieve them.

A the end of year we were announced as a lead school in the implementation of the Ultranet – an online learning community for students, teachers and parents. This certainly fits with our goal of working to personalise learning for students. This will be an exciting innovation.

Of course we are still building. We completed stage one works worth estimated at $4 million. The facilities included new and modernised flexible learning areas which were officially opened this year. In addition we had a smaller infrastructure grant which paid for the painting of classrooms, new shade sails over playgrounds, a new roof over one of major buildings and badly needed maintenance on one end of our main buildings. Some work remains to be completed on this smaller project.

We expect to have the new gym and performing arts centre completed in August 2010 worth over $3 million. New buildings generally lead to improved learning and teaching conditions its just the dislocation that gets a little tiring for people and we have had some of that this year.

There were improvements in tightening inquiry based curriculum units, a new Mandarin language introduced, an expanded teacher and student leadership program and the usual activity of schools that we should celebrate including a wonderful end of year concert.

So in summary its been a year of evaluation and direction setting, of building and of new programs. We have some exciting projects and professional learning opportunities ahead.

And I wonder why I’m tired and in need of a rest. Feel free to comment.

To my colleagues and readers have a Merry Christmas and I look forward to continuing our work together in 2010.

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6 Responses to Reflections on a year just finished – what changed and what’s ahead.

  1. mwalker says:

    In Victoria there have been various groupings of schools loosely called districts or networks over the past 15 years. At first they were about support [essentially for principals], then included the sharing of resources between schools [e.g. guidance officers, speech therapists], districts took on local issues like transition of students between schools and then more formal ones where a district superintendent also management principal performance.

    Over the past 13 months Victoria has taken on a lot of research that simply states schools cannot improve student performance by themselves and that they need to seek a wider more collaboratively model working with other schools. The region divided schools geographically into groups of 25 which in my current network meant the coming together of two smaller districts into 1 network. It has taken us some time to work through lots of protocols, the building of relationships between all members of the principal class [include ass prin’s] and the development of a strategic plan based on our shared data. The protocols were needed so that shared data would not be used by individual schools for marketing to attract students [its seen that individual schools compete for student enrollments as enrollments are tied to per capita funding].

    We are about to embark on our second full year working together. As an example there are 3 things we are doing together this year> At the start of the year we have all the primary schools together for 1 day before students come back to school to hear from a university who is reported to be excellent in their work in mathematics.We hope to get some consistency of practice between schools as an outcome of this day.

    The second action is that we have been successful as a network in a grant to fund 30 teachers across our schools to do an action research on improving student performance in mathematics. The project will use our “new” instructional model and a university is a partner in the research. Each teacher is released for 50 days this year which is a substantial investment by the system.

    I facilitate a group of volunteer schools in doing instructional rounds in schools. I have 5 schools participating so far. A further intake is expected this year. This is what I am doing my Master research about.

    So as you can see the focus is now on improving teacher instructional capacity and I suspect discipline knowledge to improve student performance in mathematics across the schools in the network.

    Hope this helps to define the “new” network where we are committed to working in each others schools in some project to improve student performance not only in my schools but across the network.

    Again I can supply other documentation on this.

    Here is one link:


  2. Don Ledingham says:


    This is great. Just one question – what constitutes a network?

    I promise not to bother you after this.

    I’ll follow up the link.

    All the best for 2010


  3. Mark Walker says:

    It seems your questions are connected to two themes roles within the structure and accountabilities.

    The Victorian Education Department has 3 levels within a decentralised school based management system.
    The first layer is the small but centralised “centre” and the key people in that can be accessed through this link:

    My interactions have been with Darrell Fraser the deputy secretary whom I have met on lots of occasions and know [probably partly because I have been in the system some time as a principal]. Policy development, research, resource allocation are some of the main roles.

    The next layer is the regional office which has a director and includes network leaders [one for each group of 25 or so schools in the region – in my region there are 11 networks]. Main roles are policy contributions and implementation. Network leaders facilitate groups of schools working collaboratively to improve student learning, leadership, action research and where appropriate share resources.

    The next layer are schools which have a local board [teachers and parents] – local policies within central frameworks who monitor the financial actions of the schools and work to build a more connected community.

    The principal is responsible for the management and leadership of the school, acts as the boards executive officer and is a member of the local network and contributes to other network schools. The principal in consultation with teachers develops and implements workforce and financial plans for the school. They are responsible for the implementation of the 4 year strategic plan which is a signed agreement between the school and the department on the improvement objectives for the next 4 years. Most of the improvement objectives are related to student learning , attendance and well being.

    The accountability part is through 4 year schools reviews [some external panel here in most cases]and annual reports submitted to the local community and the education department. Principal performance reviews each year are linked the schools strategic plan and the implementation of key department initiatives [all management stuff is just tick the box audits – some external stuff here as well].

    Hope the summary helps. More detailed information I can send you – just let me know.

    I read the weather is freezing so perfect for Doug’s snowboarding.

  4. Don Ledingham says:


    Thanks for this. I’d like to follow up on this – particularly the role of the Director of Education the actual amount of freedom you have as headteacher. Does your system provide for great variation between schools regards policies and practices? Who checks the quality of work going on in your school?

    I’ll let Doug know about the surfing although he’s really into snowboarding at the moment.

    Happy New Year.


  5. mwalker says:

    Good to hear from you.
    The questions you pose probably require a longer answer than the one I am posting.

    Who am I [as principal] answerable to?

    Well ultimately I am answerable, through a chain of people, to the Minister of Education. The line management chain goes the Director of Education [although I know Darryl personally through my work and research I don’t report directly to him] I report more to the regional manager, Peter and/or the network leader David.

    I submit a report to the local school council which is perhaps what you might be referring to in another question – Board of Governers. The school council is an elected body of teachers and parents who pass local policies, oversee the cash budgets, support the development and maintenance of facilities and make links to the local and broader community.

    I, as principal, am ultimately responsible for the total school cash and credit budget which for my school employs around 32 staff for 480 students is approximately $3.5 million.

    Self management was brought into Victoria about 15 years ago by a State Liberal government and is progressively being brought into other states across Australia [not all yet].

    I am happy to provide you with further information via email or at another time.

    I hope to study o/s and travel again in 2010 although my Masters degree at Monash Univ has to managed as well.

    All the best in the New Year and say hello to Doug from all the Walkers. Tell him the surf is up at this time of year and we are heading off for 3 weeks holiday at two surf beachs including Lorne, the one Mitchell and I took him to visit when he was down here. A little different from your little adventure in the snow the other night I read.

    Hope to catch up soon.

  6. Don Ledingham says:


    Congratulations on what seems to have been a very successful- if very busy year. I hope evrything is well with you and your family.

    You left a comment on my log recently which has disappeared due a change in servers. But I wonder if you could give me a few more details on your self-managing school?

    Who are you answerable to?
    How much of your budget are you responsible for?
    Do you have a Board of Governers?
    Has this always been the system in Australia?

    Hope you can get across to Scotland in the coming year!

    All the best for 2010


    PS – Douglas sends his regards to you all.

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