NSW schools boss Mark Scott meets southern principals in Batemans Bay

Mark Scott speaking to principals from across southern NSW in Batemans Bay on Monday. Photo: Dept of Education.
Mark Scott speaking to principals from across southern NSW in Batemans Bay on Monday. Photo: Dept of Education.

The principals of 50 public schools from across Southern New South Wales have gathered in Batemans Bay to meet with chiefs of the NSW Education Department.

Schools from the Monaro, Far South Coast, Illawarra, Shoalhaven, Southern Tablelands, Southern Highlands and Queanbeyan were all represented, part of a road trip by Department Secretary, Mark Scott, Deputy Secretary School Operations and Performance, Murat Dizdar, and Deputy Secretary Educational Services, Georgina Harrisson.

“We have 2,200 schools and we want them to be great schools and you don’t have great schools without a great principal, and so we are asking them – what kind of support do they need in order to provide great leadership?” Mr Scott says.

The Batemans Bay forum came just two weeks after the release of the 2017 Principal Health and Wellbeing Survey, a nationwide check up on over 5,500 principals in state, religious, and independent schools.

Ninety percent of respondents said they were passionate about their work, however, a few alarm bells were rung:

*44% or close to 1 in 2 principals say they have been threatened with violence;

*The survey pointed to high levels of job demands, 1.5 times greater than the general population, emotional demands 1.7 times higher, and emotional labour 1.7 times higher when compared to the general population;

*Stress and burnout were flagged as issues, with principals saying the sheer quantity of work and a lack of time to focus on teaching and learning are impacting on them.

Mr Scott says he got a sense of that stress and pressure when talking to principals at Batemans Bay.

“If we are a world class system then we are providing outstanding support for principals,” he says.

“We are looking at how the Department and the system can better support principals and also how principals can better support themselves.”

Students from Batemans Bay High School and Broulee Primary combine for the 2017 Southern Stars Concert. Photo: Bay High Facebook.
Students from Batemans Bay High School and Broulee Primary combine for the 2017 Southern Stars Concert. Photo: Bay High Facebook.

The influence of the outside world is a big part of the daily challenge for teachers and principals.

“The complexity [of the job] is not all to do with teaching and learning,” Mr Scotts says.

“The complexity in part is because of broader pressures in society – pressures around families and the stability and security of the environments young people come from.

“Schools are often the one secure anchor point in a child’s complex and turbulent world, so schools often need to broker an array of support for students that often extends well beyond what has been traditionally provided in a school,” he says.

That traditional work of schools; preparing kids for their future, was also front and centre in the day-long meeting at Batemans Bay.

The former ABC boss, says his Department has been doing a lot of work trying to imagine the world of the future and the skills our kids will need.

“In the last year, we’ve done a big research project called ‘Education for a Changing World’ tapping into a global array of leading academics in this area,” Mr Scott says.

“To be successful we know that a young person will need to have very strong literacy and numeracy skills because frankly, they are going to spend their entire career learning.

“Young people are going to need a growth mindset, we know that they are going to need to be able to take on new challenges, learning new things, they are going to have to back themselves,” Mr Scott says.

Cooma cheers one of its own, Emily Blyton, top marks on the 2017 HSC. Photo: Monaro High Facebook.
Cooma cheers one of its own, Emily Blyton, top marks on the 2017 HSC. Photo: Monaro High Facebook.

Fostering a love of learning in each child is central to Mr Scott’s vision of the future, and indeed his challenge.

“We once may have thought we take young people to school to teach them knowledge, in a way now we feel they are at school so we can help them learn to learn,” he says.

“We think less in terms of a class and think more about where each individual student is up to.

“Our great teachers are aware that every student is different and at a different point in their learning – it’s a long way from a row of desks that’s for sure,” Mr Scott says.

NSW public education is the largest education system in Australia, with 810,000 students in 2,200 schools, looked after by 85,000 staff.

The Department’s tour also takes in meetings at Newcastle, Coffs Harbour, Tamworth, Wagga Wagga, Dubbo, Sydney, Penrith, and Liverpool.

#This article first appeared on RiotACT

Colouring for change in Cooma, lead by local teens

Has anyone seen the orange pencil? By Ian Campbell
Has anyone seen the orange pencil? By Ian Campbell

High school students from Cooma have combined with a locally based, online fashion house in a colourful approach to tackling family violence.

The idea of a workplace ‘Colourathon’ is being trialed at Birdsnest in Cooma, with female students from Monaro High School preparing to launch the idea nationally in November.

New ‘Colourathon for Corporates’ kits come packed with everything a business will need to host their own event, broadening the community response to family violence.

Artistic change maker, Big hART is leading the collaboration under the banner of ‘Project O‘.

“Project O is a national program we run with young women aged 12 to 15, assisting them to build new skills and capacity and to learn how to be change makers,” says Genevieve Dugard, Project O National Director.

Project O started in the ‘family violence hotspot’ of North West Tasmania and has since been rolled out to Cooma, Roebourne WA, and Canberra.

“A colourathon is a colouring-in arts marathon,” Genevieve explains.

“An arts endurance event, where every hour of colouring-in is sponsored and raises money for trauma therapy services for young children fleeing violence and needing crises care.”

Jane Cay, 'big bird' at Birdsnest and Genevieve Dugard, Project O National Director. By Ian Campbell
Jane Cay, ‘big bird’ at Birdsnest and Genevieve Dugard, Project O National Director. By Ian Campbell

A colourathon at the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra on November 30 will help launch the corporates kits being developed at Birdsnest by the twenty young women from Monaro High School.

The Project O crew are hoping businesses will buy a kit as a team building or social responsibility exercise while raising money for the Australian Childhood Foundation.

“They roll out a play based therapy program in women’s shelters,” Genevieve says.

“The average age of a child fleeing violence is two and a half years old, through the fundraising we provide training in play based therapy which helps children who can’t talk or express their feelings like adults.”

The add on to Big hART’s Project O initiative for the Monaro girls is the opportunity to be mentored by the innovators and entrepreneurs that make up Birdsnest – winner of the ‘Best Online Customer Service Award’ at the Online Retail Industry Awards in 2015 and 2016 and BRW Australia’s 8th ‘Best Place to Work’ for companies with 100 employees or less in 2015.

Former IBM e-business consultant, Jane Cay is ‘head bird’.

“It’s such a great opportunity for them to realise that they can create change even when they are young and at school,” Jane says.

Students have been embedded in Jane’s company for a ten week period, mentored by staff in event management, product development, publicity, design, logistics, and a range of other business skills.

“It’s a massive company and it’s amazing that we are able to have workshops here,” says Brooke, one of the Project O students.

‘We are so lucky that we have this experience, to meet all of the staff and learn new things from them,” Brooke’s friend Georgia adds.

Both students say they have also been surprised to learn about the issue of family violence.

“It does happen in Cooma, I didn’t think it would happen in Cooma, it’s been a shock to me,” Georgia says.

“I hope this [The Colourathon] will show people that it is happening and it needs to stop,” Brooke says.

“Hopefully we raise money to help them [children] get through it and find more support through play based therapy,” Georgia adds.

Aside from the benefit to the community through programs like Project O and the Colourathon, Jane Cay believes it makes good business sense for corporates to get involved.

“People need to come to work feeling nurtured, and they need to look after themselves in order to be of service to anyone – whether that’s in the workplace or to their families,” Jane says.

“If the family environment is not a safe and nurturing place it’s very difficult to then come into a work place without that very basic foundation that humans need to operate.”


Thanks to About Regional members, Jeanette Westmore, Claire Blewett, Fay Deveril, and Fiona Cullen for supporting local story telling.