Silverton Primary School faces the challenge of ensuring a strong leadership pipeline to ensure that the schools achievements can be sustained through consistently effective leadership. Supported by Social Ventures Australia, the school has embarked on a comprehensive program to develop leadership competencies and capabilities, provide aspiring leaders with leadership opportunities, and to create a shared leadership structure. The school has achieved significant outcomes in the first year of the partnership, with 16 aspiring leaders completing the program and taking on leadership roles, and 23 expected to undertake the program in 2015.
Silverton Primary School is a K-6 Primary School in South Eastern Melbourne, Victoria. The school has the equivalent 55 staff, and a student enrolment of 479 students, including:
- 36% of students in the bottom quartile of socio-educational advantage
- 72% of students from English as Second Language backgrounds
While Silverton Primary School has consistently achieved excellent student outcomes, high levels of attrition amongst experienced school teachers and leaders is common in disadvantaged communities, and has left the school with the challenge of ensuring that young and inexperienced teachers can continue to sustain these outcomes. Over 50% of the staff has had little or no leadership experience. Effective leadership is critical to drive effective teaching and learning and ultimately, student achievement and outcomes. Research recognises that leadership assumes an increasingly important role in disadvantaged communities. The school therefore faces a significant risk in loss of leadership if this is not addressed urgently and comprehensively.
Silverton Primary School is using the resources and support from Social Ventures Australia to create a pipeline of aspirational leaders whose knowledge and skills are development through a targeted and comprehensive leadership program. Research shows that effective programs are comprised of the following core components (Bain & Company 2013):
- Explicit standards of excellence to which the program is aligned
- Clear structures to support the acquisition of leadership competencies
- Management and monitoring of aspirational leaders
At Silverton Primary School, this involves designing and delivering a program that identifies and supports aspirational leaders to acquire leadership competencies, and undertake leadership activities that prepare them for increasing levels of leadership. This includes:
Clear and contextual standards are the foundation of leadership development. Identification of the qualities and characteristics of excellent leadership – the competencies modelled by current successful leader as well as those required for future leaders – are critical for ensuring that aspiring leaders understand their strengths and areas of focus.
Opportunities for aspiring leaders to both improve in their current role, as well as advance further, are imperative. Research shows that providing progressive scaffolded stages of practical responsibilities aligned to experience and capability levels strengthens leadership.
Management and Monitoring
The ongoing sustainability of school leadership development is largely in the hands of current school leaders. While distributing leadership responsibilities to aspiring school leaders will lighten the load in one regard, it will also require greater levels of management and oversight in another.
Accordingly, Silverton Primary School is providing designing and delivering targeted training and coaching for teachers and aspiring school leaders in partnership with consultant Tony Ross, Tony Ross Consulting, and the Bastow Institute of Leadership. Aspiring leaders are encouraged to undertake leadership experiences, wherein they implement a targeted change initiative across the whole school. The school is ensuring that the school leadership team is transparent and communicative about progression pathways, and is providing ongoing feedback to aspiring leader against explicit criteria. This will ensure that the success of the school is sustained in the future.