Who will lead the Renaissance of Australian Student Performance?

The achievement level of Australian students has been in decline since 2000 and the latest PISA results offer no solace. If we were talking about corporate results, there would be a tsunami of speculation in the media about the fate of the relevant Board and/or CEO. School leadership is generally understood to be a major factor in student performance, so what is to be done about school leadership?

Hundreds of school principals across Australia are approaching retirement and will need to be replaced in the next few years. This is both a threat and an opportunity. It’s a threat because the success of leadership development depends on the presenting quality of participants. Investing in leadership development won’t deliver the required outcome in the absence of quality aspirant principals. Sourcing a sufficient supply of quality aspirant principals is becoming more challenging because:

1. Teacher university entrance scores are declining, so the overall quality of the recruitment pool is in decline;

2. Women and cultural minorities are under-represented among the current principal cohort, so these groups lack relevant role models to attract them to aspire to principalship;

3. The role of principal is not always seen by teachers in general as a viable or attractive career option.

On the other hand the projected rate of principal turnover presents an historical opportunity to select people with the relevant underlying competencies to become first rate school leaders. Let’s hope the disparate education systems of Australia rise to the occasion.