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Case Study - 20+ Years as a Principal - Ivan Banks

Posted on 21 May 2018
Case Study - 20+ Years as a Principal - Ivan Banks
At the beginning of 2018, I began my 22nd year of being a principal in the Catholic sector.  The first 10 of these were in a large co-educational Regional High School in Bunbury, Western Australia.  Bunbury is 2 hours south of Perth.  My second school, was Trinity College.  Trinity College is an all boy's school, originally founded by the Christian Brothers in 1894, and now governed by Edmund Rice Education Australia.  Trinity enrols boys from Year 4 through to Year 12.

As I reflect on my years, I give great thanks for the privileged position that I have held.  I have often heard that Principalship is described as "the best job with some of the worst days" and I would fully endorse this description.  However, despite the tough days, it is a job that I would not swap for anything.  To work with so many committed dedicated professionals, to see children mature into young adults and to share the responsibility of educating the sons and daughters of engaged, connected parents has been life-giving.

As educators, we have the opportunity to make a difference in a student's life and whilst we will often not see this difference in the immediate term, we know that we are laying a basis that, we hope, will lay them in good stead for their future.

I have spent my entire professional career in the Catholic sector, and am fully committed to educating students through a Catholic lens.  I believe it gives us an opportunity to provide a foundation for our students based on Gospel Values, and to develop young men and women into the type of people that we believe that they should be.  We work with each student to develop the values, skills and qualities they require to fulfil their dreams and potential.  Our education for each student is not limited to the Religious Education classroom, but is found embedded in our Retreat programs, our Christian Service programs and the way we treat our staff and students and how we expect them to treat one another.

As Principal, I am in a very special position and often hear of the joys and sufferings that occur in the lives of my community members well before this news becomes public.  This insight allows me, as a leader, to truly support each community member, especially in their darkest times.

I am often asked about the difference between running a school in the late nineties versus now in the 18th year of the 21st Century.  The greatest difference I have found is that, unfortunately, our roles as education leaders seemed to have changed from being truly focused on education, pedagogy and learning, to one of risk management, compliance and accountability.  With my current Leadership Team, we often try to deliberately allocate time to discuss educational issues rather than management issues, for it is important to be constantly reminded why we do what we do.

I think another great difference has been the move from a focus on the 3 R's (reading, writing and arithmetic), to a much more wholistic education where we are not only concerned about each child's academic development, but now also their wellness, their mental health, their safety (both physical and virtual), and their ability to relate and connect.  At times, schools seem to be taking the place of parents providing rules, boundaries and consequences for the students in their care.

Developing an environment where authentic leadership exists, collaboration occurs and compassion abounds, empowers all community members to be the best that they can be.  However, despite the changes, the challenges and the occasional difficult issue to navigate, I look back on the last 21 years knowing that I have been truly blessed.

Tags: CaSPA Case Study

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