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Data Project shows there is not always an ideal outcome at the end of a CaSPA Principalship

Posted by Frank FitzGerald on 22 September 2018
Data Project shows there is not always an ideal outcome at the end of a CaSPA Principalship

The conclusion of your appointment at a school is often a time of mixed emotions. Ideally there is the sense of "mission complete" where you as principal have been able to bring about change and improvement to the school. There is also a tinge of sadness as you know you will be leaving staff, students and families who had joined you "on the journey" during your time of leadership. It is not too far from the truth to say you leave a little something of yourself behind when you move on from your time of leadership at a particular school.

Data Summary

When we look at the results of the CaSPA Data project over recent years we see some interesting trends for those who finish their period of time at a particular CaSPA school. In broad categories we see the following has taken place in 2014:

  • 39% have taken up a principal position in another Catholic School
    • 3 in 10 of all moves are to a CaSPA school within the same state
    • 1 in 12 move to a CaSPA school interstate
  • 20% have moved to a position of leadership in another branch of Catholic Education
    • the great majority to their local CEO
    • 1 in 20 of all moves are to other Catholic Education bodies such as PJP's
  • 17% retire from the world of full time work - with a small number [2%] being forced to do so through ill health
  • 8% move to other forms of work e.g. consultancy
  • 8% are covered by the "Other" category i.e they were acting in the role, taking leave &c
  • The final 8% we classify as Finishing - a word that indicates their term as principal is conluding not at a time of their choosing and/or in not in the ideal circumstances described in the first paragraph above

A word about Finishing...

Of course you would hope and expect that your leaving is at a time of your choosing and that you are moving on with the best of relations with your school community and its governing body.... That is in an ideal world, and we appreciate that for some principals this is not their experience. We of course need to be realistic - sometimes an individual principal and a school are just not a "good fit", and it is in the best interests of all that both the individual and school can move on so that healing and progress can take place - no one can be guaranteed the job of principal in perpetuity. At the same time, we are seeing in our data that a significant number of principals [1 in 12] are finishing at their schools in the belief that while their work and contribution has been of a high order, they are not experiencing support from those at the System level. Further to this, we note that in some jurisdictions, you are appointed as a principal "to the system" and not to a particular school. This results in a principal in these Systems being directed to move to another school - sometimes against their wishes. Is this a sign of future models of governance for other jurisdictions around the country?

Another contributor to the Finishing category, is the "hard barrier" in some diocese/PJP schools. That is, there is a maximum number of years that a person can be contracted at a particular school [commonly 10 years] and regardless of how successful they are in the role, they must finish their time at that school - they cannot even be part of an "advertised position" appointment where their suitability for the role would be measured against other candidates who have applied. It is absolutely true that schools benefit from innovation and this is often brought about by a change of principal - but is that true 100% of the time?  When we look at our long serving CaSPA principals we see some have spent over 20 years in the one school and have managed to keep up their professional learning so that appropriate change does occur. This might well be a case where "one size" does not necessarily "fit all".

So while CaSPA's role is not that of a Union where it undertakes robust Industrial Relations advocacy on behalf of its principals, it is a professional Association that has the well being of principals as a key focus. We also want the best for our schools and their communities. The recurring instances of Principals Finishing in CaSPA schools suggests that it is timely we look at how Principals are employed and supported as part of the larger review of Governance currently being undertaken by CaSPA in preparation for Plenary Council 2020.

Author: Frank FitzGerald
Tags: Catholic Secondary Principals Australia wellbeing

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