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How to lead a top performing school: one principal tells

Posted on 31 August 2017
How to lead a top performing school: one principal tells
But that doesn't mean he still can't reach for the stars.

Reflecting on what it's like to pilot Victoria's highest achieving school (Bialik has been in the top five VCE performers in the state for 19 of the last 20 years, pipping a host of select-entry counterparts to claim first place), Stowe-Lindner speaks about his workplace much like an adoring parent might wax lyrical about their child.

"When you walk around the college, you experience something quite unique," he begins.

"There is a level of informality and strength of relationships that is difficult to find elsewhere and difficult to bottle, and you realise that there's a little bit of magic.

"And I think that, coupled with a very strong pedagogy, the relationship with [Harvard University] that developed the Culture of Thinking in the college and the Reggio Emilia-inspired early learning and early primary, create something for a community school that's very special it is a very unique recipe."

Hailing originally from the UK, Stowe-Lindner developed leadership aspirations for "whole school and community leadership and change" soon after he boarded the teaching train.

"I ended up being deputy of two different girls' schools in the UK, and then had the privilege of being a founding principal of a new school that was starting.

"That was a great opportunity to really establish a culture, whereas normally school leadership is about learning and developing an existing culture.

"That school is now a thriving high school of 1300 kids in London."

When Stowe-Lindner first discovered Bialik, a cross-communal Jewish Zionist school, some 15 years ago, he "fell in love" with what he saw; the high expectations, the supportive "immigrant aspirant community" and a culture where individual successes are cheered on by all.

"So it was always at the back of my mind, that if there ever was an (employment) opportunity, this was one of the golden nuggets of education," he recalls.

In 2012 Stowe-Lindner panned for gold and came up trumps. He's been intent on perfecting his leadership formula at the college ever since.

"I think we are pretty lucky that we have, in the main, a very supportive catchment," he notes.

"My joke with new teachers is that 'if kids don't do their home learning, contact home and it'll be done the next day. But if you don't set it, the parents will be contacting you the next day'!"

Stowe-Lindner says the school community's passion for education has helped breed a culture where academic prowess is not just admired it's cool.

"So when you have an assembly and a child has been awarded a maths prize or has done spectacularly in a particular area, there are no sighs, there is genuine admiration and acclaim.

"And that is very important to develop and nurture that culture where success is valued and supported by all the kids."

From the toilet facilities to the school pedagogy, there's a level of care and attention that bleeds into academic outcomes, the educator insists.

"That's a very purposeful part of the learning here, that the environment is invested in, and the landscaping, the rooms, the cleanliness, the toilets, the food, are all of good quality. So that creates a culture of appreciation and we aspire to mutuality"

Each year six of Stowe-Lindner's staff are sent abroad to glean new ways of 'doing' education.

It's a commitment the leader says is imperative to breaking out from the Aussie bubble.

"coming from Europe, I do feel [Melbourne is] at the end of the train line, and if you don't make a purposeful and deliberate decision to outreach and bring in concepts, ideas, philosophies and pedagogies from beyond, then you can get into a bit of an insular spiral."


From: Education HQ, July 17,2017

By Sarah Duggan

Tags: Leadership

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