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DEFINING THE ROLE OF THE PRIMARY PRINCIPAL IN IRELAND A Report by HayGroup Management Consultants

Prepared by:

Eamon Drea Jim O'Brien

© HayGroup Newmount House 22 - 24 Lower Mount Street Dublin 2 Tel: 00 353 1 676 5994 Fax: 00 353 1 661 6623


TABLE OF CONTENTS

Section

Page

I

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

1

II

METHODOLOGY

8

III

THE STATUTORY BASIS FOR THE ROLE

9

IV

DEFINING THE KEY ACCOUNTABILITIES OF THE ROLE

11

V

THE VARYING STRANDS OF PRINCIPALSHIP

12

VI

THE CHALLENGES WITHIN THE ROLE

15

VII

A MODEL OF LEADERSHIP FOR PRINCIPALS

22

VIII

THE ROLE PROFILE

25

CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

35

I

MAIN ISSUES ARISING FROM THE SURVEY

38

II

MAIN ISSUES ARISING FROM THE FOCUS GROUPS AND ONE TO ONE DISCUSSIONS

47

STAKEHOLDERS CONSULTED BY HAY GROUP DURING THIS STUDY

52

IX Appendices

III

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I.

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

Introduction Hay Group Management Consultants were engaged by the Irish Primary Principals Network (IPPN) to analyse the role of the Principal teacher in the Irish Primary Education Sector and to develop a statement of the Role of Principal which reflects its current scope and context. Our report sets out the result of that analysis. It describes the methodology which was used in the research and the conclusions which emerged from it. The Role Profile and the accompanying competencies which underpin success in the role are designed to have a number of applications: •

To inform the process by which Principals are selected and assessed.

To provide a basis for continuing leadership development within the role.

To clarify the key priorities of the role and the key competencies which would contribute to the effective delivery of the role.

In understanding the economic (as well as educational) criticality of the role of the Primary Principal, the overall cost context of the Primary Education Sector should be borne in mind. This sector represents an annual investment of over €1.5 billion of taxpayers money. It is made up of approximately 3,500 discrete units (schools), employing 26,000 teachers. In order that the Primary Education Sector as a whole can offer value for this investment in taxpayers money (i.e. deliver high quality educational outputs for children), each of the 3,500 schools must utilise its resources effectively. For this to happen, these resources (human and other) must be managed effectively. This emphasises the role of Principal as a critical factor in ensuring the educational needs of Ireland’s primary schoolchildren are effectively delivered, and delivered in a manner that provides value for money to the taxpayer.

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The Key Accountabilities of the Role •

There is no shortage of statutory provisions which, taken together, provide a comprehensive legal and policy framework for the role of Principal. However, these provisions have not been translated into a leadership model which highlights the key competencies required for effective delivery of the role. This analysis is designed to provide such a model.

•

Taking the key elements of the statutory provisions, the views of Principals themselves and our research into leadership generally within the education profession, we conclude that there are seven key elements to the role: -

Leadership The creation and communication of a vision of learning and development for the school in a way which creates the environment for pupils and teachers to maximise their development.

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Teaching and Learning The delivery of a learning environment, either through the personal instructional skills of Principals or through the coaching and development of teaching staff, to create standards of excellence in learning for all pupils, irrespective of abilities or aptitudes.

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Resource Management The effective deployment and management of physical, financial and other non human resources for the school.

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Human Resource Management The leadership, motivation, coaching and development of the human resources of the school, including both teaching and non teaching staff.

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Policy Formation The development and adaptation of policy for the school in a wide range of areas including education related and non education related areas of policy.

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Administration The effective administration of the school to ensure the proper maintenance of records, returns, statistics etc.

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External Relationships The management of a wide range of external relationships which have bearing on the well being of the school.

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The Challenges Facing the Role •

Principals face a range of challenges in effectively delivering the key elements of the role as summarised above. Some of these challenges derive from a lack of clarity about the various elements in the role; some derive from a skills and competency deficit; some derive from a lack of support for Principals in a variety of ways.

Dealing with these challenges in an effective way requires a range of leadership and other competencies. These are the kinds of competencies which would normally be seen in leadership and senior managerial positions and require high levels of inter-personal and organisational skills.

A critical aspect of the leadership role is the willingness and capability to handle the issue of teaching standards and under-performing teachers. This requires a range of capabilities on the part of Principals, together with support and back-up from Boards of Management and the Department. This is an extremely difficult area and one which requires further analysis and consideration by the Department, Boards of Management and the representatives of teachers and Principals.

Recent education policy has placed a huge emphasis on the integration of special needs pupils within the mainstream school population. This has led to a substantial demand on the role of Principal to cater for these needs in an effective way. This adds a further dimension to the role of Principal which is perceived by many Principals not to be recognised or resourced.

There have been significant developments in various aspects of public policy such as health and safety which place demands on Principals to formulate appropriate policies at local level. There is a strong perception by many Principals that these areas of policy lead to much duplication and use of scarce resources which could be avoided if a more integrated and co-ordinated approach were taken.

Because of a lack of a detailed statement of the day to day tasks which are or are not part of a Principal's role, there is no satisfactory mechanism to determine what is a legitimate duty to be undertaken by the Principal. In the absence of such a statement, Principals come under pressure to take on a variety of tasks which are not central to the key elements of the role set out above.

A Model of Leadership for Principals •

The role of Principal is a leadership role. As such, it requires many of the core competencies associated with leadership roles in any sector or organisation. However, Primary Education is a unique environment which is clearly different from a commercial organisation. Any model of leadership must, therefore, recognise the importance of the values of learning and personal development which lie at the heart of the role. The leadership model for Principals which is set out in this report is underpinned by a range of supporting competencies:

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-

Strategic Thinking

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Professional Expertise

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Inter-personal Understanding

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Team Leadership

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Teamworking

-

Impact and Influence

-

Achievement Drive

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Developing Others

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Challenge and Support

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Respect for Others

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Information Seeking

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Analytical Thinking

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Networking / Relationship Building

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Initiative

Conclusions and Recommendations

Conclusions: •

The role of Principal within the Irish Primary Education sector is a leadership/management role which has a variety of dimensions and faces a variety of challenges.

While there are two distinct groupings of Principals within the sector - Teaching Principals and Administrative Principals - the core accountability of leadership/management is common to both.

The responsibilities of Principal which are envisaged in the relevant legislation and guidelines appear to be predicated primarily on the role of Administrative Principal. While Teaching Principals have the same range of functions and accountabilities, the reality is that the Teaching Principal role is seen primarily as a teaching one, as Teaching Principals have insufficient time and energy to devote to the managerial aspects of the role while carrying responsibility for a full class teaching load.

While this research was not an analysis of the structure of Primary education, we conclude that the significant proportion of small schools within the system places considerable pressures on the ability of Teaching Principals within those schools to effectively deliver the leadership aspects of their role.

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There is a strong perception throughout the ranks of Principals generally that the role has become extremely difficult if not impossible to deliver on effectively. This perception appears to derive from a lack of clarity around the role and a lack of time and resources. However, it may also derive from a shortage of the leadership and people management skills which we believe to be critical to the role. This may result from inadequacies in the selection processes for appointment to Principal posts in the first instance as well as to a lack of leadership and management development programmes for serving Principals.

There is a strong perception among Principals that while they can delegate task responsibility to middle-management roles (e.g. Deputy Principal, Special Responsibility Teachers), such as library management etc., these post holders rarely carry the level of devolved management accountability that would be the case for roles at this level in other sectors. Given the significant cost of the allowances offered for such posts, this raises the question of the value for money which is being obtained from this layer of management within the system.

The role of Principal requires the management of a broad range of relationships within the school and outside of it and the competencies required to manage these relationships are complex and demanding and require careful identification and development.

There is a lack of clarity about the respective roles of Principal and Boards of Management. The working relationships between individual Principals and Boards tend to be extremely varied, dependent on local circumstances and individual capabilities. Given the scale of resources invested in schools it is critical that a clear definition of structures, respective roles and responsibilities is put in place to provide a solid platform for effective governance.

An area of particular difficulty is the development and management of teaching staff. There is a widespread perception that it is not the role of the Principal to "manage" the teaching staff in the traditional sense of the term. This is normally attributed to the professional independence of individual teachers. However, many Principals acknowledge their role in this function, including the issue of managing and developing under-performing teachers. As an obstacle to this aspect of their role, Principals frequently point to either a lack of managerial skills on their own part to or a lack of support in the form of procedures from Boards of Management and the Department in handling such situations. In our view, this is a critical and inescapable aspect of any leadership role, including Principalship.

Recommendations: •

There should be a set of management processes designed to enhance the selection and assessment of candidates for appointment to Principalship. Based on the competency model contained within this report, these processes should focus primarily on assessing managerial and leadership capabilities. These processes should also address the capability and qualifications of those entrusted with the selection process.

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Further study should be undertaken of the role of middle management within schools, particularly of the role of Deputy Principal, with a view to positioning it as a more challenging and developmental role. That review should also take into account recruitment and appointment procedures and guidelines.

Such evidence as is available would suggest that there is a significant fall off in the level of interest in applying for vacant Principal posts. Research which has been undertaken in this area indicates that a major aspect of this relative lack of interest is attributable to lack of clarity regarding the expectations and boundaries of the role. This lack of clarity needs to be addressed as part of an integrated policy to ensure that an appropriate supply of well qualified and motivated candidates are available as Principal positions become vacant.

A leadership development programme should be put in place for Principals. Once established, this programme should be available to all newly-appointed Principals within six to twelve months of their appointment. The programme should be designed so as to include modules on leadership, motivation and human resource management. It should provide for ongoing learning and networking opportunities and should make use of distance and internet-based learning channels in support of traditional methods.

In addition to the development programme outlined above, other development opportunities should be considered, such as mentoring for newly appointed Principals, and providing opportunities for potential Principals to spend time working closely with effective Principals in preparation for a promotion to principalship. (At the time of preparation of this report, we are aware that a specific group (LDS) has been established within the Department to make specific recommendations on leadership development for Principals. This is a welcome development which should be further developed and resourced.)

Principals must acknowledge and embrace the need to provide constructive developmental feedback and coaching to staff, and the need to challenge teacher under-performance. The failure to follow through on this requirement of the role not only inhibits the effectiveness of individual teachers, but also undermines motivation across the teaching staff.

All Principals (not just newly appointed ones) should be provided with development in key relevant skills that will enable them to fulfill these essential elements of their role with capability and confidence.

A set of clear-cut policies and processes in the management of professional staff should be developed centrally, and introduced on a consistent, national basis to guide principals in their efforts to affirm good practice, motivate, and challenge underperformance.

Duplication of functions, challenges and resources between small schools in adjacent geographical areas should be examined and measures developed to enable Principals to collaborate with each other to provide for more effective 6


management and service provision. Alternative structures should be explored, which may include the establishment of “clustering” arrangements, in order to provide a more effective and consistent approach to the maintenance and governance of small rural schools. •

The respective roles and responsibilities of the Principal and the Board of Management should be clearly defined and articulated. In line with the definition of the Principal’s role as a leadership/management role, it would be appropriate that a model of governance be applied in schools where the role of the Board is to review and approve strategic direction / policies, while the implementation of the Board-approved strategies and policies rests with the Principal. The Board should then review and hold the Principal accountable for effective implementation.

In addition to the recommendations outlined above, and given the competing demands faced particularly by Teaching Principals to be firstly a Principal and secondly a class teacher, Teaching Principals should proactively organise their own teaching workload in a manner that enables them to fulfil their primary leadership accountabilities more effectively. This is not a panacea to resolve all of the problems facing Principals, but is recognition of a contribution Principals must make to dealing with the challenges facing the role.

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II.

METHODOLOGY

There were a number of aspects to the methodology used in this analysis. •

A survey of all serving Principals was conducted which was designed to elicit views and opinions on the key elements and challenges in the role.

A number of Focus Groups of Principals of differing kinds of school were conducted to consider the main themes arising from the survey and to help to clarify aspects of the role with respect to particular types of school environment. The Focus Groups were structured on the following lines: -

Teaching Principals Administrative Principals Principals of Special Schools, Designated Disadvantaged Schools and Scoileanna Lan-Ghaelach Experienced Principals Recently Appointed Principals

The relevant statutory provisions governing the role of Principal, together with recent analyses on the role of Principal were considered.

A number of one to one discussions were held with individuals within the Primary Education sector to gain their views on the role of Principal. These individuals were drawn from the Department of Education and Science, the academic community, parents' representatives, school management representatives and primary teaching union representatives.

Existing research conducted by Hay Group Management Consultants into Headteacher Effectiveness in the United Kingdom was reviewed.

The research activities outlined above were concluded in early 2002.

The scope of this analysis did not extend as far as the gathering of data about what might be deemed to be "superior" performing schools and to establish from such data the empirically valid correlation with different forms of Principal teacher styles and behaviours. Indeed, it is not clear whether such data is available or that such data as exists would be accepted as constituting the basis for classifying schools as "superior". This is an area of research which, in our view, it is necessary to undertake to fully validate any conclusions about Principal teachers. Where appropriate we offer some observations from the Hay UK study where such conclusions can be drawn.

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III.

THE STATUTORY BASIS FOR THE ROLE

While there is a lengthy series of prevailing circulars which set out specific duties of the Principal, the two main provisions which underpin the core role are Circular 16/73 and the relevant provisions of the Education Act 1998. In addition, the Report of the Working Group on the Role of the Primary School Principal commissioned by the Department of Education and Science in 1999 reviewed a number of the changes which have come into the education environment within which Principals work. That Report concluded that the challenges of leadership, management and administration have become more onerous over the years since a number of the key statutory provisions were first adopted. Our report seeks to highlight the key elements of the role as envisaged by the various "official" provisions and to establish a basis for a consideration of the key competencies which are required to deliver on the role effectively. In reading the 1973 and 1998 provisions, a number of preliminary observations may be made: •

There is a significant contrast in the tone of the two provisions. The earlier Circular emphasises, in particular, the disciplining, controlling and supervisory aspects of the role.

By contrast, the 1998 Act emphasises the learning, developmental, consultative and leadership aspects of the role.

While it may be interesting to speculate on the contrasting social and educational environments in which the two provisions were drafted, it does not, in our view, serve any major purpose to try to "adjudicate" between them or establish value judgements between them.

By their nature, statutory provisions cannot hope to set out in exhaustive detail every element of a role for which they provide and, in our view, it would be pointless to seek such clarity in such provisions. Legislation, by its nature, can only set out a broad framework of the role which must, in turn, be informed by a progressive understanding of the appropriate style by which that role is delivered effectively within different environments.

There is a sharp contrast between what may be seen as an older more "authoritarian" perspective of the role and a more contemporary "leadership" and "visionary" interpretation. However, this contrast is likely to reflect the range of management styles and competencies required for the role, rather than a set of mutually exclusive tasks and responsibilities. In practice, serving Principals find it difficult to deliver on the aspirations of the policy and the legislation.

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•

In the absence of significant structural change in the Primary Education sector, such as, for example, the forming of federations of smaller schools, or specific legislative changes relating to the role of Boards of Management, we are taking it as a given that the prevailing provisions continue to define the parameters of the role. The merits or otherwise of such changes are clearly outside this analysis, although where we feel that useful observations may be offered in this area we have done so.

We are of the view that the main challenge in defining the role for Principals is to identify and gain agreement on the core accountabilities which constitute the role. These are set out in the section following.

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IV.

DEFINING THE KEY ACCOUNTABILITIES OF THE ROLE

We consider that the most useful approach to clarifying the role of the Principal contains two elements: •

To distil the key areas of accountability for which the role has responsibility, and

To set out the key competencies which are required to deliver on these accountabilities in an effective way. (The competencies are addressed in section VIII – The Role Profile.

Taking the statutory provisions and the views expressed by serving Principals together in a composite fashion, therefore, the following core accountabilities seem to us to emerge. It is stressed that this is not designed to be an exhaustive list of tasks but rather a statement of the main areas in which the Principal is required to deliver results to the relevant stakeholders in the school. The requirement to create, communicate and deliver a vision for the school, taking account of the rights and aspirations of all the stakeholders in the school and the community.

1. Leadership:

2. Teaching Learning:

and The requirement to both personally deliver high standards of teaching and to develop, monitor and coach the teaching standards of other teachers.

3. Resource Management:

The requirement to plan, monitor and evaluate the use of infrastructural, educational and financial resources.

4. Human Resource Management:

The requirement to select, coach, develop and hold accountable the human resources of the school.

5. Administration:

The requirement to comply with the various reporting, recording and data-management obligations to which the school is subject.

6. Policy Formation:

The requirement to research, draft and present policy documents and statements in the wide range of educational and management areas as required by legislation and Departmental policy.

7. External Relationships:

The requirement to communicate effectively with, persuade, influence and forge short, medium and long term relationships with a range of partners which, while "external" to the day to day operation of the school, are critical to its overall effectiveness. They include a broad spectrum of partners, from the parents to the State and its various agencies.

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V.

THE VARYING STRANDS OF PRINCIPALSHIP

We have considered the various strands of Principal - Teaching Principals, Administrative Principals, the Principalship of various kinds of special schools and have formed the view that the key elements of the role in Part IV above are common to all of the categories. This is not to suggest that the emphases within different types of school will not vary considerably. Indeed, our survey indicated that the teaching element of the role is by necessity a more significant focus for Teaching Principals, while Administrative Principals are free to focus exclusively on the leadership and administrative elements of their role. The table below sets out the perceptions of the priority accountabilities identified by the Teaching Principals and Administrative Principals in our survey. As will be seen, there is a high degree of commonality, with staff management and development being perceived as a high priority, as was financial and resource management. Principals’ Perceptions of Current Priority Accountabilities Teaching Principal

Teaching

Leadership / Development

Staff

Management

Administrative Principal

Leadership / Development

Pupil Development & Progress

Staff

Management

&

&

Curriculum Development

Policy Development

Pupil Development & Progress

Curriculum Development

Policy Development

Administration

The critical conclusion which we would advance is that, to be effective, Principals need to demonstrate an appropriate range of competencies and management styles which will be dictated, in large measure, by the school environment in which they are operating. This is not to suggest that the role is fundamentally different from school type to school type, but rather that the means of being effective has different emphases. This conclusion would tend to be supported by the Hay research into Headteacher Effectiveness in the UK. That study focused on an analysis of the correlation between school performance and the relevant leadership style and behaviour of Headteachers. In general, it was found that the best Headteachers: •

Focused on data, on the raising of standards and the measurement of progress towards the achievement of standards or targets;

Were possessed of considerable levels of energy and were relentless in their focus on standards, and 12


Were driven by a core set of values which underpinned their vision and enabled them to communicate a compelling message to their staff.

Although the scale of school size is quite different in the UK (where categorisation of large, small and special schools would not be directly comparable to the Irish situation), a number of contrasting conclusions were advanced: •

Outstanding Headteachers in medium and large schools demonstrated an ability to take a strategic view aimed at transforming performance. They were focused on tackling performance issues using the available procedures effectively. Their leadership style was "hands off", managing through their senior team and they possessed high levels of sophisticated influencing strategies.

Outstanding Headteachers in small schools (understood in a different dimensions context to Ireland) demonstrated strong levels of resilience and tenacity and an ability to juggle a number of tasks while undertaking a heavy teaching load. Management style tends to be more hands on and leadership by example is a pronounced feature. Concern with performance is also marked and outstanding Headteachers tackle under-performance particularly when it impacts on pupil attainment. Such interventions, however, tend to be handled sensitively and with due regard to the impact on the whole school climate.

Outstanding Headteachers in special needs schools demonstrated an in-depth knowledge about individual needs and behavioural patterns derived from their own training and experience. They had the capacity to deal with the various agencies which had a bearing on the special needs pupil and were effective at challenging expectations for their pupils and were just as ambitious for them as Headteachers in mainstream schools. Finally, their level of emotional maturity and resilience was very marked in enabling them to cope effectively with the emotional demands of their pupil and parent population.

Our analysis of Principalship within the Irish primary sector would tend to support the observations set out above. However, the distinction between Teaching and Administrative Principals merits comment. In particular, the role of Teaching Principals faces significant challenges. Our analysis of the role of Teaching Principal would lead us to agree with a perception articulated by many in this category that the "official" definition of Principalship is based primarily on the role of the Administrative Principal and that there is insufficient recognition of the reality of the combined teaching and leadership roles. The role of Teaching Principal has been the subject of considerable debate in recent times as to whether the role should be seen as primarily a teaching role, with some additional administrative/ management duties added on, or as a role that is primarily responsible for the effective running of the school, but which also carries a substantial teaching load. The “primarily teaching” view of the role can be seen to be a logical underlying rationale for the “first among equals” perspective of the Teaching Principal role. The current pay structures for Principals serve to reinforce this concept of the role, not

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specifically because of the actual pay levels, but because the pay scale is based on the teachers pay scale, plus an allowance for the “additional” element of the role. The proportion of the normal working day that is currently consumed by the teaching load carried by Teaching Principals also serves to reinforce the perception that the job is primarily a teaching role, with a minor additional accountability for running the school to be carried out in their “spare time”. However, simply because a concept of the role has existed for many years, and may be reinforced (perhaps unintentionally) by official systems and structures such as pay and workload / resourcing, does not necessarily mean that it is the most logical and appropriate for the circumstances that now pertain in Irish schools. We have formed the view that it is not possible for a Teaching Principal to deliver on the expectations for the role, both in terms of teaching and administration / management, without consistently exceeding the agreed working hours on a consistent and ongoing basis. Even where normal working hours are exceeded (a normal event for a large majority of Principals), there are many issues that need to be attended to during school hours, necessitating the Principal leaving the classroom. This is clearly detrimental to the interests of pupils, and also unsatisfactory for the Principals. The difficulties experienced by Teaching Principals in delivering on the key elements of the role are linked to the issue of effectiveness and viability of small schools. This is a hugely complex area and one which is outside the scope of this analysis. However, we are of the view that there needs to be either official recognition of the difficulties of the Teaching Principal in a formal way or an in depth analysis of the feasibility of greater forms of co-operation between schools that might include formal clustering, collaboration, or creating federations of smaller schools. Subject to the comments set out above regarding Teaching Principals, we have not sought to accommodate every variation in school type and size in a separate definition of role. Rather, we consider it useful to highlight some of the key challenges which all Principals face in delivering on the role effectively. These are set out in Part VI following.

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VI.

THE CHALLENGES WITHIN THE ROLE

Section IV above set out what we consider to be the key accountabilities of the role of Principal. However, this might be seen as the "theoretical" role, not to suggest that any of the elements identified are irrelevant but to highlight the distinction between the aspirations of the role and the challenges which are faced in reality in delivering on it effectively. In our view, some of these challenges go to the heart of the structure of different kinds of schools and the resources which they enjoy. The expectation that each school, irrespective of size or backup resources, must provide the same level of service to its pupils is deeply held and, indeed, can be argued to have a Constitutional basis. While many positive developments have occurred in recent years through the sharing of specialist resources among schools, it is clear that much remains to be done in this area. One very strong theme which emerged from our research in this assignment was the frustration which Principals experienced in attempting to deliver on the aspirations of the role (which, for the most part corresponded with their own aspirations) in the absence of appropriate resources. However, in many cases, we consider the challenges to be the ordinary range of challenges which any leader or manager in any sector will be expected to confront creatively and effectively. In the course of our research into managerial effectiveness generally, we have identified a range of competencies which differentiate superior performance in responding to these challenges. Where research exists in the education area, it is to the effect that very similar competencies are required to deliver high performance in a school context. This is explored in more detail in Part VII following. Taking the seven key areas of accountability identified in Part IV above, we set out following the key issues which pose significant challenges for Principals and which, in effect, serve to define the reality of the role.

Leadership: There is a very considerable body of research as to what makes for effective leaders. In particular, there is evidence that particular types of leadership style correlate very strongly with superior performance in organisations. While much of this research is in commercial or industrial type organisations, the Hay research into Headteacher Effectiveness in the UK found a significant correlation between certain types of style and positive school climate. While our research did not have the opportunity to empirically validate this research in an Irish context, it seems a reasonable hypothesis that similar leadership styles may be strong contributors to effectiveness in the role. Similarly, recent research into the area of Emotional Intelligence would suggest that there are strong correlations between the emotionally intelligent competencies and attributes and effective leadership style. It is not clear that Principals in the Irish Primary Education sector are selected on the basis of their leadership qualities. Much of the statistical evidence which we have 15


seen points to the diminishing numbers of candidates for vacant Principal positions, rather than to a debate about the most effective ways of selecting for effective leaders. While we have not seen quantified evidence relating to the selection processes for Principal posts, we form the view that leadership as a selection criterion is not expressly provided for nor are candidates systematically evaluated against it. Thus, any statement of the role of Principal which has a strong leadership dimension to it is significantly compromised if the selection criteria are not expressly designed to detect and identify such qualities in the first instance.

Teaching and Learning: There are two aspects which fall under this heading. One is the challenge for Teaching Principals to maintain high standards of teaching in their own classroom teaching in the face of the other demands made on them. The second is the challenge, common to Teaching and Administrative Principals, to monitor, develop and coach the teaching standards of colleague teachers. We found considerable evidence of frustration on the part of many Teaching Principals that their own teaching standards were being compromised by the demands being made on their time by administrative and other tasks which appeared to be predicated on the assumption of an Administrative Principal role. This clearly goes to the heart of the current structure in which so many smaller schools require the Teaching Principal to play this dual role. While our research did not have the opportunity to examine any variations in the standards being achieved by Teaching Principals as distinct from Administrative Principals, we consider that such a piece of research would be invaluable in informing the continuing debate about the proper role of the Principal in general. The second aspect - the monitoring, coaching and development of teaching standards of colleague teachers - is a highly complex and potentially contentious issue. We are aware of the sensitivity which surrounds this topic. Indeed, it cannot even be taken as a given that Principals themselves consider that their role embraces this function in a systematic way. It requires the management and leadership of independent professionals and, whatever about leadership, the very term "management" is, in itself, contentious for many people in this situation. Many principals perceive that teachers hold the view that the issue of teaching standards is one for the Inspectorate of the Department and that no day-to-day intervention by the Principal is envisaged or warranted. However, we find it inconceivable that any reasonable interpretation of the two major statutory provisions governing the role of Principal does not result in a clear-cut proposition that the Principal has a role in the setting, monitoring and reviewing of teaching standards within the school. This is not to diminish in any way the professional independence of individual teachers. Independent professionals exist and are managed and led effectively in a wide range of sectors and Primary Education appears to us to be no different in this respect. The critical issue, of course is the managerial and leadership capability of the relevant Principal or "lead professional" with responsibility for such people. Again, there is a 16


very substantial body of research which suggests that certain kinds of leadership and managerial style are particularly effective in this kind of environment. In our experience, the key styles are ones of coaching, collaboration, joint problem solving etc. If this aspect of the role is accepted, there needs to be a planned programme of development of Principals in these styles and skills. While these styles of leadership have been proven to be effective, they do require regular interaction between the Principal and teaching staff, in the form of staff meetings, and one-to-one sessions. This will require an appropriate level of staff noncontact time to be built into teaching schedules. A further feature which tends to cloud the debate of this issue is the minority situation of serious under-performance on the part of classroom teachers. Apart altogether from the lack of procedures, processes and data which would facilitate the identification and analysis of this situation, it seems clear to us that many Principals do not choose to address this as an issue. The reasons offered are usually the perceived lack of follow-up support either at Board of Management or Departmental level if a Principal were to press such a situation to its ultimate conclusion. However, in our view, these situations, in most managerial contexts, including education, are in the minority and do not obviate the necessity for the Principal to develop coaching and feedback skills which, when properly demonstrated, will maintain and develop teaching standards. In other words, it is a central part of the role of the Principal.

Resource Management: This is a category which involves the effective management and deployment of the non-human resources of a school. An important distinction needs to be made between the accountability for winning such resources in the first instance and their effective management and deployment in the second instance. Clearly, the principal accountability for the provision of resources (buildings, equipment etc.) for the Primary school sector lies with the Department of Education and Science and the Board of Management. In our research, many Principals lamented the absence of funding for the provision and replacement of equipment, for maintenance, and to allow competitive remuneration of support staff in key administrative and other roles. There appears to be significant disparities between the level of funding available to individual schools, depending on the success of the Principal and/or the Board of Management in generating voluntary funding at a local level. However, the capacity of the school to win resources through a wide variety of local initiatives is a not insignificant feature of the operation of many schools and there is no clear-cut definition of the accountability for this. The major theme which emerged from our research in this area was the frustration which Principals felt at the emergence of a range of tasks in the area of fundraising and allied activities which were not considered to be a core part of their role. These tasks were largely delegated by the relevant Board of Management and consumed a significant amount of time which was then lost to other aspects of the Principal's role. While recognising the benefits of greater investment in resources, it must be recognised that there will always be limitations on such investment, as in any other areas of the public (and indeed the private) sectors. While the demand for increased 17


resources seems well justified, there is a corresponding challenge for Principals to develop a range of skills around the planning, budgeting and justification of investment of additional taxpayers money in their schools. However, the effective management of resources is, in our view a legitimate aspect of the role and one for which many Principals receive no training or familiarisation. Again, the Teaching Principal faces particular challenges in this area because of the various factors already set out earlier in this report. There appears to be an obvious opportunity to derive benefits from economies of scale through combining clusters of schools together both for combined training programmes, sharing of skills and “contracting out" elements of the administrative workload. An example might be the establishment of a maintenance contract with a “facilities management” type provider. Such an arrangement would minimise the time needed by Teaching Principals to manage such non-teaching accountabilities.

Human Resource Management: This category presents a range of challenges, particularly for Administrative Principals. While Teaching Principals, in general, have one category of staff - the classroom teacher - Administrative Principals may have responsibility for a wide range of differing roles such as: • • • • •

Special Duties Teachers Post of Responsibility Teachers Teachers (Class / Non-Class based) Special Needs Assistants Secretaries, caretakers, cleaners.

For the Administrative Principal, two main challenges arise from this. The first is to have the ability to adjust his or her leadership style t o suit each category of staff. The second is to optimise the contribution and performance of each category. The challenge for Principals generally in providing a style of leadership appropriate for fellow professional teachers has already been addressed in this report. However, it must also be recognised that a quite different style is likely to be appropriate in dealing with non-teaching staff, who form a significant resource in larger and special schools. The responsibility of ensuring the school gets the best service from such resources lies with the Principal, but it may demand leadership skills quite different to those appropriate to teaching professionals. Our research also suggests that the resource represented by the middle management levels within schools is not always fully utilised. These roles attract allowances in salary terms relative to other teachers, (amounting, by the Department's estimates, to over €50 million per annum). The degree to which Principals can effectively delegate significant accountabilities to these roles, and hold them accountable to deliver against those accountabilities, must be recognised as a key success factor in the running of the school. There is evidence in our research of significant variance in the degree to which Deputy Principals / other Postholders are providing the ideal level

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of support to Principals. It is difficult, therefore, to be able to quantify the return which the Exchequer is receiving for its investment in this layer of management. Principals referred to a reluctance by Postholders to expand or change their areas of responsibilities as the needs of the school change, in order to make in-school management more effective.

Management of these levels brings with it a range of management skills and leadership styles which are qualitatively different from the kinds of skills discussed earlier in managing professionals. These also need to be addressed as part of a development programme for Principals. In particular, very large schools are complex management entities and need to be managed accordingly. It follows, therefore, that the management skills of Principals of such schools need to be assessed and delivered upon accordingly.

Administration: Irrespective of the size of school involved, there appears to have been a significant increase in the volume of day to day administrative requirements facing Principals. Much of this relates to the volume of returns, statistics etc. required by the Department, and a growing range of outside agencies. Once again, the major issue here appears to be the lack of back-up support for Teaching Principals. In the case of Administrative Principals, the strong view expressed is that the working relationship with Department officials and the Inspectorate can frequently be characterised by inaccessibility.

Policy Development: There has been an increasing number of policy initiatives coming on stream which have implications for the role of Principal. Some of these have particular relevance to the education sector, such as the development of policy regarding special needs education, welfare or in the area of identification and response to bullying or other forms of abuse of children. Others, such as health and safety policies, have relevance to schools insofar as they are places of employment and concentration of large numbers of people. Many of these developments require schools to develop local policies which set out the school's response to the initiative. It is not clear where the respective roles of the Board of Management and Principal begin and end in these issues. In many cases, the responsibility for policy measures is devolved to the Principal from the Board. However, many Principals in our research offered the view that they had insufficient awareness, briefing or expertise to deal effectively with the area in question. A second issue which arose frequently was the level of potential duplication which may exist in endeavouring to treat each school as a wholly separate and unique entity. Thus, for certain types of school (so defined by numbers, location or other parameter) there is a strong argument for grouping for the purposes of drafting policies that have common application, (for example, Special needs Education). There was a strong

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perception that this did not happen on a systematic and integrated basis and that such co-ordination would be a very helpful in easing the burden on Principals.

External Relationships: The Principal is located at the centre of a complex network of external relationships which pose varying challenges. By "external" we mean those relationships which, by and large, occur outside of the day do day school activities. Hence, we do not include relationships with pupils, staff or other employees of the school. The full range of relationships have been comprehensively documented in the IPPN document, "The Value of Leadership" and do not merit lengthy repetition here. The critical aspect, in our view, is that the whole domain of external relationships is recognised as a valid aspect of the Principal role. We have seen some evidence in our research of the level of frustration which Principals feel at the apparently open ended series of relationships which must be developed. In some cases, this frustration goes so far as to question the legitimacy of these relationships as a valid aspect of the role. However, in our view a critical aspect of any leadership role is the management of external relationships and, in particular, those relationships which do not come under the direct "control" of the Principal. It needs to be seen, therefore, as a vital part of the role and some consideration given to the kinds of competencies and management styles needed to manage it effectively. From among the many strands of these relationships, it seems to us that three clusters are particularly important: • • •

The Department of Education and Science The Board of Management The Parents

The critical things regarding these clusters is that their effective management requires a very wide range of management styles. For example, the relationship with the Department is likely to depend in large measure on competencies of analysis, influencing and organisational awareness. By contrast, the relationship with parents requires high levels of inter-personal understanding, empathy and an ability to deal with problem situations. In the case of the Board of Management, a high level of assertiveness is needed to ensure that a proper relationship is established, based on mutual supportiveness and clarity of roles. An important issue that needs to be addressed is the ambiguity that a large number of Principals perceive exists as to the roles and responsibilities that should reside respectively with either the Principal or the Board of Management. At present there appears to be a significant level of variation in existence, where at one extreme, some Boards of Management play a token role, with all policy development/ strategic direction-setting, as well as policy implementation / day-today decisions carried by the Principal. At the other extreme, some Boards actively engage in policy development/ strategic direction-setting, but also involve themselves regularly (particularly Chairpersons) in either making or influencing decisions on low-level day to day activities in the school.

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Figure 1 A Model of Organisation Effectiveness

Personal Competencies

Role Clarity

Leadership Effectiveness

Leadership Style

70%

Organisation Climate

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30%

Organisation Performance


VII. A MODEL OF LEADERSHIP FOR PRINCIPALS There has been a considerable level of interest in comparing schools to other organisation units from the point of view of culture, management style and leadership challenges. The development of the role of Principal needs to be placed in the broader context of the school environment and, more importantly of the kind of environment which enhances and maximises the learning experience for pupils. While there is a widely acknowledged level of sensitivity around the concept of school performance, there is, nonetheless, an obligation to consider this issue in developing any meaningful model of leadership. Research in this area in the Irish education context is relatively slim, however, and there is a significant challenge in developing concepts which are useful and which are capable of measurement and validation. A well researched model of organisation performance which Hay uses in a wide variety of sectors is set out graphically in Figure 1 across. This model has been adapted for use in the education sector through some interesting research which Hay has undertaken in the UK. We include this model in this analysis to pose the challenge around how a robust model of leadership for the role of Principal should be used and placed in a performance context. In summary, the model proposes that the performance of any organisation is determined by a combination of factors, the most important single one of which is the concept of Organisation Climate. This is the combination of perceptions which people have about working in any particular environment. There is extensive research evidence to suggest that the more positive the climate, the better will be the performance of the organisation. Research places this variation at up to 30%. In a school context, the climate will largely constitute the factors which directly create a positive learning environment. In the Hay research in the UK, the organisation climate of the school was measured through an instrument called the Context for School Improvement (CSI). This was a measure of factors such as the perceived drive for high standards, the responsiveness of the school to special learning needs and the sense of professional accountability and authority afforded to teachers. The biggest single influence on climate has been found to be the Leadership Style of the relevant leader. Up to 70% of the variance in the climate of an organisation can be attributed to the leader. Leadership styles refer to a pattern of behaviour which individuals choose to demonstrate in a wide range of managerial situations. Research has shown that there are a limited number of such styles which tend to account for the bulk of such behaviour. These styles are summarised as: • •

Coercive: Authoritative:

Democratic:

• • •

Affiliative: Pacesetting: Coaching:

Demanding immediate compliance. Setting out a longer term rationale and vision for required tasks, etc. Obtaining broadly based and participative inputs to ideas and decision-making. Placing harmonious relationships at the forefront of priorities. Personally modelling high levels of performance and standards. Focusing on the longer term professional development of people. 22


Figure 2 Role Clarity and Personal Competencies for Principals

Creating the Vision •

Strategic Thinking

Understanding Others •

Inter-Personal Understanding

Monitoring & Improving Performance • • • • •

Achievement Drive Developing Others Challenge and Support Respect for Others

Personal Values and Passionate Conviction to Create a Learning Environment Professional Expertise

Building Commitment & Support for Delivering the Vision • • •

Planning for Delivery

Gathering Information and Gaining Understanding

• •

Information Seeking Analytical Thinking Networking/Relationship Building

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Team Leadership Impact & Influence Teamworking

Initiative Analytical Thinking Information Seeking


Our research in industry and also in the education sector indicate that a combination of the Authoritative, Affiliative, Coaching and Democratic style has a positive impact on climate over time. Conversely, Coercive has a negative impact on climate over time if used inappropriately. In the Hay UK research, correlated to the creation of a positive Context for School Improvement, the top three dominant styles in a sample of outstanding Headteachers were found to be - Authoritative, Affiliative, and Coaching. The other parts of the model set out are the concepts of Role Clarity and Personal Competencies. Role Clarity is the agreed sense of the critical aspects of the job which are clearly understood by the individual leader, whereas Personal Competencies include a wide range of technical and professional skills, together with personal traits, motivations and values. From our research, we are proposing that these dimensions of Role Clarity and Personal Competencies can, in turn, be separated out into a sequence of activities and capabilities which have a series of inter-linkages as in Figure 2 across. In particular, we are highlighting the personal commitment to the creation of a learning environment which appears to us to be the fundamental starting point in understanding the Principal's role. Thus, the model which is set out in Figure 2 proposes a dynamic which has at its heart a set of personal values, a commitment to create a learning environment and the required levels of professional expertise. To deliver on these values and commitment, the Principal must be capable of creating a vision which satisfies the needs of the stakeholders. This, in turn, demands a capability to understand both the overt and implicit concerns of these stakeholders. The vision must then be communicated to others to win their buy in and support and must be translated into plans and actions for delivery and performance. Such plans require the gathering, analysis, understanding and distillation of information. Finally, they must be monitored, evaluated and delivered on and fed in to further refinements and developments of the vision. Throughout the process, a firm focus must be kept on the values of learning and development and the role of the Principal is critical in keeping this value system to the fore. The various phases of this model are underpinned by a range of competencies. For example, there are people management competencies required in understanding the concerns of others and in leading and developing a team, while at the same time challenging and supporting people in equal measure. There are the more organisational and political competencies involved in being able to impact and influence people and in being able to build relationships and network effectively. There are a range of cognitive competencies involved in seeking information and in analysing it effectively. Finally, there are personal competencies of achievement drive, initiative and strategic thinking which are required to push for standards of excellence. Part VIII following sets out in more detail the various behavioural indicators for the competencies outlined as part of this model.

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VIII. THE ROLE PROFILE The Role Profile which is set out following brings together the key accountabilities of the role together with an outline of the kinds of success indicators which would be associated with their effective delivery. It also outlines the key competencies which appear to us to be the likely differentiators of effective performance in the role. A number of introductory comments are offered in relation to each of the categories within the Role Profile.

Accountability: These are each of the seven areas of accountability which have been explored earlier in this report. By "Accountability" we mean the broad area in which results are expected from the Principal and for which he or she is responsible. They are not designed to be a listing of all of the tasks and activities which the Principal undertakes on a daily basis to deliver on the accountability. However, they are proposed as a blueprint for the role which would form the basis of the range of management applications including selection, assessment, training and development.

Success Indicators: To determine success in any role, there needs to be an agreed set of indicators against which performance is measured. This is a complex area in most roles and particularly so in roles in which commercial criteria of profit margin, market share and financial performance are not relevant. The success indicators set out in the Role Profile are a mixture of quantitative and qualitative factors. Most jobs of any degree of complexity will involve this combination and it is particularly important that this balance is recognised in the education sector. It is also acknowledged that, in many cases, little or no current data would be available under the categories of indicator proposed. However, in our view, it is critical that a start be made to identify what success looks like in the role and, subsequently, that devices are developed to measure such success.

Key Competencies: By Competencies is meant that range of personal characteristics which differentiate superior performers. They are to be distinguished from the range of technical skills (such as IT skills or budgeting skills) which are also required. Part of Appendix I sets out some of the major areas of technical skill which were identified during the course of our analysis. One slight exception to this broad distinction is in the competency called "Professional Expertise". While this has its roots in the professional and academic training and experience of Principals, its key feature is the extent to which Principals have the capacity to use this foundation effectively, particularly in coaching others. The section following the Role Profile gives some further behavioural indicators of the competencies proposed.

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Accountability

Success Indicators

Key Competencies Required

Leadership: Create, communicate and deliver a vision for the school, taking account of the concerns and aspirations of all the stakeholders in the school.

Clearly articulated vision as expressed through a school plan; Evidence of processes for staff and parental involvement in consultation regarding plan; Positive feedback from all stakeholders regarding plan; Well motivated and high performing pupils and teachers.

Achievement Drive Team Leadership Strategic Thinking Conceptual Thinking

Evidence of a positive learning environment as measured through attainment in academic, social, cultural, sporting and other norms; The quality and quantity of professional development afforded to teaching staff; Positive School Inspection reports.

Developing Others Team Leadership Professional Expertise Inter-personal Understanding Challenge and Support

Cost effective use of resources; Effective processes and procedures in place for the identification of resource needs; Effective utilisation of the available processes for winning resources both centrally and locally.

Information Seeking Financial Management Skills Analytical Thinking

Education: Deliver high standards of teaching and learning through personal teaching standards and the development, monitoring and coaching of teaching standards of others.

Resource Management: Plan, manage and evaluate the use of the physical resources of the school.

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Accountability

Success Indicators

Key Competencies Required

Human Resource Management:

. Select, coach, develop and hold accountable the human resources of the school.

Suitably skilled and experienced staff in place to deliver agreed curriculum and to adequately man support functions agreed in School Plan; Effective utilisation of the middle management personnel within the school; Motivated staff; Effective processes in place to handle staff problems.

Team Leadership Developing Others Challenge and Support Inter-personal Understanding Impact and Influence

Timely, relevant, accurate and accessible records and data regarding school business; Effective use of available technology to assist in school administration.

Information Seeking Analytical Thinking Initiative

Existence and availability of up-to-date policies for the school in all appropriate areas of policy; Processes in place to ensure the communication of policies to all relevant parties.

Strategic Thinking Conceptual Thinking Networking/Relationship Building

Positive and supportive relationships with relevant external parties; Regular fora for communication with external parties.

Networking/Relationship Building Inter-personal Understanding Impact and Influence Analytical Thinking

Administration: Comply effectively with the various reporting, recording and data management obligations to which the school is subject.

Policy Formulation: Research, draft and present policy documents and statements as required by legislation and policy provisions.

External Relationships: Create channels of communication to support and facilitate effective relationships with external parties which impact on overall school effectiveness.

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STRATEGIC THINKING

PROFESSIONAL EXPERTISE

The ability to formulate the school’s long-term vision and objectives and incorporate them into day-to-day tasks and activities.

A command of the professional teaching and education skills expected of all teachers, allied to an ability to use those skills to coach and support the professional development of other teachers.

• • • • • • • •

Plans beyond day-to-day activities Recognises impact of actions/decisions on the school’s overall strategic objectives Develops operational objectives/goals in line with the school’s strategic direction Communicates the school’s strategy to teaching staff to achieve understanding and commitment from all the team Shows awareness of the projected direction of education policies and of how changes might impact on the school Considers how current policies, processes and methods might be affected by future developments and trends Develops a school plan congruent with the external environment Wins support and commitment of colleagues and staff to implementation of strategy

• • • • • • •

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Is an accepted exponent in teaching and instructional skills through formal qualification and through significant practical experience Coaches/trains/teaches others through formal or informal processes Advises and guides others through what are new experiences for them Is willing to give of one’s own time to inform others Is accepted by peers and colleagues as an authority in the area in question Used by others as a major resource Sees applicability of current or emerging education practice and policy to the needs of the school


INTER-PERSONAL UNDERSTANDING

TEAM LEADERSHIP

The ability to accurately hear and understand both the spoken and unspoken or partly expressed thoughts, feelings and concerns of others.

The intention to take a role as a leader of a team or other group.

• • • • • • • •

• • •

Judges and makes inferences about the concerns of others across differing age groups and intellectual / emotional capacities Predicts people’s responses and makes appropriate replies Interprets behaviour and uses past experience to anticipate reactions Picks up subtle, unspoken messages between people in group settings Understands other people’s underlying problems Understands the reason for someone’s ongoing or long-term feelings, behaviours or concerns Presents a balanced view of others specific strengths and weaknesses Recognises different values and motivation in other’s behaviour

• • • • • • •

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Communicates a compelling vision that generates excitement and commitment Ensures that others buy into the vision Gets people working together in pursuit of specific aims or objectives Gives clear direction to the group in times of uncertainty Knows what skills and aptitudes are possessed by the group Establishes agreed norms for group behaviour Sets a good example; models desired behaviour Encourages team members to air their views and communicate openly within the team Obtains needed resources, information for team Creates opportunities to recognise and celebrate success.


TEAMWORKING

IMPACT AND INFLUENCE

The intention to work co-operatively with others, to be part of a team.

The intention to make an impact, to influence others to take notice and/ or to follow a particular course of action.

• • •

• • • • • •

Expresses positive expectations of others in public Gives credit publicly where it is due Takes steps to share experiences and lessons learned with others Takes an active interest in others work and provides support where appropriate Encourages people to participate as part of a group Seeks the input of others before acting Encourages others to support the team and focuses on common objectives Notices people who appear to be ‘left out’ and actively seeks to involve them Resolves conflict when it arises

• • •

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Adapts a presentation or discussion to appeal to the interest and level of audience Undertakes careful preparation of data / information for presentation. Uses concrete examples, visual aids, demonstrations etc. Uses interaction within the group to stimulate deeper involvement in the subject matter, and to influence perceptions and actions of others


ACHIEVEMENT DRIVE

DEVELOPING OTHERS

A deep seated concern for matching and surpassing standards of excellence.

A genuine intent to foster the long-term development of others, in order to achieve/ maintain high standards of teaching / learning .

• • • • • • • •

Clarifies goals and targets to ensure progress towards achievement of them Aims to do each task “better” than before, e.g. more efficiently, quickly, etc. Monitors own performance, sets improvement targets and takes steps to reach these over time Benchmarks own performance against others; wants to be the “best” Questions accepted and traditional approaches – asks “how can it be done better?” Makes specific changes in the system or in own work methods to improve performance Takes overall tasks through to final completion Makes decisions and sets priorities on the basis of calculated inputs and outputs

• • • • • • •

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Makes specific helpful suggestions Creates positive constructive environment to avoid perceptions of professional criticism Asks questions, or uses other methods to verify that others have understood explanations or suggestions. Gives specific positive or mixed feedback for developmental purposes Gives negative feedback in behavioural rather than personal terms Reassures and/or expresses positive expectations for the future when giving corrective feedback Gives individualised suggestions for improvement.


CHALLENGE AND SUPPORT

RESPECT FOR OTHERS

The ability to hold people accountable for standards of performance and to support them in delivering that performance.

The ability to recognise and understand other people’s concerns and anxieties and to respond to these concerns in a sensitive and empathic way.

• • • • • • •

Makes explicit the standards of performance required of self and others Challenges others to develop new standards of performance and excellence Takes appropriate actions to address under-performance Monitors performance against agreed standards Gives balanced feedback to others regarding their performance Helps others to take developmental actions to improve performance and raise standards Uses coaching and developmental styles of management to help others address long term professional development needs

• • • • • •

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Recognises emotional and intellectual needs in others Endeavours to utilise people’s strengths and capabilities in the tasks assigned to them Recognises the diversity of people’s values systems and beliefs Seeks to avoid placing people in situations which create ethical, emotional or intellectual problems for them Develops people’s skills and capabilities based on personal strengths and interests Creates an environment in which diversity of viewpoint and expression is encouraged


INFORMATION SEEKING

ANALYTICAL THINKING

The ability to “dig” for information and use it effectively beyond the questions that are routine or required. This may be done for information currently required or for information that may be of future use.

The ability to understand a complex situation by breaking it into smaller pieces or tracing the implications of a situation in a stepby-step way.

• •

• • • • • • •

Asks direct questions of the people who are responsible for the situation Uses available information effectively Asks a series of probing questions to get at the root of a situation Does not stop with the first answer – finds out why something happened Reads about issues concerning own area and keeps self up to date with what is happening Pulls thoughts/data together from a number of different sources when making decisions in order to have as much information as possible Obtains specific feedback from others on a regular basis Goes to some lengths to gather critical information beyond own immediate area of concern

• • • • • • •

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Constructs plans that flow logically and sequentially Analyses relationships among several parts of a problem or situation Anticipates obstacles and thinks ahead to next steps Generates a number of possible causes and solutions to any given situation Identifies the key issues in ambiguous, inconsistent data Balances long term projects and immediate concerns Looks to others to challenge and question analysis made Assesses what are the critical or key factors involved when making a decision Knows how the cycle of the academic year moves and assesses plans/decisions against this


NETWORKING/RELATIONSHIP BUILDING

INITIATIVE

The ability to develop and maintain a network of contacts through a personalised approach and to use this to influence people and situations.

The ability to think and act creatively and ahead of the current situation, particularly before problems or crises occur.

• • • • • • • • •

• •

Uses others to sound out ideas and get them “on board” Uses contacts to obtain information Keeps colleagues well informed about activities Uses others in the school to help support own cases Shares information with others in the Education Sector in order to gain allies Sees relationships as long term – working towards a level of trust and understanding Goes out of way to communicate and build rapport with others Uses chains of indirect influence, e.g., get A to show B so B will tell C… Builds behind-the-scenes support for ideas

• • • • • • •

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Anticipates problems by getting behind issues Thinks about the longer term benefits of particular courses of action Is persistent in pushing through ideas Identifies improvements across all areas Willing to go against the grain to improve process/procedures Uses knowledge of changes in the external environment to formulate positions Applies strategic vision Willing to champion a new idea even when it is not initially popular Frequently makes forward plans for change


IX.

CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

Conclusions: •

The role of Principal within the Irish Primary Education sector is a leadership/management role which has a variety of dimensions and faces a variety of challenges.

While there are two distinct groupings of Principals within the sector - Teaching Principals and Administrative Principals - the core role of leadership/management is common to both.

The responsibilities of Principal which are envisaged in the relevant legislation and guidelines appear to be predicated primarily on the role of Administrative Principal. While Teaching Principals have the same range of functions and accountabilities, the reality is that the Teaching Principal role is seen primarily as a teaching one, as Teaching Principals have insufficient time and energy to devote to the managerial aspects of the role while carrying responsibility for a full class teaching load.

While this research was not an analysis of the structure of Primary education, we conclude that the significant proportion of small schools within the system places considerable pressures on the ability of Teaching Principals within those schools to effectively deliver the leadership aspects of their role.

There is a strong perception throughout the ranks of Principals generally that the role has become extremely difficult if not impossible to deliver on effectively. This perception appears to derive from a lack of clarity around the role and a lack of time and resources. However, it may also derive from a shortage of the leadership and people management skills which we believe to be critical to the role. This may result from inadequacies in the selection processes for appointment to Principal posts in the first instance as well as to a lack of leadership and management development programmes for serving Principals.

There is a strong perception among Principals that while they can delegate responsibility to middle-management roles (e.g. Deputy Principal, Special Responsibility Teachers) for specific tasks, such as library management etc., these post holders generally play a more limited role in terms of school management and administration than might be desirable. Given the significant cost of the allowances offered for such posts, this raises the question of the value for money which is being obtained from this layer of management within the system.

The role of Principal requires the management of a broad range of relationships within the school and outside of it and the competencies required to manage these relationships are complex and demanding and require careful identification and development.

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There is a lack of clarity about the respective roles of Principal and Boards of Management. The working relationships between individual Principals and Boards tend to be extremely varied, dependent on local circumstances and individual capabilities. Given the scale of resources invested in schools it is critical that a clear definition of structures, respective roles and responsibilities is put in place to provide a solid platform for effective governance.

An area of particular difficulty is the development and management of teaching staff. There is a widespread perception that it is not the role of the Principal to "manage" the teaching staff in the traditional sense of the term. This is normally attributed to the professional independence of individual teachers. However, many Principals acknowledge their role in this function, including the issue of managing and developing under-performing teachers. As an obstacle to this aspect of their role, Principals frequently point to either a lack of managerial skills on their own part to or a lack of support in the form of procedures from Boards of Management and the Department in handling such situations. In our view, this is a critical and inescapable aspect of any leadership role, including Principalship.

Recommendations: •

There should be a set of management processes designed to enhance the selection and assessment of candidates for appointment to Principalship. Based on the competency model contained within this report, these processes should focus primarily on assessing managerial and leadership capabilities. These processes should also address the capability and qualifications of those entrusted with the selection process.

Further study should be undertaken of the role of middle management within schools, particularly of the role of Deputy Principal, with a view to positioning it as a more challenging and developmental role. That review should also take into account recruitment and appointment procedures and guidelines.

Such evidence as is available would suggest that there is a significant fall off in the level of interest in applying for vacant Principal posts. Research which has been undertaken in this area indicates that a major aspect of this relative lack of interest is attributable to lack of clarity regarding the expectations and boundaries of the role. This lack of clarity needs to be addressed as part of an integrated policy to ensure that an appropriate supply of well qualified and motivated candidates are available as Principal positions become vacant.

A leadership development programme should be put in place for Principals. Once established, this programme should be available to all newly-appointed Principals within six to twelve months of their appointment. The programme should be designed so as to include modules on leadership, motivation and human resource management. It should provide for ongoing learning and networking opportunities and should make use of distance and internet-based learning channels in support of traditional methods.

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In addition to the development programme outlined above, other development opportunities should be considered, such as mentoring for newly appointed Principals, and providing opportunities for potential Principals to spend time working closely with effective Principals in preparation for a promotion to principalship. (At the time of preparation of this report, we are aware that a specific group (LDS) has been established within the Department to make specific recommendations on leadership development for Principals. This is a welcome development which should be further developed and resourced.)

Principals must acknowledge and embrace the need to provide constructive developmental feedback and coaching to staff, and the need to challenge teacher under-performance. The failure to follow through on this requirement of the role not only inhibits the effectiveness of individual teachers, but also undermines motivation across the teaching staff.

All Principals (not just newly appointed ones) should be provided with development in key relevant skills that will enable them to fulfill these essential elements of their role with capability and confidence.

A set of clear-cut policies and processes in the management of professional staff should be developed centrally, and introduced on a consistent, national basis to guide principals in their efforts to affirm good practice, motivate, and challenge underperformance.

Duplication of functions, challenges and resources between small schools in adjacent geographical areas should be examined and measures developed to enable Principals to collaborate with each other to provide for more effective management and service provision. Alternative structures should be explored, which may include the establishment of “clustering” arrangements, in order to provide a more effective and consistent approach to the maintenance and governance of small rural schools.

The respective roles and responsibilities of the Principal and the Board of Management should be clearly defined and articulated. In line with the definition of the Principal’s role as a leadership/management role, it would be appropriate that a model of governance be applied in schools where the role of the Board is to review and approve strategic direction / policies, while the implementation of the Boardapproved strategies and policies rests with the Principal. The Board should then review and hold the Principal accountable for effective implementation.

In addition to the recommendations outlined above, and given the competing demands faced particularly by Teaching Principals to be firstly a Principal and secondly a class teacher, Teaching Principals should proactively organise their own teaching workload in a manner that enables them to fulfil their primary leadership accountabilities more effectively. This is not a panacea to resolve all of the problems facing Principals, but is recognition of a contribution Principals must make to dealing with the challenges facing the role.

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APPENDIX I

MAIN ISSUES ARISING FROM THE SURVEY

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Accountabilities Principals were asked to consider their roles, and to identify and prioritise the six most important areas of accountability involved in their jobs. The analysis of their perceptions is presented in two ways: 1) The accountabilities most frequently identified as the first priority are listed (in order of frequency), presented separately for Teaching Principals and Administrative Principals. 2) The overall weighted ranking of accountabilities, taking account of all priority rankings, again presented separately.

1) Accountabilities rated as Single most Important Teaching Principal

Teaching

Leadership / Development

Staff

Management

Administrative Principal

Leadership / Development

Pupil Development & Progress

Staff

Management

&

&

Curriculum Development

Policy Development

Pupil Development & Progress

Curriculum Development

Policy Development

Administration

2) Weighted Accountability prioritisation, across all levels of prioritisation Teaching Principal

Administrative Principal

Leadership / Development

Teaching

Curriculum Development

Curriculum Development

Pupil Development & Progress

Policy Development

Financial Management

Financial Management

Policy Development

Leadership / Development

Staff

Management

&

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Staff

Management

&


Role Content and Context. Teaching Principals Under the heading of Role Content and Context the most common themes related to the diversity of the role, with Teaching Principals highlighting a list of accountabilities extending to the following:

Accountabilities – Diverse Range

Leadership / Staff Management & Development

Curriculum Development

Pupil Development and Progress

Teaching

Community Relations

Health and Safety

Administration

Special Needs

Planning

Contact with Government Agencies (various)

Maintenance / Facilities Management

Working with the Board of Management

Financial Management

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Role Content and Context – Cont…. Administrative Principals Apart from teaching, Administrative Principals highlighted all of the other diverse accountabilities identified by their Teaching Principal colleagues. The other major themes emerging from Administrative Principal responses included: The Principal as Decision Maker. In a large school there are a significant number of important (and less important) issues that arise on an ongoing basis, requiring decisions to be made as to how to respond. Many Principals highlighted the fact that these decisions invariably gravitate towards the Principal. Delegation of Responsibility to Teachers Many Principals refer to the accountability of delegating responsibilities to teachers, especially those holding Posts of Responsibility.

Themes common to all Principals Growth in range of Responsibilities All Principals identified as a major challenge the ever increasing range of accountabilities and expectations they face.

School Physical Facilities Teaching Principals frequently referred to the frustrations of “do-it-yourself” maintenance expectations, and/or the challenge of finding the time to make arrangements for maintenance support from tradesmen etc. Administrative Principals on the other hand expressed greater concern around the need to manage the directly employed staff such as cleaners, maintenance staff etc. Certain Principals in both categories highlighted the significant time demands on a Principal where construction work is being undertaken to modify / extend the school buildings.

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Role Purpose

The most common themes to emerge in terms of role purpose included: (not in any order of priority)

Role Purpose Themes •

To create a positive learning environment for children

To provide leadership in all areas of the school.

To ensure continuity in all aspects of the children's education

To provide a solid education, equipping children to proceed with confidence to Second Level, and onwards.

To create a healthy, safe environment

To ensure happy, motivated staff

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Challenges Teaching Principals – Teaching vs. Non-Teaching Elements The most significant theme emerging from the responses of Teaching Principals was the challenge of trying to balance the non-teaching elements of the role with a desire to minimise the interruptions to class contact time. This was a challenge against which no Teaching Principal expressed a perception of having achieved a satisfactory outcome.

Perceived Lack of Authority in Dealing with Staff Many respondents expressed a perception that the Principal does not have the required authority to deal with underperforming staff. Many Principals called for greater definition of procedures in this context, and definition of the role of Principal. Many Principals in particular sought clarification on the nature of the role in terms of “primus inter pares” versus “manager with authority”.

Legal Responsibility Many Principals referred to the significant challenge they face in ensuring they minimise the risk of litigation arising from any accidents or injuries sustained by children, parents or teachers on school property. Growing List of Responsibilities and accountabilities A recurring theme was the growing list of accountabilities that are added to the role, including areas such as: Special Needs Computers School Development Planning

Access to Staff for Management Meetings Principals highlighted the difficulty in holding regular meetings with staff to coordinate the work of the school and to ensure resources are being effectively utilised. A key issue for Principals in this regard is the degree to which they are dependent on staff goodwill to hold meetings outside of class times, allowing a virtual veto of such productive arrangements to individual staff members who may be uncooperative.

Variances in Contribution of Deputy Principals and Assistant Teachers with Posts While some Principals enjoyed strong support from Deputies/ Post-holders, others found it difficult to delegate responsibilities to these key roles. This difficulty was recognised by some Principals as a lack of skill on their own part, while others saw it as a lack of willingness to accept responsibility on the part of their staff.

Lack of Training and Development Principals identified a lack of training and development in the Leadership/Managerial aspects of the role. 43


Skills and Knowledge Principals identified a wide range of skills and knowledge required for the role of Principal.

Skills and Knowledge • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •

Time management Effective leadership Negotiation skills Presentation skills Change Facilitation skills Communication skills Mentoring skills Management skills Assertiveness Legal knowledge Curriculum knowledge Interviewing skills Budgeting & accounting skills Teambuilding skills PR skills ITC knowledge Self awareness Ability to withstand criticism Determination to get things done Delegation skills Multi-tasking skills Self control Forward planning skills Ability to develop effective systems to manage workload Empathy Influencing skills Directness Conflict management

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External Relationships. Principals identified a wide range of external bodies (ie. external to the staff /student body) with which they were in contact and with whom effective working relations were required. While priorities differed, all of the following were highlighted:

Individual Parents

Counsellors

Parent Associations

Health Board

Contractors/Suppliers/ Service Providers

Politicians

Gárdaí

Department of Education and Science (D.E.S) – Administration

Legal representatives

D.E.S Buildings Unit

Community Based Groups

D.E.S Special Education

Industry/Employers/Local Business

D.E.S Inspectorate

Other schools/educational establishments

Clergy

INTO

Board of Management

SIPTU

Chairperson, Board of Management

IMPACT

Media (Local or National)

GPs

Psychiatric Services

Social Workers

Psychologists

Public Health Doctor/ Nurse

Other

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Role Boundaries

Ambiguity around Board Of Management / Principal Interface Principals referred to a wide variance in the nature of the interface between Principal and B.O.M., and the absence of clarity around their respective roles and duties. Many Principals expressed a view that a significant load often fell to the Principal as a “default” in the absence of clarity in this area. Principals called for a clear definition of task ownership to provide greater clarity. Principals frequently expressed a view that the provision of maintenance and secretarial support should be a B.O.M responsibility rather than an accountability of the Principal.

Staff Perceptions of Role Boundaries Some Principals expressed a belief that some staff hold conflicting perceptions about the role of Principal. On the one hand they are seen as being responsible and accountable for the effective running of school, but on the other hand their role does not extend to any interaction involving a review of the contribution of individual teachers, as this would represent an infringement of “professional independence”. This issue was frequently connected to the issue of “perceived lack of authority in dealing with staff” mentioned in the Challenges section of this Appendix.

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APPENDIX II

MAIN ISSUES ARISING IN FOCUS GROUPS AND ONE TO ONE DISCUSSIONS

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MAIN ISSUES ARISING IN FOCUS GROUPS AND ONE TO ONE DISCUSSIONS

Hay conducted a range of Focus Groups which were representative of differing categories of Principal. We also met with a number of individuals with interest in the Primary Education sector to gain their views on the role of Principal and the challenges facing it. Views expressed by individuals were on a non-attributable and personal basis and our summary of them is drafted on that understanding.

The key themes which emerged from both sets of consultations were as follows: Role Clarity: There is a lack of role clarity in the Principal's role. This is seen by some as due to the lack of any specific updated set of statutory or "official" provisions which reflect the changing nature of Irish society and the changing education and social environment in which Principals operate. Others saw it as related to the lack of training which Principals receive either on initial appointment to the job or on an ongoing basis. There were strongly held views that the Principal tends to be used as the "catch all" for a very wide range of tasks which, in the absence of any strictly delimited definition of the role, tended to be assigned to them. Allied to the role ambiguity of Principals appears to be the lack of clarity regarding the role of middle management within schools. Thus, Deputy Principal and Assistant Principal posts appear to have widely differing ranges of responsibility. This makes it very difficult to plan for the delegation of functions in a systematic and generic way across the Primary Education sector. There appears to be a strongly held view that this layer needs specific analysis, development and support as a matter of some urgency.

Differing Types of Principal role: There was general agreement that the core elements of the role were similar across the various categories of school. However, there was a very sharp distinction drawn between the environment in which Teaching Principals operate by comparison with Administrative Principals. Although differing emphases were given to this question, there was general agreement that the role of the Teaching Principal, which is the predominant one in terms of numbers, was severely compromised in being able to exercise its managerial and leadership functions. This was mainly perceived to be due to a combination of a heavy teaching load, combined with a lack of back up resources which may be enjoyed in bigger schools.

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Special Needs Education: A very strongly expressed theme related to the increasing demands which are being placed on Principals by the integration of Special Needs pupils within the mainstream school environment. While, generally, Principals supported the educational and social philosophy behind such a policy, they pointed to the lack of balance which is now resulting from the degree of attention which must be accorded such pupils (without consequential resources being available), often at the expense of other pupils. This attention takes many forms including the various types of consultations which must be undertaken with other professionals regarding such pupils. Again, it was stressed that the underlying educational philosophy was very positive, but that insufficient thought has been given to the impact on the mainstream population.

Performance Standards in Schools: This is one of the more contentious areas and one which it is not possible to summarise in a neutral way. Equally, our discussions suggested a very wide variety of views within the various viewpoints, as distinct from varying views from group to group. In summary, the views under this heading included: •

The high quality of Irish Primary education is well recognised internationally and there is no obvious issue suggesting that performance standards of Primary schools is in question.

There are no sets of measures currently in use which would link teaching performance to the attainment of educational results. In many of the views expressed to us, it was felt no such measures have been developed which would be accepted as valid in the first instance. While some useful international comparative studies exist regarding literacy and other skills, much needs to be done in this area and, in particular, on establishing links between these kinds of standards and the standards of learning and teaching in particular schools. Very strong feelings exist regarding the equity of the publication of so called "league tables" of educational attainment of schools in other countries.

The view was expressed by a number of people with whom we met that the assessment of professional capabilities of teachers is primarily a matter for the Department and the extent of involvement of Principals in assessing the performance of teachers is limited. Others held distinctly opposing views, seeing it as a fundamental aspect of the role.

Many Principals expressed unease at the issue of tackling under-performance of teachers. While it is assumed and acknowledged that this is a minority situation, as in any professional population, it appears to be an area which requires clarification and development. It is a highly complex area beginning with the basis on which performance in the first instance is defined and including the way in which that performance is then monitored and evaluated. A further issue is the lack of clarity about whose primary role it is to take on responsibility for this issue and, once it is so clarified, how it should be supported by appropriate processes.

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Relationship between the Principal and the Board of Management: This was another frequently addressed theme. Insofar as there was a consensus view on the topic, it included the following features: •

The relationships tend to be highly individualistic, depending in large measure on the personal relationship between the Principal and the Chairman.

The composition of the Board, and the skill set possessed by the members tends to have a significant impact on the respective roles of Principal and Board. Thus, for example, where financial or property skills exist at Board level, the Principal's role in this area of school business is usually less, generally with the willing agreement of the Principal. Boards were characterised to us as having widely differing levels of ability with the consequential devolution to the Principal of functions in which he / she does not have sufficient expertise.

While some very useful work has been undertaken by the central management representative bodies in setting out the prevailing regulations governing the management of schools, there still appears to be a lack of clarity about the dividing line between Principal and Board responsibilities.

The respective roles of the Principal and the Board in the hiring of teachers seems to be unclear. While the Board is clearly the legal employer of the teacher, the significance of the input played by the Principal in the selection process seems to vary widely.

Relationship between the Principal and the Parents: There was a strong consensus on the collaborative and partnership approach which needed to exist between teachers in general, including Principals, and the parents in advancing the welfare of the child. While, in general, these relationships were perceived to exist in a very positive way, there were views expressed as to how they could be improved on further. Although the primary accountability for a child's school progress lies with the class teacher, there needs to be greater clarity about the appropriate role to be played by the Principal in situations where difficulties arise. This needs to be grounded in clear-cut processes and policies on dealing with problematic relationships and resolving them to general satisfaction. The view was expressed that, while the Principal has an important role to play in supporting various initiatives undertaken by the parents, there needs to be acceptance that there are parameters to the Principal's role in these processes.

Relationship between the Principal and the Department of Education and Science: In general, this relationship was represented to us as needing development. There appears to be a large element of the opportunistic rather than the structured about it. Many Principals did not appear to have a good grasp of the internal structures of the Department or to be aware of the interaction between different levels of authority, decision-making and policy-formation within the Department. Similarly, they appeared

50


not to have consistent points of contact or a "one stop shop" for the various transactions which they had with the Department. Accessibility was also an issue with telephone contact being difficult, given the somewhat different cycle to a "school day", by comparison with an "administrative / office day". While there is acknowledgement that the Department has developed some very positive initiatives around the area of in-service training and development, there is a strong sense that little or no investment has taken place in the managerial or leadership development of Principals. There is a strong perception by Principals that the Department adds various initiatives to the workload of schools and Principals without sufficient appraisal of the resources needed to deliver on them.

Other External Relationships: Apart from the Board and the Department, the Principal sees himself / herself at the centre of a complex network of relationships. These ranged from professional relationships which placed the child at the centre of the issue (e.g. with Health Board psychologists etc.) to the day to day commercial transactions with suppliers of equipment and materials. It appeared to us that insufficient prioritisation of these relationships takes place, with ones which were comparatively unimportant appearing to cause a disproportionate level of anxiety and consumption of time. Much of this related to the overall administrative area, including such issues as ordering of school supplies, maintenance of buildings etc. While these are undoubtedly very practical issues, it appears to us to be an area which would benefit from stronger centralised purchasing and supplies policies and practices being developed to free up scarce time for the more value-adding relationships which the Principal must engage in.

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APPENDIX III

STAKEHOLDERS CONSULTED BY HAY GROUP DURING THIS STUDY

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Serving Principals

Department of Education and Science (DES)

Catholic Primary School Management Association (CPSMA)

Irish Primary Principals Network (IPPN)

Irish National Teachers Organisation (INTO)

National Parents Council (NPC)

Colleges of Education

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Defining the Role of The Primary Principal in Ireland  

Commissioned by IPPN and prepared by the HayGroup

Defining the Role of The Primary Principal in Ireland  

Commissioned by IPPN and prepared by the HayGroup