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Principals Upfront Dialogue Series – Launch of school leadership guide

Principals Upfront provides a platform for school leaders to share working practice and vital information about different facets of school leadership. It also allows those involved in supporting school leadership to develop a deeper understanding of the role that principals play. The third Principals Upfront Dialogue of 2017, held at Sasol Place, Sandton, was no exception and featured the launch of Dr Allistair Witten’s invaluable guide to school leadership, Shifting Paradigms: Changing Practice –Values-based instructional leadership in schools.

This guide was developed as an ongoing project for the Sasol Inzalo Foundation. Its purpose is to assist school principals to use effective instructional leadership practices to build a holistic school culture that supports learner performance.

The guide draws on the findings of a longitudinal study by the Sasol Inzalo Foundation on the effects of various leadership development programmes on principals and their schools, as well as on lessons learned during the subsequent development and sharing of resources aimed at equipping school leaders to deal with the contextual challenges that impact on their schools.

In her role as keynote speaker, Professor Mary Metcalfe drew attention to the ‘deep humanism’ that defines this guide: it recognises principals and teachers as rational beings with agency who are seeking to do good for their learners, and respects and builds on that agency.

In tackling the challenge of improving learner performance, Dr Witten addresses a number of complex issues. Some of these are:

– The importance of values-based leadership – values shape the school’s culture, enable it to function effectively, and build a sense of ‘moral purpose’ that motivates teachers to make a positive change in the lives of the children they teach.

– The role of the SMT (which includes the principal) as the centre of instructional leadership and support for learners in the school – its key purpose is to support the processes of teaching and learning.

– The management of change and complexity – the need for schools define their desired futures and to work incrementally towards each goal, while keeping an instructional focus.

– The concept of ‘reciprocal accountability’– in terms of which, if teachers are required to perform better, their school leaders have the prior responsibility to capacitate and support them to improve their performance.

– The importance of creating networks of support for learners – learner performance is not only a function of the school, but also of the community, which underlines the value of school/ community partnerships.

Shifting Paradigms is easy to engage with, and anyone with an interest in education can take from it key lessons to share, or use to develop themselves. It can be downloaded here.

A detailed account of the launch is available here.