File photo: INLSA
File photo: INLSA

Report highlights impact of principals on schools' performance

By Francesca Villette Time of article published May 21, 2018

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Principals at higher-performing schools are more effective at shaping the direction and development of their schools, while those at poorer- performing schools should pay special attention when deciding upon and initiating action.

This is according to a Public Service Commission (PSC) study that conducted research to assess the skills and competencies of school principals, in both higher- and poorer- performing schools in order to explore the relationship between the competencies of principals and the performance of their schools.

The PSC said that across the province one found the phenomenon of schools in the same community performing at starkly different levels.

Twenty high schools were identified in 10 communities, where 10 were higher-performing schools and 10 were poorer-performing schools.

The principals participated in an assessment exercise that included eight different people rating their competencies and skills.

The findings showed that the sample of principals at the higher-performing schools were especially seen to be effective in shaping the direction and development of their schools, working with people to achieve desired goals and managing the quality of teaching and learning and securing accountability.

Findings for principals at the poorer-performing schools showed that special attention should be paid to deciding on and initiating action, strategic leadership, planning and organising, and managing the quality of teaching and learning and securing accountability.

“The key areas in which principals at the higher-performing schools scored highest are also the areas in which principals at the poorer-performing schools require the most attention,” the study read.

Comparing how principals coped with pressure and setbacks, principals at higher-­performing schools scored 86%, compared with 68% at poorer -performing schools.

When it came to adapting and responding to change, principals at higher-performing schools scored 85%, and those at poorer schools 68%.

Provincial education department spokesperson Bronagh Hammond said the department was aware of disparities that existed between schools, and was trying to address these through various interventions.

“We try, whenever possible, to pay special attention to selecting the right kind of people for appointment as principals.

“We need people with the competence, experience, qualifications and the strength of character to provide effective leadership in their schools and the ability to drive a future- focused approach to education,” Hammond said.

Their courses include programmes for women entering leadership and management, Hammond added.

“The WCED introduced Competency-Based Assessments for school principals, to identify training needs such as those mentioned in the report.

“School governing bodies (SGBs) are empowered by the legislation to conduct a recruitment process and recommend to the HoD their choices in terms of principal appointments.

“Training the new SGBs on how to identify suitable candidates will be under way for the newly appointed SGBs,” Hammond said.

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