for All Learners
Improving how we support school leaders
Catholic Education Melbourne’s principal consultants play an important role in supporting principals, school governors, parish priests and school leadership teams across a range of their responsibilities.
Principal consultants (PCs) are a critical resource for school leaders. They help with planning and school improvement, give advice on school operations, and analyse data and performance.
Principals have expressed that they value their PC’s support, experience and understanding of their school’s context.
Said one principal: ‘My PC is present for me … supports and guides me with very effective coaching and allows me to process my thinking and reflect on my practice … never makes me feel like I am not doing a good job, but always leaves me thinking about one or two ways I can improve.’
Another described their PC as a ‘highly valued source of reassurance, encouragement and feedback. Great to know someone is there at the system level who knows and understands my school’s context’.
The importance of supporting school leaders is demonstrated by one principal’s feedback that they ‘value the honesty, the deep questioning that causes ongoing reflection of my role and how I enact my leadership’.
However, feedback from principals, school governors, parish priests and other stakeholders gathered during focus groups had pointed to a need to clarify the role played by PCs.
In partnership with Simon Breakspear, a leading thinker on educational leadership, Catholic Education Melbourne worked through a structured process to refresh and clarify the role. The process had four aims:
- improve transparency and accountability
- move towards greater internal coherence
- develop clear indicators of success to measure impact
- build a capability framework to more effectively support schools.
There were two primary outcomes from this process.
The first outcome was a recommendation to change the name of the role from principal consultant to regional leadership consultant (RLC). This name change emphasises that the key responsibility of the role is to support school leaders – which includes parish priests, principals and other school leaders.
The second outcome was the development of a capability framework that would guide the efforts and goal setting of RLCs, and support professional development.
Four role-related capabilities form the focus of the framework:
- build school leadership capabilities
- support continuous school improvement planning and implementation
- lead implementation of Catholic Education Melbourne and government policies and systems
- engage with stakeholders.
These capabilities were further defined through up to seven specific expected behaviours and outcomes.
Supporting the four role-related capabilities were four cross-cutting capabilities:
- coaching and mentoring
- evaluative thinking
- communication and influencing
- planning and change management.
There are four identified behaviours and outcomes for each of these cross-cutting capabilities.
The name change and capability framework have had clear benefits for schools.
Regional leadership consultants have more clarity about the role they are expected to play in supporting school leadership, removing some prior inconsistencies. As a result, school leaders are better supported to improve educational outcomes, have more coaching and mentoring meetings, and are more engaged in the work of their RLC.
Performance feedback and professional development conversations for RLCs are now aligned with the capability framework. As a result, feedback is more targeted to role responsibilities and easier for RLCs to integrate into their day-to-day work.
Alongside the increased clarity that the framework brings, it has also improved job satisfaction and the overall effectiveness of our RLCs.
A clearer understanding of the role responsibilities also helps Catholic Education Melbourne with recruiting the right candidate for a challenging but critical role in delivering a high-quality Catholic education.