Central South Principals Assn. Conf.

  • Brian Donnelly

E nga reo, e nga mana , e nga iwi e hau e wha , haere, haere, haere. E nga tumuaki o nga kura o
tenei whenua, aku mihi ki a koutou, Hari koa te ngakau ki te tautoko I te kaupapa I tenei ra. No
reira , tena koutou, tena koutou, tena koutou katoa.

It is a tremendous pleasure to be with you here today and I thank you for the invitation. Having
been a principal for 13 out of my 25 years as a teacher I feel a special affinity with groups such as

I have spent most of my teaching career in Area Schools or Intermediates, and recently ran
Diploma of Educational Management courses for the Auckland College of Education in

I can therefore assure you that when discussion is undertaken with officials and other Ministers on
policy matters I am able to bring the reality of education to bear upon these discussions.

Going from being a school principal into, first the coalition talks, and then into my present portfolios
has been a massive challenge. I am looking forward to the day when the steep learning curve I
have been on starts to level off somewhat.

Nevertheless I believe we have made significant progress. The additional funding in the budget for
operational grants, Maori language funding, TFEA funding, rural funding and, in particular, Special
Education funding, I am sure will be gratefully received. The government has also risen to the
challenge of property needs with a commitment of $448 million worth of expenditure over the next
three years.

Moreover, considerable sums of money have been set aside in the budget for teacher supply
initiatives, staff development and the development of resources to complement the new curriculum.
The budget contained additional expenditure of $54 million dollars to give current teachers further
training and resources. There is an additional $36 million to increase the teaching workforce.

The establishment of a working party on Mathematics and Science is indicative of the desire of the
government to include the sector in the decision-making process.

This group includes a range of practitioners from university experts, teacher college lecturers,
principals, and teachers (including, I might add, first year teachers). Their brief is to advise the
government on what steps it needs to take in the short term, the medium term and the long term to
improve the achievement levels of our students in these two critical areas of learning. I attended the
initial session of this group and was tremendously heartened by the sense of involvement and
enthusiasm of the members of this group. The group is meeting again at the moment for a two day
session at the end of which we hope to receive a report which makes recommendations for
immediate action, as well as recommendations of medium and long term strategies. The significant
feature of this initiative is that we have people from the chalk face, people from out in the field,
together with "the experts", working with officials to inform government on appropriate action.

Similarly the reprogrammed approach to the introduction of the new curriculum has arisen from
genuine consultation with the sector groups over workload issues. The government wishes to
ensure that the energy that teachers and principals are putting into their tasks are focused energies;
focused where the maximum gains for the students will result.

You have a Minister of Education who, from the day he took over the educational portfolio, got
out and listened to the voice of the sector. Wyatt Creech was prepared to analyse the variety of
data he was receiving as to where the pressure points were and has committed himself to establish
policies and to gain resources, that will genuinely enhance schooling and to provide the necessary
support to those working in our nation's schools for the benefit of the students.

You will be aware that the Coalition Agreement states that, "The integrated teaching service with a
unified pay system will be pursued with vigour." Let me assure you that this part of the agreement is
being treated with high priority and the government is determined to meet its commitment to
paragraph 8 of the Education - Compulsory Sector section of the Coalition Agreement.

What the government wants is a fair system for the remuneration of the nation's teachers. It wishes
to remove the anomalies which have been created as a result of our educational history, rather than
for any educational justification.

I have mainly worked in the area school and intermediate sectors of our system. And it is in these
areas that the anomalies within the present system show up most clearly. Why should an infant
teacher in an area school with a degree get paid $6000 more than an infant teacher with a degree
in any other school in New Zealand. Why should a woodwork teacher in an intermediate get paid
more than the Deputy principal of the school? Why should the Form 1 teacher in a F1-7 school get
paid so much more than a Form 1 teacher in any other part of our system?

Generally people are not aware the Education Review Office is an entirely different Ministry from
the Ministry of Education. For the first time, however, the Minister Responsible for the Education
Review Office is a different person to the Minister of Education. You may think I'm mad in saying
this, but I was really pleased to be given the portfolio of Minister for ERO.

I worked in 1990 for ERO in its earliest days. I have also been the recipient of its services on two
occasions whilst principal of Whangarei Intermediate School. The coalition agreement made two
statements about ERO. The first was that we would review the office and the second was the
reintroduction of the monitoring of homeschoolers. Both of these initiatives made it through the
budget process as well as a bid for additional resourcing for the reviewing of kohanga reo.
However, I am sure that you are most interested in the review of the office currently being carried

In establishing the review, there were several features which I demanded. The first was that it
should be independent of both the review office and the Minister. The review panel has therefore
been able to establish its own modus operandi and the secretariat i.e. the body which is servicing
the review, is lodged with the States Services Commission. It is interesting to note that the
Education Review Office is being criticised for elements of the review when in fact it has nothing to
do with it.

Secondly I wanted to ensure that the panel comprised a range of understandings about the
educational process and a range of expertise. I am very pleased with the panel which we have
been able to put together and have every confidence that the report it will deliver me will hold
sound advice for future development of the external review process. The focus has always been on
how this process can be best utilised to improve the quality of learning and teaching within our
education system.

The time frame for the review is tight and that is not the fault of the panel. I deliberately set a report
back time that would enable recommendations to be acted upon within the next budget round. A
reality which I have had to rapidly learn is that the budget process is a long one and if one is not off
the starting blocks at the necessary time, one will not make the cut for the next funding round.

This is not a whitewash process. We want to ensure that the quality of education being delivered in
our schools is the best possible and, to the degree to which an external evaluation agency fits into
that process, we want it to operate in a way that enhances and supports those government

However, we are here to talk about the concept of leadership. It is a topic dear to my heart. I
believe, and it is a belief grounded in unequivocal research findings, that the key ingredient to
improving the quality of our schools lies with the professional leadership attributes of our principals.
Six years ago I started to run educational management papers in Northland for the Advanced
Diploma papers. A couple of years later the Auckland College of Education established a Diploma
of Education Management. A number of the students who had been coming to my papers
suggested that we should offer the whole diploma in Northland. Hence for a year and a half before
my present position every holidays and many weekends I had my hands full running the
programme. The paper I probably enjoyed taking most of all was the paper on Professional

I'm not too certain whether academic study of the nature of leadership can actually create leaders.
Studies might show that quality leaders have vision. This information can be conveyed to course
participants. But this does not create the quality.

What such studies can do, however, is to expose the learners to the complex nature of the
challenge of professional leadership and to demonstrate its dimensions. It can compartmentalise
professional leadership into administrative, educational, cultural and symbolic leadership. It can
provide lists of what leaders do and the characteristics they display and against such templates one
can judge ones own actions. Such study can increase cognitive understandings of the critical
importance of leadership within the principal's role and can provide personal insights into how one
can use ones own personal characteristics in a manner which will create fellowship.

I therefore am firmly convinced that we need more education of principals in their leadership roles.
It concerns me greatly when principals interpret their roles as an administrator or a manager.
Therefore it seems to me that education and development packages for the enhancement of
principals' capabilities for professional leadership is imperative for the development of our
education system in the increasingly complex times we face.

I applaud the organisers of this conference for the choice of theme. I applaud the NZ Principals
Federation for the establishment of a Principals Centre at Massey. And I encourage each and
every one of you to advance your own understandings of your role and the skills to be able to
carry those roles out by taking the opportunities which exist to gain qualifications in the field in
which you work the field of educational administration, of which professional leadership is a part.

Therefore I am left to ask the question "Why do we reward higher qualifications at the teaching
level when at the principals' level, not only are there no rewards for qualifications in the areas of
knowledge which affect their roles, there are in fact no incentives for principals to gain such higher

I well remember when I first started doing Massey University papers for a Diploma of Education
Administration one of the course members, a secondary principal of considerable repute, proudly
announcing that this was the first educational paper he had ever studied. That person had
considerable authority in the larger education sector and I must say I was appalled.

Similarly I was appalled when taking a paper on curriculum management that most of the
participants had absolutely no conception of the underlying assumptions which they held about the
nature of knowledge, the purposes of education, the nature of society etc. Their whole educational
philosophies were based upon unchallenged, unexamined, myths. Much of the debate in education
revolves around surface issues. Great heat is generated but nothing is resolved because the
differences of perspective are based on differences in underlying assumptions.

As much as I believe that knowledge about the principals role, knowledge about how organisations
operate, knowledge about the management of change and how power operates, knowledge about
performance management and curriculum development, as much as I believe such knowledge will
enhance the professional leadership qualities of principals, the most important ingredient of
successful leadership I do not believe can be taught. The most important ingredient in leadership is
courage. Leadership requires the leader to, at times, make hard decisions, decisions that may not
be popular. It requires one to put the objectives of the organisation before ones natural tendency to
be loved. And that is an attribute that cannot be taught. It has to arise from within the leader.

Last Sunday at the STA conference I heard the most impressive motivational speaker I have ever
had the good fortune to hear. She touched the minds and hearts of almost 400 Board members
and principals in the room and I have no doubt left a lasting impression. And yet this same person
had come from a life of horror. And I came away asking, "What is that magical quality which
seems to be able to enable some people to overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles to be
able to inspire other people?" The answer was plain - sheer courage.

Therefore I say to you, if you wish to inspire your staff, so that they will inspire their students, you
must learn to lead. Courage is not a sufficient condition for leadership. Courage without insight is
disastrous. But it is a necessary one. All the insight in the world, without courage, is of nil use.

Finally, I'd say to you that the most valuable resource which you have to achieve your vision, is
your staff. Never take them for granted. Many of you will know that proverb"E aha te mea nui o te
ao. He tangata , he tangata, he tangata." "What is the most important thing in the whole world? It is
people, it is people, it is people." Nowhere is this more true than in the field of education.

I am therefore pleased and proud to officially open this conference and know that what you will
learn will be transmitted back through your schools for the benefit of thousands of young New

No reira, tena koutou, tena koutou, tena koutou katoa.