GLEANER: How prepared is a new principal for the job of school leadership? How effective can he or she be, moving from classroom teaching to supervising colleagues, to handling the demands of administrative duties? Effective leadership is among the most critical factors in the success of any school. However, perhaps more important is how school leaders are prepared before taking on the challenging demands of their roles.
Jamaica's education system has been responding to these concerns through a strategic and transformative review of the education sector, culminating in the Task Force Report of 2004. One critical need identified was a demand on principals to increase the effectiveness of their schools through improved management, efficient use of resources, and better relationships with the community being served.
These competencies can hardly be achieved through graduate qualifying programmes but more so through targeted training and preparation.
The Aspiring Principals' Programme (APP) was designed to prepare individuals for the task of the principalship before their being in the post. This initiative was developed from the background that despite studies on the critical role of school leadership and student success, Jamaica continues to promote to individuals to the post of principals who are good classroom teachers without first providing them with the requisite preparation. The APP now serves as an opportunity to attract talent, identify high-quality applicants, and ensure a ready supply of well-trained applicants.
According to Dr Taneisha Ingleton, acting principal director of the National College for Educational Leadership (NCEL), effective leadership at any level requires major expenditures of effort and energy. "The competencies required are observable and demonstrable and can be taught, nurtured, or enhanced, and the Aspiring Principals' Programme, jointly developed by the National College for Educational Leadership and the School of Education, University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona, is intended to do just that," she says.
Training, she indicates, must be targeted deliberate and at specific contexts and situations. It must never be assumed that past experiences or qualification levels are equivalent to effective leadership behaviours.
Leadership development for our school and system leaders must be something that is guarded jealously and should happen before accessing the post. "Investment in training and development will create a competitive advantage for any education system," she added.
For his part, Dr Disraeli Hutton, programme coordinator and lecturer in the School of Education, UWI, Mona, noted: "Improvement in the performance of schools will rest significantly on the quality of leadership provided by principals. It is based on this knowledge that the Aspiring Principals' Programme was developed by NCEL in collaboration with the Mona School of Business and Management and the School of Education," he said.
With the APP in place, it is envisioned that all new principals who assume the role of principalship in the Jamaican school system will be provided with the competencies to make a difference in school performance. The School of Education, Dr Hutton says, is committed to this goal and will continue to work with the critical stakeholders to provide the highest level of training for both incumbent and aspiring principals.
The National College for Educational Leadership has been consistent in its mandate to provide quality leadership development interventions for its stakeholders. The Aspiring Principals' Programme was developed in 2013 and was informed by the major findings from the Ministry of Education reports, including priorities outlined in policy documents related to Education Transformation; the National Education Inspectorate reviews of eight key areas of school effectiveness; and the Jamaica Teaching Council Professional Standards for Educators. The programme addresses complex organisational theories and the practical nature of the principalship.
Ingleton outlined that the programme emphasises what constitutes school leadership capability for the Jamaican school context. She notes, "With every mistake made by leadership, a child is disadvantaged, and that is why rigorous preparation before assumption of duties must be better than any effort of remediation."
The programme is accessed in face-to-face settings and engages participants around four critical modules, namely Transformational Leadership, Instructional Leadership, Community Leadership and Organisational Leadership. A Field Experience component is embedded in which participants solve organisational issues with the aim of heightening student learning. To date, NCEL has trained over 400 aspiring principals in its programme and will, this year, matriculate another 83 aspirants, who will be poised to lead schools more effectively in Jamaica.
- Article courtesy of the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information
Dr Taneisha Ingleton