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PRINCIPAL SPEAKS: Lead School Improvement by building the capacity of all staff

Paul McDermott, Principal, Blue Haven Public School

Blue Haven Public School has undergone a transformation in recent years, resulting in the school being named Australia’s best government primary school at this year’s Australian Education Awards

Check out the full story in our Term 4 magazine. 

Image courtesy of Blue Haven Public School

The school’s successful turn-around can be attributed to a number of initiatives; however, a key component has been a strong commitment to professional development and building the capacity of all staff.

Tiered leadership model

In 2017, in collaboration with the school executive, I introduced a tiered leadership framework to support school improvement and leadership density. 

The model was implemented in order to provide higher levels of support to all staff with a focus on providing opportunities for all staff to increase their knowledge and skills across the school.  This model has resulted in clear roles and responsibilities and has prepared staff to fulfil leadership roles at a school and system level.

Image courtesy of Blue Haven Public School

Aspiring executive

All Blue Haven staff are seen as leaders and encouraged to seek leadership roles and experience.  In 2019, seven teachers were inducted as aspiring leaders.  The aspiring leaders attend executive meetings, lead professional development and are mentored by members of our executive to lead professional learning communities throughout the school.

Image courtesy of Blue Haven Public School

Since the implementation of this model, the school has seen a significant increase in interest from staff in seeking leadership roles.

Professional development

Blue Haven Public School implements a whole-school approach to professional development that aligns with the school vision and individual performance and development plans.  All staff, including support staff,  receive high quality professional development in evidence-based approaches to teaching and learning and wellbeing. 

Image courtesy of Blue Haven Public School

This has generated a high degree of collective efficacy throughout the school while still supporting teacher agency through initiatives such as Stage Budgets which support teachers to identify differentiated professional development that is appropriate to their needs and experience.  Staff professional development is supported through extensive differentiated coaching where senior executive staff support teachers and aspiring executive through a gradual release model, similar to the explicit teaching model that is utilised throughout the school for students.

Image courtesy of Blue Haven Public School


High levels of collaboration are evident throughout the school.  All staff participate in collaborative planning days every five weeks.  These meetings support all staff to reflect upon data, highlight and share success stories, participate in consistent teacher judgement of student work samples and lead and participate in professional development.

Image courtesy of Blue Haven Public School

Leadership development

Each week, the school executive meeting commences with professional reading.  All executive and aspiring executive lead a professional reading each semester. All staff are invited to attend as the group reflects upon a reading and its relevance to our context and direction.  Readings are selected by individual leaders, are relevant to the strategic directions of Blue Haven Public School, cover a broad range of topics and are highly valued by all staff.  Some of the most rewarding executive meetings

Image courtesy of Blue Haven Public School

The senior executives also prepare scenarios at scheduled meetings throughout the year where leaders are presented with a particular school based issue and the group works through the problem together in order to resolve it.  Scenarios include links to relevant policies and procedures in order to support staff to align with protocols.  Scenarios have been designed around issues such as enrolment, suspension and expulsion and community use of facilities.

Image courtesy of Blue Haven Public School

Blue Haven Public School’s commitment to building the capacity of all staff has resulted in significant school improvement since 2016/17 including moving from the bottom 10 percent in New South Wales for value added growth to the top 10 percent in only two years.  Blue Haven’s transformation is a celebration of strong leadership, a positive school culture and a firm commitment to investing heavily in our most important resource.  Our staff.

School News

School News is not affiliated with any government agency, body or political party. We are an independently owned, family-operated magazine.

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