PAI announces Principal Certification Advisory Board

Principals Australia Institute has announced the membership of the Principal Certification Advisory Board.

Joining the independent Chair, Susan Pascoe AM, will be respected school leaders Rob Nairn (WA), Michael Battenally (ACT), Anne Ford (WA), Chris Presland (NSW), and Robyn Thorpe CPP (NT). Also on the Board will be Fiona Nielsen (VIC) and Dr Jim Watterston (VIC), both of whom have regulatory experience outside education or beyond the level of a single school.

The introduction of a voluntary professional certification system for school principals in Australia is a world first. The Certification Advisory Board will play a crucial role, guiding and monitoring the implementation of certification.

“PAI is delighted to have such an esteemed board oversee Principal Certification. We have a cross section of both school leaders and non-school leaders who are focused on recognizing and lifting the status and quality of principals in this country.  Through the Certification process, individuals will submit evidence of their practice and the associated analysis for assessment against published criteria which are mapped to the Australian Principal Standard,” said Paul Geyer, Chief Executive Officer, Principals Australia Institute.

This year, eight principals achieved recognition as Australia’s first Certified Practising Principals (CPP) through demonstrating the impact of their leadership on teacher efficacy, student achievement and whole-school improvement in accordance with profession-developed requirements and the Australian Principal Standard.

“We have had many more registrations and enquiries as we gear up for our next intake of principals to undertake Certification,” said Geyer.  “This is a step in the right direction for the profession which we believe will lift the status of the profession in the community.”

A second cohort of certification candidates was inducted recently with a further intake scheduled for May. Interested candidates can find out more at


Advisory Board member biographies:

Michael Battenally – Principal Melba Copland Secondary School (ACT)

Michael has been in the education profession since 1984 and has held many leadership roles during his career. He has been a member of the ACT Principals Association and is currently the co-President.  Michael was involved in the Principal Certification Design Team in 2015 and has served on many advisory committees during his career.

Anne Ford – Principal John Wollaston Anglican Community School (WA)

Anne is a member of AHISA and on the Board of AISWA.  She has been in the profession since 1978 and has served on various principal associations, and government advisory committees. She attended Harvard Graduate School of Education Principal’s Centre in 20017 and completed the “Leadership: An Evolving Vision course.

Chris Presland – Principal St Clair High School (NSW) / NSW Department of Education Principal Liaison Officer

Chris is an Adjunct Fellow at the Western Sydney University and the representative of the Secondary Principals Council on the NSW Forum of PAI. Chris has presented keynote speeches and workshops in change and leadership in the USE, Finland, Canada and New Zealand.  In 2015 he received the Public Service Medal at the Australia Day Honours for his contribution to education advancements at state and national levels.

Robyn Thorpe – Principal Dripstone Middle Scool (NT)

Robyn was the 1st recognised Certified Practising Principal in Australia and was recognised at this year’s PAI John Laing Awards. She has been in the profession since the 1980s and has been in school leadership positions since 2000.  She is the current president of the NT Principals Association and has lead ongoing school improvement in the NT for many years.

Fiona Nielsen – Risk Adviser, Victorian Managed Insurance Authority (VIC)

Fiona is a risk adviser and has had wide exposure to the challenges facing boards and executives in a dynamic diverse context. Coming from the healthcare sector, she has worked extensively on the implementation of compliance based requirements of national standards and credentialing.  She has also been a Quality Manager at Mercy Health and Austin Health in Victoria

Dr Jim Watterston – Dean, Melbourne Graduate School of Education, University of Melbourne

Dr Watterston has over 30 years’ experience across all levels of education.  He began his career in Canada and has taught across various year levels in WA and VIC. He has held key leadership roles as Principal, Regional Director, Deputy Secretary and Director- General in VIC, ACT and QLD. Dr Watterston is also a Board Member of ACARA, ACER, AESOC, ARC and the National Chair of the Oversight Board for the National Initial Teacher Education and Teacher Workforce Data Strategy.


About Principals Australia Institute

Principals Australia Institute (PAI) is a national organisation providing quality professional learning, leadership development and principal certification to Australia’s 9,500 school leaders, across all school systems. Through its relationships and connections across the education sector, it assists school leaders to achieve the best possible outcomes for themselves, their staff and their students, through ongoing professional development and learning. PAI provides leadership and a voice to Government in the areas of school leadership, professional development and Australian Principal Certification to help elevate the profession and raise the profile of principals in the community.

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