In the heart of Mitchells Plain’s gang-infested neighbourhoods, Beacon View Primary School provides a safe and nurturing environment for learners and teaching staff. Its principal, Edna Hockey, has participated in the Principals Academy Trust (PAT) programme for the past three years and, with the support and resources provided by PAT, has been proactively leading her staff to improve the conditions of the school. In fact, Hockey lobbied the Western Cape Department of Education for funding to install the current fence around the school property in order to protect the children and staff from the area’s gangs.
The PAT programme, which is co-funded by MySchool MyVillage MyPlanet, empowers school leaders through mentoring and professional development for principals and development and further education for teachers at the University of Cape Town’s Graduate School of Business (UCT GSB). Each fortnight, Edna meets with her mentor from PAT, where she engages in honest conversations about ideas to solve the issues her school faces. Additionally, Edna’s enthusiasm to encourage her staff to attend the Teacher Support Programmes has had a direct impact on the school’s academic achievements in English, Mathematics and the Foundation Phase.
“The past three years have been an incredible journey of transformation,” says Edna. “Not just for myself but for the staff at Beacon View Primary as well as the children.
“Learners are excited to engage with the learning materials and, through the Teacher Support Programmes, our teaching staff are finding creative new ways to teach the children. It has led to a big increase in our systemic academic results. For example, 61.7 percent of our Grade 3 learners passed their home language with 50 percent or more, while 71.9 percent of Grade 3 learners passed mathematics with 50 percent or more.”
To aid the children’s continuing development, MySchool is sponsoring 27 classroom library corners to Beacon View Primary, which will have a significant influence on the learners’ ability to read with understanding. “The teachers, with PAT support, have had an exciting time selecting books that are age- and grade-appropriate.”
However, the programme does not end there. In addition to providing teachers and principals with the tools and skills required to help their learners, PAT also helps them identify areas for improvement across academia, physical activity and property.
So how exactly do Edna and the other 103 principals participating in the PAT programme achieve leadership excellence? Here are the keys to their success.
No matter the line of work, people often find themselves bogged down by paperwork. However, ensuring you are available to others when they need to bounce an idea off you or voice their concerns is important too. Try an open-door policy so teachers, parents and even children will feel comfortable speaking to you about issues they face, says Wabisabi Learning.
Have a vision – and a plan
A good captain never goes into battle without a gameplan. The same can be said for any leader too. Writing down a vision for the future then mapping it out into sizable, achievable chunks will help you and your staff reach your goal faster without diverging. Plus, it’s a great reminder of what you’re striving for.
Promote positive change
Edna faced some resilience to her plans when she first took on the role of principal at Beacon View Primary. However, through a can-do, positive attitude and a relentless spirit of encouraging her staff, she was able to not only promote positive change but implement it too. This has led her staff to think outside the box and establish innovative, creative ways to teach each other and the learners.
While you may hold the reins as leader, it’s important to get your hands dirty every now and then. Demonstrate your ability to unite the school or team in times of change by being proactive when a challenge hits your doorstep, proposing new ideas at staff meetings, gathering everyone for their input and participating in school activities.