Looking from now to the future

21st century schooling

Our vision for schooling in the 21st century is consistent with the New Zealand Curriculum (2007). It is for young people who:

  • are confident, connected, actively involved, and equipped to be lifelong learners
  • are creative, energetic, and enterprising
  • seize the opportunities offered by new knowledge and technologies to secure a sustainable social, cultural, economic, and environmental future for our country
  • work to create an Aotearoa New Zealand in which Māori and Pākeha recognise each other as full Treaty partners and in which all cultures are valued for the contributions they bring
  • in their school years continue to develop the values, knowledge, and competencies that will enable them to live full and satisfying lives
  • are strong in the five key competencies: thinking; using language, symbols and texts; managing self; relating to others; participating and contributing.

21st century principalship

Our vision for principalship in the 21st century is shaped by the rapid change and growth of the world we live in. As society, knowledge and technologies grow and change, so do our students’ learning needs and the way learning is delivered.

The changing demographics of our schools are reflected in the increasingly diverse mix of students who attend them. Our students are from a variety of cultural backgrounds, and come with a range of experiences and needs. This means that schools have to respond to different and greater challenges than ever before.

The principals who lead our schools need to have the personal and professional qualities, knowledge, and leadership skills required to meet these challenges.

For example, school leaders who develop a climate of mutually trusting relationships with staff will be essential to fostering the kinds of innovation, creativity, and confidence that will address new complexities in student learning. Encouraging teachers to fully engage in ongoing professional learning should help give them the confidence to be innovative in classroom design, familiar with digital environments, and capable of using pedagogies that meet students’ learning needs.

The distinct context of each school means principals need to have the kinds of leadership skills and understandings that will help them to maintain the best possible conditions for teaching, learning, and building community confidence in the school. Building strong learning communities where there is shared commitment to investigating, exploring, and evaluating practice is a critical leadership responsibility.

Our distinctive system

New Zealand’s school system has a number of characteristics that distinguish it from other systems. Some of these relate to the place of Māori as tangata whenua.

The Treaty of Waitangi is central to, and symbolic of our national heritage, identity, and future. Our commitment to the principles of the Treaty obliges a distinctive focus on ensuring excellent education outcomes for Māori. Educational success is the key to enabling Māori to live as Māori in te ao Māori and in the wider world. Our task is to expand on emerging successes for Māori. This is fundamental to an equitable education system.

Another characteristic of the New Zealand system is our approach to self-managing schools. This highly decentralised system gives many opportunities for principals to work closely with their boards of trustees as the professional leader and chief executive. It has promoted wider community participation in decision-making, and it has allowed schools to better respond to the specific needs of their students and the expectations of the community. Decentralised decision-making has given principals and boards the ability to set the direction and align resources with the school’s goals and targets, which are expected to reflect national priorities. The principal is responsible for implementing the direction agreed by the board. In every New Zealand school the principal is ultimately responsible for the quality and effectiveness of the multiple and interconnected dimensions of educational leadership and management.

The self-managing devolution has produced many examples of innovative curricula and partnerships between schools and their families, whānau, and communities, as they have worked together to meet the particular needs of their young people. The New Zealand Curriculum (2007) offers further opportunities for schools to design a curriculum specific to their own contexts, and to strengthen the engagement of parents, families, and whānau in supporting their children’s learning.

While devolution has allowed principals to develop systems in response to the needs of their students, it has also increased their administrative workload. Some research suggests that New Zealand principals spend almost twice as much time on administration as do their international counterparts. The multiple demands of leadership and administration can be a source of tension for the principal when deciding how to prioritise time and attention (Hodgen & Wylie, 2005).

New Zealand principals respond positively to the challenges of a devolved system, working out ways to serve the best interests of their schools, teachers, and students. Principals are supportive of our self-managing system because it allows them to make decisions and direct their school’s resources to pursue the educational goals agreed with their board.

Through our vision for principalship in New Zealand schools and the implementation of a professional leadership strategy, we seek to address challenges that face our schooling system, particularly those relating to supply, retention, succession, and leadership sustainability.

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