Leaders learning from leaders

Since its inception, AHISA’s primary form of support for the professional development of its members is the provision of a broad platform for professional exchange. At Branch meetings and retreats, at our national Biennial Conference and at forums and workshops, members have the opportunity to share their wisdom and expertise and form supportive professional friendships.

Collegial exchange is also fostered virtually via AHISA’s main digital network, HeadNet, which enables members to seek in-time support from Heads nationally or within their own state or territory. In 2019, over 210 requests for information or assistance were sent out on HeadNet, covering a broad ranges of issues, including staffing policies and practices, role descriptions, general school policies and procedures, consultant or provider recommendations, organisational structures and governance.

AHISA’s journal, Independence , is also an important vehicle through which members record and share leading practice in their schools.

A highly valued aspect of AHISA’s work is the targeted support available to members who are new to the principalship or new to the independent sector. The AHISA New Members Conference, held in Canberra in May of each year, provides an intimate and powerful forum for new Heads to meet and discuss the challenges they face, and learn from the experienced Heads who serve on AHISA’s Board and from experts in employment law, communications and education architecture. For many new members, the Conference is where valuable, long-term professional friendships are formed.

New Heads also have the option to participate in AHISA’s mentoring scheme, which links them to a current or former AHISA member.

The first two years of Headship are often identified as a ‘window of vulnerability’ for principals in all sectors. It can also be a period in which new appointees are reluctant to ask the school Board for funds for their professional development. In 2018-19, AHISA tested the feasibility of a no-fee, voluntary Advisor program in which former AHISA members would be available to new members. Following the success of the trial, AHISA is exploring options for extending the program during the 2019-21 biennium.

Sustaining excellence

Alongside its focus on professional exchange, AHISA offers members the stimulus of external experts in leadership and in education through Branch meetings and keynote presentations at the Biennial Conference.

Members are also encouraged to use AHISA’s purpose-developed 360-degree appraisal tool. Formerly known as the Quality Leadership Profile for Schools, in 2019 the tool was aligned with the Australian Professional Standard for Principals and relaunched as the School Leadership Survey or SLS360. Versions of the SLS360 have also been developed for senior leadership and middle management roles. Importantly, the SLS360 offers benchmarking against peers within the independent sector.

In 2017-19, approximately 27 Heads, 131 senior staff and 253 middle management staff in AHISA members’ schools were profiled using the SLS360.

Excellence in school leadership does not begin and end in the principal’s office. AHISA recognises the importance of leadership development across middle and senior management staffing roles as a means to support the leadership of the Head. To that end, AHISA’s biennial Leading, Learning & Caring Conference is designed to showcase the leadership of teaching, learning and pastoral care practices in members’ schools as well as expose members and their staff to outstanding thinkers and practitioners through keynotes and workshops.

Similarly, AHISA’s Chairs, Boards & Heads of Independent Schools Forum is offered in recognition that the health of the ‘relational space’ between the Head and the school Board is critical to the ability of Heads to sustain high performance in their leadership role and therefore has an impact on the effective functioning of their schools.

AHISA’s School Leadership Survey

In 2017-19, approximately 27 Heads, 131 senior staff and 253 middle management staff in AHISA members’ schools were profiled using the AHISA SLS360 tool for leadership development.

Find out more

SLS360 Case Study

Dr Paul Hine, St Ignatious College Riverview

Principal Paul Hine has used the SLS360 extensively over the past 4 years, with all of the leadership and management staff at Riverview. Paul says:

"The benefits of the SLS are that it’s efficient and tailored specifically for schools. In a short time we get quality data that is benchmarked against data from independent schools nationwide, so our staff can see how they are tracking relative to others.

It also allows us to affirm the really great work that is done by managers in schools, and help staff identify areas for growth, in a meaningful way.

One of the best features of the SLS is the debriefing and expert advice that go hand in hand with the information gathered by the survey. After the debriefing with the AHISA reviewer, we meet with the person and talk to them about the feedback. Together we work out what three goals they want to work on over the next couple of years. It’s an excellent opportunity for critical reflection and review. 

For us, the SLS acts as a quality improvement system that helps to develop our people, and the efficacy of our whole organisation. We find it incredibly worthwhile."

CEO's eBulletin

AHISA continued to send out a fortnightly eBulletin to members throughout the biennium.

"It is an exceptional publication, which I look forward to each month. You have no idea how much time it saves us Principals in keeping current with what is going on in the field of education. Your articles and links to other publications are so helpful and informative. "

CEO's eBulletin