Aspiring Principals Programme prepares school leaders
Ninety-one participants are set to graduate from the Aspiring Principals Programme (APP) on July 9, providing Jamaica with additional skill sets to continue the transformation of the education system.
Over the past five years, the National College for Educational Leadership, an agency of the Ministry of Education, Youth, and Information, has been working in collaboration with the University of the West Indies School of Education to help in the professional development of school leaders and potential leaders.
Out of the recommendations of the 2004 Task Force Report, the Ministry of Education, Youth, and Information (MoEYI) established the NCEL, which has been strategic and intentional in the development, implementation, and monitoring of leadership interventions, programmes, and initiatives.
One of the programmes offered by the NCEL is the Aspiring Principals Programme (APP), which is designed as a Professional Qualification for Principalship (PQP) in keeping with best practices existing in other countries such as Singapore, England, Scotland, Australia, and Hong Kong. The APP seeks to attract and identify aspirant school leaders who possess the rudiments to lead transformation effectively in our schools.
This is part of a wider national undertaking to transform the education system in the wake of the 2004 Task Force Report on Education Reform, which revealed a number of gaps and weaknesses that needed to be addressed. One particular area of concern identified was the effectiveness of school principals as demonstrated in the use of resources, meaningful relationships with communities, efficacious management, and exemplary instructional leadership. These factors were identified as being directly linked to improved student outcomes.
Lacked adequate training
Within the Jamaican context, a number of principals, although having undergraduate and postgraduate degrees, even in educational leadership and management, lacked adequate targeted, context-relevant training and preparation to manoeuvre the post of principalship. In 2015, researcher Denise Armstrong argued that neophyte school leaders were ill-prepared for the social and emotional demands of a school principal. She also contended that the diverse responsibilities associated with principalship could have “dramatic psychological effects” on the lives of novice principals.
This competency-based programme is under girded by nine philosophical tenets, which are represented throughout the programme, from recruitment to completion. During the programme, participants are exposed to four critical leadership development modules, which are community Leadership, Organisational Leadership, Instructional Leadership and Transformational Leadership. The programme also encompasses a 12-week field experience intervention, which must be conceptualised, implemented, and evaluated by programme participants, as well as customised and relevant professional development sessions geared at ameliorating the dispositions of the principals and an awareness and appreciation for the policy priorities of the MoEYI.
Since 2014, the APP has had an intake of 471 participants across five cohorts, with a sixth cohort now under way.
During the period May 1-10, 2019, participants of Cohort 5 of the APP culminated their participation in the programme by defending their interventions in Montego Bay and Kingston. Some participants shared their experiences:
Fitzroy Abbott, acting principal, Sunbury All Age:
“I knew that the APP programme was the perfect platform for me to get the requisite training in an effort to be propelled to the position of principal. The field experience gave me the perfect opportunity to implement a programme based on the most pressing needs of the institution. The innate leadership qualities which I possess would not have been activated if it weren’t for NCEL”
Lucien Reid, vice-principal, Meadowbrook High School:
“The reason behind my intervention, was to give the girls an opportunity to be empowered outside of the curriculum, to sharpen social skills, to mitigate against undesirable behaviours. I must say of the NCEL programme that, that which was taught was so effective it took a dream to the stage of maturation and from embryonic to reality”
Kadian Crumbie Murray, teacher, Ruseas High School:
“I just defended my intervention and it was a success. The support from NCEL has been awesome. What we have learned are skills for life”
Shelliann Cooper, teacher, Evelyn Mitchell Infant School:
“I must credit NCEL for my personal growth through the tenure of this course. The programme has transformed me tremendously in that my mindset towards leadership has been thoroughly inspired. I was propelled into taking on challenges that I have never dreamt of pursuing. As a leader, I am more inclined to use various philosophical approaches as I can see where our education system leads to more discovery learning”
The way forward
The APP represents an authentic opportunity, a mirror image of the idiosyncrasies of the principalship, and so prepares participants with a good foundation to take on the challenging role. It emphasises that there is no single way to deal with situations only principles to apply in solving problems. Participants learn how to negotiate, collaborate, establish partnerships, handle complexities, become more mindful of global trends, policies in education, effective planning, monitoring and evaluation, and to survive in unfamiliar and unpredictable situations. As the landscape continues to change, NCEL is mindful of the waves and so is continuously researching, reinventing and engaging in “futuring” to ensure that it stays at the cutting edge in preparing principals for these most challenging times.
Article courtesy of National College for Educational Leadership (NCEL), an agency of the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information.