Principals support school shake-up

Byron Bay High School principal Peter King said he hoped the policy reduced bureaucracy.
Byron Bay High School principal Peter King said he hoped the policy reduced bureaucracy. Doug Eaton

NORTH COAST school principals have given their qualified support to a shake-up of the NSW school system.

Under the Local Schools Local Decisions policy, principals will be in charge of managing staff and financial resources.

Principals will now be able to source school resources locally and manage 70% of their own education budget, instead of the current 10%.

Byron High School principal Peter King said he thinks the policy will reduce bureaucracy and "create better outcomes for students".

"It will allow us to unravel some of the bureaucratic red tape that currently stifles our ability to make decisions and act locally," he said.

Mr King said as a principal he will now have more power to target funds to specific needs identified within his school.

"Instead of getting 40 small buckets of money in grants and other forms we will now get one large bucket of money and we will determine our priorities so we can significantly direct funds to that area," Mr King said

Alstonville High School is one of 47 schools that have been involved in a pilot of the policy since last year.

During the pilot, the school was able to employ a part-time business manager and principal David Silcock said the experience has been a "positive" one.

"I don't necessarily see it as principals getting more power but local school communities getting more power about appropriate decisions to be made at the local levels," Mr Silcock said.

The government has described the policy as the biggest change to the school system in 100 years but unions say it's a covert plan to cut education budgets.

Under the changes, teachers' pay will also be linked to professional standards instead of being set according to years of experience.

Mr Silcock said he was concerned this could set up a culture of competition among staff and direct the focus away from education.

"Whilst opportunities to reward keen and innovative teachers is obviously of interest, it would be very interesting to see how they could make it work equitably across the state in a meaningful way," Mr Silcock said.

"For example, I would be very much opposed to something that was based on external tests results because how would I compare a creative performing arts teacher against a HSC maths teacher?"

The Department of Education's north coast regional director Peter Haigh said the plan will benefit regional schools.

He singled out changes that mean funding will be allocated on a school's location and specific needs, not just its number of students

"This is a particularly important step for schools on the North Coast because complexity is determined by such things as the distance from a major city, the socio-economic circumstances of the community in which the school is situated and the number of Aboriginal students involved," Mr Haigh said.

The reforms will be introduced next month and be completed by 2015.

Topics:  department of education education nsw principals schools

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