15th May 2014 - Deputies make the difference

The critical importance of the role of deputy principal is the key message as hundreds of Deputy Principals converge on the Carlton Shearwater, Ballinasloe, Co Galway this weekend for the annual Irish Primary Principals’ Network (IPPN), Deputy Principals’ Conference. The effective distribution of leadership to the deputy principal is essential to build management capacity, particularly when school leadership is acknowledged as vital in determining teaching and learning outcomes within the school.

In his conference address, Mr Brendan McCabe, IPPN President said,

An effective Deputy Principal is one who works as a ‘co-leader’ with the principal.  The degree to which this co-leadership team works as a unit is a key benchmark of effective leadership.

Despite the significant role in which Deputy Principals play in the leadership capacity of a school, a number of factors mitigate their effectiveness. The role of DP never been defined by the Department of Education and Skills. Consequently it has never been utilised as a capacity building measure in schools. Despite measures to reduce the importance of seniority, it is still seen in many schools as a position of right by the longest serving member of staff, other than the principal.

Executive Director of IPPN, Sean Cottrell added,

Research in other countries demonstrates that the vast majority of principals have previously served as deputy principals. This practice is critically important in creating a career structure for teachers who seek career progression. All teachers, including deputy and principal teachers are employed on the same salary scale. In addition, Principals and deputies receive an allowance for their leadership role. This allowance is determined by the size of their school. An example of this would be if a deputy principal in a school with 14 or more teachers were to apply for a role as principal in a smaller school, if appointed, would incur financial loss. This is an unnecessary impediment in its own right and has caused a significant problem for the leadership pipeline. It also restricts movement of leadership roles from school to school.

IPPN recommends that the Department of Education conduct a review of the role of Deputy Principal and determines leadership, management and administrative duties to the role. IPPN also recommends that in the case of appointing a deputy principal, primary schools should, as in the case of second level schools, be entitled to recruit from open competition and not confined to staff within the school, as is current practice.

By defining the role of Deputy Principal and providing a clear role description, leadership capacity can be significantly increased with the ultimate aim of improving the quality of teaching and learning in our schools. A leadership team of a principal and deputy principal who can effectively promote quality learning in their school will invariably have a positive effect on all the teaching staff, which in turn will have positive outcomes on the quality of the education offered to our children today and in the future.

Brendan McCabe concluded by asking ‘every Deputy Principal to embrace their co- leadership role and unleash their capacity so their schools can provide excellent education for all children regardless of their differing needs.



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