14th May 2018 - Centre for School Leadership Update

‘Learning is the only thing the mind never exhausts, never fears and never regrets’ Leonardo da Vinci

Mentoring for Newly-appointed Principals

To date, 500 mentors (400 at primary level) have completed the formal training, which was developed from research carried out by the CSL team on mentoring in Scotland, Canada and Australia. The training comprises two professional learning sessions of 1.5 days and a shared professional learning day. 60% of primary mentors are administrative principals, 40% are teaching. 10% are from Gaelscoileanna, a further 4% are from the Gaeltacht and 7% are from special schools.

Mentors and mentees meet during the school year once per month for two hours and have fortnightly contact by phone or email. A Contract of Agreement is signed, including a confidentiality clause. After the first year, mentees have the opportunity to access group mentoring provided by IPPN and NAPD.

Both mentors and mentees benefit from the mentoring relationship. Mentees avail of much-needed support as they get to grips with the leadership role. Mentors appreciate the learning and networking available to them, as well as the opportunity to ‘give something back’ to the profession. CSL Cairde (of which there are currently 24 at primary level with another 10 due to be trained in September) provide an extra layer of support for the mentors. The most appreciated aspect of the mentor-mentee relationship is the co-professional dialogue with a principal colleague, and the discernible positive impact on the practice of both mentor and mentee.

Quotes from Mentees

“Having a mentor has definitely made me more confident in the role of principal. I can anticipate difficulties and have the chance to talk them through before they become an issue. Knowing that there is an experienced principal on your side, available to help you through the first year of principalship whether you need them or not is incredibly reassuring.”

“My mentor is approachable, encouraging, and supportive. He is patient and a very good listener. He is very objective in the advice he gives and ensures the advice is accurate by double checking first. He respects my need for complete trust and confidentiality and shows genuine interest by asking how certain situations played out in subsequent meetings. He listens to my concerns and also shares his expertise and experience freely.”

“I listen to and seek advice from my mentor regularly. I trust in my mentor's advice and support. Especially in the area of policy development. I use my mentor's advice and ideas from her experience when making decisions in my own school. My mentor has a significant role in informing practice in my own school.”

Quotes from Mentors

“I have gained confidence in my own role as principal, and the learning from the mentoring relationship has greatly benefited my school.”

“The mentoring relationship reinforces the mentor’s own practice in that it provokes/promotes reflection and learning for both mentor and mentee”

"I am convinced that I learned more than my mentee did from the experience. Active listening requires humility and can lead to profound insights into one's own practice as well as the opportunity to help the new principal on their journey."

"I gained as much if not more than I gave, a grounding experience for myself, I gained a friend.” 

Professional Learning Days for Cohort One, Two and Three are underway with in-put from speakers such as Adam Harris, Dr. Geraldine Simmie Mooney and Dr. Joe O’ Connell. The learning is further enriched by participants sharing their own best practice in carousels showcasing vignettes of good practice. Cairde mentor meetings are enhanced by feedback from a survey of mentees at Misneach and an online questionnaire to capture their feedback on the process. IPPN and NAPD provide information on the group mentoring process which all principals in the second year of the role will have access to from September. Training videos of mentors and mentees sharing their experience of the mentoring relationship, and a focus on having difficult conversations provide significant learning opportunities for participants.

Quotes from Participants from April 24th/25th (Cohort One) and May 2nd (Cohort Three). Professional Learning for Cohort Two takes place in Athlone on May 17th and 18th.

“Thank you for giving me some time and space to reflect on practices in the school in which I work and for giving me a chance to hear what other schools do. I feel that I can bring a little positivity and good ideas to our teachers.”

“The two days afforded me the opportunity to collaborate with fellow professionals, brainstorming solutions for current issues. They assisted with reflective practice and self-direction. Thank you for the beneficial, constant and consistent professional in-service.”

“Every session had something of value to bring to my practice as principal, especially the learning from the Vignettes of Good Practice which is so transferable into my school setting. The journey home was very thought provoking.”

“It gave me a chance to breathe and take stock. It made me take some "me" time. Really enjoyed talking with colleagues, met some really interesting people and had some very worthwhile conversations about very pertinent issues in our schools.”

Unlocking Potential through Coaching

CSL Coaching was launched in January 2017 and is a confidential, one-to-one personal service now available to all school principals. It is a powerful tool to develop individual and organisational performance by unlocking potential and capability. The service is fully funded by the DES and over 420 principals benefitted from coaching this year.

Principals face a wide range of challenges and goals that can benefit from coaching, as it offers the time and space to reflect on both. It can also:

  • Help create a coaching culture in schools
  • Enhance capacity to work in a changing environment
  • Increase ability to prioritise and manage demands
  • Enable more successful management of change
  • Renew enthusiasm for the job.

To engage with the service, principals can go to www.cslireland.ie and access 40 coaches in six regions around the country. A ‘chemistry check’ is available followed by six further meetings over a one-year period, and a final review six months after the last meeting.

40% of those accessing the service are teaching principals, 25% are from DEIS schools and 27% have special classes in their schools.

Testimonials from principals demonstrate the effectiveness of coaching as a leadership tool.

“Coaching has been one of the most useful leadership tools that I have come across. It gives me time to reflect upon myself, my actions and my decisions. I am making changes in my practice.”

“Coaching has been invaluable to me. We experienced a crisis in the school and I believe that it was the coaching that helped me personally get through the crisis and assist the staff in coming to terms with our situation. I couldn’t recommend it highly enough.”

The Post Graduate Diploma in School Leadership (PDSL)

The 243 participants have reported very positively on the course content, and the learning from leadership experience in a setting outside of education has been immense. Arrangements are currently in place for the participants to experience learning in an educational setting outside of their own school, and this current cohort of participants will graduate in November.

The application process for Cohort Two closed on March 31st with almost 500 applications. The DES has agreed to add an extra 50 places to participants this year, allowing 300 successful applicants to be chosen from the 500 who have applied.

A Continuum of Professional Learning for School Leadership

CSL is looking at the whole continuum of professional development for school leadership, from teacher leadership, to middle leadership and the development of aspiring leaders, to newly-appointed senior leaders and also to established and system senior leaders.

After a series of consultative workshops with stakeholders, the final Continuum document is in preparation for publication in September.

The team is also piloting a Quality Assurance Framework and process to ensure that both aspiring and serving leaders have access to high-quality leadership programmes.

Strategic Priorities for 2018-19

CSL will continue to monitor mentoring, coaching and PDSL programmes over the coming year, with the ultimate goal of improving learning outcomes for our school communities. In addition, CSL will aim to:

  • Work collaboratively with stakeholders to elaborate, continuously update, and present a detailed and evolving best-practice continuum, responsive to all needs
  • Build awareness of the work and role of CSL, including the potential of mentoring and coaching as leadership tools
  • Refine the Pilot QA framework and process to ensure teachers and school leaders can access quality professional learning at every point along their career path
  • Explore and build upon existing innovative approaches to high quality professional learning provision
  • Reaffirm CSL’s central long-term focus as a centre of excellence, spearheading the reform and modernisation of school leadership professional development and performance in Ireland

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