Home' Independence : Independence Vol 33 No 1 May 2008 Contents Independence Volume 33 No. 1 63
Brian Savins, Principal,
Clayfield College is coeducational from
Prep to Year 5 and girls' only from Years
6 to 12. It has 950 students including 120
boarders in Years 5 to 12.
In taking on the role of Principal at Clay-
field College I first focused on consultation
with the school community, both to em-
power them and to build a relationship
My leadership style is influenced by the
work of Thomas J. Sergiovanni and others,
including the recent work of Dr Sue Roffey
on emotional literacy and leadership, who
advocate building trust with your school
community. By involving staff, students
and parents, by allowing them to contri-
bute, and by engaging in open discussion
it is possible to move to a point where
there is a shared perception and building
of strategic direction.
Response from the school community to
this approach has been extremely positive.
The other thing that is very important and
which has proved to be very helpful in
relationship building is to be very widely
involved at the ground level, through
participation and involvement in events.
I personally coach sporting teams (cricket
is my passion), and I've found this a great
way not only to work directly with the
students but to meet many of the parents.
I've found that parents, both at Clayfield
and at my previous school, respond very
well to a hands on approach from the
Principal. They love to see you rolling up
your sleeves and getting your hands dirty
with a direct involvement in activities. My
performance review for the year reflected
a strong positive response to that wide-
spread involvement and to the fact that I
was very accessible to parents. While this
is extremely difficult to maintain alongside
all the other tasks of a Principal, the bene-
fits far outweigh the time taken.
A shared leadership model involves a flat-
ter management structure. The Principal
is part of the leadership executive team,
alongside the Head of Learning Develop-
ment, Head of Pastoral Care, Heads of
Schools, Business Manager and so on. We
have set up shared leadership teams at both
senior executive level and middle manage-
ment level. Teams are also encouraged to
be learning teams, whether learning from
each other or being open to professional
development and enhancement.
In this model of leadership we all share the
load, we share the decision making and
we share the accountability. Obviously
at the end of the day the Principal still
has the final say in consultation with the
school council, but the Principal invites
and involves contribution across a very
level playing field.
In developing shared leadership teams we
are at the same time developing sustain-
able school improvement. Importantly,
under the shared leadership model improve-
ment does not hinge on one person, and
should any person for whatever reason
have to step out of the process there are
other people able to pick up and continue
the improvement process in the school.
Clayfield is a long established school and
while introducing a new leadership model
it was also important to affirm positive
culture, to acknowledge all the very good
things happening in the school.
it is the wellbeing of the school that is pre-
cipitating change, not some hidden agenda.
It does help to introduce smaller, advan-
tageous changes to get a few runs on the
board to smooth the way for the introduc-
tion of harder, bigger things. For example,
in my first year I had noticed there was a
property that was underutilised. We turned
that into a staff house, a really comfortable
place for staff to go and have lunch or hold
meetings. This was really appreciated. I
also appointed a Head of Curriculum to
help formalise that function in the school
and I gave the staff laptops.
In a way these relatively minor, but very
positive and well received changes paved
the way for the major restructuring to
come: we abolished the Vice-Principal
positions, building into the roles of the
existing Heads of Schools the full gamut
of those positions.
I'm very different from the previous Head
and that has also worked to my advantage.
It helps to make people assess you on your
own terms rather than as a version of
someone else. The community has been
very positive, but I have made a point of
going to everything I can in the school.
Parents love to see you. I also spend a lot
of time going to staff meetings and joining
in, making the cups of tea or even pick-
ing up litter. I don't believe in a ceremo-
Fintona is a very good-humoured environ-
ment and I think we're a good match.
That synergy helps enormously.
There's a lot of talk about how much work
it is to be a Principal, and how you have
no family life. That can be true, but those
people who've worked in an independent
school do have some understanding of
what's involved in the job of Principal.
I believe there is an element of timing in
accepting the role of Principal. For exam-
ple, I could not envisage taking on this
job while my own children were still at
school. But if you have your eyes open, and
take it on at the right time in your life, it
is the most fantastic job -- and so rewarding.
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