Home' Independence : Independence Vol 33 No 1 May 2008 Contents Independence Volume 33 No. 1 65
Tim Oughton, Principal,
Scotch College is a coeducational school
of 820 students from Preschool to Year 12,
including 75 boarders in Years 7 to 12.
It is important for Heads to understand the
governance structure of the school they
aspire to lead. Scotch College's Council was
looking for a Principal to implement and
lead the school through significant change
but in my view did not have a governance
structure to support that. When I was ini-
tially encouraged to apply for the Head's
position there were 23 members on Council.
I have around 20 years' experience as a
member of councils and boards, including
chair of the board of trustees at my child-
ren's school in New Zealand. This is my
third Principalship. Having worked with
different governance models I know that
a board of over 20 governors is unwieldy,
and so I requested as a condition of accep-
ting the job at Scotch that the Council's
numbers be reduced to a realistic level.
The Council itself had already recognised
the need for a reduction in the number of
its members and this synergy enabled a
change in the College's constitution. We
now have a Council of 10.
As I've done with each school where I've
been Principal I began by interviewing all
teaching and non-teaching staff -- one on
one. Similarly, I also had lunch with every
Year 12 student in groups of 10 and talked
with them about the school, about what
worked well and what could be improved.
It was the students who gave me some of
the most valuable clues about where dev-
elopment was needed.
Coming from New Zealand, I thought it
prudent to provide a local context for my
thinking. We employed as a consultant a
long-serving Principal here in Adelaide,
Peter Lang, who has also worked with
AISSA. Peter was able to provide compa-
rative data from like schools both from wi-
thin South Australia and nationally, which
gave us valuable tools to assess a range of
financial and administrative factors.
After consultation with senior manage-
ment I was at the point where I was able
to go to staff with a base for consultation,
backed up by data and sound reasons for
change. Essentially, I wanted a focus on
pastoral care, with every staff member in-
volved, and I also wanted more learning
time built into the timetable.
The need for change was agreed. This ena-
bled me to come back with draft propo-
sals that went to consultative teams. By
the end of the year we'd come up with a
completely new timetable structure and
completely revamped the house system,
moving to a more personalised mentor-
style model where every staff member is
connected to a group of 15 students.
We introduced a new remuneration system
-- what we call the Scotch units model.
Basically the units are tied to the cost of a
period on the timetable, which gives staff
the flexibility to choose time or money and
gives me more flexibility to reward extra
work, particularly co-curricular effort.
On top of that we commenced negotiations
on the biennial collective employment con-
tract. I thought with all the other change
happening in the school this could be a
real sticking point, but it was actually
achieved in just two meetings. This was
partly because we changed the model of
negotiation as well. Previously the Head
had been the go-between between the
Council and staff with the Head acting as
spokesperson for the Council. Instead I
have chosen to advocate for the staff, so at
the negotiation table we had two Council
members, myself as CEO, two staff repre-
sentatives and the union representative.
We also established an environmental edu-
cation camp on Kangaroo Island, which will
be ready this year for a week's camp by
all the Year 8s. This has been a very exci-
ting initiative for me personally as I have
a very keen interest in the environment.
The change agenda in the first year was
huge. I don't think I've ever worked so
hard in my life, with 80 to 100 hour weeks
not uncommon. But there has been support
for change in every level of the school
because we have kept education at the
forefront. The changes have been about
enriching the educational experience of
I came into the role at Scotch with clear
objectives set by the Council, and I have
had their total support. It is the best
council I've ever worked with in 30 years
in education. The senior management
team has been with me the whole way
in a totally collaborative approach. This
makes an enormous difference. I've had
the support of the vast majority of staff,
and there have been no industrial issues.
I've had the support of parents. The
Scotch community is loaded with people
from all walks of life who can help me
with anything, be it finance or facilities,
and who have been more than willing to
take the time to chat over coffee.
I've been resolute in having a mentor out-
side the school and I cannot speak highly
enough of my colleagues. I have been
lucky enough to be welcomed into the
South Australian Principals' community
with open arms. In particular I've had tre-
mendous support from Heads in 'compe-
titor' schools. Perhaps they felt sorry for
a poor Kiwi coming in from the cold --
literally and figuratively! -- but I had never
before struck that level of cooperation.
When you walk into a community like
that, you feel this is a pretty good place.
It was the students
who gave me some
of the most valuable
clues about where
Links Archive Independence Vol 32 No 2 Oct 2007 Independence Vol 33 No 2 Oct 2008 Navigation Previous Page Next Page