NESLI Leaders in Action: Meriyln Burton

Merilyn Burton is Principal of Pelaw Main Public School in the Hunter Region of New South Wales. Merilyn says that NESLI's ALP has taught her a lot about herself, what she values and the kind of leader she strives to be.

2018 named ‘Year of Women in School Leadership’

NESLI announces a strategic framework of research, events and programs designed to increase the representation of women in school leadership roles.

Five things teachers need to do this summer

Dr David Franklin takes a look at how teachers can pay attention their wellbeing in addition to fine-tuning and updating their craft.

Wilcannia-Forbes Diocese to Tackle Schools Staff Wellbeing in 2018

Landmark mental health toolkit to be rolled out across half of NSW.

Course for school staff vastly improves positivity, collaboration and social capital

Interim report shows marked uplift in key wellbeing metrics for all participant schools.


High-performance school culture​

In an educational context, the term 'high-performance' is synonymous with student achievement. But for students to achieve the best possible outcomes, their school needs to foster a high-performance culture, first and foremost. Doing this may seem relatively simple, but when the daily administrative tasks and responsibilities of running a school come into play, culture can be low on the priority list and can be well below profit and standardised test scores.

From my own experience, a high-performance culture starts with setting up a safe, well-organised school. This means procedures and routines are well thought out and applied consistently. Then there are the harder to measure standards like high levels of trust and vulnerability between staff, being able to have tough conversations and so forth. This sort of behaviour breeds accountability which is vital for high performance. 

Collaboration is also vital for a school’s success. And when we speak of collaboration, we do not just mean getting in a room and discussing what we are going to do. That is just coordinating. Rather, collaboration is about human attitudes and behaviours and navigating their diversity to reach a common goal. Every school must collaborate over big issues, including its mission and values. A strong collective sense of what a school wants to do is so important. Schools that operate and perform well have a strong sense of purpose and a vision that goes way beyond best practices. They have thought about their mission and values long and hard, and have collaborated successfully with staff, students and parents to actualise them.

During my time as a teacher and facilitator, I have seen schools that have been able to adapt to change and schools that have not. One thing is certain: school culture is created from its leadership capability. Successful schools all have well rounded educational leaders in common. As school policies have begun to take on a corporate and business management mindset, school leadership styles need to adapt to this.

A high performance school culture relies on a mix of key elements:

At NESLI we have managed to introduce an emphasis on both management and applied leadership in schools. This has come to be seen as a way forward that is not about top-down, rigid and controlling structures. Instead, it is a way forward that is about learning and communication and empowering people in school communities.

At NESLI we embrace both corporate values like accountability, a focus on results, and so forth while also paying attention to how these emerge from and merge with the core interest of schools, which is learning.

Kirk Fisher is a former school principal and teacher. With experience across a range of school sectors, Kirk is passionate about high-performance school cultures and how they eventuate.

Classroom scene made out of Playmobil
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National Excellence in School Leadership Initiative, NESLI
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