It seems that realisation about the unrealistic burdens placed on schools by system demands and expectations has finally dawned. As Natasha Bita reveals (Teacher leaders lash new schedule, July 30,31) “Stressed school principals are demanding changes to the new national curriculum … blasting educational bureaucrats for imposing ‘cruel’ workloads.”

School leaders largely brought the impossible workloads now being confronted, upon themselves. From the mid 1980’s, the notion of ‘self managed schools’ was touted as a way of delegating departmental control for local education to schools and their councils. This devolution of responsibility was interpreted by principals as a way of building positional autonomy. The thought of enhanced recognition and status, lured many to the changes offered.

Among the ‘self managed school’ proponents were Professor Brian Caldwell (then University of Tasmania) and Mr Jim Spinks, Principal of Rosebery School on Tasmania’s west coast. They introduced this concept to NT Principals at a 1987 conference. Spinks offered a strong caution: He advised that as principals added to school accountability and curriculum responsibility, they should ‘drop off’ those components that may become dated and irrelevant. This was necessary to retain balanced and manageable responsibilities.

Some 35 years later, it is obvious that schools have become burdened with an overloaded curriculum and huge administrative workloads. School leaders and staff members are held to constant, rigorous and often unreasonable account for school outcomes. It is small wonder principals are crying ‘foul’.

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