One of the NSW Public Schools value is a Fair Go for All. I can honestly say that NSW Minister for Education Adrian Piccoli truly reflected this value through his actions in listening to the profession and delivering on so many reforms. Sometimes those reforms have caused a headache or two but that’s more about implementation rather than the inherent purpose of the change. Fair go for all also means that the new education minister should have their chance at the helm but I think that it will be quite difficult to emulate the achievements of the former Minister.
Minister for Education Adrian Piccoli visited Merrylands East Public School (MEPS) on the 29 October 2012, soon after our announcement of the school hour changes and spoke to staff and parents (We’re just about to start our 5th year of starting at 8am). He was supportive of our changes which personally gave me a lot of encouragement in the face of some adverse media. He understood our school context and realised that it wasn’t a one size fits all. By the the end of the visitation, the Minister had left an indelible mark on our school through his interactions with our staff and students.
Tomorrow will be the start of my twelfth year of principalship at MEPS. My first few years were a struggle with very little school funding to support staff and students. We relied heavily on grants and undertook a lot of maintenance ourselves to ensure that our students had the very best within our available resources.
Tomorrow will be different due mainly to Minister Adrian Piccoli’s support of the Gonski’s needs based funding and many of the educational reforms in consultation with keystakeholders.
For a start, the increase in Gonski funding will extend our Speech Pathologist and Occupational Therapist (OT) program to two days a week, and capture more students in their early years of schooling. The alternative is for our students to be part of a long public health waiting list with the high probability that they will never get the required support while struggling with learning at school.
Complementing Speech and OT, we also have a school nurse to manage all the medical needs of students, including anaphylaxis and asthma plans, and other medical conditions. The nurse will also support prenatal parents and assist in early intervention of pre-schoolers.
Under the Early Action for Success program, we have a new highly experienced Deputy Principal Instructional Leader (DPIL). The DPIL will provide the support, coaching, mentoring and training for early years teachers so that our students will have the best possible literacy and numeracy programs.
I cannot recall the number of times that Principals have raised the issue of Assistant Principals receiving additional support for their increasing role. Assistant Principals are full time teachers on class with so much added responsibility. In some ways, it can be one of the most difficult roles, along with a teaching Deputy Principal. With Minister Adrian Piccoli at the helm, our school (along with other primary schools) has a flexible staffing component that provides additional time that can be used by Assistant Principals to support teachers. He listened to the profession – an attribute that was valued and appreciated.
Meanwhile, New Scheme Teachers seeking their accreditation will have additional time from face to face teaching with a mentor to support their teaching and learning, and eventually their accreditation.
Aside from Gonski, the Minster took a huge interest, almost a personal goal in the Connected Communities Schools in rural NSW and closing the gap of Indigenous students’ outcomes with practical measures. It seemed that every year, his twitter feed would contain pics of his trips to those schools with positive changes occurring. He will be remembered as the first Minister for Education to build a road to one of those schools along with other major capital works.
Just last year, the former Premier described Minister Adrian Piccoli as the Rockstar of Education at the NSW Primary Principals Association Conference. He wasn’t far off the mark. Following that compliment, the Minister attended our PPA dinner and once again, principals lined up to share their stories of Gonski impact and to have their obligatory selfie – I doubt that the Fisheries Minister, nor any other Minister receives the same response but that just highlighted the high esteem held by the profession for the Minister.
It saddens me that the perception of politics is more about factions and whose turn it is to obtain a ministry rather than merit, and a person who genuinely went into politics to make a major difference will no longer be the education minister by his choice. However, the impact that he did make for the staff, students and the community at my school will be remembered.
Thank you Minister Adrian Piccoli.