Introducing this week’s @EduTweetOz Host, Stephen Breen, @wappa53

Simon BreenPlease tell us a little about your background in education. Why did you decide to become involved in education?  What are some of the roles you’ve had and what does your current role involve?

I have been in primary education for some 40 years. Along with my wife Ros, a primary school classroom teacher, we have taught in WA schools in the country and city. I have been a classroom teacher, a deputy principal and a principal in some 12 schools around WA. I actually fell into Teachers College in the early 70s and over the years developed a great love and enthusiasm for primary education. Over the last 8 years I have had the privilege of being the President of the Western Australian Primary Principals Association (WAPPA) an organisation that has around 1,000 principal and deputy principals. On the national level I am a member of the Australian Primary Principals (APPA) Board, the peak association for all government, Catholic and Independent primary schools and a member of the Australian Government Primary Principals national executive. My belief is that unless you get the state and national vision and goals right schools will be swimming across the currents. At the moment I have the strong opinion that unfortunately the current is gaining strength and schools are stagnating because we (politicians, the community and educators) are not all speaking with one voice!

Who or what keeps you inspired and motivated in your work?

Over the last few years I have been in the position of talking to and discussing with educators across the state and indeed nationally about issues surrounding the leadership of schools. Teachers, school leaders, education workers and education researchers are the people who inspire me on a daily basis. Teaching and leading a school is such a complex role and I am in awe of the talents, the knowledge and skills of educators in our schools.  Above all I am motivated by the need to facilitate change in our schools that integrates the clear evidence from around the world and nationally into the context of our schools.

What do you see as some of the biggest rewards and challenges for people working in education today?

Rewards:

  • I know it maybe rather corny but children are the future and the work within our schools will dramatically affect the future of this country. If we get it right Australia will prosper, if we get it wrong Australia will not reach its potential. Educators understand this role and take it very seriously and this drives them to connect with our students. The reward is that teachers and school leaders are making a real difference!!
  • The day to day interaction with students. Teaching is a great job, a challenging job and a fun job.
  • Working with teachers and school leaders who are so good it is scary!!

Challenges:

  • The administrative burden on school leaders and teachers.
  • The reliance on external accountabilities (NAPLAN, paid tests,etc) rather than the development of internal accountabilities.
  • How do we prepare our students to reach their potential in the complexity of our modern society.
  • A blend between the two dimensions of play and technological activities.
  • To push back to the global education reform movement (GERM) that champions standardised testing, choice, competition privatization and the de professionalism of the profession.
  • Reforming initial teacher education training so new teachers are classroom ready.

If you had the ability to make changes to the education system in Australia, what would you do?

At the present time all sectors have values that are proudly placed on letterheads and brochures. The problem is that many of these values are not carried through in policy, regulations and practice. If I had the ability to make changes I would ensure that:

  1. Equity as a value should be viewed in all resourcing and staffing areas. We desperately need a ‘needs based’ resourcing model e.g. Gonski. Resourcing should be all about need not ideological statements!
  2. I would ensure that ‘real’ early intervention strategies were introduced across all sectors. Schools need resources for dedicated and highly trained ‘learning difficulties’ teachers in the PP to year 2 areas. Schools and allied health need to ‘throw the kitchen sink’ at students who have learning difficulties. My belief if you can get the students on the right track early students have a very high probability of reaching their potential.
  3. I would scrap the MySchool website
  4. Within the government sector I would start the negotiations to umbrella all government agencies under one agency, Education and Student Services. Let’s have one boss!!
  5. De clutter the Australian (state) curriculum so as to teach a curriculum in depth

and (this one is a big one) start the journey to develop a one sector education system across Australia. Not a copy of another country but an Australian model.

What role do you see EduTweetOz playing on the education scene in Australia and what are your hopes for the account this week?

In the modern era of schooling, particularly in these financial times school leaders and teachers have a tendency to become quite ‘closed’. EduTweetOz and social media in general has the potential to bring people together and share information, ideas and trends. Teachers and school leaders need to join the modern technological world to develop their teaching and leadership skills.

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