This is the second part of the series on “How to Select an Appropriate Secondary School”
Why is the Principal important?
Using the analogy that the school is a company, the principal is like the CEO of the school. They will usually set the vision, mission as well as pace and direction for the school. With that said, I cannot emphasise enough that the culture and management depends very heavily on the principal as well as his/her personal beliefs and success stories. One way to aid your search is to find out if the principal walks the talk is to check out if they have been successful in turning schools around and his/her success stories as an educator.
Interestingly, you may think that all principals will be very focused on academics. That may not necessarily be so. Some principals believe in the holistic nature of the students and thus, they will actually focus more on non-academic activities such as cultural arts and sports rather than academic. Likewise, there are also principals who believe strongly in academics and will be very willing to ‘push’ the students all the way to challenge themselves.
What is Tenure?
Principals are generally rotated every 5 years to ensure that they will experience different the running of different schools. Many new principals are vice-principals who have served for a few years at a management level before rising to take over a school on their own. At this point, it will benefit you greatly to find out how long the current principal is serving the school as your child will be under his/her management style.
Generally , there are 2 years that are not recommended for entry:
Not Recommended: Last Year of Principal’s Tenure
The first one is the principal’s last year it also signals a change in leadership which may result in uncertainty. Some principals may also leave the running to vice-principals instead as they get ready for the new rotation.
Not Recommended: First Year of Principal’s Tenure
For the first year of the new principal’s tenure, they may be reviewing certain processes of the school and may not be able to oversee the the students’ welfare thoroughly. For both teachers and students alike, they will be anticipating new projects, new rules and new discipline changes.
Principal’s Engagement with Parents
One important thing to note is the principal’s engagement level with parents. There are some principals who only engage parents at selected school events such as workshops and Parental Support Groups. Thus, you may realise that the Parental Support group may not necessarily be very active. There are also some principals who go all out to engage parents whenever possible by providing contact numbers and creating Whatsapp groups for interaction. These principals will likely create a robust Parental Support Group which helps out whenever necessarily.
Lastly, if the principal is able to provide details such teaching attitudes of various teachers, testimonials, patents engagement, SOPs of how they handle emergency cases and discipline cases – it shows that they are have been keeping a good eye on the running of the school. If the principal leaves the running mostly to the heads of departments, it signals that there is very little direction and focus. This, in turn, will affect the culture and learning environment of the students.