Property manager. Counsellor. Administrator. Teacher. Planner. Sports Coach.
The list of roles that exist within a school is endless and requires a team with a wide skill set to operate effectively.
But what about when you lead a small school – or one where you’re the only person available for these roles?
As sole charge principal at Ohura Valley Primary School, Anna Fourie has to be all things to all people in the community. And even if her school roll is in the single digits, that creates a massive set of challenges.
“Everything goes through me”
As Anna explains, sole charge principals are missing the support network that principals at bigger schools have access to.
“It’s a lonely job! I don’t have anyone to delegate to, to bounce ideas off or measure situations and decisions against. The board as well – it's a lot of people from farming families who have their own incredibly busy lives. Everything goes through me, and when the teaching of the children is the biggest priority, that’s where things like strategic planning can fall by the wayside.”
Upon beginning our Strategic Leadership for Rural Teaching Principals Programme, Anna began to adopt more of a helicopter view, understanding the importance of things like strategic planning – but that hasn’t necessarily made it easier to get done.
“The biggest breakthrough with Springboard, for me, was that I have to force myself to plan. When you are responsible for every decision, every action in the school, it’s hard to do – but in the long run it saves you so much work.”
“Realising that I have to dedicate time to it, and that I’m allowed to be wrong too! I’ve never been allowed to not know the answer to something but being able to talk things through with other principals or volunteers has been really important for me.”
“It’s just a case of finding the time to do it. I have to get off-premises to work on it, otherwise I get caught up in everything else. You need to lock me in a prison or something!”