April 21, 2015: Thirty-five trainee principals recently received their Professional Qualification for Principalship certification having successfully completed the Aspiring Principals’ Programme that is designed to adequately prepare individuals for the task of the principalship prior to recruitment.
The post-graduate level programme is delivered by the Ministry of Education’s National College for Educational Leadership (NCEL) in partnership with the University of the West Indies, with the goal of improving the administration of schools across the island.
The Aspiring Principals’ Programme targets education professionals with strong leadership potential who are desirous of becoming school principals. Through the programme prospective principals are exposed to strategies designed to achieve school improvement, increased student performance, greater stakeholder involvement, sound financial management, and schooling that focuses on the development of the whole child.
During the Aspiring Principals’ Programme participants are guided to develop specific competencies based on key areas of the National Education Strategic Plan. These areas include transformational leadership, instructional leadership, community leadership, organizational leadership, and experiential leadership.
Commenting on the nine month long programme, Calvin Harris, provisional principal at the Marlie Mount Primary and Infant School in Old Harbour, St. Catherine said it was very intense and practical in nature and specifically designed to inculcate good leadership qualities.
“We appreciate the fact that the course had an integrated and practical approach. We had to undertake Field Experiences which were designed to ensure they were able to apply the knowledge that we garnered and make better judgments. We were better able to analyze what was on the ground and make effective decisions,” Harris said.
Michelle Spencer, Vice-Principal of the Merl Grove High School in St. Andrew said the Aspiring Principals’ Programme is quite rigorous and not for the faint-hearted. “The programme eliminated those persons who I would call mediocre. It digs into unknown potential and forces you to think critically in a short duration of time,” Spencer said.
“I am always thinking about how I can improve my job. My projects were ideas that needed to be implemented and after being involved in the programme it gave me the added boost to get them done,” she added.
One of the requirements of the programme is that aspirants are expected to lead learning in their institutions and, therefore, must be knowledgeable about their curriculum, student learning and teacher development.
According to Carlene Williams-Heath, Principal at the Park Mountain Primary School in St. Elizabeth, “the best part of the programme is that the theories have been put into practice and it has helped to shape the culture that I want to see in the learning community.”
Vice-Principal of the St. Ann’s Bay Primary, Saloman Smith said the programme was quite beneficial in all aspects. “We were challenged and I was able to see my own mistakes and understand these were mistakes were made based on the culture of the organization,” Smith said.
“The first thing is that you have to understand why things are the way they are then it will be easier to get your staff to be on the same page as you,” he added.
Smith said that as a structured and organized individual he was prompted to take a more open-minded approach to accommodate suggestions from other individuals. “I got to understand myself better. As an individual I cannot do everything and I was challenged in my own personality that I do not know everything,” he said.
Meanwhile, Principal Director of NCEL, Dr. Maurice Smith told the first cohort in the Aspiring Principals’ Programme that leadership began with the man in the mirror and encouraged them to continue on their pathway of development.
“We have to ensure that good teaching takes place and in a manner to improve and change our classrooms and schools. You are in an enviable position and we encourage the stewards of schools to give you a chance to take the helm in your various capacities,” Smith told the graduating class.
Minister of Education Ronald Thwaites (fifth from left) shares the spotlight with members of the first cohort in the Aspiring Principals’ Programme at their recent graduation ceremony held at the University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona Campus. Professor Neville Ying (right) is facilitator for the programme, which is presented by the Ministry of Education’s National College for Educational Leadership in partnership with the UWI.