University partnership to deliver groundbreaking leadership program in NSW public schools

Tuesday, 15 December 2020

Education researchers have won a government tender to deliver a first-of-its-kind professional learning program for school leaders.

The University of Newcastle, in partnership with the University of Wollongong (UOW), has been selected by the NSW Department of Education to deliver a first-of-its-kind professional learning program for middle leaders in NSW public schools.

Researchers from UOW and University of Newcastle will work with the NSW School Leadership Institute to co-design and deliver a world class program that is evidence based, accessible across different geographical locations and will cater to the different needs of diverse schools and middle leaders.

UOW’s Dr Kylie Lipscombe, Academic Co-Lead of the program, said the tender was highly competitive.

“We are both thrilled and privileged to work with the NSW Department of Education and University of Newcastle to codesign leadership development for up to 500 NSW public school middle leaders each year,” Dr Lipscombe said.

“Partnerships between school systems and teacher educators at universities is such a powerful approach to working together on the moral purpose agenda of teacher and leadership support and development and ultimately improved student learning in schools.

“Such partnerships serve to build capacity at both university and school levels as researchers and practitioners learn from each other.”

University of Newcastle Associate Professor Jess Harris said the strength of the research collaboration was the broad expertise across both research teams.

“We are excited to share our specific areas of expertise to build the knowledge base of school middle leaders,” she said.

Middle leaders are usually teachers in positions of Assistant Principals and Heads of Curriculum. Dr Lipscombe said middle leadership was a complex and increasingly important position in schools.

“Our own research highlights how middle leaders are usually excellent teachers who lead school improvement by focusing on the most important part of the school – the classroom,” Dr Lipscombe said.

“They face many challenges including increased workloads and managing areas such as the performance of staff, because they are literally leading from the middle, positioned between the principal and their teacher colleagues.

“This dual relationship can prove very challenging.”

University of Newcastle School of Education Associate Professor Harris said one of the key roles of middle leaders was to support teaching practice within their schools.

“We will work with the Department to contribute the breadth of our research experience in leadership and improving teaching practice to support the work of middle leaders and enhance student learning across the state,” she said.

Researchers say the program will be designed to value the teaching profession and will seek to understand the current and future needs of middles leaders, while simultaneously using evidence-based cutting-edge research. The first program will commence in 2021.

The UOW researchers will work in partnership with Associate Professor Jess Harris, Laureate Professor Jenny Gore, Dr Andrew Miller and Mr Nathan Towney from the Teachers and Teaching Research Centre at the University of Newcastle.

Middle Leaders program

Dr Drew Miller, Laureate Professor Jenny Gore, Associate Professor Jess Harris and Mr Nathan Towney.


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The University of Newcastle acknowledges the traditional custodians of the lands within our footprint areas: Awabakal, Darkinjung, Biripai, Worimi, Wonnarua, and Eora Nations. We also pay respect to the wisdom of our Elders past and present.