ACT Branch News

Message from the Branch President, Kirk Zwangobani


I would like to start it by saying on behalf of the ACT executive, thank you to all the ACT members and friends that have supported ACEL this year. It has been fantastic to see you at various events this year, be it breakfasts, lectures, conferences, and /or our annual awards.

I hope, at the very least, ACEL has been able to inspire you with professional learning, enlighten you with the most relevant discourse in education and education leadership, or simply enable you to connect and collaborate with other members and educational leaders in our network… Whichever the case may be, it is because of you – our members, that we exist. So, thank you.

Thank you also to the ACEL ACT Executive. It has been invigorating working with you this year and equally as rewarding to learn more about your leadership perspective through the regular contributions to this newsletter. I am looking forward to seeing what we can contribute to the growth of educational leadership in the ACT in 2022.

Thank you also to ACEL head office for their support. You are a dynamic team who can pivot at a moment’s notice, and without you much of what we do would not be possible.

Lastly, thank you to the ACEL National Board and CEO for their stewardship this year in shaping a new and future focussed strategic direction for ACEL.

ACEL Awards

The last of our bespoke awards ceremony was held on Friday the 3 December. Tabatha Kellett Zoomed into Gold Creek School on Friday afternoon and presented Kirrally Talbot with her ACEL ACT Award for Excellence in Educational Leadership. Congratulations once again Kirrally, looking forward to hearing more about your leadership journey in 2022.

(L to R: Kirrally Talbot and Tabatha Kellett)

2022 Breakfast Panel (save the date)

I know that our 2022 calendars are filling up quickly, so make sure that you save the date for our annual breakfast panel with the leaders:

  • Friday, 25th of February 2022: 7:00am to 8:30am

We will once again have the three sector leaders join us for a leaders’ look at the educational leadership landscape in the ACT and the challenges that we may face in 2022.

(L to R: Andrew Wrigley, Katy Haire, Ross Fox, and Kirk Zwangobani (ACEL ACT President)

Thank you, Andrew, Katy, and Ross, for your support of ACEL this year

Farewell to Anna Owen

I would also like to say farewell to Anna Owens who will be leaving ACEL ACT (and CGGS) to return to her home state of Queensland, taking up a new role as principal of Sunshine Coast Grammar School. Anna has been an inspiration to me and the ACT Executive this year; her passion, vision, and drive will be sorely missed by ACEL ACT, CGGS and AISACT. We know however, that we will continue to have a friend and ally in the sunshine state.

To sign off the year I would like to wish everyone a safe and prosperous summer holiday.

2021 has been quite the year, and no doubt 2022 will have its challenges. Challenges which I am sure we will navigate if we are able to, as Anna put it in a newsletter earlier this year, “empower others, manage hardship and serve with empathy”.

Meet Your ACT ACEL Executive

It is my pleasure to introduce you to Stacey Griffiths in the final of our ‘Meet your ACEL ACT Executive’ series.

Stacey is a Wiradjuri woman who has spent her career teaching on Ngunnawal land in the ACT Public school system. She started her career as a teacher and school leader in schools in the Tuggeranong Network and has more recently moved to Telopea Park School where she is the Executive Teacher (SLC) of Differentiation. Her experiences have focused on building teacher capacity and working with students with challenging and complex needs. She completed a Master of Education with a focus on educational research and inclusion in 2010 and has completed her Doctor of Philosophy in 2021.

I believe that one of the biggest challenges facing our educational leaders is the current (and likely worsening) teacher staffing crisis. This is not new. I remember starting my teaching journey with my Graduate Diploma in 2007 and being told that up to half of the graduating university cohort would leave in the first 3 to 5 years. This has been an ongoing narrative since McDonald (1999) reported concerns around teacher attrition and retention in Australia. I see so many articles still saying that this needs to be addressed, indeed it was the initial catalyst for me starting my PhD journey. However, there is new data that would suggest that the figures around attrition in Australia may be much lower than they have been in the past, or much lower than they are reported (Weldon: 2018). Weldon (2015, 2018) has suggested that attrition rates amongst beginning teachers may be as low as 8%. That was a hard figure for me to see, as working in the profession right now I can see that there is a shortage of teachers needed to fill the positions we have. So, what is going on? The AEU frequently reports, through a range of member surveys, that our school leaders are struggling to fill teaching roles and teachers are reporting higher intentions to leave the profession. This corresponds with frequent media articles telling us that teachers are leaving the profession.

In my own research I explored the experiences of teachers in the ACT and found that measuring actual attrition rates is very difficult. The reasons teachers leave are complex and multifaceted, and there are often challenges in accessing the data needed to explore this. As my research journey progressed, I reflected on the possibility that teachers may not be leaving in such high rates as thought previously, but the survey data we were seeing may have been reporting on job satisfaction and motivation. This, as a school leader, is interesting to me as it opens up so many questions about how we best motivate and satisfy the teachers we are working with. It makes sense to me that teachers that feel motivated and enjoy their job are less likely to leave the profession. As a leader I was then left asking myself, how do I achieve this?

Social Cognitive Career Theory (SCCT) gave me the underpinning which connected with the emergent themes I was seeing in this area. It also clarified for me in my leadership role, how to best create cultures which increased motivation and job satisfaction for my staff. The three major themes which emerged were the need for support for beginning teachers and recognition for experienced teachers. Secondly, the difference in needs for teachers based on their reasons for choosing the teaching profession. This is a major area of research currently for Dr Helen Watt and Dr Paul Richardson, who have long been leaders in the teacher attrition and retention research landscape in Australia. Lastly, I found that the relationship between teachers and their leaders, regardless of other variables, was the most important thing that teachers said made them stay in the profession and feel motivated.

My research journey was long (three children and a major injury will do that!) and therefore, I found that my own experiences connected with and informed my research, but conversely my own practice as a school leader was shaped and enriched by my research journey. I am certainly not the leader I was when I won my first SLC position 10 years ago and I hope that I will not be the same leader 10 years from now. I am continuing this journey, as I believe we all are, but what I do know now is that I try to reflect every day on my practice asking, am I recognising the experienced teachers around me whilst supporting the beginning teachers? Am I working to understand why my staff have chosen the profession and how that might inform their perspectives of their teaching experiences? Lastly, am I giving time to value and build the relationship between myself, my team and those around me?

For me, this is the most important part of my leadership as I believe that teachers that are motivated are more likely to stay and in the long run improve student outcomes. And, at the end of the day, isn’t that what we are all here for?

Stacey Griffiths
ACT ACEL Executive

National Events