VIC Branch News

Message from the Branch President, Coralee Pratt


The first ACEL Victoria Q & A Forum for 2021 ‘Leadership: The Bold and the Beautiful’ was held online on 12 May. Our panelists Fenwick English, Kate Morris, Mike De’ath and Ray Swann shared their insights on this provocative topic and responded to a range of interesting questions from the audience. The session was skillfully facilitated by Lauren Cook, an ACEL Victoria Branch executive and distinguished school leader.

Thank you to all panelists and Lauren! The positive feedback has been overwhelming and reaffirming for all involved.

The event was recorded and can be accessed via ACEL Leaders Lounge. It would provide the perfect stimulation for leadership team conversations and/or leadership development sessions.

The Q & A forums started in 2015 and have continued to grow in popularity and have now become a signature feature of ACEL Victoria. Our next Q & A Forum is ‘Re-imaging the Role of principal: Is the role too big and complex for one person?’ on 28 July 2021 5 -6 pm via zoom. Please ‘save this date’ for a stimulating and provocative professional discussion.


Being a better boss is being an empathetic leader

Within any organisation the greatest influence is the boss. Given any number of survey results around the world or in Australia (Gallup, Seek Australia, McKinsey) what influences job satisfaction the most in the workplace is the boss’ behaviour. McKinsey (McKinsey Quarterly, The Boss Factor 2020) reported that workers say that 75% of the stress part of their day is the boss. Of course, in a school you might have any number of bosses (middle leaders, various coordinators) but your primary boss is the principal. Teachers want to be recognised for their efforts, have a chance to make contribution, feel that they are growing on the job, and know that they are cared about. The pandemic does not alter that, but may in fact enhance the need for better workplace relationships.

If we believe evidence from surveys, whatever demands principals and other in-school leaders are facing, ensuring job satisfaction of teachers and staff should take priority. Teachers value a good workplace where relationships are valued. Principals should consider their role as servant leaders (Robert K Greenleaf, (2002) Servant leadership: A journey into the nature of legitimate power and greatness) by further building relationships that create trust, open communication and transparency. This requires more empathetic leadership where bosses genuinely care about staff welfare and well-being. Empathetic leaders demonstrate compassion, understanding, vulnerability, gratitude, a positive mind set, and self-awareness and self-care. They validate what people are going through.

Empathetic leaders create a workplace environment where staff feel physically and psychologically safe and more satisfied in challenging times. Such is the challenge of being a ‘better boss’.  

Management ability:

This was defined as

  1. to know what they should do at work
  2. opportunity to do what they do best
  3. make them think that they care about them and their work
  4. chance to have an impact on the work place
  5. lack of career development
  6. lack of feedback or recognition
  7. lack of training
  8. lack of skills development


What was the motivating factor in moving from the study of Economics into Education?

I was trained as a primary teacher with a two-year qualification, but was offered study leave to complete an economics degree early in my career. I was about to change careers when I was I was offered further study leave to complete an education degree and start a masters’ degree. The qualifications provided an opportunity to move into tertiary education.

What do you believe is the key challenge for leaders in education today?

Building and maintaining relationships remains the challenge, especially in times of uncertainty. Leaders are required to relate to a wide range of audiences who have different needs and expectations. Often these needs are in conflict so the challenge is to recognise people and their needs, affirm them and manage the relationships.

If you were starting a school in 2022, what would be the three key aspects of a future focused education that you would want to see in this school?

  1. Provide a curriculum and resources to ensure that students can be adaptable and agile learners so they can lead and respond to a changing environment and workplace.
  2. Support students to be tolerant, respectful and culturally sensitive with the increased diversity in workplace and society.
  3. Provide an environment and build a school culture that supports young people to be creative and innovative.

Who is your “go to” thought leader in education?

Howard Gardner (Harvard Graduate School of Education). While best known for his theory on learning styles and multiple intelligences, his contribution goes beyond these theories to include new insights for researchers and educators in general and higher education (see his web page).

Which book are you currently reading?

General reading: Tin Man by Sarah Winman The book is about relationship between two boys and a girl who are caught up in a love triangle. The story is told from the perspectives of each of the boys and explores their sexual identity.

Professional reading: Brand esSense by Neil Gains. The book explores the future of brands by predicting that they will appeal to all our five senses to make an impact. The author links symbolism and storytelling to sensory experience in brand marketing.

If you could invite any global leader to your dinner table, who would you invite and why?

Angela Merkel, the chancellor of Germany. She is shown to be a respected and proven leader in challenging circumstances. Her character is exemplary. She appears as non-pretentious, authentic, incorruptible, and a decent human being with strong values. She is highly skilled in dealing with a range of people. She is a consultative decision maker, and has demonstrated capabilities such as social competence, empathetic listening, methodical, and being a practical problem solver.

What piece of wisdom would you share with the ACEL members who are seeking to make a difference in schools today?

Re-balance your leadership and management roles in favour of leadership – inspiration, motivation and alignment. Explore the boundaries of what the school offers in terms of curricula and extra curricula activities. This means focusing more on the augmented and potential aspects of what the school is offering rather than just the core and expected aspects. This requires leaders to push the boundaries of their role and move out of their comfort zones (Drysdale, L., Gurr, D., & Goode, H. (2016) Dare to Make a Difference: Successful Principals Who Explore the Potential of their Role, International Studies in Education Administration, 44(3), 37-54).

Local & Online Events

NEW - Patrons Oration with Professor Yong Zhao

16th June 2021 - Online Event
Time: 5.00pm – 6.00pm

Topic: Learners without Borders: New Conditions of Learning and Teaching

Professor Yong Zhao discusses the new conditions of learning and teaching that can liberate students from the borders of schooling. He argues that the one-to-many paradigm of education should and can be removed now with today’s technology, globalization, and the educational experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic.With reflections from Dr Brian Caldwell and the ACEL Victoria Branch Executives.



10th - 24th Jun 2021

14th Jul - 11th Aug 2021

available for the ACEL National Conference 2021

National Events