Keeping students at the centre

Keeping students at the centre

Autonomy can empower a school toward finding its own identity. So when Cognition provided a professional learning opportunity for school leaders working in a position of increased empowerment, 15 Australian Principals jumped on board.

The group came from a wide range of school settings; representing both primary schools and secondary, large urban and small rural. They had a shared an interest in implementing the Australian curriculum in innovative ways. To support them Cognition hosted a tour to New Zealand schools.


Principals had the opportunity to explore the notions of school autonomy focussing on three questions to take home:


What does effective leadership look like in autonomous schools?

How do schools maximise autonomy to improve educational outcomes for students?

What mechanisms best prepare and support leaders in their role?


The learning opportunity deepened participants understanding of the education system by observing the ways their New Zealand counter parts were implementing improvement strategies with systematic support. The visits to schools extended understandings of systems priorities, emphasised the significance of student acceleration through school autonomy and verified the importance of embedding research into practise. All principals felt they had identified benefits through the programme that they could apply to their leadership roles. However the success of the programme was highlighted by the spread of unique key messages each principal took home for themself:

“Concentrate on a small number of improvement strategies at one time”.

“Hold your nerve when trying to innovate. The importance is having a team on board”