This introduction to AEL’s final issue for the 2016 year, is a happy chronicle of challenges met, promises kept, and missions accomplished. This year has been truly remarkable for ACEL: replete with experiences and achievements that are worth holding onto, making meaning of, learning from, and savouring. Our performance is in harmony with our growth trajectory over the past five years, and underlines our abiding commitment to serve the education sector by supporting its leadership, in its search for personal and professional excellence.
To this end ACEL seeks to surface driving forces and critical uncertainties in the domain. Equally importantly, it works to give voice and platform, to the local, regional and international discourses, that inform, shape and prepare, thoughtful and anticipatory leadership responses to our sector’s changing environment.
At its core, ACEL’s significance is predicated on the utility of its endeavour to its many stakeholders. The metrics of growth – over 7000 members, a network in excess of 30,000, more than a 100 workshops, seminars and events in the calendar year, 14 issues across four respected publications, and 18 New Voice Scholars – are all laudable, but only in the context of their contribution to making the education sector more cognisant of its challenges, and more prepared to meet them.
The 2016 Educational Leadership Conference
ACEL’s Educational Leadership Conference is arguably the apex event in the sector’s annual calendar. The conference, held this year, in the Melbourne Convention Centre from 28th–30th of September, more than measured up to everyone’s high expectations.
The conference’s theme of ‘Insight and Innovation,’ was underpinned by rich, evidence-based, scholarly and practitioner learning, from around the world. The speakers’ messages were simpatico with the attendees’ own quest for new insights to intractable issues and unrealised opportunities.
As a result, 1200 delegates – movers, shakers, doers and thinkers – from across the country, and the wider Asia-Pacific region, who had come to the conference to be energised, and informed by its proceedings, left when it ended, feeling recharged and elated in mind and spirit.
Educational leaders listened with unwavering intensity as experts held forth on a variety of issues, many of which had esoteric conceptual cross-overs. For example, on the subject of the various places to seek knowledge: Daniel Goleman suggested that it resides in the self; Sugata Mitra on the other hand, saw it scattered in the cloud; and Prof John Hattie argued it is hidden in the data. Jane West on her part, used the evidence from American schools, to stress that notwithstanding where participants seek it, knowledge would only become learning when it is accessible equitably. In turn, Ben Walden demonstrated with Henry V, that this learning would be imbued with purpose and meaning only if it is disseminated engagingly.
The federal education minister, Hon Simon Birmingham, bookended the many-arced discourses in the sessions, when he reiterated to the delegates that the ministry’s core principles for future success pivoted on: open dialogue with school leaders and teachers; and a pragmatic focus on what is doable in the classroom.
This year’s ACEL Conference, underscored the enduring axiom that great possibilities beckon to those who respect the past, lead the present and act to secure the future. As it happens, this truism is also the theme, of the next ACEL Educational Leadership Conference to be held in Sydney in October next year. No doubt an exciting line-up of global luminaries in the field awaits delegates to this event in 2017.
The Curiosity and Powerful Learning Program is currently being implemented in 34 public schools across New South Wales. This is a McRel program originally designed by UK academic, Prof David Hopkins, and customised and convened by ACEL to support schools as they work to improve teaching practice. ACEL are excited to be developing a regional support structure to ensure schools from around Australia can participate in the program.
Leading Successfully from the Start – this is a program for early career principals that gives them an opportunity to engage with current research and practice to improve their professional capabilities. Wrap-around delivery mechanisms include: face-to-face sessions, mentoring and coaching support; and a school-based project.
Corwin and ACEL have recently announced an important expansion to their existing partnership. This augmented relationship will enhance educators’ leadership capacity by providing them with more opportunities to participate in high quality professional learning experiences. These will include: professional development series in Literacy, Assessment, and Student and Principal Voice; an ACEL/Corwin bookstore; and a selection of online learning modules.
ACEL and Corwin have already co-hosted eight sold-out Visible Learning symposia over the past two years, thus enabling thousands of educators, to learn more about research in the area. The 2017 dates will be announced shortly.
Upcoming Events and Initiatives
Strengths Based Schools: In this highly experiential workshop, Dr Robert Biswas-Diener will introduce participants to key issues and skills related to developing strengths based schools. He will discuss creating a culture that supports strengths and will reveal common reasons we do not focus more on strengths.
Workshop participants will have the opportunity to gain practical skills such as “strengths spotting” and will learn various ways to develop strengths. Each topic will be illustrated by research or case studies from primary and secondary schools as well as higher education. These workshops are scheduled to be held in February-March 2017.
Respect the Past – Lead the Present – Secure the Future: ACEL’s flagship Educational Leadership Conference will be held in Sydney from the 4th–6th of October, 2017. The line-up of global thought leaders has already been announced and the event will be hosted at the new convention centre in Darling Harbour, which can accommodate over 1500 delegates.
Inform – Create – Realise – Leadership in the First 8 Years: The inaugural iteration of the Early Childhood Leadership Conference received such high-praise from both participants and sector leaders, that ACEL has made this event an annual fixture in its calendar. This year’s conference will be held in Brisbane on the 2nd–3rd of August, 2017.
The Australian Disability Summit: This is an event that we have been hosting for the past three years. We will be announcing the date for the 2017 summit in the coming weeks.
A panel discussion with some of ACEL’s New Voice Scholarship winners was hosted for the first time during the Educational Leadership Conference in Melbourne this year. Each panelist was assigned just four minutes to respond to the question, “If you were able to transform education (given a metaphorical magic wand), what would you do?” This was followed by a Q & A with the audience. The session turned out to be one of the highlights of the conference and left a lasting impression on delegates. Its success validates our belief in the talent pool within the education sector and encourages us to press-on with our various initiatives to harness the ideas, perspectives and experience of the New Voice scholars in the coming months.
Professional Development Programs and Resources
ACEL will continue to expand the reach and richness of its portfolio of leadership programs for early career and mature leaders. We will simultaneously be working on the accreditation of our programs and workshops. It is anticipated that most of ACEL’s long-duration programs and professional learning workshops, will be mapped at the ‘Lead Level’ of the Australian Professional Standard for Teachers.
The ACEL Online Learning Portal will be launched by the end of this year. It will include the current range of ePublications, online programs, and a resource centre that will feature a suite of articles and activities for educators.
This has been a stellar year with hard but purposeful work yielding good fruit. Our achievements humble us, even as they strengthen our resolve on our stakeholders’ behalf. ACEL stands tall only because the education sector acknowledges and values our contribution and chooses to embrace us as its own. It is this warm validation that gives the organisation the strength and succour to rededicate itself with confidence to pursuing excellence in 2017. As we look to the future with anticipation, it behoves me to acknowledge those who have worked tirelessly in the background to make our present a reality.
A very sincere and heartfelt thank you to ACEL’s Branch Executives, Board Members and Members for their selfless efforts, constant and unremitting support, and ready willingness to assist. You are true stewards of ACEL’s vision.
I would also like to acknowledge each and every one at ACEL’s National office in Sydney. Our team is one-of-a-kind: truly talented; relentlessly keen and able; full of intensity; and hungry for growth and success. ACEL could want for no better team to execute the organisation’s strategy.
Finally, a big welcome to ACEL’s new president Steve Gniel. He brings a fresh perspective, new ideas, and the desire to build on and consolidate ACEL’s successes over the past five years. I look forward to working with Steve in the coming years, to make ACEL, all that we hope and believe it is and can become.
As this year wends its way to a close, I hope that it has been special for each one of you with many warm and wonderful moments, that you can recollect fondly.
Don’t let the past preoccupy you however… we have gone hundreds of miles… but the glory is still to come.