Ha! So the hero of school autonomy in NSW, Mark McConville, Principal of Toronto High School has recanted   Principal backtracks over power shift plans – Metro & Regional – National – Education – Stock & Land..

Many of us watched the ABC Four Corners program, hosted by Kerry O’Brien, Revolution in the Classroom, where school autonomy was touted as the latest magic bullet.  McConville was used as the poster boy for this solution. 

What I most remember from watching this program was McConville’s boast that, thanks to the NSW School autonomy trial, he was able to ‘clean out’ his top leadership team and bring in a totally new team. No-one asked about the old team:

      why did he need to move them?

      had he tried to create a leadership team out of them?

      where did they end up?

      how did this event impact on their morale or the morale of the schools they ended up at.

Now he has changed his tune.  He has realized that this is a process of massive cost shifting, as the work now done by the Department of recruiting and appointing teachers is devolved to schools, along with the responsibility to manage budgets – possibly shrinking budgets

Back then he said that devolution gave him a chance to drive big reforms at his school –  reforms that are kicking goals.  Now he is saying that “the benefits for the school from the trials had been largely financial’.

Now he is saying

We don’t want to be saddled with the staffing budget, with the potential for cost-shifting and cost-cutting [from the department to schools]. And we don’t want to go from making educational decisions to making financial decisions.

All perfectly reasonable which is of course why there is industrial action. 

He also supports claims that have been made by many who have reviewed school autonomy in Victoria and elsewhere.  He admits that he would be hard-pressed to cite anything a school could do under the local authority reforms that it wasn’t already able to do, to a certain extent, already and that the only area where savings can be made is in staffing.

If any NSW principals were sitting on the fence on this matter, this view from the voice of experience should make them sit up and take notice.


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