Do’s & Dont’s for Principals @ P& C

This is an extract from a paper written for Our School Online in 2019 titled: Improving School communications: A How 2 Guide for new Principal’s and how to work with your P&C. Last updated 2021 following the release of The Performance and Development Framework

Congratulations! You’ve just been appointed to your first Principal role.

This is a career milestone you have worked towards and your tireless efforts have finally delivered the promotion you’ve been aiming for.

Take a moment to celebrate it.

The role of a Principal in NSW primary schools in 2019 is multi-faceted, as you are no doubt discovering!

It is also a little overwhelming because as you evolve into your new role, you will also evolve and reposition the relationships you have with both the educators, as well as, parents and carers within your school’s community.

This can be an area where your mentor will be able to provide invaluable advice re: challenges faced and best practice for resolution.

It is also an area where it is key to understand the scope of your role.

For instance: As an ex-officio member of the School’s P&C

What does that actually mean?

Frankly, because you hold the position of Principal, you are an ex-officio (non-paying) member of the P&C committee. Once a year, you will most likely be asked by the P&C executive (no you are not a member of this) to perform the role of ‘Returning Officer’ for the Annual General Meeting (AGM).

The February 1998 Memorandum to Principals, the Partnership Between Schools and Established Parent Bodies, issued by the NSW Department of Education and Training, outlined the role of the principal in fostering partnerships with parent bodies.

It states the key role of the principal is to establish and maintain effective communication with parent bodies to promote collaboration in achieving the best possible educational outcomes for students.

Specifically, the memorandum outlines the following roles for principals:

  1. To encourage the establishment of parent bodies in the school, such as Parents and Citizens Associations (P&C), Parents and Friends Associations (P&F), and School Councils.
  2. To work collaboratively with parent bodies to develop policies and procedures that support student learning and welfare.
  3. To provide parent bodies with regular updates on school activities, policies, and programs.
  4. To encourage and facilitate parent involvement in school decision-making processes, such as through representation on the school council.
  5. To promote effective communication between the school and parents, including the provision of feedback and opportunities for parent input.
  6. To ensure that parent bodies have access to appropriate training and support to enable them to carry out their roles effectively.

The Principal’s role at P&C meetings

In 2016 P&C NSW Federation articulated the role of the Principal in a P&C Meeting.

It limited it to two specific tasks:

  1. Table a written report to each meeting.
  2. Respond to questions arising and offer advice on the Department of Education guidelines.

The key to success for Principal’s at P&C meetings is to remember as an ex officio member you do not have a right of veto or the right to gag P&C Association or sub-committee discussions.

Additionally, your inability to attend a meeting is not adequate grounds to postpone or cancel any P&C Committee/ sub-committee meeting.

That being said, it is incumbent on the principal to highlight disparities between P&C Association/sub-committee discussions and Department of Education policy.

Additionally, if you find your P&C Committee discussing personal matters ask the President to move on to the next item of business.

The worst thing you can do as a Principal at a P&C committee meeting is to assume you know more than everyone else in the room. be humble, don’t take feedback personally and take notes!

The issues raised in P&C discussions, that are within your pursue, are action items for you. So add them to your priority ‘to do’ list and if you don’t know how to tackle them, ask your mentor or a peer principal.

The key to success for you from every P&C meeting is to activate and communicate that activity in response to issues raised in our community.

Remember, you’re new to the role and P&C members have a history of observations and experiences at, with and from the school, so actively listen, don’t take perceived complaints personally and take timely action.

Your ability to act, communicates to your school community that you care and you are listening.

The best kind of foundation from which trust and cooperation can thrive.

Good luck!

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