Leading Change Through Embedding the APST

Prairiewood High School (established in 1984) is a co-educational, comprehensive and partially selective high school of just over 1200 students in the Fairfield LGA in South Western Sydney. The student population is 83% Language Background Other Than English with the largest cultural groups being Vietnamese and Arabic at about 20% of the student population each. The study body represents over 50 cultural backgrounds and over 100 refugee students. Sixty academically selective places are available on a competitive basis in each of the years 7 to 12 and there are three special education classes, Autism and IO. The school’s ICSEA is 971; 72% of students are in the bottom two quartiles, 46% and 26% respectively. 8% are in the upper quartile and 20% are in the middle upper quartile. The school serves a low socio-economic population.

Staffing context re this case-study – Prairiewood High School has undergone significant change from 2018 after a complete change over in substantive senior executive staff. A new Principal was appointed in term 3, 2018, and from October 2018 to present, three substantive Deputy Principals’ have been appointed (one ACIP). There has been a negotiated restructure in terms of school operations and portfolios at the senior executive level. In addition, two new substantive Head Teachers have been appointed to the school (HT Teaching and Learning, HT TAS) and two more are going through merit selection. Currently, there are several relieving positions. The executive are early career executive – 75% of staff under three year’s executive experience. This case study highlights the approach the school is currently undergoing in terms of empowering School Leaders and Teachers to drive practice and capacity.

Case Study

This case study was presented at the ‘Empowering School Leaders and Teachers to drive practice and capacity – Integrating the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers (APST) in improving teaching and school capacity’ professional learning day (November 8, 2019).

The UNSW Gonski Institute professional learning day focused on strategic, visionary and hands-on approaches to embedding the standards to esteem our teachers and profession; build professional growth; facilitate collaboration and coherence; create mentors and develop instructional leaders.

The case-study presented an authentic look at leadership by school Principal, Belinda Guidice and Deputy Principal, Amanda DeCarli. The presenters shared collaborative processes to align faculty and whole school portfolio’s, structures and organisation with APST and Principal standard for capacity growth and to enrich programs, leadership and school leadership capacity and succession planning. This case study is applicable to primary and high school contexts and aims to develop a mind-set shift in school improvement.


This case-study showcases the process Prairiewood High School is undergoing to improve school organisation in line with the APST and the Principal Standard. Evidence eof achievements include the need to:

  • Gather information on the existing systems and processes that drive school improvement at your school
  • Communicate your vision (as a school leader) in line with respecting custom and practice and also identifying future directions in context of continuous school improvement
  • Identify a catalyst for change – executive agreeance to use APST and Principal Standard
  • Aligning executive roles and responsibilities to the APST: aligning senior executive roles and responsibilities to the Principal Standard
  • Identify specific structures, systems and processes that were going to drive continuous improvement in our context. For Prairiewood High School this is:
    • Effectively leading the Executive
    • Leadership, capacity building and succession planning
    • Key instructional Leadership practices
    • A coordinated Learning and Wellbeing support strategy
    • Effective school organisation practices

Specific reference to Gonski 2.0


Recommendation 13

Create a continuously improving profession through the provision of high-quality professional learning for teachers; appropriate to their career stage, development needs and the changes rapidly occurring in society.



Finding 8

Research and experience internationally confirms that ongoing professional development for teachers—some mandated by the school or system, and some through participation in professional learning communities—is an essential part of a teacher’s workload in high-performing education systems


Finding 13

Aspiring school principals require clear pathways leading to the role, and comprehensive training and preparation to a quality standard before their appointment.


Finding 14

To have an impact, strategies for school leadership development need to be aligned to the nationally endorsed Australian guidelines for school leadership development with implementation approaches monitored and evaluated for their effectiveness.