Jonathan Dale: “No Child Should Be Left Behind”

The Ayb Educational Foundation has joined efforts with the University College London (UCL) Institute of Education (IoE) in developing the Araratian Baccalaureate (AB) School Leadership Development Program. The program, which is unheard of in Armenia, will be launched this May.


On this occasion, we talked to the UCL IoE’s International Leadership Development Program Director Jonathan Dale to form the picture of an effective principal and see what the development program will focus on, and how Armenian principals and assistant principals will benefit from it.


- Mr. Dale, what do you think is the biggest challenge schools face today?


- I would single out two main challenges. The first refers to teacher recruitment. Across the world, one of the biggest challenges for schools is to recruit the next generation of teachers, because it is beyond doubt that the quality of outcomes for school student is linked to the quality of teaching. And the second biggest challenge, in my opinion, is educating students for a changing world, including globalization and the role of technology in changing the job market.


-What would be the ideal school environment, and what role do school principals play in it?


- The ideal school environment will be responsive to the local context and have strong links with the local community, including parents. The school should offer a stimulating curriculum that equips students for the future and also provide a safe environment for children to develop both academically and socially.


I believe the role of the principal is vital in it, and it is important for the principal to concentrate their time on the leadership of teaching and learning with a clear focus on developing teachers in order to achieve the highest possible pupil outcomes.


- Mr. Dale, which are the three traits a school leader should possess?


- The main three traits would be dedication, commitment and willingness. First, school principals should have dedication and passion for educating children and young adults, ideally with experience of teaching. Second, they should have a commitment to improving the quality of education both within their area (such as head of subject) and across the whole school. And third, they should have a willingness to develop and support teachers within the school.


- Presently, the UCL Institute of Education is collaborating with the Ayb Educational Foundation to elaborate the AB School Leadership Development Program. What does the program envisage, what will it focus on? 


- UCL are delighted to be working with the Ayb Educational Foundation. We are hugely impressed with the ambition of Armenia in introducing a new curriculum which responds to the expectations of modern students and the socioeconomic needs of Armenia in the future.


UCL’s work is focused on school leadership and we are working with Ayb to design a leadership development program that will support school principals across Armenia. The program will be targeted at principals and assistant principals from the AB candidate schools. UCL’s work will be completed in 2020, but we are hoping that leadership development will continue for many years after that.


- How will Armenian principals and assistant principals benefit from the Araratian Baccalaureate School Leadership Development Program?


- They will understand the importance of their role as the leader of the school. Specifically, they will have the opportunity to review the international research on highly effective school principals and consider how to apply that within the Armenian context. The School Leadership Program will include: Developing a whole school vision; Leading and Managing Teaching and Learning; Leading Change, and Developing Personal Leadership and Management Skills.


In many ways the program will be about shifting the role of school principal away from a role that prioritizes administrative responsibilities to a role that is focused on the quality of teaching and outcomes for the children.


- Is there any motto or philosophy of leadership that every principal should adhere to?


- Truthfully, all schools have differences and all principals will have different approaches. However, one thing that should unite all of them is that they need to be concerned with supporting all the students in their schools to achieve the highest possible outcomes. Children only get one life chance to attend school, and it’s vital that they are supported to achieve their full potential. Perhaps a good motto for all principals, regardless of their particular situation, would be: “No child left behind.”  


- Mr. Dale, what would be your advice to principals in Armenia?


- Being a principal has to be one of the most important jobs in the world. At the same time it can often seem hugely demanding and relentless. The best advice would be to build a strong leadership team so that the leadership role can be shared with others across the school. And learning how to delegate leadership is an important part of the Leadership Program. It’s also important to have the opportunity to build networks with other principals and share experiences and solutions.