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CSL at the IPPN Conference

Come and meet with us at the IPPN Conference in Citywest Hotel, Saggart on Thursday and Friday, January 26 th and 27 th . Mary Nihill will give a short overview of our work in a key note speech on Thursday evening. We will do an interactive workshop and discussion group in the Swift Brooke Suite on the 2 nd floor of the main building on Thursday morning from 9-00am- 10-15am. We will also be available for your questions/queries in relation to the CSL Coaching Service which will be available from February 1 st .

Press Release - New Post Graduate Programme in School Leadership

 New Post Graduate Programme in School Leadership
for Aspiring Leaders and Coaching Service for School Leaders


The Minister for Education and Skills, Mr. Richard Bruton TD, will today (Monday 12th December) announce a new Post Graduate Qualification in School Leadership, which is aimed at those aspiring to senior school leadership positions. Minister Bruton will also announce that contracts have been signed for the provision of a new coaching service for school leaders.

The Minister emphasised the key role that School leadership plays in promoting a school environment which is welcoming, inclusive, accountable, and focused on high quality teaching and learning.

Following the completion of a tender process, a contract has now been signed with a consortium of universities led by the University of Limerick (UL) and supported by UCD and NUIG. The Centre for School Leadership (CSL) will work closely with the consortium in the development of the programme. The new programme will be accredited jointly by UL, UCD and NUIG. Further support for the programme will be provided by WIT, CIT and the Association of Teachers’ Education Centres in Ireland (ATECI).

The establishment of the post graduate leadership programme and the coaching service are key actions under the Government’s Action Plan for Education, which aims to make the Irish education and training system the best in Europe within a decade. The Minister’s aim is to develop and enhance school leadership at all levels.

Key elements of the programme will include:

- Work placement in a school other than the participant’s own and, in a context outside of education

- Opportunities to work in professional learning communities.

- Engagement in reflective practice and in collaborative action research

- Mentoring and coaching as leadership tools in Irish education.

The programme will constitute a part-time (18 months) blended learning professional diploma, delivered in six regions throughout the country with specific provision for teachers in Irish-medium schools.

It will be open to approximately 200 participants annually and will be part funded by the Department of Education and Skills.

The Minister will also announce that a coaching service will be available to 400 participants annually. It will be funded entirely by the Department of Education and Skills and will be rolled out around the country by the Centre for School Leadership.

The establishment of a framework agreement for coaching marks another significant step in the delivery of the stated objectives of the Centre for School Leadership. Our aim in the Action Plan for Education is to be the best. To do that we need to ensure that leadership, management, quality frameworks, teaching methods, and initial and continuing training are all operating to the highest standards. We need to promote innovation and excellence, recognise high achievement and seek to mainstream successful approaches.

Speaking ahead of today’s announcement, Minister Bruton said:

“I am delighted to announce our new postgraduate qualification in school leadership and our new coaching service.” “The quality of the learning environment is critical to how children develop their competences. With changing technology and changing expectations, school leaders are required to operate in a much more complex environment.” “We are lucky in Ireland to have such a dedicated and committed teaching profession, with school leaders of the highest calibre.

The introduction of these supports for school leaders, which are key actions in the Action Plan for Education, will help those delivering education services to continuously improve their skills. By providing the best possible professional development we can realise our ambitious to make the Irish education and training system in Europe within a decade.” “Success

in education is built on the quality of leadership, the ingenuity in teaching, the support in the community for learning. The Action Plan for Education aims to harness those human resources. To be the best we need to ensure that leadership, management, quality frameworks, teaching methods, and initial and continuing training are all operating to the highest standards. We need to promote innovation and excellence, recognise high achievement and seek to mainstream successful approaches.” “School leadership can be challenging in today’s world and I know that there are constant demands in this job. I am glad that School Principals will be able to avail of a confidential one to one coaching service to discuss challenges which they face, to address difficulties they might be experiencing or goals that they might wish to achieve. By engaging in coaching, school leaders can improve their own performance, find the time and space to sustain their own resilience and enhance their capacity to work in a challenging situation. Ultimately, we are working towards creating a coaching culture that permeates the school and improves teaching and learning.”

“Today’s announcement builds on the progress made in Budget 2017 when we announced a new package to support school leadership, including additional deputy principal posts for larger second level schools and middle management posts for primary and post-primary schools.” The Minister congratulated the successful contractors for both projects and thanked all those involved in working towards their introduction in 2017. The Minister also acknowledged the significant role of the Office for Government Procurement in leading and supporting both procurement processes.

October - A month of Inspiration for Leaders

The month opened on a high note for me! I attended the Féilte Conference (Sharing Teaching, Connecting Learning) in Ballsbridge on Saturday October 1st.  This festival is one of the largest gatherings of teachers in Ireland and it is a platform for them to showcase their innovations to each other and to the public. Joe Schmidt, Irish rugby coach and one time deputy school principal, was the keynote speaker and he reminded all present that we should always see failure as a stepping stone. His other message was that teachers should concentrate on bringing energy into the classroom – as energy is contagious and “lack of energy” is contagious also! The variety of stands showcasing the work of schools was incredible and the workshops were inspirational. Schools can now take the spirit of Féilte back to their home towns and run FÉILTE Scoile in their schools. Well done to the Teaching Council! Go mbeirimid beo ag an am seo arís. 



It has been a busy planning month for the CSL team. We are hoping to train approximately 200 Mentors this year in order that there will be a Mentor for every new principal in Ireland (Primary and Post Primary) in September 2017. We have planned country-wide training this year in Monaghan, Portlaoise, Kilkenny and Ennis. We are so grateful to all the principals who are generously giving up their time to become part of the programme. The feedback we are getting from those who are involved in mentoring relationships this year is really positive. Evaluation of the tenders for the Coaching Service and for the new Post Graduate Diploma in School Leadership have taken place and we should be in a position next month to make announcements in these areas.

We have also worked really closely with our colleagues in PDST Leadership this month – we have attended Misneach at both primary and post primary level and have had the pleasure of meeting and mixing with many new principals and with the PDST facilitators.  The addition of mentoring to the Misneach programme ensures that new principals get to meet, mix with and learn from more established leaders. The current industrial action at post primary level is very challenging for school leaders who find themselves in a position where they are trying to maintain good relationships on the ground between all parties in the school community. Now more than ever they need Mentors, networks and critical friends.

We attended two interesting conferences this month. In Galway, the NAPD Conference was attended by over 500 Post Primary Principals and Deputies. Jacinta Kitt spoke about nurturing hope, optimism and resilience in our staff as well as in our students. She highlighted the importance of emotional intelligence as emotions can impact on the mood, climate and atmosphere in a school. Dr. Ciaran O’ Boyle spoke about the power of leadership, the demands of the roleand how it must be grounded in values. David Marquet (American Ex-submarine commander) encouraged us as leaders to use the words” I don’t know” when working with our staff. He had many ideas as to how to empower those who work with us and he challenged us to look at the language we use - what about saying “How sure are you?” instead of “Are you Sure?” We were delighted that Mary Nihill addressed the conference and updated all present on the work of CSL. Well done to President Paul Byrne on his excellent and amusing speech and best wishes to Cathnia O’Muirchearthaigh, the incoming President of NAPD for 2016-2017. Go n-éirí go gealleat !


We spent a few days at the ESHA (European Secondary Heads Association) Conference in Maastricht and had the pleasure of meeting and engaging with colleagues from Norway, Iceland, Finland, Canada, the USA, Ireland and many other countries.  We listened to presentations on distributive leadership, on developing teacher and middle leaders, on creating the conditions for improved school learning, on crisis psychology and on developing the parental role in schools. We visited two schools and learned about their leadership structures. The highlight for us was the workshop and keynote speech given by Michael Fullan. He looked at what effective leaders do to create collaborative cultures in schools. They learn alongside their teachers, they develop leaders at all levels, they work hard at building trust and they focus on learning in schools and between schools. Fullan spoke about the importance of leaders leaving their own environment and learning from others. The phrase he used was “Go outside to be better inside”. This sharing of ideas is vital in all education systems that are learning and growing. He introduced us to the 6C’s – Citizenship, Character, Collaboration, Communication, Creativity and Critical Thinking. These are the skill sets of Deep Learning that students need to achieve and excel in, in order to flourish in today’s world.  We were proud to be Irish in Maastricht when we listened to the speech of Clive Byrne, President of ESHA and Director of NAPD.


I also had the pleasure of attending a very stimulating event run by the NCCA called Leadership for Learning. Prof Andy Hargreaves, world renowned educationalist from Boston College, told our audience that between 2000and 2015 was the age of achievement and effort.   A new age is upon us – The age of identity, engagement and wellbeing.  He reminded us that in our second level schools, teenagers are suffering because of bullying, parental separation/death and mental disorders while incidences of self-harm are on the increase. He stressedthe vital role played by all staff members in our school community –often it is the bus driver who is first to identify a child in distress. He suggested countries should first work on achieving equity-“If you push on equity, you will get excellence”. Like Michael Fullan, he advocates more collaboration between teachers “as teachers who work together, have more of an impact on more of their students”. He refers to this as “Leading from the Middle”. CSL will, through our mentoring programme, continue to promote collaboration between school and within schools.


This month there has been further development and resources uploaded on the school self-evaluation website (  In a new video, the Chief Inspector Harold Hislop tells us that SSE is having an impact in our schools and is a very effective way to improve children’s learning. SSE has helped to keep a continued focus on teaching and learning in our staff rooms and staff meetings. CSL welcomes that continued focus on what is happening in our classrooms from 2106 to 2020.  The publication of Looking at our Schools 2016 and the inclusion of the Quality Framework for Leadership and Management in that document will be of great assistance to us in our work in CSL. This section (while not formally a part of SSE until 2020) is a very useful planning and self-reflection  tool for leaders , Boards of Management and aspiring leaders for their own professional development.

October was however, a sad month as well.  Limerick and Clare lost  three great leaders and educators way before their time - one  in the world of sport (Anthony Axel Foley), our wonderful colleague Martin Wallace, former Principal of Castletroy Community College and former associate of the LDS (Leadership Development for Schools) and David Mc Mahon from  the PDST.  In CSL we remember Martin fondly, we remember his ability to eloquently present to his audience, his passion for education and education reform, his very pleasant personality and above all his dedication to his family. The loss of David McMahon was deeply felt by all he worked with as a PDST facilitator and all of his colleagues in Clare Education Centre. May they rest in peace.

“Leadership is not about titles, positions or flowcharts; it is about one life influencing another” (John Maxwell)

September’s gone! Learning and Leadership

I have always liked September.  For school principals, September is the new January! Teachers and students return to school well rested and full of new ideas for the forthcoming year. Everybody looks well - new clothes, new books, new uniforms, newenergy and some very pleasant weather!  For us in CSL, it has been an excellent and very varied month and we are reluctant to say goodbye to the ninth month of the year.

Most of last year was spent preparing for this year. People may have wondered what we were doing! I bumped into 3 of our Mentors in the past week in various locations around the country and was thrilled to hear that they had begun their mentoring relationships with the newly appointed principals. They all said that they had benefitted as much from the meeting as the Mentee had benefitted from them. This was music to our ears and at last we have begun to see the fruit of our labour. We are realists and know it won't always be plain sailing but the ship has finally left the harbour, the mentoring relationships have begun and we are there to help everyone should they meet the stormy waters in the darker months of the year. This month we met with our Cairde - they are a small group of Mentors who will assist us to support the other Mentors in their role. Dr Joe O’Connell joined us for the day and enabled the Cairde to come to an understanding of the important role they will play this year in supporting the Mentoring Programme. His presentation was entitled “Being a true Cara” and we are looking forward to working with these new friends of ours!

We attended some very interesting events this month - our colleagues in JCT invited us to become critical friends with them for a day! They are preparing leadership seminars for principals to help them come to a clearer understanding of the new Junior Cycle - the benefits of the new curriculum and the implications for school timetables. They asked us (and many other education partners) to look at their materials, critique the content and suggest improvements. This innovative model of involving all partners will ensure that the leadership seminars presented later this year to school leaders will be of the highest quality. Well done to JCT and good luck to Paddy Flood who is leavingJCT to take up a new job as Director of Schools in Cavan/Monaghan ETB in October. Go n-éirí go gealleat !

IPPN run an excellent day for principals at the beginning of September every year. They garner that enthusiasm that exists at this time of the year and there was a very upbeat atmosphere in the room that day in City West. Mary Nihill and Anna Mai Rooney were given the opportunity to present to the audience and reminded all that we are looking for new Mentors to train this year so that we can offer mentoring support to every new primary school principal in Ireland from September 2017. If you want to join our training programme check out our website today. They also updated everyone about the coaching service which will be available for 400 school principals this year to support them in their work. We expect to officially launch this service this autumn. IPPN always places an emphasis on the welfare and wellbeing of the leader in their events and they ended the day with a verypositive talk from Dr. Mark Rowe who at one stage in the presentation had all of us up and dancing in the room!

He spoke about the dangers of living in fear which he described as False Evidence Appearing Real (FEAR) .He left us with a series of statements to help us reflect on our own wellbeing - I particularly liked this one -

“I am a Leader in my own Wellbeing”.


I had the honour of attending a presentation by FrankAngelis former principal of Columbine High School Coloradowhen 2 students shot dead 12 of their peers and one of their teachers before taking their own lives in April 1999. You could hear a pin drop in the Mansion House that morning as he described that fateful morning in Columbine High. He spoke of the impact of that day on the school and its community particularly in the years following the incident. While most of his teaching staff remained in the school for 3 years after the event over 75% of them had left by 2002. The students in the school that day are now in their early thirties and many still suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. His message that day however, was one of hope. As a school they made changes and became more inclusive. Frank led the way by seeking counselling for himself and many of his staff followed his lead. He was never afraid to show emotion and this allowed the students to show emotion also. He stood up for what was right and that meant at times that he stood alone against the wishes of his district administrators. Frank has retired in recent years and he travels the world telling the story of Columbine and keeping alive the memories of those 13 people who lost their lives in the school that day. Well done to Jigsaw and their partners( including NAPD ) for organising this event which highlighted the importance of well-being in post primary schools.


We also attended an excellent presentation by John West–Burnham to the PDST Leadership Associates. John is an author and consultant on leadership development. He challenged us to think about the decisions we make in schools and asked us to consider if we use evidence to back up the decisions and choices we make. He maintained that often in schools we defer to the experienced person rather than looking at the evidence in front of us. He pointed us in the direction of Sutton Trust and suggested that we study their reports on what makes good teaching. He advocated school-based research which is a more powerful form of CPD than attending various different courses. We explored the characteristics of an evidence –based school and looked at the implications that this has for school leadership.

This month the OECD launched a report “School Leadership for Learning - Insights from TALIS2013”.  I have only had a look at the report but it is definitely on my reading list for October. The results  show that combining instructional leadership  ( leadership of learning ) and distributed leadership( incorporating different stakeholders into decision -making processes )  and  using students outcomes to develop the school's goals and professional development plan appears to be the most favorable approach to developing a professional learning community in a school. Information on this publication is available here-

This month was also a busy month for the Department of Education and Skills as they published their Action Plan for Education 2016-2019. We are pleased to see the Centre for School Leadership mentioned in the plan and note the reference to the expansion of the range of supports available through the Centre for School Leadership.

As we approach October I am half way through reading an excellent book “The Green Platform “by Declan Coyle.

He outlines in simple steps how to switch from negative Red to positive Green Platform thinking. On the Green platform we have vision, clear goals and plans and we are fully present and fully alive in the “now”. October may be a difficult month for some our colleagues who are leaders in post primary schools where there is threat of industrial action. They might benefit from picking up this book and reading Declan’s words of wisdom and thus approach the coming month with optimism and positivity.

A little thought this month from JFK-

“For courage, not complacency, is our need today; leadership not salesmanship. The ….test of leadership is the ability to lead vigorously”

New Beginnings ….New Leaders …...

It’s almost September 1st ….. The birthday of CSL. ! We will be one year on the road tomorrow. It has been a fantastic year for the three of us and we are now looking forward to Year2!

CSL wants to wish each and every school leader a good year for 2016/2017.  This year in particular we want to extend a warm welcome to all the new leaders. We had the privilege recently of attending Misneach (Post primary) in Portlaoise, Táiniste (Post Primary) and Misneach (Primary) in Athlone. All in all, we met and addressed over 220 new leaders. Most of them were excited, overwhelmed and a little anxious but they were all really looking forward to the challenge!

We, in CSL were also excited by the prospect that almost 200 of our new principals will have mentors this year as part of the Misneach programme. What has been for us in the past year but a dream, is now a reality!  We are working hard trying to get the perfect match for each mentee and that has cost us some sleep in recent weeks. We finally finished stage 1 of our matching process and over 100 letters will be going out to new principals this week telling them who their mentor is. We have always liked the quote from the Wallace Foundation which says -

“Good Principals aren’t born, they are mentored! “

It has been a busy summer. The office of government procurement published two tenders for us. One is the tender for the coaching service and we really hope that within the next few weeks that we will be able to launch this initiative. There is no need for me to tell you how powerful coaching can be – you only have to read my previous blog to get a sense of that. Look out for information about coaching for school principals on our website over the next few weeks.  The tender for the new aspiring leaders programme was also published and during the autumn we hope to announce details of the programme which will be offered to those of you out there who wish to take on leadership roles in your school.  Watch the website!

Yes, we have a brand new colourful website and our aim this year is to populate it with resources that would be useful to leaders at all stages of their career in education. This is our next big task and one that we look forward to as it will be a new challenge for us. We were thrilled last week when we reached over 1,000 followers on Twitter. If you are not following us, then please help us get to get to our next milestone - 1,500 followers @cslireland .

We have being reading some interesting books on Leadership this summer and my favourite one was Leadership Matters by Andy Buck. I know only too well how busy teachers and leaders are and I know how limited your reading time is but you can dip in and out of this book and choose the topic of specific interest to you as the need arises. In Andy’s introduction he states “ The approach of the book is to take an evidence-based look at what great school leadership looks like and allow you to translate this into the context you are working in “.  He refers many times to the importance of creating a “no blame” climate in schools. Experimentation, risk-taking and learning from mistakes should be encouraged in our schools. Staff should feel that it’s okay to try out new ideas! This is an excellent book, full of everyday examples which for the most part are very relevant to the Irish context.  Enjoy!

We look forward to new challenges which 2016/2017 will inevitably bring. Here is something to ponder on this month:
“The Pessimist complains about the wind. The Optimist expects it to change. The leader adjusts the sails.“(John Maxwell)

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