The Australian Council for Educational Leaders (ACEL) is the largest independent professional association for education in Australia and the Asia-Pacific region. CEO Aasha Murthy says ACEL has around 7000 members and a growing network of about 50,000 people who engage with the association, attending events or purchasing resources.
Vision and benefits
“Our purpose is to inspire, support, recognise and elevate excellence in educational leadership,” Ms Murthy said. “In simple terms, it’s about enhancing leadership capacity in the education sector. That doesn’t necessarily just mean school principals or system leaders, it means people who are teachers, leading learning in the classroom, leading curriculum design, leading schools and leading systems.
“We are constantly recognising people who are making contributions, through our awards and our fellowships, and highlighting successes and challenges.”
ACEL’s members are mostly school principals but also assistant principals, system leaders, consultants, academics and teachers. These members get access to ACEL’s journals, the practitioner publication Australian Educational Leader, which Ms Murthy said is the most-read title in the space, and the academic Leading and Managing journal. The association also publishes monographs that are accessible only to its members.
Other benefits are access to an online resource centre, which is particularly useful for remote regional schools, she said. ACEL also gives fellowships at branch and national level to people who have made an extraordinary contribution to education beyond their day jobs, and can nominate individuals and groups for leadership awards.
A significant part of what ACEL provides is the conferences and networking events it hosts. Ms Murthy said the association hosted four conferences in 2017, as well as more than 100 professional development events across the country that drew over 10,000 attendees.
A new initiative that was put in place four years ago is the New Voices Scholarships, which are separate to the awards, Ms Murthy said, and are given to emerging voices in education. Eight scholarships are awarded for educational leadership and eight for research, one for each state and territory. There are also four scholarships awarded nationally for indigenous voices in education.
“It’s an area that we’re particularly proud of because it’s not just established educators but emerging voices,” she said.
ACEL has also strengthened its involvement in the early childhood sector, as it believes the sector needs a high level of focus and attention. In the past two years, the association has hosted leadership conferences for early childhood educators and another is planned for August. It also has a strong partnership with the Australian Children’s Education and Care Quality Authority.
Looking ahead, Ms Murthy said ACEL has its three main conferences scheduled this year plus almost 120 professional learning and networking events.
The Australian Educational Leader will undergo a complete makeover to raise reader engagement and highlight its success stories, she said.
This is keeping with the organisations focus on the positive.
“We believe there needs to be more visibility of the great stuff that is happening in the sector,” she said. “Because of our national reach, we know what great things people are doing at a state or network or classroom level, so we want to highlight that.”
ACEL has also increased its advocacy, Ms Murthy said, again focusing on the positive.
“We are not political but if there are things that are evidence-informed and profession-led, we want to weigh in on those. We feel it is a true privilege to serve the education community and work hard to ensure that we are providing teachers and leaders with relevant and timely professional learning. We are very mindful of the important role they play in shaping society now and into the future.”
ACEL President Stephen Gniel said that maximising the impact of school leadership requires specific approaches.
“Whilst these approaches are intrinsically linked to quality of teaching, they are tailored to the particular role of school leader,” he said.
Government setting the direction and providing the funding is necessary but not sufficient to drive improvement in student outcomes. Here is where ACEL comes to the fore, enabling and supporting practicing professionals to enhance their own practice, and providing guidance, mentoring and practical support to the aspiring leaders of tomorrow.”