ASPA: Marking another milestone - Education Matters Magazine
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ASPA: Marking another milestone

ASPA

 

As Andrew Pierpoint prepares to retire from his role as ASPA President later this year, he reflects on a 40-year career in education, and maintains that becoming a teacher was the best decision he ever made.

When asked what first inspired him to become a teacher nearly four decades ago, Mr Andrew Pierpoint’s answer is simple and to the point: “Teaching is the most honourable of professions.”

And for anyone who’s considering becoming a teacher, he maintains that becoming a teacher can be a career for life. “My life has been teaching and I’ve enjoyed my career significantly,” he says. “As a teacher, you hold the future of your community, your state, and your country in your hand – and your hard work pays off. If in your teaching career, you change one life for the better and positively affect one student, that’s a great career that you’ve had.”

“I appreciate education very deeply and the idea that education is the rest of your life was instilled into me as a young fellow, and I still firmly believe that. I think instilling that that value in young people is very meritorious and heartful thing to do.”

In his time as President of the Australian Secondary Principals’ Association (ASPA), he has seen significant changes in the Australian education system, compared to when he began his career. Most notably, he says, a decline in how education is valued as a tool to open doors in life to several careers.

“I appreciate education very deeply and the idea that education is the rest of your life was instilled into me as a young fellow, and I still firmly believe that. I think instilling that that value in young people is very meritorious and heartful thing to do.”

Andrew Pierpoint has over 38 years of experience working as a secondary level science teacher, Head of Department (Science), Deputy Principal and Principal as well as having several system positions in the support of Principals.

REMEDYING TEACHER TURNOVER

The undervaluing of education as an honourable and integral pursuit in life is part of the reason why the current education system is seeing such high turnover in teaching positions and ongoing disparities between the number of teaching positions and a distinct shortage of qualified candidates to fill those positions, according to Mr Pierpoint.

“The issue of teacher shortages and recruitment is a multifaceted challenge. To an extent, it is about arduous workloads and inadequate pay rates, but it’s also about a shortage of young people who leave schools aspiring to become teachers,” he says. “Fewer people are opting to sign up for a teaching course, and fewer people are coming out on the other side of the course because there is a lot of attrition as the course progresses.”

To change this, he says, the country needs to make teaching a more attractive profession and advocate for a more positive mindset surrounding teaching, and teachers for that matter, as important and impactful figures in Australian society.

“We need to have a community conversation as a whole country around what we want the education systems in Australia to look like and what outcomes we want to have happen as the result of these positive actions,” he says.

ADDRESSING INEQUITIES IN AUSTRALIAN EDUCATION

One of the biggest challenges in Australian education system, Mr Pierpoint confirms, is addressing the inequities across the country’s different systems on a national level.

“There’s a funding disparity between the three education systems that needs to be addressed and there’s accountabilities around that funding, that constrains principals from making decisions for themselves,” he explains. “The financial inequity and the social inequity that we face is significant and continues to perpetuate a wage gap in the Australian society.”

To remedy this, Mr Pierpoint underscores the need for strong and united leadership within the government sector that is focussed on clearly defining what the purpose of education is in Australia.

“We need to examine deep questions about what education really means in this country. Why do students go to school? What is the difference between the different subsidiaries, such as receiving an education at a Catholic school, versus an independent school, versus a government school? And how can we work together to make things more cohesive and intentional?” he says. “For me, it’s about making a difference in children’s lives and the lives of their families.”

WHAT’S NEXT FOR THE ASPA?

ASPA Vice President Mark Breckenridge paid tribute to the outgoing ASPA President as Mr. Pierpoint prepares to go on service leave from September 15 this year, until his retirement in 2024.

“Over the last 40 years, Andrew has made an enormous contribution to public education in this country,” says Mr Breckenridge. “From leading complex school communities as a principal, his commitment to the Queensland Secondary Principals Association, and ensuring ASPA had a seat at the table when policy decisions impacting principals were made – he has been a tireless advocate for public secondary school leaders. We sincerely thank Andrew for his contribution to ASPA and wish him all the best in his retirement.”

Co-President of the ACT Principals’ Association (ACTPA) Andy Mison has been elected as the next President of the Australian Secondary Principals’ Association and will be taking the position from October 3. Mr. Mison, an executive principal of a large Canberra P-10 school, will succeed Mr Pierpoint, who has served as ASPA president since 2018.

According to Mr Breckenridge, the association is confident that Mr. Mison will be a strong advocate for the increasingly complex needs of school leaders.

“Andy has worked in classrooms and in school leadership roles across a range of regional, remote and metropolitan school settings and understands the demands on principals, their staff, and their school communities,” he says. “He is passionate about the need for a strong public education system and the need for a principals’ perspectives to be central to education policy and decision making. We are proud to have him step up into this important role.”

LOOKING FORWARD TO MAKING FUTURE CONTRIBUTIONS

In retirement, Mr Pierpoint plans to continue with his involvement with the ASPA as an alumni member and assisting with the workload of the association’s board members. “I look forward to joining the alumni and having time to work on papers. Anything I can do to continue to contribute to the education system in our great country will remain at the forefront of my mind,” he concludes.

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