One of the country’s leading professionals on educational leadership, Dr Renee Rattray, director of education programmes at the Jamaica National Foundation, says principals must be sufficiently aware of issues in their schools – a situation which the educator says may diminish their capacity to motivate and empower staff if they are not.

The former school principal, speaking during the launch of the South Manchester Principals’ Association at the Golf View Hotel in Mandeville, Manchester, last Thursday, said principals have to be armed with more knowledge and capacity than other members of their team.

“Apart from being CEO, because you’re running one of the biggest and most difficult institutions known to man, you have to understand that you are the chief learning officer, and that means you need to be a step ahead of your teachers,” she said.

“And very often, as I go around the country and meet principals, many are not managing learning in a way that demonstrates that they are a level above the people they lead,” Rattray declared.

Although accepting that principals won’t know everything, the former school inspector said that principals and school leaders must demonstrate a certain level of awareness and capability.



“You must know who to pull and who to bring in to support you. You must be willing and open to learn, to share, and to admit that you don’t know certain things,” she pointed out.

” You must demonstrate an interest in learning. Chief learning officers have to be on top of the game,” she reiterated.

In that vein, Rattray said principals and school leaders must demonstrate increased interest in the quality of teaching and learning in classrooms, noting that observations and feedback to teachers are important.

“You don’t learn to teach in teachers’ college. You learn to teach by observing others, by collaboration, and by constant self-reflection,” she posited.

“I find that in many of the schools we visit, that the principals don’t give teachers enough support. Yet, they become frustrated with their performance and want even to fire them without doing everything in their power to help the teacher to reach his or her full potential. When you go in to observe teachers, you should provide them with meaningful feedback, write them a note about what needs to be improved, send them a video to inspire them …,” Rattray underscored.

She said that in the final analysis, not only students should benefit from having value-added knowledge, but also teachers.

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