Our teachers need more than high ATARs: top principal

ATAR results are “not everything” when selecting future teachers, Australia’s best non-government primary school principal has cautioned.

Principal Brad Gaynor of Holy Spirit Catholic Primary School in Canberra recently won the impressive title from a competitive field at the Australian Education Awards.

Mr Gaynor has a graduate certificate, two diplomas, one degree and one masters’ qualification from Australian Catholic University but despite his own strong academic credentials, he believes a balanced approach is the key to getting into teaching and staying there.

Mr Gaynor said concern about ATARS needed to be matched with understanding of the emotional and social qualities that teachers need.

"You need to have good relational skills and you need to be well-rounded. A high ATAR does not mean you will definitely be a good teacher."

“I know people with poor ATARs who are exceptional teachers and I know people with a high ATAR who are not suited to teaching.

“You need a balance of academic capability, emotional intelligence; you must be organised, dedicated, enthusiastic and conscientious; morally and ethically principled; and respectful of, and communicate well with, both children and adults.”

Future teachers also need to be able to cope with high workloads. Australian primary teachers worked 865 hours in 2017, compared to the OECD average of 778 hours. Workloads were even greater for upper secondary teachers, who clocked up 797 teaching hours compared to the OECD average of 655.

“In the first five years, around 40 per cent of teachers leave the profession and they don’t come back,” Mr Gaynor said.

"I was warned to slow down in my first year of teaching, but I didn’t and a few years later I was burning out."

“After four years, I actually left the school classroom environment to find that balance and I worked as a teacher in a school camp setting. I returned to classroom teaching after two years.

“Today I still get the same buzz I did 28 years ago,” he said. “I’m very committed to Catholic education and I cannot see myself doing anything other than being a school principal. I love it.”

Brad Gaynor is also President of the Australian Catholic Primary Principals’ Association. In his spare time, he enjoys finding a balance by sitting on a beach, reading crime thrillers, horse-riding and spending time with his family.


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