It takes a lot to run a school. As we all know, being a school principal is one of the toughest gigs in town: it’s challenging, complex, rewarding, and certainly not for the faint of heart! Principals do it all; from leading teaching and learning, to navigating the complexities of compliance and governance, to managing the hopes and fears of parents and just about everything else in between. It’s safe to say principals are champions for their communities and so, in recognition of their critical work, we are thrilled to share our conversation with the Principal of Eildon Primary School, Jai Harrington.
A big thank you to Principal Jai Harrington for chatting with us and sharing his experience.
Give your school communication a boost. See how School Stream can help your school or keep reading for our interview with Principal, Jai Harrington.
Eildon Primary School is a wonderful, community-orientated school located in the township of Eildon, 125kms north-east of Melbourne. There is also a kindergarten on-site.
Students: 45 at school, 15 at kindergarten (preschool)
Teaching Staff: 5 teachers, 1 kindergarten teacher
Administration: 1 Administrator/Business Manager
Support Staff: 1 at school, 1 at kindergarten
Alongside a comprehensive curriculum that includes Indonesian language and robotics, the students enjoy adventurous play in the seven-hectare grounds and a dynamic outdoor education program in the beautiful natural surrounds. Eildon Primary School Community adheres to the six values of integrity, respect, cooperation, resilience, achievement and altruism and they enjoy strong links with the community that have been established and nurtured over a number of years.
What are the main responsibilities of your role (Spoiler: nearly everything.)
“I keep the school running smoothly, there’s a lot of administrative tasks to do. I teach a couple of days as well. There’s also looking after the grounds, the timetables, managing staffing, extracurricular activities, excursions, handling questions and issues from parents and things like that, dealing with kids who haven’t been following the rules, but we don’t get much of that these days. Schools are like a world in miniature, so I can go from being a referee, to a gardener, to a painter, to a teacher and everything else.”
“Schools are like a world in miniature”
“Parents care a lot about their kids and want to make sure they have the best opportunities. My job is to communicate, build trust and explain that we have their kids’ best interest at heart too. We explain why we make the decisions we do at the school – sometimes parents aren’t sure about how schools run. And parenting styles are varied too, which can change things. Part of the job is coaching the parents as well as the kids.”
“My job is to communicate, build trust and explain that we have their kids’ best interest at heart too.”
“I suppose I’m a little bit different than most principals. I think that if you don’t allow kids to take those risks in a safe way, they won’t have the skills and knowledge to come up against those challenges when they encounter them later when no one is watching. They won’t understand where the boundaries are and that they can’t Superman out from the top half of the tree.”
It sounds like you’re building independent, resilient kids at Eildon Primary?
“100%. We put a BMX track in straight up. We give them the freedom to play in adventurous ways. We’ve got full-sized shovels and rakes in the sandpit and when it rains, they like to dig channels. The kids can keep themselves busy for hours doing stuff like that. There’s a big pile of mulch and they like to shift that around and build jumps for their bikes. “
You use School Stream at Eildon Primary. Was it easy to set up and learn?
“Yes … School Stream is great. The tech support is excellent, it’s responsive, nothing is too much trouble. You’ve always got a smile on your face when we call. It feels like the (Customer Success) team has a good culture”
How have your parents responded to using an app for school communication?
“The parents are all pretty good and most people connect straight away. As I said to the Kinder Teacher just now: Say to them ‘didn’t you see it was on School Stream?’ and they will get on to it straightaway.”
“We’re a small school. We don’t have the time to be texting, calling, emailing, printing off hard copies and all that. We do it once on School Stream.
“We even send our school photos on School Stream”
“With COVID, we couldn’t have the photographer on-site, so we had to think about how to do things differently. One of the teachers here has an interest in photography, so she put her hand up to do them and has taken it on. And now we take the photos ourselves and send them out on School Stream for free. It happens a lot more quickly, we have control of the photos and we’ve been getting quite creative with them. It’s good PD for her too, if she wants to make an income from it in the future or pursue it further as a hobby.”
What features do you use the most?
“Definitely the alerts: “It’s swimming tomorrow, don’t forget to bring your togs” that kind of thing. We send the newsletter on School Stream, and we also celebrate the good schoolwork the kids are doing, as well as keeping families informed of what’s happening in the classroom.”
Thanks again to Principal Jai Harrington. Your school and community are very lucky to have you.
*Interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Are you ready to talk about school communication? Let’s get started.