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Interview with a principal: Anthony Simone, Harvest Home Primary School

Ben Conway

On Friday 16th August 2019, The Educator will host their annual Australian Education Awards. This year Compass is sponsoring the School of the Year award, while a number of incredible Compass schools will be present as award nominees. Among the many inspiring finalists is Anthony Simone (pictured right), principal of Harvest Home Primary School in Epping, Victoria, who is nominated for the Primary School Principal of the Year - Government award. Anthony spoke to Compass earlier this month about how to measure success as a principal, the huge changes technology has brought to his school, and the five values that inform life at Harvest Home.

Harvest Home has only been open for two years, but the school has already made a significant difference in Epping. Some twenty kilometres north of Melbourne's CBD, Epping is a suburb undergoing rapid growth and development - a fact reflected in the number of students enrolled at Harvest Home, ballooning from 269 in 2017 to 825 in 2019. While opening any new school presents a unique set of challenges, Harvest Home has established itself as a centre of excellent primary education in Epping and surrounding areas, guided by a strongly held set of aims and principles. Undoubtedly an important element of this achievement has been a first-rate leadership team, headed by Anthony.

Anthony has been in the education sector for nearly two decades, bringing a wealth of experience to his position - but also an open mind. Quick to embrace technology, Anthony has combined his school's values, from inclusion to sustainability, with practical ways of achieving them. For example, increasing parent engagement - an important step we recently covered in Compass blog - as a means to building a more cohesive school community. It's a successful combination that has been recognised in Anthony's nomination at the 2019 Australian Education Awards.

Compass: What are your measures of success as a headteacher?

Anthony Simone (AS): Working with young learners it is essential that we constantly ensure we are equipping them with the necessary skills and competencies to enable them to be successful in their eventual chosen career path. This includes developing problem solving skills and the ability to think critically and creatively.

When measuring the effectiveness of success, it’s about building the capacity of our teachers to work as facilitators of learning rather than just utilising traditional teaching methods. Learners learn differently, we need to ensure that we are constantly challenging their thinking, which in turn increases school connectedness and student engagement.

"Technology... ensures our families are always connected to our school..."

Compass: How has technology impacted your life as a principal?

AS: The biggest impact that technology has had is that it ensures our families are always connected to our school. In the ever-changing and fast-paced world that we live in, the majority of our families are dual-income, working families. Previously, parents that both worked would not have felt as connected to the school due to work commitments, however with the creative use of online reporting and communication with staff, all of our families, regardless of employment status, are connected to our school.

"We are a paperless school and all of our parental communication is online..."
Compass: What tech development has made the biggest difference to your school?

AS: Opening in 2017 with a student enrolment of 269 to a student enrolment of 825 in 2019, technology has had a significant impact on our communication lines with our families. We are a paperless school and all of our parental communication is online. This has had a significant impact in promoting our vision as a sustainable school.

"As the principal of the school I have to go to work and aim to be a better principal then I was the day before..."
Compass: Practically speaking, how are your inclusivity values being carried out in the school?

AS: Harvest Home Primary School is underpinned by five key principles that are embedded into our culture. It is the fabric for what we want to stand for in our community. These values are:

1. Pride of Place: What does our school look like? What can we see and expect?

2. Better People = Harvest Home People: What does it mean to be a better person, and how do we bring it to life? How do we ensure all of our community can flourish?

3. Kaizen: Kaizen is a Japanese word meaning 'a little bit of improvement every day'. We have made this a reality. As the principal of the school I have to go to work and aim to be a better principal than I was the day before, while our teachers come to work and are better than they were the previous day. It's most important for our students: they come to school with kaizen on their minds. We celebrate their successes weekly with the presentation of kaizen awards to students that have displayed a little bit of improvement every day.

4. Pressure: Embrace expectations and challenges.

5. Legacy: We begin with the end in mind and have clear goals with what we want to achieve.

Being a new school, it is important that these principles are at the forefront of what we stand for as a school community.

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