Look back at Principals’ and Deputy Principals’ Conference 2023

The 2023 INTO Principals’ and Deputy Principals’ Conference brought together around 300 delegates and guests in Wexford last weekend. The theme of this year’s conference was ‘Sharing Responsibility’, which provided delegates with an opportunity to discuss the requirements for a true model for this purpose.

At the Conference delegates listened to inspiring and informative addresses from INTO President Dorothy McGinley, Assistant General Secretary David O’Sullivan; General Secretary John Boyle; Des Carswell, (Mary Immaculate College), Finbarr Hurley (Oide); Jennifer Barron (Teaching Principal) and this year’s keynote speaker Dr Peter Kelly (University of Plymouth).

PDC Cathaoirleach Annraoi Cheevers and Leas-Cathaoirleach Seán Horgan presented the findings into research conducted by the PDC into sharing responsibility with a focus on distributed leadership.

Over the weekend, delegates engaged with fellow principals and deputy principals, sharing their experiences of dealing with a wide range of school leadership issues. Delegates also discussed the importance of empowering others and building leadership capacity through distributed leadership.

Over the course of the conference, delegates were given the opportunity to attend a series of workshops. There was a diverse mixture of workshops focusing on topics including effective communication, emotional intelligence and coaching, special education, small school clusters, sustainable leadership approaches in DEIS planning and enhancing resilience.

Addressing delegates, General Secretary John Boyle acknowledged the level of responsibility that comes with being a school leader. Challenges faced by school leaders including public health and cost of living crises were highlighted. He emphasised the need for investment in housing as a measure to address the teacher supply crisis. In advance of Budget 2024, he remarked that tax cuts would make it more difficult to meet pre-existing and future challenges and called for a much higher investment in the education system.  The hardship being caused to our members and school communities in the North by the failures of politics was also highlighted.

Sharing responsibility can benefit school teams in many ways. It can increase engagement, creativity, innovation, and productivity. By involving colleagues in shaping the vision, goals, and processes of school projects, school leaders can tap into their diverse perspectives, skills, and strengths.

He stressed the urgent need for the restoration of 2,400 posts of responsibility in the budget for the sharing of responsibility in schools.

Governments need to take a lot more seriously their responsibilities to empower our current school leaders and for cultivating the generation coming behind them.

This year’s keynote speaker was Dr. Peter Kelly, Associate Professor in Comparative Education, University of Plymouth. Dr. Kelly has long been involved in European research and policy networking. Since the pandemic he has focussed on the lessons educationalists can learn from recent crises, including the need to promote responsiveness and resilience in our educational communities. He highlighted the different crises we face including financial, political environmental, migration, security and health.

We may not be able to stop the crises but are part of the resilience of how we cope.

He outlined the importance of teacher motivation, interdependency on each other, the need to build resilience amongst and schools as community learning centres. He emphasised that teacher learning is a central part of an interconnected community and how networks provide us with opportunities.

Principals and teachers on the ground know what is best for their communities.

The Conference concluded with an incisive summation from INTO Vice-President Carmel Browne. Feedback gathered from school leaders over the two-days of this consultative event will be used to inform INTO Policy on school leadership.

The photo gallery from the Principals’ and Deputy Principals’ Conference is viewable here. To watch recordings from the main speakers and presentations from the conference, see here.