Preparing to Lead - Learning First report on training new principals out now

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In recent decades school systems have spent huge sums on leadership courses for aspiring principals, but they have not got the value they need. Preparing to Lead, a new Learning First report written for the Washington-based National Center on Education and the Economy, shows how four of the world's highest-performing systems in PISA tests -- Ontario, Singapore, Shanghai and Hong Kong -- have developed leadership training that uses deep knowledge of their individual system to prepare aspiring principals. Writing in The Australian Financial Review, Learning First CEO Ben Jensen and Senior Associate Phoebe Downing show how too many school leadership programs are generic and not targeted to the needs of schools. In the four high-performing systems discussed in the Preparing to Lead report, learning for aspiring principals is concrete, targeted and embedded in schools and the system. It might be the future of leadership training everywhere.

Download the report here.

Read the article here.

Australia’s primary challenge: how to lift teacher quality in early school years

Learning First’s May 2017 report shows how Australia can learn from four of the world’s highest-performing school systems – Hong Kong, Finland, Japan and Shanghai – all of which strongly emphasise teacher specialisation and subject expertise, even in primary school.

On our blog, Katie Roberts-Hull explains what subject specialisation might look like in primary school, and how Australian primary teachers can remain generalists while developing deep subject expertise. A series of further posts from Learning First associates shows how Australian primary school teaching can learn from the experiences of Japan and of medical education.

Read the international version of our report, published by the Washington-based National Center on Education and the Economy.

About Learning First

Learning First is a global organisation of education researchers, consultants, policy advisors and teachers. We provide:

  • research that has global impact, showing how schools and school systems can better develop their teachers and school leaders to continually improve student learning
  • consulting services to schools and school systems. We focus on the steps schools need to take to continually improve teaching and learning, and then identify how each part of the system must operate to make change happen. We work closely with school systems to develop their strategy and implementation plans so that they can improve:
    • Teacher preparation and professional development
    • Leadership strategy and development
    • Data systems, evaluation and accountability policies
    • District and regional structures and roles
  • training for people at all levels of systems, from school to the head office. For example, we run training programs for district and regional staff on how to best work with schools to create continuous improvement.

A new approach to school education

There is no shortage of new ideas about how to improve schools.  But education reform is difficult and around the world sustained improvement is patchy. We therefore work closely with education leaders to tie policy reform at the highest level of government to deep change in the classroom.

Our staff employs its extensive experience in government, policy research, think tanks and classroom teaching to advise governments and organisations in Australia, the United States, Europe and the Middle East. Our clients include numerous state and national governments, multi-national organisations such as the OECD, and organisations such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the National Centre on Education and the Economy in the United States.

Founded by Dr Ben Jensen and based in Melbourne, Australia, Learning First is committed to spreading and deepening global best practice. We combine leading research with practical approaches that have made a difference in school systems around the world.

Successful school reform requires trust and a commitment to staying the course. We have long-term relationships with our clients based on honesty, integrity and deep experience and expertise. These relationships enable us to help our clients further develop the skills and capacities of their own people.

Click below for more information on our research, consulting and development work, and our clients. Or write to us at


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