South Australia Department of Education

South Australia Department of Education
"My coach challenged my thinking and played devil's advocate to push me and get me thinking from another point of view." School Principal, South Australia

What was the need?

Entering a school as the new Principal can be a daunting prospect, especially for first time Principals new to the role. Expectations of teachers and the community are often high, and new leaders are keen to make a positive impression from the start.

In 2008, South Australia's Department for Education and Child Development approached Coach in a Box to tailor make a coaching programme to support these new Principals. The title of the programme, The First 150 Days, was borrowed from the world of politics, where the first 150 days are seen as a critical period for leaders to establish themselves. The First 150 Days programme now forms a vital component of the professional development offered to each successive generation of first time Principals, enabling these school leaders to develop their leadership capabilities and confidence to bring their school visions to reality in their new schools.

Our Approach

  • Introduction and Objectives; 1 x 60 minute call

    In their first Coach call, the Principal is asked to review their initial goals for their First 150 Days in their new school and is encouraged to set their own leadership objectives for the coaching programme.

  • Step 1 - Thriving from the Beginning; 2 x 30 minute calls

    We then explore the gap between the Principal's aspirations for their new school and the current day to day reality. Using our own ‘Mindtraps’ technology, the Coach helps the Principal to unlock a particular change they want to make to their own leadership, enabling them to be more resourceful and resilient more of the time.

  • Step 2 - Picking my Shots; 1 x 60 minute call

    This Step enables the Principal to reform and strengthen their vision for their school and focus in on those changes that will have the biggest impact. The Coach and Principal discuss the culture change needed and how to influence key staff in order to affect sustainable long term change.

  • Step 3 - The Motivation Challenge; 1 x 30 minute call

    In the final step we help the Principal to take a new approach to engaging and motivating the more cynical teachers in the staffroom. The Principal is also encouraged to reflect on their own personal learning journey and the progress they have made through their coaching programme.

Key Points
  • The coaching dovetails around professional development sessions provided for first time Principals by the South Australia Department for Education and Child Development.
  • The personal nature of coaching means that coaches can adapt the programme for Principals in differing school contexts including primary schools, high schools, early years centres and remote schools.
  • Principals find the pre reading materials, reflection exercises and leadership insights very helpful in ensuring maximum value is gained from each coaching session.
  • Principals particularly enjoy being able to access professional development at a time to suit them, rather than having to attend an off-site training day. Coaches provide real time help with some of their most pressing problems and the Principals don't even need to leave their desks!


This six month coaching programme costs AU$1,150 (+ tax) per participant. At the end of the most recent programme, Principals were invited to rate their experience:
- 100% of those responding 'found the coaching valuable' and said that they would recommend it to a colleague
- Coaching sessions received an average value rating of 9 out of 10

On the back of the success of this initial programme, South Australia Department for Education and Child Development has invited Coach in a Box to develop further bespoke coaching programmes to meet new organisational development needs. These include leadership programmes for Principals presiding over school amalgamations and for more experienced Principals driving school transformation.

Coach in a Box is also currently coaching Executives throughout South Australia's Department for Education and Child Development, cascading through levels from the Chief Education Officer down.

Whilst discussing the impact of the Coach in a Box programme on the Principals, Phil O'Loughlin, Executive Director of Human Resources and Workforce Development, said "Coach in a Box is a valuable tool in building the confidence and capability of our new principals in tackling the challenges of their role"

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