School leaders become Australia’s first Certified Practising Principals through PAI

Eight school leaders from five states have attained professional recognition as Australia’s first Certified Practising Principals this month.

Robyn Thorpe (NT), Lana Read (ACT), Cheryle Osborne (VIC), Mandy Reynolds-Smith (TAS), and NSW’s Nigel Brito, Philip Moore, Melissa Scully and Mercedes Wilkinson have achieved Australian Principal Certification, managed by Principals Australia Institute. 

They have achieved this through demonstrating the impact of their leadership on teacher efficacy, student achievement and whole-school improvement in accordance with profession-developed requirements and the Australian Principal Standard.


PAI's Senior Manager Principal Certification Jill de Araugo, the ACT's first Certified Practising Principal Lana Read, and ACT Education Directorate Director General Natalie Howson

Paul Geyer, Chief Executive Officer of Principals Australia Institute, said Australian Principal Certification affirms the importance of educational leadership. 

“It recognises the unique role of principals in improving the quality of learning and teaching in schools.

“The Australian Principal Standard sets out what principals are expected to know, understand and do to achieve the highest standard of school leadership, and these eight principals have successfully demonstrated that Standard in action.

“Congratulations to these accomplished school leaders, who have now earned formal endorsement as experienced, practising principals, and helped elevate their profession overall.”

The next intake for Australian Principal Certification commences in January 2018. Interested candidates can find out more at 

Brief bios from 2017's Certified Practising Principals follow below.


Robyn Thorpe (Batchelor Area School)

Robyn has been a passionate and committed educator for 30 years and has held various leadership positions for the past 17 years. She has worked as a senior teacher, assistant principal, associate principal and principal during this time at eight different schools in the NT. Robyn was awarded Teacher of Exemplary Practice and the NT Innovative Teachers Award during this time. She began her career specialising in early childhood education in Victoria and spent 18 months working at an international school in North Sumatra. 

Robyn’s passion as a school leader is to create the right conditions for teachers to teach in and for students to learn. Building a positive learning environment where staff, students and families feel well supported and work together is an important part of this. As a Tribes TLC trained facilitator, Robyn strongly believes that through collaboration we can all make a difference. Robyn focuses on improving the literacy and numeracy of all students through whole-school, evidence-based approaches. As a teacher Robyn has always been interested in innovative practice and holds a strong interest in using ICT to engage students in 21st century learning pedagogies.  


Lana Read (University of Canberra High School Kaleen)

Lana has spent 17 years as an educator including 10 years as a school leader. She is now in her sixth year as a principal. Lana has worked and led in schools from preschool to year 10.
She is interested in the development of professional learning communities, embedding formative assessment and making learning visible.

University of Canberra High School Kaleen has a population of 280 students but is growing rapidly. A relatively low socio-economic school, it has an extremely diverse and multicultural population and fifteen percent of students have diagnosed disabilities with a further ten percent having complex needs and behaviours.



Cheryle Osborne (Aspendale Gardens Primary School)

Cheryle has been teaching in the Victorian Education Department for 35 years. During that time she has been a classroom and specialist teacher for 14 years, assistant principal for five years and a principal for 16 years. Cheryle’s PhD was a case study on her previous school in which she investigated the sociocultural influences on student learning. Her current school, with 670 students from very diverse backgrounds, has recently achieved authorisation status as an International Baccalaureate Primary Years Program World School. Cheryle believes a positive school culture is the most vital aspect in a school and must be evident if optimal student learning is to occur.

Cheryle’s professional interests lie in the area of staff performance and development along with establishing positive cultures in organisations. She is an Open to Learning Leadership facilitator which assists participants with difficult conversations where the relationship remains intact and the task is addressed. Cheryle has been a Board Member of the Victorian Principals Association for the past 11 years, a position she takes very seriously and enjoys immensely. Cheryle is also a Board member for the State Schools Relief organisation which provides uniforms and school supplies for students in need. Cheryle enjoys networking with fellow principals and Assistant Principals. Cheryle is an accredited Growth Coaching International Coach and is currently coaching new principals and aspiring principals. 


Mandy Reynolds-Smith (Montrose Bay High School)

Mandy has been an educator in Tasmania for over 35 years and has been a principal for 22 years in both primary and secondary sectors. She has undertaken the role of statewide principal consultant, Manager of Professional Standards for the Teachers Registration Board, principal of six schools, has been a finalist for Secondary Principal of the Year 2014-2015, and nominated for the Pride of Australia Medal 2015. Throughout her career Mandy has sought to support the profession and has seen her own ongoing learning and that of others as critical. Mandy has been on the executive of three professional bodies that have influenced professional learning in the state. In the early ‘90s she held a position on TASS (Tasmanian Association of Senior Staff) as a primary school leader; for 10 years she held a position on the State Executive of ACEL (Australian Council of Education Leaders); and has been a member of TPA (Tasmanian Principals Association) for 22 years. 

Mandy is innovative educator and has provided outstanding leadership within the state in a range of ways, establishing the state’s first ‘one to one school’ laptop program at Devonport High, leading the first "Big Picture” school in Tasmania, merging two northern suburbs schools and establishing strong professional networks across the state. Mandy has played a key role in the professional learning of others over many years and has previously been recognised with PAI’s John Laing Award. 

Mandy has represented Tasmania on a number of state and national committees; recently she was on the national strategic planning team for Principal Certification and was one of the 55 principals nationwide to undertake the prototype trial for Certification. She is currently the Principal of Montrose Bay High School in the northern suburbs of Hobart. 



Nigel Brito (The Rivers Secondary College, Lismore High Campus)

Nigel started teaching in the Northern Territory as a mathematics and chemistry classroom teacher and worked as Business Mathematics Moderator for the Northern Territory Board of Studies. He moved to NSW where he taught mathematics and computers before becoming a Mathematics Consultant with the DEC. Nigel worked in the Assessment and Reporting Unit before becoming deputy principal at Mungindi CS. His next position was principal at Bourke High School, then principal at Wadalba Community School K-12 on the Central Coast. He then became School Development Officer (SDO) in the New England Region, supporting principals. From this position Nigel worked as the State Manager of School Evaluation for the National partnerships before going back to the SDO role then becoming principal at Lismore High Campus in 2013.

Nigel is interested in effective classroom teaching practices, using assessment and feedback and school improvement practices.


Philip Moore (St Pius X Primary School, Unanderra)

Philip has been teaching in Catholic Education for 32 years in both the Sydney and Wollongong Dioceses of NSW. He has worked as a principal for 13 years and assistant principal for nine years, and has taught in eight schools. He is currently accredited with GCI as a Coach.

Philip is interested in coaching and mentoring leadership teams and new career teachers, Educational Building and Facilities Design, engaging parents in their child's learning, engaging students in their learning through student leadership, innovative use of technology, and extracurricular opportunities. He is a member of ACEL.

Melissa Scully (Booragul Public School)

Melissa has over 20 years teaching experience K - 12 in high school, Schools for Specific Purpose (SSP) and primary school settings in both country and metropolitan areas. Melissa has held executive roles including assistant principal, deputy principal (National Partnerships) and principal. Melissa’s substantiative position is principal at Booragul Public School in Lake Macquarie. She is currently working in a higher duties role as relieving principal at Eleebana Public School. 

Melissa is interested in curriculum and policy development, benchmarking for student achievement, and Explicit Direct Instruction.

Mercedes Wilkinson (The Children’s Hospital School, Westmead)

Mercedes worked as a classroom teacher and on class Key Stage Leader at Hatch Ride Primary School in Crowthorne, Berks UK from 1997 – 2000. Prior to and during this time she was also an educator at the US Summit Camp in Honesdale, Penn, USA. Mercedes was an Itinerant Support Teacher Behaviour, for NSW DEC in Liverpool District in 2001, and in 2004, was appointed Assistant Principal at NSW DEC Rowland Hassall School for Specific Purpose. In 2006, she was promoted to the Principal. Mercedes has been the substantive principal of The Hospital School at The Children’s Hospital at Westmead since 2011, with short periods out of school relieving in the positions of Director ESES (2015) and Network Specialist Centre Facilitator (2016). 
Mercedes has taken a leading role in working collaboratively with teams of educators in hospital settings across Australia and New Zealand, particularly regarding systems and organisational change and school leadership.

Her focus is to enhance collaboration and professional learning to ensure that all children and young people have their educational needs met and that they connect, thrive and succeed as lifelong learners. Her vision for student learning in hospital school settings has encompassed future focussed pedagogy and enabling environments as well as a collaborative culture with all stakeholders.