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Leaders aren’t born – they become leaders through experience and opportunity. Young people need genuine opportunities to test drive what it feels like to be in the leader’s seat.

Right now – there’s a great opportunity for primary and secondary students around the country to get a practical lesson in leadership that they won’t forget!

Imagine a young person at the helm of their school as ‘principal’ for a day.

What would they do? What would they discover? What insights and advice would they give the “real” principal?

A new initiative is giving 100s of kids exactly that opportunity.

Students around the country will trade their classrooms for the principal’s office as part of a national initiative: Student Principal for a Day.

Student Principal for a Day is being coordinated by Principals Australia Institute who ran the inaugural event last year.

Over 100 students from Catholic, independent and government schools in every State and Territory participated in 2013. The most remote school to take part was Milyakburra on Bickerton Island, about 600 kilometres east of Darwin.

The event has three aims:

* To provide primary and secondary students with a practical leadership development opportunity

* To connect students and participating schools with others around the country through webinars and online discussion

* To focus community attention on the value and importance of quality school leadership

The event also gives principals and school communities insights into what their students think.

In the lead up to last year’s event students were asked to rank the three most important qualities of a great principal. The top three responses were:

* The listen

* They make sure our school is a safe place

* They care

By the end of the program, participants developed a much richer understanding of what their principal does.

As year 6 student, Will Clark said:

“I learnt that the role of principal was very important to the school and its teachers. To be principal, you have to be responsible because the whole school is depending on you. This experience has changed me in many ways because I have developed my leadership skills.”

While the day is a lot of fun, it also aims to help inspire and shape leadership qualities in Australian students.

“As a principal, I know how important it is to provide young people with opportunities to stretch their capacity as thinkers and leaders,” says Jim Davies, CEO of PAI.

“This is a fantastic time to listen to student voices from all around Australia, and a simple way to help students value the role of their principal and the school leadership team.

“The principalship is something to aspire to; my hope is that ‘Student Principal for a Day’ will inspire young people to consider a career in education – or to even become a principal one day.”

Participating schools receive access to a suite of resources and tools to custom-design a successful program for the day. The program for the day can be negotiated between the student principal and the real principal.

Student Principal for a Day is on June 4 2014. Find our more at sp4d.edu.au.