He Whakaaro: School principals in New Zealand

Publication Details

Strong and stable school leadership is critical to the success of our schools and kura, but little is known about the rate at which principals leave and move around the workforce.  This paper provides new insights into trends in turnover and characteristics of the principal and tumuaki workforce in state and state-integrated schools and kura.  It highlights that roughly one in eight schools saw a change of leadership in 2019 – a rate which has increased over recent years, driven by an ageing principal workforce.  The analysis also shows how turnover is changing the profile of the principal workforce, with greater numbers in the early stages of their principal careers and overall being more representative in terms of gender and ethnicity.

Author(s): David Jagger, Ministry of Education.

Date Published: July 2020

Key Findings

  • The vast majority of principals continue in their jobs each year.  Turnover of principals has increased over the last decade, returning to levels last seen prior to the global financial crisis (GFC).  Of the principals leading schools in 2018, 12% had either left the principal workforce or moved schools in the next year.
  • The recent increases in turnover are chiefly driven by increasing rates of principals leaving the workforce.  This is predominantly due to an ageing principal workforce.
  • Higher turnover has increased the number of appointments to principal roles.  Over the last three years, 230 individuals entered the principal workforce on average each year – with the majority new to the role.
  • A growing proportion of our principals are in the early stages of their principal careers, with around a third of current principals commencing their first principal role in the last five years.
  • The demographic profile of the principal workforce is changing. In addition to an emerging pool of younger principals, there is a growing group who are aged over 65.  People entering the principal workforce in recent years are more likely than those leaving it to be female and affiliate with Māori and Pacific ethnic groups.

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