Transition Experiences of First-time School Principals: The Internal Appointment of the Deputy Principal

Sole, Rachael
Smith, Alison
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Master of Educational Leadership
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Auckland University of Technology

This research critically examines the lived experiences of deputy principals who have been promoted internally to the role of principal within their school, by analysing the perceptions of their experiences during transition. It has been established that the role of the principal plays a significant part in the success of a school, its culture and the academic achievement of its students. Whilst the challenges of principals’ transitions to the role are well documented and researched both in New Zealand and overseas, there is a distinct lack of literature on the internal transitions of deputy principals to the role of principal within a school. This small-scale, qualitative study analyses interviews with five first-time, internally-promoted principals, who work in primary schools across Auckland.

The reflections of these principals provide an understanding of some of the enablers and challenges of internal transitions to principalship. They also offer an insight into identifying ways that aspiring principals can position themselves to best ensure a smooth transition to becoming a successful principal. The common attributes of these internally appointed principals also provide a background context for successful transitions to principalship.

Several key ideas arose from the analysis of the semi-structured interviews. These included: The importance of preparation for principalship, the support of a mentor, the advantage of being an internal appointment, having experience at leading, and being the ‘right fit’ for a particular school. The findings and literature further support the complex nature of internal transitions to principalship. A model showing the enabling elements for supporting internal transitions to principalship is presented along with recommendations for Boards of Trustees and aspirant principals and suggestions for improvements in principal preparation courses.

Transition , Principal , Appointments , Internal , Primary school , Preparation , Principalship , Principal mentor
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