Pathways to principalship
A qualitative descriptive approach was undertaken to research what was available within the areas of advice and guidance for potential principals who wish to achieve the position of principal at secondary schools in Aotearoa New Zealand. The literature review for this study uncovered very little in the way of New Zealand-based professional advice and guidance for potential principals, despite there being some leadership development programmes such as the Principal Preparation Programmes for Aspiring Principals (University of Auckland, Centre for Educational Leadership). However, the international literature revealed a greater wealth of data on existing principal preparation programmes, and the phenomenon of leadership. In terms of the methodology, case studies and interviews of six participants were undertaken. Six current principals of provincial North Island secondary schools in New Zealand were interviewed face-to-face. Their stories were audio-taped and transcribed. The interviews were essentially rich narratives of leadership stories and were somewhat akin to individual case studies of the participants' own leadership and principal development. Content and thematic analysis of the data revealed eight aspects of principal development which were distilled to four main themes: historical career pathway; managing the journey; handing over the knowledge; and personal costs to the participants. The findings from this research showed that few principals followed planned career pathways or had access to advice, guidance or formal training for principalship. Participants generally gained principal positions through good luck rather than good management. The increasing complexity of the principal's role, combined with a projected shortage of competent candidates, requires that preparation for principalship needs to be implemented as a well-structured, rigorous programme. A framework for such a programme is proposed.