JELPP – Volume 35 (2020)

Where to next? (Re)forms of Leadership in Aotearoa New Zealand Education over the last 30 years

Howard Youngs / Cathy Wylie


Leadership has increasingly become a major presence in Aotearoa New Zealand education practice, policy, and research. Similar shifts have occurred across the Educational Management Administration and Leadership (EMAL) field in other nations. Aotearoa New Zealand has gone much further in its policy settings than most, with its shift after the 1989 Tomorrow’s Schools reform to schools as self-managing organisations. This placed more focus on executive leading and managing, and in particular, the role of school principal. Leadership and management were also increasingly emphasised in early childhood education and tertiary education.

In parallel to this changing focus in education, the Leadership Studies field was evolving from a near sole focus on leader-centric theories, and leader-follower framing, to post-heroic approaches that broadened the boundaries of leadership beyond those in organisational management roles. The EMAL field has evolved to include distributed, shared, and collaborative forms of leadership practice, alongside the focus on individual executive leaders. In addition, there has been a growing emphasis on supporting learning and teaching as a core component of EMAL practice, policy, and research, as well as the prominence of various forms of middle-layer leadership.

The purpose of this Special Issue is to look forward and ask where to next with leadership practice, policy, and research in education, through a lens of the experiences of the past 30 years, and changes in that time.

Ko tēnei te wā…. Te Tiriti o Waitangi education, teacher education, and early childhood care and education

Jenny Ritchie


This paper offers a brief personal reflection on some leadership related observations from work as an early childhood teacher educator over the past thirty years. Te Tiriti o Waitangi education is a specific area that has previously not been sufficiently prioritised and has only comparatively recently been affirmed in government policy as a key focus of education henceforth. This paper reflects on some of the underlying reasons for this omission within education, pointing to notions of white supremacy in the colonialist assumption of sovereignty and ongoing racism that has negatively impacted on educational experiences and outcomes for Māori in Aotearoa and has also resulted in the degradation of our environment despite Tiriti o Waitangi assurances about the sustenance of rangatiratanga and protection of taonga which should have supported ongoing kaitiakitanga of te taiao. Some hopeful recent policy initiatives are acknowledged. It finishes with recognition of the current climate emergency and the need for urgent educational leadership required in response.

Leadership in our secondary schools: good people, inadequate systems

Graeme Macann


The contexts in which Aotearoa New Zealand leaders learn and work have improved in some respects from 30 years ago and deteriorated in others. The improvements include a significant shift away from heroic, often dictatorial, models of leadership towards a greater focus on the many layers and types of leadership required for secondary schools to be successful. The deterioration in leaders being able to learn together across our state school system is created by high levels of competition among state secondary schools and by the inability of the Ministry of Education to have as much influence as might be hoped for in a state education system on the learning – by adults as well as children – in schools. In many parts of the country non- Māori school leaders now have the ability to know much more about hapu and iwi history relevant to their setting than was the case 30 years ago, including through the work of the Waitangi Tribunal.

The “balkanisation” of our school system has become more pronounced over the last 30 years, as have the challenges resulting from the growing socio-economic divide between our poorest state schools and our most affluent. The “hands-off” approach from the Ministry of Education and successive governments regarding school zones has damaged the integrity and efficiency of our state school system. Several bitter pay disputes between governments of the day and the secondary teachers’ union, the Post-Primary Teachers’ Association (PPTA) especially, have meant that shared commitments by teachers’ representatives and the Ministry of Education to plan well for teacher supply for our state secondary schools have been difficult to achieve. Teacher supply challenges have added to the pressures on senior and middle leaders of the state schools serving our lowest socio-economic communities especially.

An evolution in distributed educational leadership: From sole leader to co-principalship

Ross Notman


This paper traverses changes in perceptions of the school principal’s role, from sole to distributed leadership practices. A brief commentary on selected New Zealand literature is followed by a case study of a secondary co-principalship that identifies adaptive strategies and success factors in this joint role. The potentiality of the national Leadership Strategy (2018) and Educational Leadership Capability Framework (2018) to impact these distributed features will then be explored. The paper concludes with suggestions for future directions for distributed leadership practice in New Zealand.

What does it mean to be a principal? A policy researcher’s perspective on the last 30 years in Aotearoa New Zealand

Cathy Wylie


In this article I reflect on research relating to school leadership and the use of research to support school leadership over the last 30 years in Aotearoa New Zealand. The Tomorrow’s Schools reforms in 1989 wth its shift to school self-management saw more interest in understanding the size and nature of the principal role. More recently there has been interest among policymakers in using research to support effective school leadership, and revived attention to the place of school leadership in Aotearoa New Zealand’s education system.

This article is also intended to provide future Aotearoa New Zealand researchers into school leadership with some references they can use to chart how things change if new policy settings and supports for school leadership are introduced as a result of the Tomorrow’s Schools Independent Taskforce’s recommendations.

Thirty years of leadership in New Zealand education: From the shadows of management to sine qua non

Howard Youngs


Leadership is now promoted as the sine qua non (essential ingredient) for maintaining and developing effective education in New Zealand. It was not this way in the latter years of the 1980s and through the 1990s, when educational management was the preferred nomenclature. Since the turn of the millennium, management has subsided into the shadows of leadership in New Zealand education as part of a global shift in the education policy lexicon and the Educational Management, Administration and Leadership (EMAL) field. Rather than argue whether leadership should be preferred over management, or vice versa, this article focuses on the rise of leadership in New Zealand education over the last 30 years.