JELPP – Volume 36 (2021)

Promotion to leadership, not just merit, but insider knowledge: What do school principals say?

Kevin Steed / John De Nobile / Manjula Waniganayake


Whilst extensive research has been undertaken concerning educational leadership and management, there is a paucity of scholarship regarding the merit-selection of school leaders other than principals. This is especially true of principal-led merit selection panels convened to recruit middle-level school leaders, namely deputy principals, assistant principals and head teachers. Meritocratic discourse holds that merit-based selection should, ostensibly be an objective, fair and equitable process enabling applicants to compete on a level playing field via a comparative assessment of their capabilities, talents and attitudes. This paper explores the extent to which government school principals in the state of New South Wales Australia, consider the school-based merit selection process they lead is objective and bias-free. Hence, the findings reported here reveal that despite the New South Wales Department of Education (NSWDE) promulgating the primacy of merit in its school-based selection paradigm, non-merit variables (factors having little to do with merit) exert considerable influence over the appointment decisions made by NSWDE principals when assembling their respective school leadership teams.

Principal leadership practices during the COVID-19 lockdown

Kate Thornton


New Zealand secondary school principals were required to make changes to their leadership practices when schools were closed as part of a national lockdown in response to the COVID-19 situation in early 2020. Eighteen school principals from a range of secondary schools were interviewed about their experiences. The research found that principals engaged in leadership that was relational, distributed and collaborative. They prioritised the wellbeing of teachers and students, responded flexibly to the challenges faced, drew on expertise from both within and outside of the school, and took opportunities to refocus and try new ways of working.