Home' Independence : Independence Vol 31 No 2 Nov 2006 Contents Independence Volume 31 No. 2 47
Brian Dive is an international
consultant who has worked in
many private and public sector
industries, in seventy countries.
He has developed an approach
to identifying key levels of
accountabilities in organisations
and aligned the relevant
behaviours to these. It is known as
the Decision Making Accountability
(DMA) Solution Set, consisting of a
set of principles that can be flexibly
applied to different organisations.
A number of countries are finding it is
increasingly difficult to identify good
principals/heads to lead secondary schools.
This is certainly the case for independent
and religious schools. Australia,
unfortunately, is no exception to this trend.
Unlike private-sector organisations,
educational bodies are not noted for
identifying leaders with potential and
then preparing them for leadership roles,
such as head of the school. Part of the
trouble may be that many teachers are
not inclined to pursue such roles, at
least at first. Teaching being a different
kind of activity from managing, those
attracted to the former may be rather less
interested in the latter (and perhaps some
teachers prefer assessing their pupils to
being assessed themselves!). Moreover,
those best placed to assess the potential
of teachers to take up leadership roles
-- their immediate superiors -- may have
little incentive to do so.
The problem was neatly summed up
by one head in Australia who said
recently: "There is no incentive for me
to develop my best teachers to become
my successor. Firstly, where am I going,
as I am already leading one of the best
schools in the country, and secondly, why
should I create more problems for myself
encouraging my best staff support to
Given these factors, altruism remains the
only motivation -- not really a sufficient
basis for sound leadership development.
This, in essence, is the problem.
Professions are not noted for fostering the
personal development of their members
in a very deliberate or structured way.
After completing their training and entry
requirements, professionals develop new
skills -- outside the area of the core skills
required for their profession -- on, more
often than not, their own initiative. The
teaching profession is no exception.
Unlike other professions, however, it is
not easily able to build competence via
the "sitting by Ned or Nelly" tutoring
and mentoring approach one sees in the
legal and medical professions.
In education circles there is often no
clear overall picture of how many
secondary school-principal vacancies
can be expected in the next one to five
years. There is little or no formal career
planning, and scant effort to build up a
supply of potential principals/heads for
future vacancies -- to build up "bench
strength". There are no valid and reliable
approaches to the identification of
potential. Furthermore, school boards,
who select these principals, are often not
well enough equipped or prepared to
select good-calibre candidates.
In short, there is no certainty about how
many vacancies exist or how many teachers
are available with the capability to fill these
roles. The process is little more than a
sophisticated lottery. Not surprisingly, there
is anecdotal evidence that the quality of
principals is becoming more variable; and
this may explain the higher-than-acceptable
rate of short-tenure principals or principals
not surviving the first crucial years.
What is needed?
To avoid a pending crisis, the governance
institutions of secondary schools need to
develop an approach that:
• Identifies the key differences and
accountabilities between the roles of
senior members of a school team and
that of the role of the principal
• Identifies the "competencies" or
behaviours that are appropriate to, and
needed in, candidates being considered
for the role of principal
Is there a Principal crisis in
Australian secondary schools?
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