Better the devil you know? Internal and external candidacy for leadership roles in an Australian state school system

Kevin Steed*, Manjula Waniganayake, John De Nobile

*Corresponding author for this work

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    1 Citation (Scopus)
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    Research regarding the recruitment of principals is well established in scholarly literature. However, scant research has been undertaken to scrutinise the perspectives of principals in the New South Wales Department of Education (NSWDE) regarding their merit selection practice and the extent to which school-based leadership recruitment decisions are determined objectively and in accordance with meritocratic ideals. Consequently, this paper reports on an Australian study undertaken in the state of New South Wales (NSW) to ascertain the extent to which government school principals employed by the NSWDE, favour internal selection (the promotion of teachers from within their own school) when merit-selecting deputy principals, assistant principals and head teachers. The study draws upon interviews with principals concerning their approach to the merit selection of school leaders, and the analysis of data from an online survey of principals to determine the extent to which they utilised their school’s ‘internal labour market’ to assemble leadership cadres. Based on the findings of this investigation, it is argued that the NSWDE merit selection process disadvantages external applicants seeking school leadership positions, thereby depriving many schools of quality leaders who have the potential to drive both educational change and innovation.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)709-735
    Number of pages27
    JournalIssues in Educational Research
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 2020

    Bibliographical note

    Copyright the Author(s) 2020. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


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