Purpose: This research paper explores the perspectives of Australian school principals in the state of New South Wales (NSW) regarding what they believe constitutes “merit” when selecting deputy principals, assistant principals (primary) and head teachers (secondary). Design/methodology/approach: An online survey was utilised to collect qualitative and quantitative data from school principals across the state of NSW to investigate their understanding of, and approach to, the merit selection of their respective school leadership cadres. Findings: Study findings indicated a statewide variance in the perceptions of principals when identifying merit for the purposes of recruiting school leadership teams. These findings question the widely held view that candidates compete for school leadership positions on a level playing field. Practical implications: In practical terms, the findings indicate that NSW school principals would benefit from more intensive professional learning opportunities designed to enhance their ability to objectively identify and assess merit when selecting school leaders. Originality/value: This study contributes to an enhanced understanding in an area where there is a paucity of research-based evidence focusing upon the perspectives of school principals regarding their understanding of meritocratic theory and its influence on their school leadership selection practice.
- school leadership
- merit selection