ASPA: Good principals develop great schools - Education Matters Magazine
Australian Secondary Principals Association, Latest News, Leadership, Policy and Reform

ASPA: Good principals develop great schools


The breadth, complexity, scope and range of roles and responsibilities of modern-day principals require experienced, qualified, and highly skilled professionals and it’s time we recognised that, according to ASPA President Andrew Pierpoint. In April’s ASPA column, he examines the role and how to attract more qualified candidates to the profession. 

The benefits of a great school are felt well beyond the school gate and well after the bell rings for the day. For those of us dedicated to the education and well-being of our children, there can be no greater reward than leading a school of dedicated and skilled teachers.

As attention rightly falls on the crisis in teacher attraction and retention, we must also be mindful of what this means for the emergence of talented educators contemplating school leadership positions. Unfortunately, for some years now, being a principal has become a role few teachers aspire to and most want to avoid.

This is perhaps understandable, when they see their school leaders stressed out and burnt out, with less than one in five saying they would recommend the job to others. Worryingly, a majority plan to leave the role in the next decade.

A recent health and wellbeing survey of principals found they’re working on average at least 55 hours per week, with 20 percent putting in 12-hour days.

Disturbingly, almost a third of surveyed principals have been subjected to physical violence or threats of violence.

Also of serious concern, almost one in three principals surveyed received a ‘red flag’ email, indicating that they were at serious risk on indicators relating to self-harm, quality of life, or occupational health.

The reasons we’re in this situation are many and varied, but data from workforce surveys and research consistently point to some common factors. They include the increasing complexity of the role and heavy workloads, administrative burden linked to compliance and accountability requirements, and a lack of support and recognition for the nature, scale, and scope of responsibilities.

Principals also say there are insufficient preparation programs or mentoring opportunities, and perhaps crucially, a lack of public regard and respect for the role of school principal.

Efforts to date haven’t been enough, and one of the reasons for this is that – governments at a state and federal level are yet to come to grips with the scale of the problem. A lack of consolidated national data on school principal retention, recruitment and wellbeing is concealing the extent of the issue.

We need a coordinated, national approach to principal recruitment, retention, and wellbeing. That starts with getting a clear picture of the issue across all states and territories to understand the scale of the challenges.

A solution such as this would include developing contextually relevant principal preparation programs for all educational environments and ensuring that these meet the particular needs of rural, regional and remote First Nations schools. These programs must also be designed to encourage a diversity of applicants for leadership positions and ensure we move beyond informal networks that raise equity issues.

We also need to develop new national preparation, induction, and mentoring programs based on evidence and best practice, so that teachers who want to lead our schools are trained to do so, not forced to figure it out as they go.

We need to develop a new national approach to improving principal wellbeing and a national awareness campaign to reinforce the importance of principals’ work and how they contribute to the health and well being of the wider school community.

Raising awareness of the issues facing students, teachers, and families, and bringing together educational experts to help turn around what the federal Education Minister rightly calls a crisis in teaching is critical to the future of Australia.

Principals play a crucial role in mentoring, supporting, and developing teachers and future leaders, and have the single greatest influence on the culture and performance of a school.

Let’s work together to restore pride and respect in the role of principal, so we can secure a pipeline of dedicated and skilled teachers who aspire to become the school leaders of the future.

Andrew Pierpoint ASPA
Andrew Pierpoint – President of the Australian Secondary Principals’ Association.


Andrew Pierpoint is President of the Australian Secondary Principals’ Association. He has over 38 years of experience working as a secondary level Science Teacher, Head of Department, Deputy Principal, and Principal. Throughout his career, Andrew has worked in rural and remote, regional and metropolitan schools, and he has led communities and reference groups at district, regional, state and national levels. Andrew’s special interests are the provision of personal and professional development for school leaders, health and wellbeing, and school sport. He has a genuine desire to make a meaningful difference for school leaders in their roles and the broader communities they work in.

Further reading: 

Send this to a friend