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JEA 47,1

Successful school principalship in late-career


Bill Mulford, Bill Edmunds, John Ewington, Lawrie Kendall, Diana Kendall and Halia Silins
Leadership for Learning Research Group, Faculty of Education, University of Tasmania, Hobart, Australia
Abstract
Purpose Who are late-career school principals? Do they continue to make a positive contribution to their schools? Do they feel tired and trapped or do they maintain their commitment to education and young people? The purpose of this paper is to explore these issues, employing the results of a survey on successful school principalship with the population of Tasmanian government school principals. Design/methodology/approach Surveys on successful school principalship were distributed to a population of 195 government schools (excluding colleges and special schools) in Tasmania. Return rates were 67 per cent for principals and 12 per cent for teachers. Surveys sought responses in areas such as demographic characteristics, leadership characteristics, values and beliefs, tensions and dilemmas, learning and development, school capacity building, decision making, evaluation and accountability, and perceptions of school success. Findings The ndings conrm other research indicating that pre-retirement principals, when compared with other principals, are more likely to have a strong work ethic, to consult widely and to have a strong social consciousness. The ndings contradict results from other research indicating that pre-retirement principals, when compared with other principals, are more likely to be rigid and autocratic, disenchanted with and withdrawn from work, and tired and trapped. Practical implications Such ndings lead one to conclude that pre-retirement principals continue to be a committed and valuable resource and that therefore greater research and policy attention should be given to the issue. With education systems undergoing major and continuing change, while at the same time suffering potential shortages of effective school leaders, it is time to re-examine educational career structures, especially for those principals approaching retirement. Originality/value The papers originality lies in the evidence it provides about an area that is not well researched. Keywords Principals, Schools, Careers, Australia Paper type Research paper

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Received May 2007 Revised September 2007 Accepted December 2007

Journal of Educational Administration Vol. 47 No. 1, 2009 pp. 36-49 q Emerald Group Publishing Limited 0957-8234 DOI 10.1108/09578230910928070

Introduction Increasing notice is being taken by employers of the age prole of the school principalship, especially given the small size of the replacement pool of teachers in their early 40s, and possible reluctance on the part of experienced teachers to apply for leadership positions (Gronn, 2003). But the focus of this attention tends to be on replacing the retirees rather than on the late career principals themselves. Who are they? Do they continue to make a positive contribution to their schools? Do they feel tired and trapped or do they maintain their commitment to education and young people? This article does not seek to provide deeper theorising about areas such as the effects of age and end-term attitudes (see, for example, Super, 1957; Earley and Weindling, 2007) but to explore the practical implications of these issues employing the

results of a survey on successful school principalship with the population of Tasmanian government school principals. Background Most systems report concerns about replacing the large number of teachers and principals likely to retire in the near future (Anderson, 2006, p. 23). For example, using Census data Preston (2002) found that the proportion of teachers aged over 50 was likely to double between 1996 and 2011 from 16 to 33 per cent. A nation-wide survey of principals found that nearly 50 per cent of male principals in the sample of 337 were aged 50-59; a gure which highlighted the potential for signicant retirement by male principals within the next ve years (MCEETYA, 2003, p. 2, emphasis in original). Western Australian Catholic schools report that within ve years 43 per cent of current secondary and 32 per cent of primary principals will have retired (MCEETYA, 2006). The situation regarding principal retirements may get worse. Favourable superannuation schemes and increased work intensication may in fact be combining to hasten principal retirements (Gronn, 2003). A recent Australian Education Union (AEU, 2005) survey of principals in all Australian public schools conrms this heavy and increasing workload. In Queensland, Cranston and Ehrich (2002) found that, despite role overload, ambiguity and conict being characteristic, 80 per cent of principals were satised with their role. Victorian (Victorian Department of Education and Training, 2004) data shows that 75 per cent of school leaders agreed that there is so much work to do, I never seem to get on top of it, 80 per cent feel that they come home too tired to do some of the things I like to do, 47 per cent have a medical diagnosis which connects any health problems (they have) to their work, and 78 per cent rated their job most of the time as high stress. Consistent with the Queensland data and despite work intensication, school leaders in Victoria almost overwhelmingly claim they love their job, and they think of themselves as privileged to have such an important and rewarding vocation. However, this privilege may not translate to the next generation of school leaders. Studies in Queensland, NSW, South Australia, Tasmania, and Victoria (Cranston et al., 2004; Carlin et al., 2003; Lacey, 2003) indicate that only approximately one-third of teachers are willing to seek promotion to the school leadership positions. In Victoria, the average number of applications for government school principal vacancies per school was about seven between 1999 and 2001, and in Tasmania average applications fell from 14 in 1985 to eight in 1999 (Gronn and Lacey, 2006). Similar results have been reported for New Zealand. Latham (2004) found that while the majority of principals in 40 New Zealand schools were highly satised with being a principal and would recommend the principalship to others, the majority of teachers had no aspiration to follow in their footsteps. Nearly two-thirds of the 500 teachers believed they could do the job of principal but becoming a principal was not part of their career plan. Given the above situation, it is surprising that research has ignored issues related to principals in the late stage of their career. Is the principals late career characterised by stagnation and conservatism or is it typied by freedom from constraints and innovation? Stereotypes suggest late career may be characterised by withdrawal from work, slowness, lack of interest in continued professional development, rigidness, and an unwillingness to change. Macmillan (1998) found that late-career principals appeared to disengage and took few or no risks when implementing change. On the

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other hand, late career may be typied by maturity, wisdom, condence, calmness, social consciousness, loyalty, and a strong work ethic and skills. For example, Woods (2002) found that late-career principals consulted more widely, appreciating the practical value of consultation in getting teachers to support resulting decisions. The application of career theory to the principalship suggests that principals progress through stages (for example: Day and Bakioglu, 1996; Earley and Weindling, 2007; Weindling, 1999). The induction stage is where the new principal is socialised into the role. He or she has to confront many issues and difculties, such as achieving acceptance, learning the school culture, learning ways to overcome the insecurity of inexperience, and developing a sense of condence. The establishment stage is characterised by growth and enthusiasm based on feelings of being in control, competent and condent. The maintenance versus renewal stage usually takes place in mid-career. Maintenance may come from feelings of stagnation and loss of opportunities and/or enthusiasm. Alternatively, renewal occurs for those principals who express high levels of self-fullment and job satisfaction. Finally, the disenchantment stage may be a feature of long-serving principals who feel trapped and are stagnating in a position with nowhere to go. Gradually these principals can become autocratic in style and avoid change. Day et al. (2006) recently examined six professional life phases for UK teachers, following research by Huberman (1989), and found a concluding phase typied by sustaining or declining motivation, coping with change and looking to retire. However, their research identied only one third of teachers in this stage as tired and trapped while two thirds were maintaining their commitment. The study The samples In late 2005 and early 2006 surveys on successful school principalship were distributed to all 195 government schools (excluding colleges and special schools) in Tasmania. A total of 131 survey responses were received from secondary, composite and primary school principals. This represents a return rate of 67 per cent. A total of 494 teachers in secondary, composite and primary schools also responded to the survey, representing a response rate of 12 per cent. Surveys sought responses from principals, and in most cases teachers, in areas such as demographic characteristics, leadership characteristics, values and beliefs, tensions and dilemmas, learning and development, school capacity building, decision making, evaluation and accountability, and perceptions of school success. Results Demographics. The majority of principals were male (57 per cent), especially among those with 11 years of experience (79 per cent). Females made up 47 per cent of principals in primary and 20 per cent in secondary schools compared to national gures of 68 per cent and 56 per cent respectively (Anderson, 2006). The mean age of principals was almost 50.0 years with most being between 45.0 and 57.5 years. This mean age and older age range is very similar to the national data (Anderson, 2006). The mean years of experience as a principal was 9.4 with males (11.4) being higher than females (6.8). These gures are similar to the national gures of 11.0 years for males

and 7.0 years females (Anderson, 2006). The average hours worked by principals was 58 hours. This gure is similar to the national gure of 60 hours (Anderson, 2006). There was a similar distribution between this sample and the population by school sector, except for a slight over representation of primary and under representation of secondary teachers in the sample. The normal distribution of economic needs index (ENI) on which the population is established was matched in the sample for both primary and secondary schools. The age distribution of the sample and population of teachers was similar, including when compared by level of school and gender. The mean age of teachers was 43.7 (primary 44.3 and secondary 42.4) which was similar to the national gure of 45.0 (Anderson, 2006). Of note was the large proportion of female primary school teachers (46.3 per cent) who were in the age range 45 to 54 years. Another 13.3 per cent of this group are aged 55 or over. The teacher cohort, that is currently in their early 40s, from whom the next generation of principals will be chosen, was very small. This cohort represents 17 per cent of all teachers and is similar to the 14 per cent gure for Victoria (Anderson, 2006). A total of 23, or 18 per cent of the 131 principals surveyed, were aged 56 years and over (mean age 57.2 years) and as such were classied as pre-retirement principals. They were found to average 15.5 years of experience and to have been in their current position for 7.1 years. The mean age of the remaining principals surveyed (other principals) was 47.9 years, with an average of 8.2 years of experience and 3.8 years in their current position. As would be expected, the majority (60 per cent) of principals in the up to 45 years age group had only one to ve years experience. A further 30 per cent of principals were aged between 50 and 54. However, in the pre-retirement or 56 plus years age group the range of experience was spread fairly evenly across the years of experience categories, including 22 per cent with one to ve years experience (see Figure 1). Pre-retirement principals reported that they worked slightly more hours a week than other principals (59 hours versus 57 hours). Further analysis of the principal data indicated that 17 per cent of pre-retirement principals surveyed were in secondary schools, 9 per cent in composite schools and 74 per cent in primary schools, and that 73

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Figure 1. Principal age and experience

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per cent of the pre-retirement group were males and 27 per cent females. While pre-retirement principals were more likely to have a background in leadership and management training than other principals (64 per cent versus 36 per cent), they had a signicantly (0.01) lower level of qualication than other principals (mean 2.17 versus mean 3.00 on a ve-point scale ranging from 1 for a diploma to 5 for a doctorate) (see Table I). A total of 95 of the 494 (19 per cent) teachers in the survey worked in schools with pre-retirement principals. The mean age of these teachers was 44.23, compared to those working in the schools of other principals where it was 43.32. Leadership characteristics. Principals were asked to indicate on a ve-point scale (1/rarely to 5/always) the extent to which each of 44 leadership characteristics were demonstrated in their practice, and teachers were asked the extent to which they believed each characteristic was demonstrated in the practice of their principal. A number of these characteristics allow us to examine similarities and differences between pre-retirement and other principals in terms of the areas identied in the literature, including characteristics such as commitment, consultation and willingness to change. Consistent with earlier research (e.g. Mulford, 2003) teachers were found to be slightly less positive than principals in their responses; nevertheless, teachers responses were at the high end of the principal leadership characteristics scale (3.80 to 4.54). There were few statistically signicant differences between the pre-retirement and other principals responses regarding leadership characteristics. Only one signicant difference emerged in the principal responses with the other principals signicantly more likely to see themselves acting as a role model as the leading learner than the pre-retirement group of principals. Three signicant differences emerged from the teacher data with those working with other principals signicantly more likely than those working with pre-retirement principals to perceive their principal as facilitating communication and being self reective, but those working with pre-retirement principals were signicantly more likely than those working for other principals to believe their principal distributed leadership. These results are summarised in Table II. Values and beliefs. Principals were asked to indicate their extent of agreement (1/strongly disagree to 5/strongly agree) with a number of core values and beliefs. Teachers responded to the same items indicating both the extent that each item reects the value or belief of their principal and of themselves, as a teacher. No signicant differences were found between the groups of principals. The only item at a signicant level (2-tailed t-test 0.05) was where other principals are more likely than the
Other principals (mean) 47.94 8.15 3.78 57.25 3.00 36 43.32 Pre-retirement principals (mean) 57.17 15.48 7.13 59.00 2.17 64 44.23

Demographics: items Age of principal Years as a principal Years as principal in current position Hours worked in a typical week Qualications (1 Diploma; 5 doctorate) Background in leadership training (%) Age of teachers

Table I. Demographics

Principals Leadership characteristics: evident in practice: items Committed Passionate Determined Promote school Act as role model as leading learner Initiate new projects Courageous Caring Facilitate communication Distribute leadership Passionate about well-being of staff/students Willingness to change Optimistic Self-reective Other Other Pre-retirement t-test sig. principals (mean) (mean) 9 mean) two-tailed 4.66 4.30 4.38 4.03 4.22 4.00 4.21 4.26 4.13 4.26 4.62 4.45 4.35 4.31 4.65 4.30 4.22 4.17 3.70 4.00 4.26 4.52 3.96 4.35 4.48 4.39 4.22 4.00 0.01 4.54 4.25 4.42 4.13 3.98 4.08 4.04 4.22 4.04 3.99 4.21 4.21 4.42 4.09

Teachers Pre-retirement principals t-test sig. (mean) two-tailed 4.52 4.20 4.27 4.27 3.78 4.03 4.14 4.36 3.80 4.25 4.23 4.07 4.35 3.84 0.04 0.02

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0.03

Table II. Leadership characteristics

pre-retirement group to believe that they could make a difference. This difference was signicant for the teacher perceptions of principals (2-tailed t-test 0.03). On the other hand, teacher perceptions of pre-retirement principals were signicantly higher than for other principals on actively promoting social justice (2-tailed t-test 0.02). These results are summarised in Table III. Leadership tension and dilemmas. Principals were asked to indicate the frequency (1/never to 5/always) with which they experienced nine leadership tensions and dilemmas. Pre-retirement principals were found to experience tensions/dilemmas more frequently (on seven of the nine items in the survey see Table IV) than their younger counterparts. On the other hand, pre-retirement principals experienced less tension than other principals about being out of their schools. Only this last tension was found to be statistically signicant (2-tailed at the 0.05 level). Tensions and dilemmas are also reected in the open-ended part of the principal survey where that were asked to respond to the item What conditions do you know about in your school that you do not talk about but if you did might lead to school improvement? As the following representative replies indicate, the pre-retirement principals had particular concerns with the level of system support, especially with respect to difcult teachers and top-down models of change:
Difcult teachers! . . . My capacity to effect change is zero! Greater autonomy regarding hiring and ring of teachers. The inability to deal effectively with . . . underperforming teachers due to Education Department human resources and industrial relations structures. I could follow the process (which would be agonising) for little result and chances are Id be blamed! So why bother?

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Values and beliefs: items 4.62 3.39 4.44 4.80 4.78 4.70 0.05 4.22 4.56 3.78 4.67 4.17 4.53 4.86 3.94 4.83 4.20 4.09 4.87 3.96 4.91 4.43 4.15 4.63 3.92 4.69 4.09 4.52 3.78 4.80 4.61 4.61 4.43 4.32 4.12 4.44 4.46 4.52 4.60 4.52 4.21 4.46 4.52 4.54 4.43

Actively promote social justice Parents have a right to choose a school Every student can succeed Hold high expectations of students Hold high expectations of staff Believe I can make a difference Stimulate staff to think about what they are doing for students Treat all members of the community with respect Students are involved in important school decision-making processes Student well-being at school is important to me Students involved formally in classroom decision-making process

Table III. Values and beliefs Other (mean) Principals Pre-retirement (mean) Sig. t-test: (2-tailed) .02 Teachers About principal About themselves Other Pre-retire Sig. t-test: Other Pre-retire (mean) (mean) (two-tailed) (mean) (mean) Sig. t-test: (two-tailed) 0.03 4.45 4.22 4.39 4.63 4.40 4.43 4.19 4.82 3.89 4.82 4.22 4.59 4.37 4.53 4.68 4.59 4.47 4.20 4.78 4.00 4.80 4.20

Leadership tensions and dilemmas: items Loyalty to employers/taking part in public discourse Expectations of employers/priorities made at school Loyalty to employers limits my right to participate in public discourse Ethical dilemmas made me consider resigning Determining what constitutes success Choosing between competing values Between ad hoc problem solving and strategic planning Present at school/participation outside school Being decisive/making decisions through participatory processes

Pre-retirement principals Sig. t-test: Other principals (mean) (two-tailed) (mean) 3.19 3.09 3.23 2.05 2.19 2.50 3.03 3.91 3.05 3.39 3.39 3.57 2.39 2.52 2.52 3.22 3.39 2.96 0.05

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Table IV. Leadership tensions and dilemmas

The current change agendas of the Department of Education are in crisis. . . . The level of coercion is appalling. School improvement is seen as something bureaucracies do to schools. Guiding our system to an understanding that the ram-raid political agenda . . . with its get it right rst time, destroy the morale of the troops model [does not work].

Pre-retirement principals would prefer to spend more productive time improving pedagogy, as the following two representative responses to the same open-ended question show:
More time to spend in classrooms observing teacher practice . . . [and] one-on-one with staff discussing their practice. Frank and open discussion about pedagogy particularly the most effective pedagogy.

Despite these tensions and dilemmas, few principals considered resigning from my job as a school leader (mean of 2.11 on a ve-point scale from never to always and with 46 per cent stating never). Principal learning and development. Principals indicated the extent of agreement (1/strongly disagree to 5/strongly agree) about their learning and the use (1/never to 5/All the time) of different sources of learning. The only item where the pre-retirement group were signicantly different than other principals was in their belief that they experienced less support from their employers when making changes (see Table V). This nding conrms the earlier concerns from the pre-retirement principals about system level support. The mean for both groups is below the mid-point of the scale. Principals contribution to school capacity building. Of the 28 items investigating the principals contribution to school capacity building (1/not at all to 5/high) only one item, There are high expectations for students achievement, showed signicant difference between the two groups with other principals scoring higher than the pre-retirement group (see Table VI). Other capacity building items mirrored the results from the leadership characteristics scale with no signicant differences found between the two groups of

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principals or teacher perceptions of their principals in terms of trust and collaboration, empowerment, a shared and monitored vision, and supported experimentation. School decision making. Principals (not teachers) were asked to indicate the degree of autonomy (1/no autonomy to 5/full autonomy) and the extent to which they used discretionary judgement (1/never to 5 always) in making decisions in a range of areas. There was no signicant difference between groups, however, when comparing means, the pre-retirement group of principals experience a lesser degree of autonomy and use of discretionary judgement than other principals (on eight of the ten items listed in Table VI). On the other hand, the evidence suggests pre-retirement principals may have a higher degree of autonomy when allocating resources and organising instruction and teaching. Pre-retirement principals also indicate they exercise higher use of discretionary judgement when establishing cultures for teaching and allocating resources (see Table VII). Evaluation and accountability. There were no signicant differences for either principals or teachers when comparing pre-retirement and other principals on a range of items related to teacher and school evaluation and accountability. These items included those related to a culture and structure for monitoring and evaluating teaching, and being accountable to stakeholders for school outcomes. Perceptions of school success. There were no signicant differences for either principals or teachers when comparing pre-retirement and other principals on a range of items related to school success (e.g. literacy, numeracy, responsible and democratic citizens), except for other principals in relation to students being technically competent (other principals scoring higher than teachers) and for teachers in relation to students in a physically and psychologically safe environment and able to solve conicts through negotiation (pre-retirement principals scoring higher than teachers). The mean scores in the non-signicant comparisons were in the same direction with pre-retirement scoring higher than other principals. These differences are summarised in Table VIII.

Table V. Signicant difference in principal learning and development

Principal learning: item I experience support from my employers when making changes in my work based on new knowledge and skills

Principals: others (mean)

Principals: pre-retirement (mean)

t-test: sig. two-tailed

2.94

2.39

0.01

Teachers Table VI. Signicant difference in principals contribution to school capacity building Principals Capacity building: extent to Other Pre-retirement Sig. t-test: which I contribute: item (mean) (mean) (two-tailed) There are high expectations of student achievement 4.27 3.91 0.03 Other principals (mean) 3.93 Pre-retirement principals (mean) 3.82

School decision making Items Structures for organisation of teaching Structures for organisation of learning Establishing cultures for teaching Establishing cultures for learning Management of teaching Resource allocation Personnel management Monitoring and evaluating teaching and learning Planning and structures Organisation of instruction and teaching

Degree of autonomy Other principals (means) 4.07 4.04 4.12 4.03 3.89 3.81 3.81 3.79 3.96 3.96 3.96 3.91 3.96 3.87 4.00 3.87 3.96 3.78 3.70 3.83 4.00

Use of discretionary judgement Pre-retirement principals (mean) Pre-retirement principals Other principals (means) (means)

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3.99 3.96 3.87 3.88 3.72 3.86 3.99 3.81 3.92 3.87 3.78 3..91 3.83 3.83 3.91 3.96 3.61 3.83 Table VII. School decision making

Item (perception of success) Technologically competent: current level of achievement Students in physically and psychologically safe environment Students able to solve conicts through negotiation

Principals Teachers Principals: t-test: Principals: t-test: sig. Others pre-retirement Others pre-retirement (mean) sig.two-tailed two-tailed (mean) (mean) (mean)

3.66 3.47 3.87

4.09 3.61 4.04

0.02

3.66 3.80 3.33

3.83 3.99 3.59 0.05 0.02 Table VIII. Signicant differences for perceptions of school success

Summary and conclusion Our recent research with Tasmanian government school principals conrms other state and national trends indicating the large proportion of principals in the late stage of their career, that is 18 per cent aged 55 years or over and another 30 per cent aged 50 to 54 years. Also consistent with the national data is the high proportion (73 per cent) of the pre-retirement principals who are male and the small cohort (17 per cent of all teachers) from which the next generation of principals are likely be chosen. However, when compared to the national data Tasmanian female government secondary school principals were underrepresented (56 per cent compared to 20 per cent). Figures concerning pre-retirement principals can be seen as a threat or an opportunity. They serve to underline the need for much greater attention to be paid to

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the growing shortages of principals and their replacements. There is signicant opportunity for education systems to consider the skills, accountability frameworks and support structures necessary for school leadership in the future. One aspect of this shortage, but one not well developed in the research literature or in policy, centres on the pre-retirement principals themselves. Who are they? Do they continue to make a positive contribution to their schools? How can they best be used in the nal years of their career? Our research makes a start in responding to such questions. Results from the present study conrm that pre-retirement principals feel ambiguity, conict and stress of the role more acutely than other principals. For example, we found that the pre-retirement principals were more likely to feel the tensions and dilemmas of their role when compared to other principals, especially in relation to the perceived lack of support from their employer when making changes in their work. Despite these tensions and dilemmas, and consistent with the ndings from Cranston and Ehrich (2002) and the Victorian Department of Education and Training (2004), most principals have never considered resigning. Our results also suggest that pre-retirement principals, when compared with other principals, are less likely to: . believe they make a difference; . act as a role model . facilitate communication; . have high expectations; and . be self-reective. Given the more positive results detailed below from our study, these ndings are difcult to explain. It may be that the outcomes of previous research, which suggest pre-retirement principals are more likely than other principals to be condent, mature, calm, and wise and that they are less likely to be bound by constraints, results in a more modest or realistic appraisal of their effects on others and their schools. Some support for this explanation is found in the smaller differences between principal and teacher mean scores for pre-retirement principals than other principals on items having to do with making a difference, acting as a role model, high expectations, and being self-reective. Also, on the item related to making a difference, all principal and teacher mean scores are very high scoring between 4.43 and 4.70 on the ve-point scale. The difference for facilitating communication was for teachers only and was not conrmed in similar items from the school capacity section of the survey. Further support to this explanation can be found in the open-ended part of the principal survey where principals were asked to respond to the item what conditions do you know about in your school that you do not talk about but if you did might lead to school improvement? As the following representative replies indicate, the pre-retirement principals were very open and honest about what was occurring in their schools:
I do not know of anything that might lead to school improvement that I would not share with my staff and parent community. I would talk about any issue that I thought would lead to school improvement.

Another possible explanation for the above ndings, that pre-retirement principals scored lower than other principals on items to do with initiating action (make a difference, role model, facilitate communication), is that the pre-retirement principals may be more likely than other principals to realise that success involves the whole staff not just the principal (that is, we rather than I). This position may be supported by the nding reported below that pre-retirement principals are more likely to distribute leadership than other principals. Further, our results suggest that pre-retirement principals, when compared with other principals, are no different in terms of: . willingness to change; . promoting the school and initiating new projects . being committed, passionate, determined, courageous, optimistic; . being collaborative and empowering; and . evaluation and accountability. These results contradict ndings from other research indicating that pre-retirement principals, when compared to other principals, are more likely to be rigid and autocratic, disenchanted with and withdrawn from work, and tired and trapped. Our results suggest that pre-retirement principals, when compared with other principals, are more likely to: . distribute leadership; . not feel the tension between the need to be present at school and to participate outside the school; and . believe students are in a safe environment and able to solve conicts through negotiation. While the area could benet from in-depth case studies of pre-retirement principals in particular school environments with particular challenges, our results do tend to conrm other research indicating that pre-retirement principals, when compared to other principals, are more likely to have a strong work ethic, to consult widely and to have a strong social consciousness. Taken together, our results conrm that the pre-retirement principals continue to be a committed and valuable resource. Given this nding, it may be that more needs to be done for these principals, both in terms of career paths as well as at the time of transition to retirement. Is it wise career planning that once appointed to a principalship a person will always be a principal? The traditional and hierarchical approach to educational careers may need to be challenged, with people more able to move in and out of positions at the classroom, school and system levels (see, for example, Brooker and Mulford, 1989). The current focus in England on system leadership provides one example, focussing as it does on the school principal working in full service schools in areas such as childcare, parenting support and other services (for example, speech therapy, mental health services), in federations or clusters of schools and/or outside the traditional school networking with a range of other agencies and institutions (NCSL, 2006a, b, c, d; PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, 2007). But it is too

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soon to know whether this development will provide just another higher position in the traditional career hierarchy or the chance for career exibility. At a time of a large and increasing proportion of principals in late career, it would make for more sensible human resource practice, both for the principals themselves and their education systems, to give greater research and policy attention to the issue. The work to 65, dead at 66 belief among some principals needs to be challenged, superannuation schemes need to be restructured and cooperative and exible career options put in place. With education systems undergoing major and continuing change, while at the same as suffering potential shortages of effective school leaders, it is time to re-examine educational career structures, especially for those principals approaching retirement.
References AEU (2005), National Principals Committee State of Our Schools Survey 2005, Australian Education Union, Melbourne. Anderson, M. (2006), Australia: Country Background Report for the OECD Improving School Leadership Activity, DEST, Canberra. Brooker, P. and Mulford, B. (1989), Is a high school promotion system designed for the 50s good enough for the 80s and 90s?, The Practising Administrator, Vol. 11 No. 3, pp. 12-16. Carlin, P., dArbon, T., Dorman, D., Duignan, P. and Neidhart, H. (2003), Leadership Succession for Catholic Schools in Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania, Australian Catholic University, Stratheld. Cranston, N. and Ehrich, L. (2002), Overcoming sleeplessness: role and workload of secondary school principals in Queensland, Leading and Managing, Vol. 8 No. 1, pp. 17-35. Cranston, N., Tromans, C. and Reugebrink, M. (2004), Forgotten leaders: what do we know about the deputy principalship in secondary schools?, International Journal of Leadership in Education, Vol. 7 No. 3, pp. 225-42. Day, C. and Bakioglu, A. (1996), Development and disenchantment in the professional lives of headteachers, in Goodson, I. and Hargreaves, A. (Eds), Teachers Professional Lives, The Falmer Press, London, pp. 123-39. Day, C., Stobart, G., Sammons, P., Kingston, A., Gu, Q., Smees, R. and Mujtaba, T. (2006), Variations in teachers work, lives and effectiveness, Research Report RR743, Department for Education and Skills, London. Earley, P. and Weindling, D. (2007), Do school leaders have a shelf life? Career stages and headteacher performance, Educational Management, Administration and Leadership, Vol. 35 No. 1, pp. 73-88. Gronn, P. (2003), The New Work of Educational Leaders: Changing Leadership Practice in an Era of School Reform, Sage/Paul Chapman, London. Gronn, P. and Lacey, K. (2006), Cloning their own: aspirant principals and the school-based selection game, Australian Journal of Education, Vol. 50 No. 2, pp. 102-21. Huberman, M. (1989), Professional life cycle of teachers, Teachers College Record, Vol. 91 No. 1, pp. 31-57. Lacey, K. (2003), Factors that impact on principal class leadership aspirations, unpublished PhD thesis, University of Melbourne, Melbourne. Latham, D. (2004), A case study of teachers and principals perceptions of school leadership, unpublished EdD thesis, University of Tasmania, Hobart.

Macmillan, R. (1998), Approaches to leadership: what comes with experience?, Educational Management and Administration, Vol. 26 No. 2, pp. 173-84. MCEETYA (2003), Demand and supply of primary and secondary school teachers in Australia. Part E (ii) Qualitative Research National Survey of Principals, available at: www. curriculum.edu.au/mceetya/public/demand/htm (accessed 27 January 2007). MCEETYA (2006), Catholic Education Ofce of Western Australia, paper presented at Invitational Conference on National School Leadership, available at: www.mceetya.edu.au/ mceetya/ (accessed 27 January 2007). Mulford, B. (2003), School leaders: challenging roles and impact on teacher and school effectiveness, commissioned paper by the Education and Training Policy Division, OECD, for the Activity Attracting, Developing and Retaining Effective Teachers, Paris, available at: www.oecd.org/dataoecd/61/61/2635399.pdf (accessed 27 January 2007). NCSL (2006a), System Leadership in Action, National College for School Leadership, Nottingham. NCSL (2006b), New Models of Headship: Federations, National College for School Leadership, Nottingham. NCSL (2006c), New Models of Headship: Primary Executive Heads, National College for School Leadership, Nottingham. NCSL (2006d), New Models of Headship: Secondary or Special School Executive Heads, National College for School Leadership, Nottingham. Preston, B. (2002), Tracking trends in principal and teacher demand and supply, paper presented at AARE, Brisbane, December. PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP (2007), Independent study into school leadership, a research report prepared for the Department for Education and Skills, London, available at: www. dfes.gov.uk/research/ (accessed 27 January 2007). Super, D. (1957), The Psychology of Careers, Harper, New York, NY. Victorian Department of Education and Training (2004), The Privilege and the Price: A Study of Principal Class Workload and its Impact on Health and Wellbeing, Victorian Department of Education and Training, Melbourne. Weindling, D. (1999), Stages of headship, in Bush, T., Bell, L., Bolam, R., Glatter, R. and Ribbins, P. (Eds), Educational Management: Rening a Theory, Policy, Practice, Paul Chapman Publishing, London, pp. 90-101. Woods, R. (2002), Enchanted Headteachers: Sustainability in Primary School Headship, National College for School Leadership, Nottingham. Corresponding author Bill Mulford can be contacted at: bill.mulford@utas.edu.au

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