Lessons from former principals: Possible approaches to mitigating school leader turnover

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Abstract

Attention is being paid by researchers and policymakers globally to the problem of principal burnout and attrition, caused by rising workloads and stressful conditions. This paper identifies several possible mitigating strategies or practices, drawing on lessons learnt from former school principals about their professional experiences. The paper draws upon a case study of principal attraction and retention in Australia, focusing particularly on survey results from a subset of 56 Australian former school principals. The analysis is theorised through turnover theory, specifically with a lens on the push factors that influenced principals’ turnover and attrition. Our analysis shows that principals left the profession due to a perceived lack of support, complexity of the role and overwhelming workload. These are identified as priorities for new policies and practices that better support principals working in an increasingly challenging profession. The paper provides an original contribution to the field through its specific focus on retention and former principals’ perspectives. While the paper is focused on Australian principals, their experiences can provide insights into wider patterns being seen in countries with pressurised workloads, increasingly poor principal health and well-being, and subsequent concerns about the attraction and retention of school leaders.
Original languageEnglish
JournalManagement in Education
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 25 Sept 2023

Keywords

  • educational leadership
  • headteacher health and well-being
  • headteacher retention
  • headteacher support
  • principal health and well-being
  • principal retention
  • principal support

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