Date of Award


Document Type



Edith Cowan University

Degree Name

Master of Education


School of Education


Faculty of Education and Arts

First Supervisor

Associate Professor Glenda Campbell-Evans


Through my work in various contexts, as a senior leader, a curriculum improvement officer, a deputy principal, a project manager for professional learning and now as principal, I recognised from experience and dabbling in research that there were gaps in professional learning offered to aspirant and beginning secondary school principals in the public system. Undertaking research in this field would either confirm or refute my theory that support for secondary principals through professional learning in the Western Australian Department of Education was limited. The premise that quality leadership enhances quality teaching was a driver in establishing my goal, which is to inform and influence the system to better support secondary principals in public schools in Western Australia. Therefore, this is a unique study of beginning principal preparation in the public secondary education sector in Western Australia. The specific purpose of the study was to investigate the level of preparation undertaken by new and experienced principals for their role and to explore to what extent entry planning could assist in the preparation for principalship.

A comprehensive literature review was undertaken and to date the majority of the literature investigates the challenges facing beginning principals and how well prepared they felt they were to meet those challenges. Clarke, Wildy and Styles (2011) argue that:
in educational settings where generations of school principals have taken up their appointments without any prior preparation, who have learned to do the job while on the job, and whose professional development has been driven mainly by their own initiative, it is unlikely that incumbents have an understanding of what might have been different for them in their work had they experienced a formal preparation program prior to appointment. (p. 174)

The study sought to ask questions of practitioners that would either validate the global research or support the view of Clarke, Wildy and Styles. The findings were consistent between the literature and the case studies. The participating principals articulated the components of effective principal preparation programs and they have a keen desire to see these implemented in support of public education in Western Australia.

The study found that professional learning and preparation for secondary principals in the public sector is adhoc, and often developed, or not, at the personal level. There were three main findings: effective principal preparation can reduce the perceived complexity of the role and therefore minimize the expectations experienced by the beginning school principal; formal implementation of informal learning opportunities such as mentoring, coaching and networking can reduce the drift from the profession; and that entry planning has a significant effect in assisting in preparation for the principalship. Principals from a range experience, from 18 months to 20 years, agree that a systemic, coordinated approach would more adequately prepare secondary principals for the complexity of expectations from local, state and national perspectives, and encourage aspirant school leaders to move into the principalship during a time when a predicted shortage in the teaching profession is making the role even more complex.


Paper Location