Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Education Honours


School of Education

First Advisor

Dr Murray Lake


In Western Australia, in the last decade, there can be little doubt that educational leaders at all levels have faced substantial changes in their roles. New dimensions have been added to the role of principal and this emergent role is yet to be clearly identified. Principals are no longer solely conduits for centrally determined policies. They are now expected to undertake responsibilities such as school development planning, school based decision making and managing school grants. The appointment of a teacher to the principalship of the smaller rural school, in this study a Class III or IV school, is a significant step since it often represents the first attempt at principal ship. Primary school principals practising in remote areas of Western Australia experience many of the problems encountered by their urban counterparts. Rural areas however, provide unique problems not encountered in city schools. These include the isolation factor and the effects of living and working in small, close-knit communities where the school is often the focus of the community. Many principals entering this situation for the first time have inadequate training or experience for their new role. They are faced with having to effectively manage a school with professional help, in most cases, at a great distance. Community involvement in these remote rural centres is reported as "intense" and the principal has the additional responsibility of maintaining harmonious relationships between the school and the community. The purpose of this study was to identify the major professional and nonprofessional problems of thirteen beginning principals of small rural schools in Western Australia during the initial stage of their appointments in 1991. It reports those problems and the coping strategies used by the beginning principals and the type of support available. Using a qualitative research design it was found that the nonprofessional factors caused more problems for the principals than the professional factors. The major nonprofessional problems were a function of the isolation factor both for the principals and their families. The major professional problems centred on time management and managing change in communities perceived to be resistant to change. The coping strategies reported were varied. An emergent theme, however, was that one should accept the community as it was and endeavour to adapt oneself to the lifestyle.