Information for aspiring principals

The resources in this section focus on helping you to understand what is required from a school’s educational leader.

Principals play a key role in developing and supporting teaching and learning in their schools, and in managing systems, staff, and students. It is a complex and challenging job, yet one that is enjoyable and rewarding. Good preparation is important.

Leadership support

The National Aspiring Principals' Programme concluded at the end of 2016.

In 2017-2018, leadership support is focused on beginning principals and Communities of Learning, Kāhui Ako.

See Leadership programmes for more details.

Preparing for principalship

One of the five recommendations in an Australian Institute of Teaching and School Leadership report (2015) on preparing aspiring school principals describes three broad stages of learning.

Instructional leadership

Developing deep and comprehensive pedagogical knowledge is foundational. It is something you can begin early, as it is compatible with a teaching role.

Higher-order and interpersonal skills

Developing skills such as strategic thinking, change leadership, and emotional and social intelligence, needs time. You should seek opportunities to do this before taking on the role of principal.

Management abilities

Developing management knowledge and skills is best undertaken just before taking on a principal role so you can immediately consolidate your learning through practice.

Read the AITSL report – recommendation 3

Download the full AITSL report 

Information on this website


Key leadership documents

Guides for managing your school

Personal stories from new principals

Becoming a principal and making a difference        

Preparing for principalship     

Reflections from a first-time principal       


Listening to first-time principals

Small school challenges

Further information

Australian Institute of Teaching and School Leadership

Leadership scenarios

Explore six challenges for new school leaders but also of interest to aspiring leaders.

Ontario Ministry of Education

The aspiring principal or vice-principal (PDF)

Presents five strategies teachers can use to prepare for a smooth and successful transition to a formal leadership role.

Ideas into Action series 

Includes guides exploring the psychological, social and cognitive personal resources that support leadership.


Pathways to school leadership – Education Review, April 2017

Interviews a principal, a senior leader and a middle leader on possible pathways to leadership.

Leadership characteristics and Fullan's five principles – Australian School of Applied Management

Connects people's descriptions of meaningful leaders to Michael Fullan's principles of educational leadership for change.

How to ask your boss for time to learn new things – Harvard Business Review

A useful process for planning your professional learning. A business context but universal themes. 

Let's close the confidence gap, Global Women NZ on Youtube