What is Kiwi Leadership for Principals about?

The Ministry of Education has developed this position paper, Kiwi Leadership for Principals (the KLP), in collaboration with the school sector. It is underpinned by research evidence contained in the 2008 Educational Leadership Best Evidence Synthesis Iteration (Schooling) currently in development and from school leaders’ insights derived from their experience.

Kiwi Leadership describes an approach to school principalship that is specially suited to the distinctive contexts of Aotearoa New Zealand. Our system of self-management allows principals to respond in ways that are appropriate to the needs and circumstances of their own schools. It draws on the Kiwi “can-do” attitude that is characteristic of New Zealand principals. This attitude is typified by a willingness to take action and achieve results.

The main purpose of the KLP is to present a model of leadership that reflects the qualities, knowledge and skills required to lead New Zealand schools from the present to the future. At the heart of the model is a clear focus on how we can work together to improve educational and social outcomes for all our young people.

The KLP describes our shared expectations of New Zealand principals now and in the years ahead. It provides a reference point for developing the Professional Leadership Strategy (PLS). The PLS will provide a three- to five-year plan that outlines how the Government intends to work with the sector to strengthen school leadership.

The KLP has been developed after considering:

  • what international and national studies tell us about principal leadership practices that contribute to improved student outcomes. Information emerging from the Educational Leadership Best Evidence Synthesis Iteration (Robinson, 2008, Ministry of Education, forthcoming) and New Zealand’s ongoing involvement with the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) contribute to the model of educational leadership presented here
  • what experienced principals have told us about effective professional practice
  • the kinds of leadership capabilities that schools might require in the future
  • feedback from leadership research and sector policy groups
  • to recruit and retain quality school leaders for all school contexts, and particularly for small, rural schools, and those with high Māori populations
  • to support principals to focus on student achievement and pedagogical leadership within a self-managing context.

Educational leadership

The KLP focusses particularly on the educational leadership that principals provide. This focus includes building and leading a community of learners, staff, and board for whom the key interest is improving a range of student learning outcomes.

Effective educational leadership builds the pedagogical, administrative and cultural conditions necessary for successful learning and teaching. Principals do not do this alone. They use their leadership and management skills in ways that motivate and develop the capabilities of others so that responsibility for strengthening and sustaining the work and direction of the school is shared.

Aspects of educational leadership are specific to the principal’s role. These include setting strategic goals intended to enhance teaching and learning, and obtaining and managing the resources needed to achieve those goals. Leading change, problem solving, building relational trust, and managing the complex issues that occur in any school community are all part of the principal’s role as an educational leader.

The KLP also takes account of the particular conditions in which New Zealand’s self- managing schools operate. The New Zealand system of self-management is one of the most devolved within the OECD. This presents special obligations, opportunities, challenges and responsibilities for principals (Pont et al, 2008).

As well as being pedagogical leaders, principals are responsible for the day-to-day management of a broad range of policy and operational matters, including personnel, finance, property, health and safety, and the interpretation and delivery of the national curriculum. Principals are accountable to their boards of trustees for the effective conduct of these responsibilities. They are accountable, with the board, to their school community, and local iwi. They also link with government agencies such as the Ministry of Education and the Education Review Office who share responsibility for an effective school system.

In short, principals are ultimately responsible for the day-to-day management of everything that happens in their schools. 

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