Education and Training Act 2020: School principal appointment criteria

The principal role is demanding, complex and critical to the success of a school and the educational outcomes of the learners/ākonga within that school. Despite this, under the previous legislation there were no mandatory requirements for any particular skills, knowledge, attitudes or experience to be considered that could support a Board’s appointment of a principal. The only legal requirement for appointment as a principal was being a registered teacher who holds a current practicing certificate.

The Independent Taskforce that reviewed Tomorrow’s Schools recommended that national eligibility criteria and guidelines for principal appointment and performance review be developed.

Read more about the Taskforce’s recommendation(external link)

Section 617 of the Act requires the Minister to issue minimum eligibility criteria for new school principal appointments. The criteria are intended to:

  • ensure the consistency of skills, competencies, knowledge and expertise of applicants;
  • support better understanding of the background and experience needed for school leadership among persons aspiring to the role of a principal as part of their future career;
  • provide confidence to boards in making appointments; and
  • signal the importance of the role of principals across the wider school system.

The criteria will be issued following consultation as set out in the Act.

Before issuing any criteria, the Minister must make reasonable efforts to consult with children, young people and their parents, whānau and communities, with a range of relevant national bodies, such as teachers, parents and Māori education organisations, and with national bodies with a particular role in respect of the character of character schools.

Section 618 enables school boards to develop additional criteria relating to the appointment of principals, as long as these are consistent with the criteria issued by the Minister. During development of any additional criteria, the Board must consult its school community.

The new criteria will be applied to all principal appointments made in State and State-integrated schools. The criteria will not be applied to current principals who remain in their current role. Current principals will, over time, be offered opportunities to upskill and develop where needed, to meet the same criteria as those appointed under the new eligibility criteria.

The Government has agreed to create a Leadership Centre for principals, as well as new Leadership Advisor roles, in its response to the Tomorrow’s Schools report. The Centre is being established by the Teaching Council following an invitation from the Minister. It will help build the status and capability of principals, based on the Leadership Strategy the Teaching Council published in August 2018. Leadership Advisors would provide principals with ongoing support and mentoring, and give guidance to boards when appointing a new principal.

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