Original Research

Informing principal policy reforms in South Africa through data-based evidence

Gabrielle Wills
South African Journal of Childhood Education | Vol 5, No 2 | a392 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajce.v5i2.392 | © 2015 Gabrielle Wills | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 07 December 2015 | Published: 07 December 2015

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Gabrielle Wills, University of Stellenbosch

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In the past decade there has been a notable shift in South African education policy that raises the value of school leadership as a lever for learning improvements. Despite a growing discourse on school leadership, there has been a lack of empirical based evidence on principals to inform, validate or debate the efficacy of proposed policies in raising the calibre of school principals. Drawing on findings from a larger study to understand the labour market for school principals in South Africa, this paper highlights four overarching characteristics of this market with implications for informing principal policy reforms. The paper notes that improving the design and implementation of policies guiding the appointment process for principals is a matter of urgency. A substantial and increasing number of principal replacements are taking place across South African schools given a rising age profile of school principals. In a context of low levels of principal mobility and high tenure, the leadership trajectory of the average school is established for nearly a decade with each principal replacement. Evidence-based policy making has a strong role to play in getting this right.


School principals, principal turnover, mobility, attrition, principal appointments, competency-based testing, performance management systems


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