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Issues in Educational Research, 2020, Vol 30(2), 709-735.
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Better the devil you know? Internal and external candidacy for leadership roles in an Australian State school system

Kevin Steed, Manjula Waniganayake and John De Nobile
Macquarie University, Australia

Research regarding the recruitment of principals is well established in scholarly literature. However, scant research has been undertaken to scrutinise the perspectives of principals in the New South Wales Department of Education (NSWDE) regarding their merit selection practice and the extent to which school-based leadership recruitment decisions are determined objectively and in accordance with meritocratic ideals. Consequently, this paper reports on an Australian study undertaken in the state of New South Wales (NSW) to ascertain the extent to which government school principals employed by the NSWDE, favour internal selection (the promotion of teachers from within their own school) when merit-selecting deputy principals, assistant principals and head teachers. The study draws upon interviews with principals concerning their approach to the merit selection of school leaders, and the analysis of data from an online survey of principals to determine the extent to which they utilised their school's 'internal labour market' to assemble leadership cadres. Based on the findings of this investigation, it is argued that the NSWDE merit selection process disadvantages external applicants seeking school leadership positions, thereby depriving many schools of quality leaders who have the potential to drive both educational change and innovation.
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Authors: Kevin Steed (corresponding author) has worked with the NSW Department of Education as a Head Teacher and Deputy Principal and has co-authored four Higher School Certificate Legal Studies textbooks presently in use throughout New South Wales high schools. He is currently working within the Macquarie School of Education research community whilst completing doctoral studies.
Email: kevin.steed@students.mq.edu.au

Manjula Waniganayake is Professor of Early Childhood in the Macquarie School of Education. She is also an Honorary Doctor and Adjunct Professor at the University of Tampere, Finland. Professor Waniganayake is a specialist in early childhood leadership, quality assurance and policy analysis work.
Email: manjula.waniganayake@mq.edu.au

Dr John De Nobile is a senior lecturer and researcher in the Macquarie School of Education. His research interests include middle and senior leadership behaviour, school communication and teacher job attitudes.
Email: john.denobile@mq.edu.au

Please cite as: Steed, K., Waniganayake, M. & De Nobile, J. (2020). Better the devil you know? Internal and external candidacy for leadership roles in an Australian State school system. Issues in Educational Research, 30(2), 709-735. http://www.iier.org.au/iier30/steed.pdf

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