New school leaders work in a dynamic and changing environment and will only succeed if they are well prepared.
Induction into school leadership begins when leaders are newly appointed to their role. This is a period when
more intensive support is required to assist them to successfully make the transition from the classroom to
effective leadership. Some leaders
may be stepping from one leadership position into another, but for others this represents their first step into
a leadership role. For those new to leadership, they are demonstrating a full set of leadership capabilities for
the first time. Irrespective
of their previous experience, different contexts and roles often require leaders to demonstrate some leadership
capability sets more than others.
Induction into school leadership is a shift in professional identity and a time of new capability development. It
is where a teacher’s focus shifts from direct classroom responsibilities to a broader focus within the
school, often times managing
both. At the start of a new leadership role, new skills may include learning how to support and mentor teachers
and understanding how to implement particular elements of whole-school improvement plans. Leadership induction
is most effective when
it takes place within a school culture where teachers and leaders expect and are expected to be active learners,
who reflect on and refine their practice in order to improve student outcomes. Further information about culture
and development processes
are described in the Australian Teacher Performance and Development Framework and the
Australian Charter for the Professional Learning of Teachers and School Leaders.
There are known effective strategies for leadership induction outlined within these guidelines, including formal
training and processes, mentoring, coaching and access to networks. It is not expected that all leadership
induction processes are the
same, but it is important that a high-quality induction is implemented. The implementation of programs may need
to be adapted to suit varied education contexts.
Regardless of context, employer representatives (whether at a system, sector or school level) should provide new
school leaders with the time, capacity and support to focus on the practices most likely to improve student
The Guidelines for the Induction of New School Leaders in Australia (new leader guidelines) provide
advice on what leadership induction is, why it matters and the conditions and focus areas for leadership
induction. It also outlines strategies
for supporting induction and the roles played by various individuals and organisations in managing and
supporting induction processes.
The new leader guidelines are intended for use by those responsible for supporting leadership induction,
including system leaders, leaders in schools and in some cases school boards. They inform leadership induction
practices in current policy documents
and professional learning activities. They aim to provide a consistent structure to assist new school leaders as
they navigate through necessary induction processes, initiate networking channels of support and reflect upon
learnings specific to
their school context.
The term ‘leadership induction’, for the purpose of these guidelines, refers to a planned process or
program where a newly appointed leader is supported while they transition to a new leadership role for the first
time or transition to
a new leadership context. Induction processes can include coaching, mentoring and induction programs, and
participating in leadership professional learning activities. Induction should represent a substantial
commitment to learning on the part
of the new school leader and those who support them.
The average time to transition, or effectively lead in a school is approximately 6 to 12 months; though it may
vary (Cruz-Gonzalez, Rodriguez, Segovia, 2021). The first 3 months are a critical time for new school leaders to
understand their specific
context and to create the networks they need to succeed. Following a period of induction, a new school leader
moves towards a process of ongoing professional learning, and performance and development to support their
continuous learning and growth.
Those newly appointed in a variety of school leadership positions often use elements of the
Australian Professional Standard for Principals (Principal Standard) to develop and support teaching
that maximises their impact on student learning. They start to shift their thinking from a high-level
operational approach to a relational focus
to improve student learning, behaviour, engagement and wellbeing. They use their teaching knowledge and
expertise to provide advice to teachers within their sphere of influence. During this transition process, new
school leaders focus on developing
and maintaining positive relationships and most often draw on other school leaders where possible, including
middle leaders, for support.
The more leaders focus their influence, learning, and their relationships with teachers on the core business of
teaching and learning, the greater their likely influence is on student outcomes (Robinson, 2007), demonstrating
a potential effect size
of 0.42, or more than a year’s worth of growth for a year’s input. This growth comes from
leaders’ capacity to lead teaching and learning effectively; therefore, new school leaders need support
through induction to have the expertise
to drive improved outcomes for students.
As new school leaders transition to this new identity, they encounter a shift in perspective and responsibility
which requires an advanced set of skills and knowledge. They require support to manage the complexities and
unique challenges of the role
to be an effective school leader. Without training and guidance from employers, new school leaders may struggle
to understand their responsibilities and expectations of their role. Effective induction processes can have a
range of positive impacts
on the professional development of a new school leader. They provide a strong foundation by:
- increasing clarity in the roles and responsibilities for both the new school leader and school community
- supporting and promoting self-efficacy
- building connections with new professional teams and the wider community
- tailoring professional learning opportunities through consultation with experienced leaders, mentors or
Research indicates that effective leadership induction is formalised, structured, embedded in daily practice and
contextually relevant. The focus is on maximising the impact on student learning and addressing both the
personal and professional demands
of the role. The process of induction is most effective when delivered in settings with a strong learning
culture and is part of an ongoing process of monitoring and evaluation.
New school leaders are more likely to feel a sense of belonging and can work to their full potential if they are
well-informed by members of the school leadership team. Schools implementing effective induction processes can
lead to increased commitment
and job satisfaction for new school leaders.
A comprehensive induction process can allow new school leaders to better understand the teachers, students and
community they are working with and can support staff retention in complex environments.
There are established effective induction strategies; however, these strategies may need to be adapted according
to context. Good leadership induction conditions include an environment where teachers and leaders are
empowered, maintain a professional
mindset and have self-efficacy and autonomy in their roles.
The culture should encourage a commitment to professional learning, collaboration and evaluation of effective
practice. Employers should ensure working conditions allow teachers and leaders to have time to focus on student
needs, take care of their
own wellbeing and access professional learning opportunities, both for themselves and for staff.
Induction focuses on developing capabilities in leadership, school management and whole-school improvement with a
focus on student learning outcomes, including the following four focus areas.
New school leaders require skills to provide advice, seek feedback and understand how to access information on
effective practice relevant to their role and context. They need to gather evidence of their impact and schedule
time to reflect, examine
and analyse their practices to identify strengths and areas for improvement, informed by relevant research. They
must seek evidence-informed professional practices and know how to translate research into practice to support
their own continued
development. Furthermore, new school leaders require the skills to transfer their knowledge to implement
high-quality teaching and learning outcomes for students.
The knowledge and skills involved in school leadership are considerable. New school leaders need to acquire new
skills at the beginning of their leadership role to understand how to support and mentor teachers, develop their
strategic and relational
understandings of whole-school improvement planning and maintain a level of management within their sphere of
influence. Some of these skills might include cultivating:
- a productive school culture
- effective leadership capabilities and dispositions such as building relational trust and interpersonal
- leadership skills such as management and business practices
- data analysis beyond the classroom to support whole-school reviews.
New school leaders should be supported in understanding their leadership identity, a self-concept based on
attributes, beliefs, values and social motivations which are used to define themselves in their professional
role. Every new school leader establishes
a leadership identity, consolidating their knowledge of good leadership, how to develop positive relationships
with peers and the community and building their understanding of effective teaching and learning to improve
student learning. New school
leaders need to conceptualise an understanding of their own leadership style. They do this by observing others,
and instead of mirroring the leadership style they observe, they adapt and build their own style through
informed decision-making and
Leadership transition is a state of significant change in professional identity from teacher to leader and
requires ongoing support. New school leaders must understand what is expected of them, both in the school
setting and more broadly. There are
different expectations and greater responsibilities, which are often more complex than the work of classroom
teachers. They may require clarity in understanding their role in accordance with their sphere of influence. New
school leaders may be
drawn to elements of the 5 professional practices of the Principal Standard to contextualise their specific
roles and responsibilities. This might include:
- Leading teaching and learning; having a key responsibility for designing and managing the quality
of teaching and learning across the school.
- Developing self and others; building a professional learning community that is focused on the
continuous improvement of teaching and learning.
- Leading improvement, innovation and change; leading school improvement initiatives focusing on
critical understanding of the science of learning to improve student outcomes.
- Leading the management of the school; optimising the school’s financial, human, and physical
resources in line with the school’s vision and goals.
- Engaging and working with the community; creating a safe, purposeful, and inclusive learning
environment with the capacity to develop respectful relationships with key stakeholders within the school
New school leaders face unique challenges and needs when transitioning into a leadership role, such as
‘being accountable to a range of stakeholders with conflicting requirements’ (Irvine &
Brundrett, 2019), managing constant changes
and ‘feelings of isolation and a need for support, especially in the form of mentorship’ (Bush,
2018; Jensen 2017, Sutcher, 2017). These feelings can stem from responsibilities associated with the role,
coupled with the need to respond
to new expectations, form new relationships, and operate in a position of ambiguity. Educational leadership
roles require personal dispositions, including perseverance and resilience as well as interpersonal
capabilities, such as building relational
trust to work within a supportive culture.
When transitioning into a school leadership role for the first time, many new school leaders are likely to be
juggling leadership and teaching and learning simultaneously. Employers need to ensure that new school leaders
can access networks both locally
and more broadly to support their wellbeing needs and to effectively meet the expectations of their role. Other
practices employers should consider to support the wellbeing of new school leaders include:
- providing access to caring and supportive relationships in a school community where staff feel respected,
valued, and supported
- creating a school culture where staff are actively involved in decision-making processes and recognised for
- collaborating with others to identify clear expectations and establish common goals
- creating opportunities where staff can support and improve their own emotional wellbeing (Lester, Cefai,
Cavioni, Barnes & Cross, 2020).
It is important that new school leaders take responsibility for their own wellbeing to enable them to build the
skills and attributes required to support the wellbeing of others, aligned to the cultural values set within the
Activities which require interpersonal skills, such as networking, managing others, and developing
individual wellbeing are crucial to the teacher's success (Hudson, 2012; Wertzberger, 2022).
Effective induction practices must situate new school leaders within their environment. This could be a new
school setting or acquiring a new leadership role in their current school setting. Effective induction requires
employers to provide access
to a workplace orientation and in some cases an introduction to the school setting. Induction processes should
include supporting new leaders’ understandings of Country and community protocols for engaging with
Aboriginal and Torres Strait
Islander communities in all contexts.
Successful new school leaders, particularly those entering a new school community for the first time, rapidly
gather information about the context, including the school’s history, culture, current performance and
strategic directions. This process
enables them to establish key relationships, communicate priorities, and initiate building their professional
identity to lead within their sphere of influence.
Employers must support new school leaders in their understanding of formal requirements such as policies and
compliance requirements, and informal leadership strategies that include cultural and interpersonal
considerations. These can include:
- formal requirements including legislative and policy requirements, compliance demands, and school practices
- operational expectations such as communications protocols, identifying relevant community members and allied
- cultural expectations, such as connecting with and understanding informal expectations of colleagues and
members of the school community.
A range of strategies and actions should be employed to support new school leaders as they transition to their
roles. Induction should not be a burdensome process or seen as an additional compliance task for new school
leaders but should ease the
process of transition by complementing their professional growth as they move into more complex roles with
greater responsibility. Support should be offered by employers by allowing new school leaders the time, capacity
and support to engage in
Leadership induction should be formalised through a coherent and planned approach. Induction programs are
particularly valuable to prepare and shape initial school leadership practices, providing new school leaders
with access to networks that enable
them to share challenges and learn from others.
These programs should provide a combination of theoretical and practical knowledge, combined with opportunities
for self-reflection. They should cover technical information such as key policies, systems and timelines and
include the opportunity to
apply and build new knowledge in practical situations. Planning induction programs needs to consider the
allocation of time required for new school leaders to successfully orientate into their new leadership role.
Current new leadership training programs in Australia typically occur over a 6 to 9 month period, with
participants engaging in a combination of:
- hybrid workshops (virtual or face to face – up to 5 full days)
- weekly self-directed learning (up to 16 hours across the induction period)
- peer learning group contributions (up to eight hours across the induction period)
- school improvement project participation, including developing understanding and application of change
leadership through the implementation of a school-based improvement initiative (up to 16 hours across the
induction period) 1.
Employers should offer a range of support services which should be offered to new school leaders prior to, or at
the beginning of their induction period, so they are aware of what is available to them within their school
Mentors and coaches are vital aspects of leadership training and induction.
New school leaders may be able to access mentors from within their school and/or externally from various
networks. External mentors can provide a safe environment to ask questions and provide support, drawing from
different perspectives and experiences.
Mentors are most effective when there are clear expectations about their role, they are selected based on a set
of prerequisites and qualities, and there are resources to support the mentoring process. Mentors should be
equipped to ensure the
quality and expectations required of mentoring is equitable and understood.
Coaching is a professional learning strategy which uses questioning and conversation to support professional
growth. The strategy encourages new school leaders to take responsibility for their own development, set goals,
take action and grow.
Both mentoring and coaching can provide the following benefits:
- assistance in developing emotional intelligence and how the leader’s attitudes and behaviours impact
their interactions with others
- personalised growth and development through tailored learning plans and the development of goals
- challenge assumptions and cultural biases to enable a more open mindset.
Where coaching or mentoring is not available to new school leaders in their local context, they need to be
supported to access opportunities through online networks.
Communities of practice provide both interpersonal and professional relationships that are invaluable to new
school leaders. These allow teachers to form high-quality relationships, which enhances their job satisfaction.
Through collective efficacy
and collaborative inquiry, communities of practice establish a sense of belonging and shared mission, working to
uplift each other through adherence to shared goals and values while contributing to professional growth and
et al., 2021; Mason & Matas 2015).
Peer groups can allow new school leaders to:
- develop a collaborative mindset and learn with and from others
- share ideas and problem solve
- form shared values and mission
- mitigate feelings of isolation associated with taking on a leadership role and view leadership as a communal
- develop both individual and collective professional identity.
Teachers and leaders in regional and remote contexts face complex challenges that are unique to or exacerbated by
their geographical location. Small staff sizes mean leaders have additional responsibilities or may be teaching
across multiple year
levels and subject areas. Leaders report that their role often extends to pastoral care because of the lack of
systematic access to support services in rural and remote areas (Heffernan & Pierpoint, 2020). As a person
of support within the
community, school leaders are often facilitators of access to health care, social services, legal support,
employment support and mental health care. Some school leaders are also responsible for overseeing issues such
as teacher housing.
These unique challenges and additional responsibilities mean quality induction processes for new school leaders
in regional and remote contexts are particularly important. Investment in the following strategies help new
school leaders as they enter
- Adequate preparation and understanding prior to starting in their role to alleviate any unrealistic
expectations, particularly for teachers beginning their leadership role in a new community.
- Targeted professional learning might include, for example, professional learning based on
developing cultural responsiveness, understanding stereotypes, how to work in the community and how to
address language barriers. To support critical
reflections on assumptions, attitudes, beliefs and biases in relation to Aboriginal and Torres Strait
Islander peoples, histories, language and culture, AITSL’s intercultural development resources can be used in conjunction with
broader school policies to help create culturally safe and welcoming workplaces.
- Strong peer groups and communities of practice support professional learning and promote wellbeing
through collective efficacy, collaborative inquiry and psychological safety. This can be challenging so it
is helpful to build relationships
from an early stage with stakeholders in the school community including staff, students and parents and
carers to support this process. It is essential that induction practices help to build resilience through
processes such as mentorship
and informal social induction.
- Community embedment relates to supporting the development of new school leaders’ sense of
belonging to a wider community. When new school leaders become active citizens of their community and work
to genuinely embed themselves in
the communities in which they teach, the evidence is that they are more satisfied with their jobs, feel more
committed and stay in the profession longer (Lampert, 2021). It is, however, also important to set
boundaries to maintain a personal
and professional position within these relationships.
As a regional, rural and remote school leader you are more than just an educator but an important figure
in the community and people’s lives
Eacott, Niesche, Heffernan, Loughland, Gobby & Durksen 2021
In most cases when a teacher makes the shift into leadership for the first time it will be into a middle
leadership role, however this is not always the case. Some new school leaders may be stepping into a principal
role as their first experience
in a formalised leadership role. Principals are school leaders with a distinct leadership role that is broad,
complex and evolving. They have significant responsibility for ensuring high-quality teaching and continuous
progress for supporting
Employers are responsible for ensuring that effective induction provides newly-appointed principals with
theoretical and practical knowledge to shape their early experience in the role. The process goes beyond
clarifying rules, regulations, processes,
and expectations to providing an introduction to school culture, community and relationship-building. It should
be embedded in daily practice, occur over an extended period, give consideration to context, and focus on skill
development and inquiry
into practice. It should align with processes for ongoing, standards-based performance and development, and
provide access to networks and relationships with system professionals and line managers.
All principals need to continually update their skills and knowledge. Cultivating a learning mindset is a
priority for the ongoing development of effective principals. Newly-appointed and experienced principals must
have meaningful and effective adult
learning experiences that:
- are linked to school improvement processes and student learning needs
- are differentiated based on individual needs assessments
- provide ongoing opportunities for feedback and reflection, as well as time to action next steps
- offer guided learning through action research, job-embedded learning and intentional practice.
These experiences might include:
- mentoring and coaching provided by suitably qualified or trained individuals
- working with a network of colleagues to address a shared problem or challenge
- attending professional learning seminars and workshops
- participating in formal executive leadership programs
- undertaking growth-based performance appraisal and professional development planning.
When induction and ongoing development are based on the Principal Standard, school leadership expectations are
clear and strong guidance can be provided for new and experienced leaders.
Evaluating your Principal Preparation Programs: A Practical Guide (AITSL, 2016) sets out
approach to assessing the impact of such initiatives. The guide supports the evaluation of impact of principal
preparation programs and can assist with the continual improvement of provision.
Induction programs are just one approach to principal preparation. Internships, shadowing, and acting principal
roles, where substantial support is provided, also offer valuable principal preparation experiences through
highly relevant, job-embedded
New school leadership induction is a shared responsibility. Key players on a local level include new school
leaders themselves, other senior leaders including the principal and the school community. Systems and sectors
play their specific roles, with
support provided by principal associations, unions and professional learning and training providers who
The pathways to leadership are varied. Principals, along with other senior leaders, play an important role in
supporting teachers. This role is outlined in the Principal Standard, which sets the expectation that principals
and senior leaders will
support all staff to build their leadership capacity. Principals and senior leaders understand their position as
a role model for emerging leaders and aspiring principals.
When principals, along with their senior leadership team, understand and value their role in leadership
development, they become key enablers for developing future leaders. They should be supported to prioritise the
development of leadership within
and beyond their schools. To make sure this happens, current principals and school leaders should be provided
with targeted professional learning, and the expectation for leadership development should be built into their
performance and development
To support the induction of new school leaders in their school, principals and senior leaders can:
- model effective leadership
- offer opportunities for targeted professional learning experiences to build knowledge and skills
- share advice and expertise in system, sector or principal association publications
- help connect new school leaders with effective local and broad networks.
Depending on the size and location of the school, other middle leaders may play a direct role in supporting the
induction of new school leaders. Leaders foster a strong learning culture in their schools as the foundation for
good induction. These
leaders may play a role in establishing professional relationships, and if they are new to the school, help new
school leaders understand the culture, practices, and expectations of the local setting.
Systems and sectors may deliver the policy, program, resourcing, and evaluation frameworks that enable new school
leaders to benefit from comprehensive, structured, and effective induction or leadership development programs.
These professional learning
opportunities may also provide new school leaders with learning experiences and opportunities to network and
build their expertise.
Conditions for effective leadership induction, from a systematic perspective, should involve creating
opportunities for support such as access to professional learning, or time release for the new school leader to
step out of the classroom in the
lead up to or in the initial stages of their role to engage in school leadership professional learning.
New school leaders need to receive strong wellbeing support from their education system and employer.
Jurisdictional systems and sectors are committed to supporting teacher and leader wellbeing and are implementing
a range of supports to facilitate
improved wellbeing outcomes. Strategies to prioritise leader wellbeing require government and non-government
employers to take note of relevant research, consult with their site-based and regional leaders, and commit
resources to effectively implement
health and wellbeing strategies.
Employers also support educational leaders through coaching, residential programs, and opportunities for
sabbaticals to study and investigate leadership in other settings. They play a pivotal role in providing
supports, for instance mentorship programs
and training modules.
New school leaders, including principals, are active agents in their own induction. In addition to fully engaging
in any induction process and meeting the expectations of the school or education setting, they seek additional
experiences, engage with
professional networks, identify their own learning requirements, and take responsibility for ensuring that their
induction meets their needs. This requires engaging in self-reflection, identifying learning needs and setting
goals with coaches
Good induction processes include challenging assumptions about teaching and leading, and actively seeking
expertise from colleagues and networks. It also requires committing to continuous learning and improvement,
embedding self-reflection to build
upon leadership practice and maximising opportunities for positive impacts on students, teachers, and the school
There are a number of professional associations new leaders can access, which provide valuable information and
professional support. These associations may be subject-specific or centred around educational leadership. They
provide current information
about curriculum and policy developments and offer useful and practical professional development programs.
Importantly, they provide new school leaders with access to networks of experienced and expert leaders.
Professional associations provide
new school leaders with support and collegiality outside of their employer environment.
Unions represent the industrial interests of teachers and school leaders, as well as providing professional
support to their members and advocacy for the profession. Unions provide current information about working
conditions including teacher awards
and industrial agreements. New school leaders can attend conferences and undertake professional learning
opportunities organised by their union to support their knowledge and understanding of induction.
Induction for new school leaders forms a valuable component of developing a new
professional identity that shifts focus to the broader responsibilities within the school. The induction process
includes a commitment to ongoing professional learning
and continually improving leadership capabilities individually and by leading others. Effective induction
ensures new school leaders will have time, capacity and support to maximise impact on student learning
addressing the complexities and demands
on the role.
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