Coping strategies of new school principals
Bruintjies, Brent Peter Francois
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Currently any Post Level One Educator in South Africa may be appointed to the position of School Principal with only the basic qualification, i.e. matric and a three-year teaching diploma (REQV 13). As per the Educators Employment Act (1998), the minimum teaching experience required for a principalship range from 3-7 years depending on the grading of the school (P1- 4 for primary schools and S1 -4 for secondary schools). According to these stipulations, a qualification in management or another form of validation to ensure that candidates have the ability to cope with the demands of the management of a school is not a requirement. The purpose of this study is to investigate the challenges experienced and coping strategies new school managers (school principals) employ to manage their institutions. It also addresses the common challenges and obstacles faced by new school managers. The study was conducted in the Western Cape using a mixed method qualitative approach to investigate the research questions. After the development of the data collecting instruments, data was collected using semi-structured questionnaires and interviews. The questionnaires were sent to thirty school managers in primary and secondary schools in the seven Education Management Development Centres. The data collected was used to ascertain what the challenges are school manager's face. Subsequently five new school managers were interviewed to find what coping strategies they use. A second set of questionnaires were sent to 100 new school principals to ascertain the challenges experienced and coping strategies employed. The research reveals the following aspects: (1) there is a lack of support from the Western Cape Education Department for new school principals; (2) research respondents identified a need for mentoring to assist them to cope; (3) there is a need for a management qualification to help principals to manage their schools as educators are only trained to become classroom teachers; ( 4) the Western Cape Education Department need to consult with schools regarding, among others, schools' year programs as this clash with dates of departmental programmes.