The principalship and the selection of principals in Australian Catholic schools

Peter Julian Slattery, Fordham University


In recent years, the authorities of Catholic schools in Australia have developed procedures for the selection of principals. Generally speaking, a selection panel made up of a priest, a professional educator, and a lay person chooses the principal from among several applicants. This study investigated the espoused theory and the theory-in-use of the selectors of Catholic school principals. The study wanted to see if the espoused theory of the selectors was convergent or divergent with their theory-in-use. In other words, when choosing principals, do the selectors have a criterion or criteria, in which they say what they believe? However, when making a choice among a group of applicants, do the selectors have a different criterion or criteria? The literature suggested that there is a divergence between the selectors' espoused theory and their theory-in-use. Research also found that there were undeclared criteria used to select principals. In order to investigate this problem, an instrument was developed--The Selection Panel Inventory (SPI). The first two parts of the instrument produced quantitative data, revealing the respondents' espoused theory and their theory-in-use. The third part produced qualitative data, revealing the respondents' undeclared criteria. The study found that the respondents' espoused theory and their theory-in-use appeared to be convergent. However, the correlation coefficient was found to be not statistically significant. This was a criterion called Catholicity, with a strong influence from four other criteria: Administrative Competence, Educational Qualifications, Teaching Experience, and Personal Qualities. Secondary or undeclared criteria were revealed. There was an ambiguity and theological pluralism among the respondents when they used the criterion, Catholicity. Some discrimination against the employment of women as Catholic school principals was found. The findings of the study suggest a lack of clarity in official church criteria for the selection of school principals. The use of more objective criteria, more technical selection procedures, and more awareness of the selectors' undeclared criteria were recommended. The study also recommended the development of clearer job descriptions for principals, as a basis for their selection and evaluation, together with the spiritual and professional nurture of Catholic school principals.

Subject Area

School administration

Recommended Citation

Slattery, Peter Julian, "The principalship and the selection of principals in Australian Catholic schools" (1988). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI8918464.