12 Aug 2015

$50k pay boost attracts school principals

10:32 am on 12 August 2015

A $50,000-a-year salary top-up is encouraging more applications for principals' jobs at hard-to-staff schools.

So far, three of the first five schools to offer the government's Principal Recruitment Allowance have appointed leaders.

School building with basketball hoop.

The allowance appears to be helping schools to attract more candidates for principals' positions. Photo: 123rf

But one of those principals does not qualify for the extra money, and a fourth school has decided not to seek a principal after all.

The first principal to get the allowance, Matt O'Dowda, starts work at Kimi Ora Community School in Flaxmere on Monday.

He has worked as a principal in New Zealand and the United Kingdom, and will get an extra $50,000 a year, on top of his regular principal's salary, for at least three years and up to seven years.

The school's limited statutory manager, Kevin Palmer, said the recruitment allowance certainly helped with the appointment process.

"The availability of the principal recruitment allowance certainly meant that the experience and the number and the calibre of the applicants was probably greater than I might normally expect for what is a small school that has been under statutory management."

Ngaruawahia High School only recently advertised for a principal and its limited statutory manager, Lex Hamill, said the number of expressions of interest was higher than normal.

He said the allowance is probably a factor in that, but the role is also interesting enough to attract attention.

"Obviously $50,000 a year for a potential of seven years would attract some candidates.

"I'd also have to say that the school has turned around significantly and is an exciting place to be moving forward so there would be a degree of interest in that as well."

Year 10 students at Onslow College carrying out their experiment with acids and bases.

Smaller schools could now find it easier to attract candidates. Photo: RNZ / Alison Ballance

The Education Ministry's New Appointments National Panel has the final say on whether a school board's appointee qualifies for the allowance.

Chairperson Prue Kelly said the allowance appeared to be helping schools to attract more candidates.

"The schools are getting a bigger field of people applying - certainly attracting people to smaller schools that may have had trouble attracting applicants previously."

Ms Kelly said so far, one school, Mangamuka in Northland, had opted to hire a principal who did not qualify for the new allowance.

"One of the chief criteria is that it had to be a practising principal or senior manager," she said.

"There's been a case of a really good advisor applying, but they're immediately disqualified from the allowance because they're not a practising in-school person."

The third of the schools to select a principal is Aranui Community Campus, which is a new school being formed from the amalgamation of four schools in Christchurch.

It has appointed Andy Kai Fong, who will start in December and qualifies for the recruitment allowance.

Chairperson of the school's establishment board of trustees, Haneta Pierce, said the Aranui project was so exciting it probably did not need the recruitment allowance to attract a good number of high-calibre applicants.

But she said the scale of the job in post-quake Christchurch was such that the extra money would be well-deserved.

"There are property issues, there are unemployment issues, there are housing issues," she said.

"This was one of the schools that really needed to have that offer as a support for the huge task for principal."

Education Ministry head of sector enablement and support, Katrina Casey, said one of the first five schools to offer the allowance, Opononi Area School in Northland, had decided not to advertise for a permanent principal after all.

"We have withdrawn our approval [for the allowance] but have invited the board to put forward another expression of interest for the allowance if the current challenges remain when the board moves to recruit for a permanent principal."

Three other schools - Kaikohe Intermediate, Opotiki College and Kaikoura High School - have been approved to offer the allowance and are expected to advertise their positions soon.

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