Some of the best teachers for top jobs can't be employed by schools because of limits imposed by a multi-million dollar education policy, principals say.
The Investing in Educational Success scheme pays some teachers more to lead work across groups of schools, known as Communities of Learning, or to act as mentors within their own school.
School staff who hold two or more management units for extra administrative or managerial responsibilities are blocked from the jobs, and principals told RNZ that was stifling the scheme's potential.
The principal of John Paul College in Rotorua, Patrick Walsh, said the restriction sometimes ruled out the people who would be best for the jobs.
"Effectively it rules out people in senior positions, such as deputy principals and faculty heads and sometimes deans," he said.
"Often these are the people with the requisite knowledge and experience to be best able to do those positions, but currently the industrial context prevents them from doing it."
Mr Walsh said the lead teacher roles were billed as a new career pathway for classroom teachers, but they were not always the right people for the jobs.
Teachers who lead work across Communities of Learning (COLs) were paid $16,000 per year and those who acted as mentors within schools received $8000.
Mr Walsh said that was not enough to tempt managers receiving $4000 a year for each management unit.
Leaders of Communities of Learning had told him they also found the rules problematic, and the situation could prevent the policy from reaching its full potential.
Waiuku College principal Tom Vanderlaan said heads of department and others with three or four management units were often not interested in the lead teacher jobs.
"[We] have been able to get around that to a certain extent by offering them the option of stepping back from their curriculum responsibility or head of department responsibility for a fixed-term of two years, because the appointments for the COLs can be done in two-year blocks. But a lot of them saw that in the too-hard basket."
Mr Vanderlaan said he would like more flexibility around appointments to the lead teacher roles.
Scheme 'gives teachers a chance for advancement'
But Post Primary Teachers' Association (PPTA) president Jack Boyle said he did not see a problem.
The jobs required people who were working in classrooms as teachers, not people in management jobs, and they should be easy to find, he said.
"Trying to attract into a teaching role or a best-practice and PLD [professional learning and development] role is probably going to be easier than trying to attract people into more management roles."
Tauranga's Otumoetai College principal Dave Randell said the scheme gave teachers a chance for advancement when management roles were not available.
"Probably about 50 percent of my staff don't have units at this stage, so it's a really good opportunity," he said.
"I think the general feeling is this is another neat career move for those people who've got skills in teaching and ideas and support the initiatives of the school."
The Education Ministry's acting deputy secretary for early learning and student achievement, Karl Le Quesne, said the agreement with the PPTA was to ensure the jobs went to practising classroom teachers, rather than middle-managers.
"The agreements were intended to ensure teachers appointed to these roles are current classroom teachers that are up-to-date in their practice and not, for example, a deputy principal at secondary school level who may be released from all teaching duties," he said.
Mr Le Quesne said the ministry was aware of some principals' concerns, but there had been a good amount of interest in, and uptake, of the new roles in the Communities of Learning that had so far been set up.
173 teachers had been been appointed to across-school roles in 45 Communities of Learning as at February.