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Key competencies for principalship

In his Policy on the South African standard for principalship presentation at the Emasa Conference, James Ndlebe outlined eight key competencies for principalship as defined by the Department of Basic Education.

1. Leading teaching and learning in the school 

The principal is responsible for promoting, managing, monitoring and evaluating the curriculum. By doing this the quality of teaching and learning will be ensured. Leadership refers to the following:  

  • Organisational leadership
  • Executive leadership
  • Instructional leadership
  • Cultural leadership
  • Strategic Leadership

2. Shaping the direction and development of the school 

The Principal works with the SGB, the SMT and parents in the school’s community to create and implement a shared vision, mission and strategic plan to inspire and motivate all who work in and with the school and to provide direction for the school’s on-going development.

3. Managing quality and securing accountability 

Establish and maintain effective quality assurance systems and procedures within the school, which ensure on-going evaluation and review of all aspects of the school’s operation and which promote collective responsibility for these.

4. Developing and empowering self and others 

  • The principal promotes the empowerment of those working in the school.
  • By encouraging effective and relevant continuing professional development opportunities, the principal supports whole school development.
  • Principals also need to be reflective to build personal capacity and be committed to their own continuing professional development.

5. Managing the school as an organisation 

  • The principal must provide for the effective organisation and management of the school and on the basis of on-going review and evaluation he or she must strive continuously for ways to develop and improve organisational structures and functions.
  • The principal is responsible for ensuring that the school and its people, assets and all other resources are organised and managed to provide for an effective, efficient, safe and nurturing learning environment.

6. Working with and for the community 

  • The principal working with the SMT and SGB should build collaborative relationships and partnerships within and between the internal and external school community for their mutual benefit.
  • Schools exist within particular social and economic communities that have an influence on and may be influenced by the school.
  • The wider community that the school serves can provide a source of support and resources for the school.
  • The school itself can play an important role in the well-being and development of the community. School improvement and community development complement each other.

7. Managing human resources (staff) in the school 

The principal will need to advise and support staff regarding conditions of service in his or her school. It is the principal’s responsibility to give guidance related to labour related issues. This will also assist his or her leadership in terms of ensuring that all current legislation, departmental policies and Collective Agreements are complied with.

8. Managing and advocating extra-mural activities 

The principal in leading and managing the school should create an environment that takes care of the needs and circumstances of its learners in the form of offering extra-mural activities.


Source: Policy on the South African standard for principalship. Emasa Conference Presentation. James Ndlebe (ppt) 

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