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5 February 2013

Principal recruitment and selection – the myths, facts and impacts

Recent public comments by the Education Minister about the new principal recruitment and selection process have spread a number of myths about the previous process, and not made clear exactly what the alleged “problems” were that this new arrangement is the “solution” to (that is, until the evening of 3 February, when the Minister said the previous process favoured “union-affiliated principals” – if the Minister is to exclude them from the process, he will have a very shallow pool since more than 95 per cent of school leaders are QTU members).

A number of these government-promulgated myths about the previous process are dispelled below.


Myth 1: Parents weren’t involved in principal selection or consulted about school needs.

Reality: Selection panels for principal vacancies included a parent representative, either from the community or from P&Cs Qld Read more ...


Selection panels for principal vacancies included a parent representative, either from the community or from P&Cs Qld. The QTU agrees that the community should have a say in the selection of school leaders, but it is also important that there are representatives on the panel who understand the role of the position in differing contexts.

Part of the role of any parent representative on a panel was to identify the needs of the school and the local community.


Myth 2: The former process wasn’t transparent.

Reality: Under the Public Service Act (2008), selection for a promotional appointment had to be based on merit alone. Read more ...


Under the Public Service Act (2008), selection for a promotional appointment had to be based on merit alone (known as the merit principle).  Panels must had to take into account: 

a)   the extent to which the person has abilities, aptitude, skills, qualifications, knowledge, experience and personal qualities relevant to the carrying out of the duties in question

b)   if relevant:

  • the way in which the person carried out any previous employment or occupational duties
  • the extent to which the person has potential for development.

All panellists shared the same responsibility to ensure this principle of selection was upheld, even though each brought a different perspective to the task.  It was this meld of differing ways of seeing the skills and achievements of applicants that was the great strength of this process, allowing everyone to be confident that the decisions made were legitimate and that the most meritorious applicant would be successful.

This level of consistency is not possible with local recruitment and selection panels for principals. Further, changes to Directive No. 19/10 Appeals and the repealing of Directive No. 08/10 Managing Employee Complaints (by the Public Service Commission under this government) mean there are limited avenues for people to appeal against inconsistent merit decisions and flaws in the selection process.


Myth 3: The QTU has no role to play in promoting that transparency.

Reality: The role of the QTU nominee was to ensure that there was an open and transparent process, and to remove the perception of bias. Read more ...


QTU nominees have been part of selection panels since they were established in the early 1990s, until May last year when the current government removed them.

Most QTU nominees were experienced school-based principals and, in most cases, the only school-based principal on the panel.  At times, it was only the presence of QTU nominees that ensured panels had a gender balance.

The role of the QTU nominee was to ensure that there was an open and transparent process, and to remove the perception of bias.

QTU nominee panellists helped to ensure that panels complied with the set procedures at all times. Their focus on ensuring all applicants were treated consistently, ethically and fairly by the selection process provided applicants with confidence that the process had operated as intended.

For selection panels for deputy principals and heads of programs, the QTU representative was usually from the same school, city or region.  In most cases, the QTU representative was at or above the same classification level as the position being considered.

The composition of selection panels reflected the need to ensure that there was no potential for a pre-existing preference for any candidate from a particular school, district or region.

The QTU has been involved in principal recruitment and selection for many years, even having nominees sitting on the three-person panel that oversaw the ranking of appraised principal applicants and the allocation of positions in the 1980s.


Myth 4: The previous process wasn’t sufficiently merit-based.

Reality: Principal selection processes have always been about demonstrating the appropriate skills and capability, and a person has always had to demonstrate a fit for a school. Read more ...


Principal selection processes have always been about demonstrating the appropriate skills and capability, and a person has always had to demonstrate a fit for a school, even before the last two-phase process, which was only introduced in 2010.

The QTU has always believed that the leadership skills of school leaders are a key factor in school effectiveness and it is of the utmost importance that the Department of Education, Training and Employment use recruitment and selection panels to sort through the applicants to find the most suitable person for a particular promotional position.

The QTU believes that training is very important for all members of recruitment and selection panels.  This training ensured that selection processes operated in line with procedures agreed between DETE and the QTU. These procedures were based on public sector guidelines and directives.

In the past, the QTU delivered training for all panellists in conjunction with the department. However, in recent years, the provision of systemic training has been insufficient, and as a result, the QTU has been delivering its own training for panellists – often the only training available to panellists.


Myth 5: The new process will give schools more continuity of leadership.


Myth 6: The Minister “expect(s) that regional service will still be taken into consideration as part of the recruitment process, to ensure that principals who seek to work in metropolitan areas after a long stint in the bush still have that opportunity”.

Reality: There is no evidence that this is true. The QTU has significant concerns over the removal of the vacancy review panel and our members' ability to secure relocations back to preferred areas after completing non-preferred service. Read more


There is no evidence that this is true. The QTU has significant concerns over the removal of the vacancy review panel and our members' ability to secure relocations back to preferred areas after completing non-preferred service. The QTU insists on protections for principals who took on positions in schools in remote, regional and non-preferred areas under the impression they would receive a certain relocation.

All Queensland students are entitled to be engaged in high quality programs of teaching and learning, regardless of remoteness or regional location. The QTU has grave concerns over the ability of remote and regional schools to recruit and retain teachers and school leaders if principals are unable to relocate back to preferred areas of service. This would create inequity and jeopardise the entitlement of students in those communities to high quality curriculum and pedagogy.

It is a myth that the old relocation process denied job opportunities to acting principals in non-preferred locations such as remote and rural Queensland. In fact, far from filling positions in remote areas, relocations typically flow in the opposite direction, with people in remote, rural and non-preferred areas moving to a more preferred location, generally  larger centres on the coast.  


Myth 7: The previous process excluded candidates not already employed by EQ.


The QTU will be closely monitoring this new process and will be meeting with DETE regularly, as the department has committed to continuing to consult with the QTU about the implementation of the new process. 

We strongly recommend that if you are interested in relocation you contact the QTU so that we can provide appropriate advice and support for you. 

For more information, refer to the relevant Principals’ Updates that are publicly available on the web.