Retaining Australia’s school leaders in ‘challenging’ contexts: the importance of personal relationships in principal turnover decisions

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This paper examines the role family and personal relationships play in Australian principals’ turnover decision-making. The case study of one highly complex school district employed push-pull-mooring turnover theory, and interview participants included eight rural and city principals, a principal supervisor, and two Human Resources managers. Push factors encouraging leaders to leave their schools included negative effects on families of highly visible leaders in small communities. Pull factors encouraging leaders to seek new schools included the lure of home, family, and support networks. Mooring factors encouraging principal retention included strong networks and knowledge of the workload involved for leaders establishing themselves at new schools. More nuanced understandings of impacts on turnover are needed in order to develop effective principal retention strategies.
Original languageEnglish
Article number101716
Number of pages9
JournalInternational Journal of Educational Research
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Leadership
  • Principal turnover
  • Retention
  • Case study
  • Rural education
  • Push pull theory

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