This was a qualitative study that used a multiple case study methodology to explore the experiences of beginner principals in school leadership and management in the Capricorn District in the Limpopo Province. Fifteen beginner principals were sampled from city, township and rural schools as participants. This study contributes the voices of beginner principals about their experiences in school leadership and management.
The literature acknowledges the need for the support and development of preparation and training programmes for beginner principals. This study used the theory of leadership as a career as a lens to explore the experiences of beginner principals after they have been appointed school principals.
The findings derived from this study have confirmed that newly appointed principals are faced with leadership and management challenges. In order for them to perform their new role, they needed to receive systematic and comprehensive preparation and training programmes. The study revealed that teaching experience and further studies in educational management alone are not enough to prepare one for a aprincipalship. The fifteen participants were all teachers in different post levels; they faced challenges ranging from managing the curriculum, human resources, finance, stakeholder relations and the legislative framework among others. The beginner principals confessed that there is a considerable difference between the roles of a principal and other post levels in the school. The appointment of beginner principals was done randomly, across all the posts levels without necessarily considering the seniority and the highest qualifications of the candidates.
The findings were consistent with the literature that indicates that most beginner principals are appointed as principals without the necessary competencies. There was no support programme in place to support beginner principals, in particular. In the light of the findings, it is recommended that leadership and management skills must be integrated within the careers so that teachers are progressively developed during their careers. The study proposed the application of the integrated leadership and management model to the Limpopo Department of Education and policymakers as a support programme for aspirant and beginner principals.