Leading and Managing the School

A statement of key accountabilities for principals in the effective educational leadership and management of NSW public schools.

Changes since previous version

Sept 2020 – Updated contact details only.

Superseded Documents


Document History

June 2020 – Updated contact details and made minor style and editing changes.


This document provides direction to all department officers on the key accountabilities of the principal in leading and managing the school. It sets out accountabilities in the areas of:

  • educational leadership
  • educational programs
  • learning outcomes
  • student welfare
  • staff welfare
  • development and management
  • physical and financial resource management and school and community partnerships.

NSW public schools operate in a culturally diverse and changing society that has high expectations of its schools and the learning outcomes of students. Each school is part of a system committed to the principles of inclusiveness, equity, social justice, ethical practice and excellence.

The principal occupies the pivotal position in the school and is accountable for leadership and management consistent with relevant legislation and the policies and priorities of the NSW Government. The task is complex and requires the principal to be the leading learner in the school, and a role model to staff and the community.

The principal is accountable to the Secretary for the quality of outcomes achieved by students. The principal’s accountability is exercised within the context of the community in which the school is located and the total resources allocated to the school.

Members of the school executive have special responsibilities and duties as determined by the principal for the development, implementation and evaluation of school processes and programs. Each teacher is accountable to the in-school supervisor and the principal for translating school policies, procedures and programs into suitable learning experiences for students.

The authority of the principal and responsibilities of all staff derive from the Teaching Services Regulation 2017 under the Teaching Service Act 1980. Of particular relevance are Section 6, General duties, and Section 9, Management of schools.

In satisfying these accountabilities, the principal will have the support of the department, school executive and staff as required by Section 6 of the Teaching Services Regulation 2017.

Educational leadership

The principal is accountable for:

  • the education and welfare of all students
  • providing quality education for all students in accordance with the policies and priorities of the NSW Government and the curriculum requirements of the NSW Education Standards Authority (NESA)
  • effective teaching and learning practices throughout the school
  • developing the school’s vision, priorities and targets, which are reflected in the annual school plan
  • translating the school’s vision, priorities and targets into explicit policies, procedures and practices
  • developing a culture that demonstrates learning is valued
  • developing a culture of collaboration, in which all members of the school community contribute to the achievement of shared goals.

Educational programs

The principal is accountable for:

  • the relevance of the total school curriculum to meet individual and group needs
  • the implementation of syllabus documents consistent with current NESA and department requirements in the context of the local school environment
  • the development and implementation by all teaching staff of sequenced teaching and learning programs relevant to the current needs of all students and including anticipated learning outcomes
  • the implementation of varied teaching and learning strategies that take into account the learning styles and needs of students
  • evaluation of teaching and learning programs, including the assessment of student outcomes.

Learning outcomes

The principal is accountable for:

  • teachers identifying the individual learning needs of students and assisting each student to maximise his or her learning outcomes
  • evaluating student learning outcomes consistent with a documented school assessment policy
  • reporting student achievement to parents, students, teachers and the school community
  • analysing school-based and system-wide student assessment data that impacts on school priorities, targets, and teaching and learning programs to improve student outcomes
  • targeting available financial, physical, human and technological resources to achieve quality learning outcomes.

Student welfare

The principal is accountable for:

  • a comprehensive student welfare and discipline policy, which is regularly reviewed and includes the principles of natural justice and procedural fairness
  • policies, programs and practices that are regularly reviewed and which promote the protection, safety, self-esteem and welfare of students
  • addressing the welfare needs of each student in a safe, responsive and harmonious teaching and learning environment
  • providing staff training that will promote the consistent implementation of student welfare and discipline procedures – in particular child protection
  • practices that ensure all students are treated in accord with their special needs.

Staff welfare, development and management

The principal is accountable for:

  • promoting a collegial and cooperative culture to support team effectiveness and encourage individual development
  • effective communication and decision-making processes within the school
  • informing staff of their responsibilities under departmental procedures and guidelines, including the Code of Conduct
  • clarifying the duties of school staff and ensuring staff appropriately exercise their delegated responsibilities
  • facilitating the professional growth of staff through the promotion of teacher efficiency in student welfare and assessment, curriculum development and evaluation, planning, classroom management and teaching skills
  • implementing specific programs for the development of staff who experience difficulties in the performance of their duties
  • the maintenance by all staff of documentation required in the completion of their duties
  • supervising and evaluating the implementation of teaching and learning programs and associated teaching strategies
  • inducting staff in the requirements of policies and mandatory training procedures.

Physical and financial resource management

The principal is accountable for:

  • an annual budget and annual school financial statement
  • plans to maximise the operation of the school within available physical and financial resources
  • appropriate application of existing resources to identified areas of need, including school buildings and grounds
  • financial management practices that meet departmental and legislative requirements
  • identifying occupational health and safety issues
  • maintaining appropriate records in accordance with audit requirements.

School and community partnerships

The principal is accountable for:

  • providing opportunities for and promoting school community participation in developing the school’s vision statement, priorities, targets and school policies
  • maintaining open communication throughout the school community and with other government agencies
  • acknowledging the views and expectations of, and working with parents for the personal, social and educational welfare of their children
  • supporting the operation of school-based parent organisations, which may involve community members
  • providing opportunities for and promoting participation of the school community in the annual school self-evaluation process and production of an annual school report
  • forming effective partnerships with the school community, business and industry where appropriate
  • promoting public education and training.

The role of the principal

Schools are established under legislation to provide education for students. The principal occupies the pivotal position in the school and must be an educational leader whose major focus is the provision of quality educational experiences and outcomes for students.

These outcomes will be realised through the effective and efficient management of the school as a total educational enterprise within the NSW system of school education.

The authority, responsibility and accountability of school principals are derived from the relevant state educational and financial legislation, and the stated policies and priorities of the NSW Government. Principals are accountable through the directors, educational leadership; Executive Director, School Performance; and Deputy Secretary, School Operations and Performance; to the Secretary.

Major areas of accountability

  • Ensure that the education and welfare of all students have the highest priority in the operation of the school.
  • Provide high-quality education for all students in accordance with the priorities of the department and NESA curriculum requirements.
  • Provide educational leadership and develop a vision for the school in consultation with the school community.
  • Provide effective communication between the school and the community.
  • Manage the school in an effective, efficient and equitable way within available resources and with the relevant legal and policy framework.

The accountabilities will be realised by:

  • developing procedures for the review and improvement of quality educational outcomes for students
  • managing the curriculum and organisation of the school to provide for the needs of all students
  • addressing the welfare needs of students and staff including the establishment of a safe and harmonious work environment
  • establishing effective decision-making and communication procedures with the school
  • promoting effective parent, staff, student and community participation in the school, including the establishment and support of a school council
  • developing management and strategic plans for the school in consultation with the school community
  • establishing effective personnel practices incorporating appropriate equal employment opportunity principles and performance management
  • managing the school resources effectively and efficiently
  • promoting the work and achievements of the school to the wider community.


Director, School Leadership Institute
0436 841 568

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