Exploring Future Leadership in Lutheran Schools

Exploring Future Leadership in Lutheran Schools

                Late last year a survey was sent out to all teaching staff in Lutheran schools across Australia by the Christian Research Association on behalf of LEA.  With the recent and continued expansion of Lutheran schools the question needed to be asked whether there will be enough future leaders, particularly future principals, coming through the system to meet our projected needs.  It was also important to find out whether there was enough interest on the part of current and future leaders to fill positions in rural and remote ECCs and schools, as well as whether there were enough active Lutherans interested in leadership to fill the roles of principal with the current policy of principals needing to be active members of the Lutheran church.  Questions were also asked about the Leadership Development  Program (LDP) and the general attractiveness (or lack thereof) of leadership positions in our schools.  In all, 861 (27%) of Lutheran teaching staff responded to the survey.  LEA leadership realised that staff had already participated earlier in the year in the Better Schools Survey and that the end of the school year is a busy time.  It was pleasing to see so many take the time to respond.  The numbers gave us a very good sampling of the teacher population and one of our best looks into the views of teachers, directors and principals of our ECCS and schools.

                While much of the data gathered was purely quantitative, there were also a number of opportunities for respondents to add their own comments.  The number of comments was very high, giving us a wealth of qualitative data that is still being assessed.  One thing that became immediately clear to both the CRA researchers and the LEA team looking at the data was that our teachers, directors and principals are overwhelmingly passionate about what they do, committed to the Christian faith, and committed to Lutheran schools.

                Some of the things learned from the study:

  • Half of current principals expect to retire in the next seven years.
  • 54 principal positions will need to be filled within the next ten years, even if no new schools are started during this time.
  • 78% of Lutheran school principals are between the ages of 44 and 63.
  • 12% of all teaching staff currently not in leadership positions are interested in applying for leadership positions.
  • 30% of those interested in applying for leadership positions (or about 135 current non-leadership staff) are practising Lutherans.
  • 71% of respondents would not be willing or able to relocate to a rural of remote region (mostly due to family reasons).
  • 4,579 teachers across Australia identified themselves as Lutheran in the 2011 census, with 301 directors, principals and educational leaders identifying themselves as Lutheran.
  • 92% of serving principals support the concept of the principal as spiritual head of the school.  The remaining 8% are neutral.
  • 83% of serving principals support the policy of principals being active members of an LCA congregation.  The remainder are evenly divided between those who are neutral and those not in favour of this policy.
  • 78% of non-senior leadership teaching staff support the concept of the principal as spiritual head of the school, with 13% neutral and 9% opposed.
  • 68% of non-senior leadership teaching staff support the policy of principals being active members of an LCA congregation, with 21% neutral and 12% opposed.
  • 43% of all non-senior leadership teaching staff responding to the survey identified themselves as Lutheran.
  • 41% of non-senior leadership teaching staff are open to doing the LDP.
  • The major factors hindering current teaching staff from applying to do the LDP. are (1) lack of time (47%), (2) lack of encouragement by senior leadership to do the programme (45%), (3) do not know enough about the programme (39%).


                So what does all this mean?  While national and regional leaders of Lutheran schools will need time to work through the many and varied implications of the data, some things are already clear.  There are enough future leaders currently within the system to meet projected needs, but we need to be more effective in identifying these people and getting them into the Leadership Development Programme.  There also needs to be more clarity about who is eligible for the LDP course and where the course may or may not lead vocationally.

                The number of Lutheran teachers, directors and principals working outside the Lutheran system was seen to be potentially significant.  It was pleasing to see such a strong Lutheran presence in other ECE and school sectors.  Some of these educators may be available to serve within Lutheran ECCs and schools in future.  They would bring with them the experience of other school systems. The challenge, however, would be to identify these people and then to develop a suitable orientation programme to Lutheran schools if they were to come directly into leadership positions. 

There is clear support across all levels for the principal as spiritual head of the school, but more clarification and support for this role would be beneficial.  While it is also clear that there is generally strong support for the principal being an active Lutheran, we found that Lutheran schools have a number of highly qualified and passionate non-Lutheran teachers interested in leadership positions. Thought will need to be given as to how to make better use of this important resource in leadership roles.

The challenge of recruiting leadership for ECCs and schools in rural and remote locations will continue to be a challenge.  While no easy solutions to this challenge present themselves, it is clear that LEA will need to develop an intention strategy of meeting this ongoing need.

Finally, we wish to thank all those who took part in the survey, and especially for the many honest and insightful additional comments and suggestions.  As we continue to work through the data and its implications, schools can expect to hear more about the survey results and specific actions flowing from them.


On behalf of the LEA team,


Mark Worthing

Senior Research Officer,

ALITE, Australian Lutheran College


March 2014