Agency and Structure: Principals' Ability to Bring about Sustainable Improvement in Underperforming Schools in South Africa
This article reports on a study of which the purpose was to understand the role of principals in changing underperforming schools towards sustainable improvement in one circuit area of North-West, South Africa. School principals play a crucial role in guiding schools towards sustainable improvement by shaping a vision of academic success for all learners. Managing teaching is one of the core modules in South Africa's new national qualification for school principals, and that being the case, principals should play a central role in effecting the educational transformation of all learners. The quality of principals' leadership is the key factor driving the transformational turnaround and improvement required in schools. They perform a highly complex and dynamic role in enhancing and sustaining school improvement. It was the goal of this qualitative study to explore cultural, structural, and agential challenges faced by principals in their effort to provide for change and improvement in their schools. Six schools were purposefully selected to participate in the study and semi-structured interviews were used to gather data from the principals. The study established that paying attention to cultural, structural and agential factors in schools increases their ability to sustain learner improvement.