School leadership changes are gaining momentum in South Africa as larger proportions of incumbent principals near retirement age. While this presents opportunities to replace weaker school leaders with better ones, these changes may also destabilize school environments and impede on learning. This study explores this issue using payroll data on public school principals in South Africa linked to national data on schools and matriculation examination outcomes. School fixed effects and propensity score matching with difference-in-difference estimations confirm that principal changes are indeed detrimental to school performance with larger disruptive effects observed in poorer schools.


Keywords: Educational administration, Principal turnover, Teacher turnover, Retirement, Fixed effects, South Africa




Wills, G., 2016. Principal leadership changes in South Africa: Investigating their consequences for school performance. International Journal of Educational Development 51: 108–124.