This paper examines five principals’ insights into leading their schools in a disruptive time. The principals chosen for interview each lead a secondary school in regional New South Wales, Australia, that has been identified as educationally disadvantaged by the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority’s Index of Community Socio-Educational Advantage algorithm. While the study’s intent was to examine the role of technology in supporting learning from home due to COVID-19 restrictions, only one of the four themes that emerged from the interview analysis was related to technology. The themes were: i) the overarching concern by principals for student, staff and family wellbeing; ii) access to technology, and student online learning; iii) the importance of effective communication; and, iv) principals’ post-disruption reflections. In addition to the thematic analysis, five vignettes are presented to provide insight into each principal’s unique experiences. In these challenging and disruptive times, all five principals exhibited leadership practices that align to the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership’s “The Role of School Leadership in Challenging Times”. While schools successfully adapted to the needs of their communities, especially in meeting the challenges of amplified disadvantage in education access, questions remain around the degree to which the pandemic crisis has triggered fundamental change in educational practice. 


This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial License (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/), which permits non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited

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Chaseling, M., Paredes, J. & Boyd, W. 2021, 'Schooling in a time of disruption : the impact of COVID-19 from the perspective of five New South Wales (Australia) secondary principals', Education in the North, 27(2), pp. 152-174. https://doi.org/10.26203/xt08-dx83

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Last updated: 17 June 2022
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