The Aspiring Principals’ Programme

Introduction/Background to the APP

For the past decade, Jamaica has been on a trajectory of transformation which includes its education system. The 2004 Task Force Report on Education Reform revealed a number of gaps and weaknesses which existed and subsequent recommendations were identified. Within the education landscape, an area of concern identified in the Task Force Report was the effectiveness of school principals. Principals’ effectiveness, demonstrated through efficient use of resources, meaningful relationships with communities, efficacious management and exemplary instructional leadership, is directly linked to improved student outcomes.

Within the Jamaican context, a number of principals, though having been conferred with undergraduate and postgraduate degrees, even in educational leadership and management, lacked adequate targeted, context-relevant training and preparation to manoeuvre the post of principalship. In 2015, Denise Armstrong advanced that neophyte school leaders are ill-prepared for the social and emotional demands of a school principal. She also argued that the diverse responsibilities associated with principalship can have “dramatic psychological effects” on the lives of novice principals.

In recognition with the recommendations of the 2004 Task Force Report and in keeping with scholarly research and practice, the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information (MoEYI) gave birth to the National College for Educational Leadership (NCEL). Since its inception, the NCEL has been strategic and intentional in the conceptualisation, development, implementation and monitoring of leadership interventions, programmes and initiatives. One of the programmes offered by the NCEL is the Aspiring Principals’ Programme (APP), which is a collaborative effort between the NCEL/MoEYI and the University of the West Indies, School of Education and is an example of a government-university partnership in programme development and implementation.

The Aspiring Principals’ Programme is designed as a Professional Qualification for Principalship (PQP) which is in keeping with best practices which exist in other countries such as Singapore, England, Scotland, Australia and Hong Kong. The APP seeks to attract and identify aspirant school leaders who possess the rudiments to effectively lead transformation in our schools. Since its debut in 2014, the Aspiring Principals’ Programme has had an intake of 471 participants across five cohorts, with a sixth cohort now underway.  On July 9 2019 91 participants will graduate, providing Jamaica with skillsets to continue the transformation of the education system.

This competency-based programme is undergirded by nine philosophical tenets which are represented throughout the programme, from recruitment to completion. During the programme, participants are exposed to four critical leadership development modules which are Community Leadership, Organisational Leadership, Instructional Leadership and Transformational Leadership. The programme also encompasses a 12-week field experience intervention which must be conceptualised, implemented and evaluated by programme participants as well as customised and relevant professional development sessions geared towards ameliorating the dispositions of the principals and an awareness and appreciation for the policy priorities of the MoEYI.


During the period May 1-10, 2019, participants of cohort 5 of the APP culminated their participation in the programme by defending their interventions in Montego Bay and Kingston. Some participants have shared their experiences:

“I knew that the APP programme was the perfect platform for me to get the requisite training in an effort to be propelled to the position of principal. The field experience gave me the perfect opportunity to implement a programme based on the most pressing needs of the institution. The innate leadership qualities which I possess would not have been activated if it weren’t for NCEL”

Fitzroy Abbott – Acting Principal, Sunbury All Age

“The reason behind my intervention was to give the girls an opportunity to be empowered outside of the curriculum, to sharpen social skills, to mitigate against undesirable behaviours. I must say of the NCEL programme that, that which was taught was so effective it took a dream to the stage of maturation and from embryonic to reality”

Lucien Reid – Vice Principal, Meadowbrook High School

“I just defended my intervention and it was a success. The support from NCEL has been awesome. What we have learned are skills for life”

Kadian Crumbie Murray – Teacher, Ruseas High School

“I must credit NCEL for my personal growth through the tenure of this course. The programme has transformed me tremendously in that my mindset towards leadership has been thoroughly inspired. I was propelled into taking on challenges that I have never dreamt of pursuing. As a leader I am more inclined to using various philosophical approaches as I can see where our Education System leads to more discovery learning”

Shelliann Cooper – Teacher, Evelyn Mitchell Infant School

The way forward

The APP represents an authentic opportunity, a mirror image of the idiosyncrasies of the principal ship and so prepares participants with a good foundation to take on the challenging role.  It emphasizes that there is no single way to deal with situations only principles to apply in solving problems. Participants learn how to negotiate, collaborate, establish partnerships, handle complexities, become more mindful of global trends, policies in education, effective planning, monitoring and evaluation and to survive in unfamiliar and unpredictable situations.  As the landscape continues to change, NCEL is mindful of the waves and so is continuously researching, re-inventing and engaging in ‘futuring” to ensure that it stays at the cutting edge in preparing principals for these most challenging times.

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