Lisa Gallin

Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (College of Education)

Schools and Centres


First Supervisor

Associate Professor Shane Lavery

Second Supervisor

Professor Michael O'Neill


This research aimed to explore the role of assistant principal in Catholic primary schools in Western Australia and is the first empirical study of assistant principals in this context. This research was predominantly qualitative and used interpretivism, specifically symbolic interactionism, as its theoretical perspective. An exploratory instrumental case study methodology was used to gain an in-depth understanding of the viewpoints of assistant principals regarding their role. Data collection methods included an online survey and semi-structured interviews as the primary sources, with a document search and researcher field notes adding further information. Miles et al.’s (2020) interactive data management and analysis model was employed for data condensation, data display and to draw and verify conclusions.

The review of literature highlighted three themes that formed the conceptual framework for this inquiry and led to the development of five specific research questions. These questions focused on exploring the breadth of the role of assistant principal, the aspects of their work that assistant principals felt were most important, their sources of professional fulfilment and challenge and how the Catholic education system of Western Australia could best support them in their work. The research suggested that assistant principals in Catholic primary schools in Western Australia undertake a wide range of tasks. They are generally satisfied in their work and derive professional fulfilment from many aspects of their role. However, assistant principals also experience challenges in their work, primarily due to their expanding workload and lack of time to complete their tasks. Concerns were raised about the sustainability of the role in its present form due to the negative impact on the wellbeing of assistant principals. Assistant principals also felt conflict between their administrative and leadership responsibilities.

As a result of this research, a framework summarising the leadership of assistant principals in Catholic primary schools in Western Australia was proposed. The model highlights their servant, instructional and transactional leadership, as well as their contribution to the Catholic identity of schools. The research culminated in recommendations for the role of assistant principal in Catholic primary schools in Western Australia, several suggestions for further research and the identification of additions to the body of published literature relating to the role of assistant principal.

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