Principals supporting principals

Issue: Volume 103, Number 3

Posted: 13 March 2024
Reference #: 1HAfXU

Sixteen current or recently retired principals with more than 250 years’ experience between them make up the 2024 cohort of leadership advisors seconded into the Ministry of Education’s regionally based frontline Te Mahau teams.

The Leadership Advisory Group. Back row: Amy Hacker, Stephen Beck, Carol Bevis, Kevin Bush, Michael Williams, Ken McLeay, Phil Toomer, Daniel Wilson, Melissa Anderton, Mark Johnson. Front row: Mārama Stewart, Brendan Wilson, Saane Faaofo- Olderhaver, Tim

The Leadership Advisory Group. Back row: Amy Hacker, Stephen Beck, Carol Bevis, Kevin Bush, Michael Williams, Ken McLeay, Phil Toomer, Daniel Wilson, Melissa Anderton, Mark Johnson. Front row: Mārama Stewart, Brendan Wilson, Saane Faaofo- Olderhaver, Tim White, Mark Brown, Sandy Hastings, Regan Orr.

Te Mahau leadership advisors have first-hand knowledge of leading schools in their region and know how to connect principals with advisors in areas such as finance, NCEA and curriculum.

The group have been principals in a range of settings and have broad experience in sector associations.

Chief advisor responsible for the service, Tim White, says the aim is to provide real-time problem solving for principals and build a strong network for principals, with the focus guided by principals themselves.

“This type of service is unique in how it has been designed and delivered by principals, for principals.”

Support takes many forms, practical and strategic.

For Tania Doherty, principal last year of Waimana School near Whakatāne, regional leadership advisor Mārama Stewart helped navigate unfamiliar administrative expectations. This included property planning, Edpay, and staffing opportunities.

“Rural and isolated principals do not always have the luxury of leaving their kura to attend conferences and workshops, so having Mārama so accessible in person and at the end of the line provided immense reassurance.”

Tania says the cultural capability of Mārama, who is advisor for Māori tumuaki – Waiariki, was the essence to them quickly forging a trusting working relationship.

Tailored service

Work with principals, kāhui ako and clusters often identifies common needs across regions, school types and within the sector. Building this picture gives advisors insight and approaches they can share with each other and take to other schools.

But while school leaders around the country face many similar challenges, the leadership advisors provide a tailored service for each principal.

“Principals are extremely busy so helping work through changes to things like planning and reporting may take some pressure off and allow more time for leading learning and teaching,” says Tim.

Last year the advisors had 2,769 engagements with principals from 930 schools around the motu.

Most support is offered kanohi ki te kanohi (face to face), with phone and Microsoft Teams also used to keep in touch.

“We aim to be available to respond to principals when, where and how it works best for them.”

Regular contact includes working through new information from the Ministry or other agencies, being a sounding board for a school’s strategic plan, supporting establishment of professional growth cycle groups, addressing challenging relationships, complaints and concerns, talking through financial challenges and raising awareness of initiatives to assist recruitment.

In addition in 2023 there were more than 2,200 enrolments for workshops run by leadership advisors and regional Te Mahau teams on a range of topics including changes to planning and reporting.

In response to feedback, some regions offered further workshops focused on engaging with mana whenua, giving effect to Te Tiriti o Waitangi or moving from ‘consulting’ to ‘engaging deeply’.

In feedback from 300 principals, 93 percent said the leadership advisory service was very responsive, 85 percent said the service was excellent and 84 percent said they would use it again.

Sentiments expressed included:

  • As a beginning principal, having access to a leadership advisor was invaluable. The support and encouragement helps my confidence in leading effectively.
  • This support as it exists right now is very useful. You are hiring working principals and giving them the freedom to adapt to the needs of the principals they support.
  • The leadership advisor was my only support in my isolated community. They have given me a new lease of principal life.
  • With the challenges many face in remote schools, a leadership advisor coming to us is a massive help.
  • Really appreciated their understanding, ability to listen and ‘unpack’ what I needed. Also the commitment to tailored and bespoke outcomes for our situation.

More than half who responded felt the advisors supported their wellbeing. Comments included they felt less professional isolation, the leadership advisor was ‘down to earth’ and someone with whom they could be really honest.

Email the chief advisor of the Leadership Advisory Service, Tim White

Meet some of the team

Kevin Bush

Kevin Bush

Kevin Bush, Tāmaki Herenga Waka Auckland

Kevin has been principal at Te Hihi School in Karaka, Auckland for the past 20 years, after five years as principal at Hikuai School, Coromandel. He has also been on the executive of New Zealand Principals’ Federation and the Auckland Primary Principals’ Association.

Having benefitted from rural principal advisors in his early principal days, he knew the sector would welcome leadership advisors and applied after encouragement from principal friends.

“We’re all in this for the children so if I can provide pragmatic help so they focus on their students, everyone wins.”

Saane Faaofo- Olderhaver

Saane Faaofo- Olderhaver

Saane Faaofo-Oldehaver, Pacific leadership advisor Auckland

Saane has been in education more than 25 years including the past nine as principal of Weymouth Primary School. She is also president of New Zealand Pasifika Principals and on the executive team for Auckland Primary Principals’ Association and Manurewa Principals’ Association. 

Saane wants to talanoa to see how to support schools serving Pasifika learners and their families so they can realise their dreams and aspirations. 

Daniel Wilson

Daniel Wilson

Daniel Wilson, secondary schools Nelson

Striving for a culturally responsive and relational curriculum was a key aim for Daniel in the past nine years leading Nayland College, Nelson, along with nurturing a safe, supportive and respectful environment where learning is a true partnership between home and school. 

Daniel has also worked extensively with other schools and educational institutions through his role as kāhui ako lead and as board member at Education New Zealand.

Sharing his knowledge and experiences with schools no matter where they are on their improvement journey is a natural extension of this work.

Stephen Beck

Stephen Beck

Stephen Beck, area schools

After growing up in small Kāpiti town Ōtaki, Stephen’s 23-year education career has always involved area schools.

Currently on secondment from the principal role at Hurunui College in North Canterbury, Stephen served on the Peak Bodies Advisory Group during the Covid-19 pandemic.

As president of New Zealand Area Schools Association, he has had positive impact on education policy and advocacy for area schools on a national scale.

Stephen has been the driving force behind the NZ Area Schools Barbarians Rugby Team for the past five years, ensuring this pathway remains open to our young athletes.

Regional leadership advisors




Tai Tokerau

Ken McLeay

Tāmaki Herenga Tangata

Phil Toomer

Tāmaki Herenga Manawa

Michael Williams

Tāmaki Herenga Waka

Kevin Bush

Pacific Tumuaki – Tāmaki

Saane Faaofo



Amy Hacker

Bay of Plenty/Waiariki

Brendan Wilson

Māori Tumuaki – Waiariki (2023/4)

Mārama Stewart (T1-2)

Hawke’s Bay/Tairāwhiti

Robin Fabish (T2-4)

Carol Bevis (T3-4)


Hawke’s Bay – Rural and Small Schools

Mark Johnson (T1-2)

Taranaki, Whanganui/Manawatū

Regan Orr

Greater Wellington

Mark Brown

Nelson, West Coast

Daniel Wilson

Canterbury/Chatham Islands

Sandy Hastings


Melissa Anderton

Area Schools – Te Waipounamu

Stephen Beck


BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 12:27 pm, 13 March 2024

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