SA Journal of Education, Vol 44, No 2 (2024)

Primary school principals’ experiences of the implementation of educational policy change

Goodness Tshabalala, Maitumeleng Nthontho


In the study reported on here we explored the experiences of primary school principals in the implementation of educational policy change from an educational policy implementation (hereafter, EPI) theory perspective. With the study we aimed to provide a deeper understanding of the challenges, facilitators, and complexities encountered by school principals when navigating the implementation of educational policy change within their respective schools. Data were gathered using a qualitative research approach through in-depth interviews with purposively sampled primary school principals selected based on their direct involvement in the implementation of educational policy changes after which the data were thematically analysed. The findings of this study shed light on the multi-faceted nature of policy implementation within primary schools highlighting the pivotal role of school principals as key actors in the process. Additionally, we discovered a range of challenges faced by school principals including their missing voice in the development of educational policies, resource constraints, conflicting stakeholder interests, a lack of support and training, and resistance to change. Nevertheless, the study offers valuable insights into ways in which policy implementation unfolds within the unique context of primary schools. It further suggests a practical policy implementation model for policymakers, educational leaders, and practitioners, offering guidance on how to navigate the complexities of implementing educational policy changes effectively. Ultimately, this study contributes to the broader discourse on educational policy implementation and advances our understanding of the experiences of primary school principals as they navigate the dynamic landscape of policy change within their educational setting.

ORCiD iDs of authors:
Goodness Tshabalala –
Maitumeleng Nthontho -

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