A principal is the person who is the most senior teacher in a school. Therefore, when doing this job you will be in a leadership role. You will exercise leadership in different ways. It will be over your team of teachers. But it will also be over the whole school. A principal can also be known as a headmaster or headmistress.
The Irish school education system is made up of two types of schools. The most numerous are primary schools. There are also a smaller number of larger post-11 schools. These are known as post-primary schools or secondary schools. Both of these types of schools will have a principal as a head. Additionally, there are also post-16 further education colleges. Each one of these will also be headed by a principal.
What Does a Principal Do
A school principal plans and oversees the education delivery of a school. You will have particular responsibility for:
- Developing inclusive whole-school policies. You will also monitor their implementation.
- Assigning staff strategically to teaching roles. This will include special education roles.
- Coordinating teachers’ work across all year groups.
- Establishing whole-school procedures. This will include dealing with parents and pupils. Further, you must also deal with external professionals or agencies.
- Leading the school in all its aspects. This will include managing the school budget.
- Acting as a school’s ambassador.
In larger schools, some of these actions will be delegated to teams of staff. However, in all circumstances, you have overall responsibility for the school.
Who Employs Principals
Virtually all principals are employed to head schools by the Department of Education. It is part of the government of Ireland. You are therefore classed as public sector workers.
A smaller number of principals will head private sector schools. These will be classed as private-sector workers.
Job Salary for a Principal in Ireland
Principal salaries can vary quite significantly. This will depend on a principal’s experience and seniority.
There are also a variety of sources for how much a principal is paid. One source says the average principal’s salary is €48,400 per year. Another source pegs it close by at €51,000 per year. Yet another one says the average salary is €56,000 every year.
However, there is also some bigger data variation. For example, one source says the salary of a principal can vary from €70,000 to €105,000. It also says the average salary for a principal in Ireland is €85,000 per year. This estimate is considerably higher than the others quoted.
In addition to this, principals practising in Dublin will usually earn more. This can be at least 10% more than in other parts of Ireland. This is because of the much higher cost of living in Dublin.
General Salary Levels in Ireland
Some other figures are useful. These will allow you to compare a principal’s salary in Ireland with other professions. And they will show how a principal’s salary in Ireland is relatively well-paid.
According to the Central Statistics Office, the national average salary in Ireland is €45,324. That’s a salary after tax of €34,815 a year. It is also equivalent to €2,901 a month. Or you can look at it as €670 a week.
A good salary in Ireland is said to start at €45,000 across the country. This rises to €50,000 in Dublin. This translates to €2,887 every month after tax. It is also equivalent to €3,102 monthly before tax.
Further, the current Minimum Wage in Ireland is €11.30. This must be paid to people aged 20 and over. This means the minimum untaxed income for a 40-hour week is €452. Per month this works out to just under €2000. It is also equivalent to around €23,500 per year.
How Do Principals Get Paid
Principals will be paid from the budget of a school. The salary level of a principal will be decided by the Department of Education. Experienced principals will be paid more. This will also apply to those running bigger colleges or schools.
How Often Is a Principal Normally Paid
As a principal, you can normally expect to be paid a salary every month.
Who Negotiates a Job Salary for a Principal
The basic salary levels of principals are set through negotiations. Trade unions negotiate the basic overall salary level. On top of this, there will be increments and additional payments. These will be based on other factors such as experience. Another increment factor will be the size of a school or college.
What Sort of Contracts Do Principals Have
Principals will have permanent contracts based on the school or college. Their ultimate employer, however, is the Department of Education. This will mean these contracts set out all the relevant terms of employment.
Earning Potential of a Principal in Ireland
After completion of the necessary training, principals’ pay increases significantly. Further, this is likely to continue throughout your career. With experience and reputation, you can progress in your career. This can mean moving to bigger schools or colleges.
Professional Development of a Principal in Ireland
Principals are well-supported by professional development. This is especially true in recent years. The establishment of the Centre for School Leadership (CSL) in 2015 was a major boost. This was done by the Department of Education. This CSL is therefore a relatively new body. It is tasked with supporting the professional development of principals.
How to Become a Principal in Ireland
The road to becoming a principal in Ireland is a thorough one. These factors reflect the unique responsibilities and duties of the role. You will always need to have been a teacher first.
Qualifications/Courses – Principal
To become a principal, there are different career routes. These are based on first becoming a teacher. A recognised Bachelor of Education (B.Ed.) degree is always needed. You earn this from an education school at an university. Degree courses in education take three or four years.
You will then usually need to get a Graduate or Higher Diploma. This will also need to be in education. Beyond this, your skills will develop as you pursue a career in teaching. Most principals have at least five years’ experience of actual teaching in schools.
Finally, you will need to complete an examination in professional practice. This will be specified by the Teaching Council of Ireland. All teachers working in the public sector must be registered with this Teaching Council.
General Skills Required
- Principals must be able to deal with a wide variety of educational issues. Excellent problem-solving and diagnostic skills are essential.
- Educational leadership skills are always required. Time management skills are essential. You will be handling a range of projects at the same time.
- Education is always developing. This means you must be prepared to keep learning about new issues in education. This applies throughout your working life.
- Excellent communication skills are needed. This is because you will be working with a wide variety of different people from different walks of life.
- You must be a good team player. This means having the ability to work constructively with others.
- Additionally, there are a few other office-based skills needed. Such as good computer literacy to record information relating to the school.
- Management skills are needed. You also need maintain discipline in a school.
- You also need to balance a school’s budget. This means you will need excellent financial skills.
- A clean Garda vetting check is also required. This is because you will be working with children. This system of Garda vetting is conducted by the Garda Siochána National Vetting Bureau. It works by sending a vetting disclosure to the organisation that requested one.
Challenges of Being a Principal
- No two days as a principal are the same. You will need to keep track of several projects or work streams at the same time. This will include knowing the stages that these projects are at.
- You will also need to maintain a professional outlook. This means treating your teachers, pupils and parents with respect.
- Leading a school can often be complicated. Additionally, pupils or their parents can be difficult and challenging. As can some of your teachers. These things mean the job of a principal can be stressful.
- You must always be prepared for the unexpected. This can be exciting. But it can also be challenging at times.
- Balancing a school budget can be challenging. Additionally, external school inspections will also bring stress.
Type of Person Suited for this Work
- An extremely innovative person is needed. Indeed, you will need to be creative and an original thinker.
- You will also need to apply problem-solving skills. This needs to be done with confidence.
- Tied into this you need to be a good listener.
- You must be someone with a calm outlook. You will need to deal with stress. This is because the work can be very pressured.
- Additionally, you must keep up to date with new educational ideas. You also need to know about changes in education law.
General Expected Working Hours
You can expect to work at least a 48-hour week. Further, you may have on-call commitments. There will also be lots of evening work. Indeed, you will be the lead ambassador of a school or college. This means representing the institution at external events.
Location of Work
You will be located in a school or college. However, you will also be expected to conduct some meetings off-site.
It is possible to build a successful and well-paid career as a principal. You will do this by building your reputation. You will also increase your experience. Further, this is likely to continue throughout your career. There is a very good chance of being promoted. You may end up running a bigger school or college.