Cover_En.jpg (15830 bytes)
June 1999

Leadership Crunch
Hits Ontario’s Schools

AG00041_.gif (503 bytes) Back to the College's Home Page

Ontario needs 1,000 new principal-qualified teachers a year. In 1998, there were just 612.

By Frank McIntyre

A school leadership crunch is fast approaching as school boards encounter growing difficulty in their search for qualified teachers to fill vice-principal and principal positions over the next few years. The registry of members of the Ontario College of Teachers reveals a large and growing shortfall in teachers qualified for vice-principal and principal jobs.

In 1998 only 5,343 teachers had completed the Principal’s Qualification Program Part 2, which is required for principal and vice-principal positions. This number does not come close to matching the 7,750 principal and vice-principal jobs across the province.

The College forecast in the December 1998 issue of Professionally Speaking that 44 per cent of the principal and vice-principal-qualified teachers – referred to as principal-qualified – will retire by 2003. Fully 63 per cent of them will retire by 2008.

The loss to retirement of 2,382 of the qualified group in just five years and 3,389 in 10 years is likely to create leadership succession problems for school boards in every region. At its February meeting, the College of Teachers Council asked the Accreditation and Standards of Practice and Education Committees to prepare an action plan to deal with the shortage of candidates while maintaining high standards.


Ontario needs about 1,000 new principal-qualified teachers each year to replace retirees and gradually close the gap between the number of positions and the number of principal-qualified teachers by 2004.

Over the past two years the province fell substantially short of this target. Only 607 teachers acquired the Principal’s Qualification Program Part 2 in 1997 and 612 in 1998, just over 60 per cent of the 1,000 needed every year. Province-wide, there is an urgent need to ensure that more teachers are encouraged and supported in preparing for the Principal’s Qualification Program.

The number of principals and vice-principals needed will not likely fall below 7,000 over the next decade. This number assumes a reduction from the current level to allow for closed schools and twinned schools and also for possible decreased vice-principal-to-student ratios.

The 7,000 level represents 4.2 per cent of the 164,500 Ontario-resident qualified teachers reported in the College’s December 1998 study. Of course, not all principal-qualified teachers hold jobs as principals or vice-principals for reasons such as readiness, interest in available openings, residence preferences, other administrative employment or jobs outside the school systems. Thus, a minimum adequate supply is about 8,000 principal-qualified teachers, five per cent of the population of Ontario-resident teachers.


In 1998, the supply of principal-qualified teachers was 3.2 per cent province-wide, with geographic regions varying from 2.9 per cent to four per cent of locally resident teachers. There were 2,900 fewer teachers with the qualification for these leadership positions than the five-per-cent adequate supply level. Every region shows significant supply problems, with shortages ranging from 56 in Northwestern Ontario to 1,112 in Central Ontario.

Information is not yet available on the loss of principal-qualified teachers in the great retirement exodus of 1998. More than 10,200 teachers retired in 1998. Given the age of principals and vice-principals, these 1998 retirements likely made an already-critical shortage worse.


The experience and coursework requirements mean that teachers with about seven years of experience begin to attain the Principal’s Qualification. Teachers are likely to be at least in their early-30s by the time they qualify for a vice-principal position.

The College registry verifies this pattern. A small percentage of teachers aged 35 and under in 1998 (0.9 per cent of their age group) held the Principal’s Qualification Part 2. One-half of principal-qualified teachers in 1998 were 51 and older.

More disturbing is the pattern evident among those aged 36 to 50. Instead of the expected steady growth in the proportion of principal-qualified teachers as age increases, the College registry reveals a strikingly different pattern. In the group aged 36 to 40, 3.3 per cent hold the qualification. This rises slightly to 3.5 per cent among the group aged 41 to 45 and then drops sharply to 2.8 per cent of teachers aged 46 to 50. Recruitment to produce an adequate supply would likely have a very different pattern of steady growth from four per cent of the under-40s to six per cent of teachers close to 50 years of age.

In the 1998-99 school year, the first appearance of this succession problem emerged. Applications to the College for vice-principal Temporary Letters of Approval (TLA) increased from three in 1997-98 to 74 by March of 1998-99. For principal, the increase was from two in 1997-98 to five in 1998-99.

As the half of the principal-qualified group aged 51 and older retires, the crisis will deepen.

Urgent and active succession planning must happen across the province. Preparing for the Principal’s Qualification Program takes time. Within the first five years of their careers, we must encourage teachers interested in leadership to begin their preparation through Additional Qualification and master’s studies.

Frank McIntyre is the College’s human resources consultant.


The Road to Principal’s Qualification

To qualify for enrolment in the first part of the two-part Principal’s Qualification Program, teachers must hold an acceptable university degree and basic qualifications in three divisions (among Primary, Junior, Intermediate and Senior), including the Intermediate Division. In addition, one of three further qualification routes may be pursued – a master’s degree or two specialist level Additional Qualifications or one-half of the requirements for a master’s degree and one specialist. A further requirement of five years of successful teaching experience certified by a supervisory officer is normally achieved concurrently over the time required to complete one of the three routes.

For teachers who hold technological studies qualifications, the basic level of their certification is considered equivalent to the Intermediate division and the advanced level equivalent to the Senior division. All other requirements for the Principal’s Qualification Program are the same as described above.

These requirements, and the one or two years to complete the two-part sequence of the Principal’s Qualification Program, mean that most teachers who actively prepare for a vice-principal or principal role would require seven years in the profession to be ready to apply to a position.

Teachers grand-parented under earlier qualification regimes and individuals working under College-approved Temporary Letters of Approval may also hold principal and vice-principal positions without the Principal’s Qualification.


Enrolment in PQP Part 1

The College has extended measures started last year to make enrolment in Part 1 of the Principal’s Qualification Program (PQP) easier for candidates who have completed all the prerequisites but have not had the qualifications entered on their Certificate of Qualification.

To enrol in Part 1 of the Principal’s Qualification Program, candidates must have:

  • an acceptable university degree

  • a Certificate of Qualification or Interim Certificate of Qualification in good standing issued by the College

  • qualifications in three divisions, including the Intermediate division

  • five years of successful teaching certified by a supervisory officer

  • two specialists or a master’s degree, or one specialist and completion of half a master’s degree.

Candidates who hold these qualifications but do not have them on their Certificate of Qualification and wish to take the Part 1 of the Principal’s Qualification Program should contact the College’s Membership Services Depart-ment at 961-8800 ext. 330 or toll free 1-888-534-2222 ext. 330 to get the Conditional Admission to PQP Part 1 form needed to enrol. Candidates can also write to the Ontario College of Teachers at 121, Bloor St. East, 6th Floor, Toronto ON M4W 3M5.