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Ethical leadership in schools : voices of school principals and teachers from three secondary schools in Durban.

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The media has recently exposed a large number of cases of unethical conduct specifically within the South African Education Department. Learners, teachers, principals, union members and departmental officials have all been cited in different reports and research studies regarding unethical conduct in the Department of Education. This apparent rise in unethical behaviour has caused the concept of ethical leadership and its potential to reduce unethical conduct to become the focus of research especially in educational leadership. In a similar manner this study explored the understandings, experiences and practices of ethical leadership in South African schools and its implications for school leadership from the perspectives of school teachers and principals. Conceptualised within the theoretical frameworks of ethical leadership and ethical development, this research aimed to: elicit perceptions/understandings and experiences of school principals and teachers about the ethics in education; to solicit the opinions/views and perceptions of school principals and teachers about the causes of unethical conduct in schools and to explore the perspectives of school principals and teachers about what they think should be done to reduce unethical behaviour in schools. This study operated within the interpretive paradigm and utilised a qualitative methodological approach to research. The three participating secondary schools were selected for the study using convenience sampling. The two teachers and the principals from each school were subsequently selected using purposive sampling. All ethical issues were observed before the data was generated through semi-structured interviews and documents reviews. Thematic analysis was chosen to analyse the generated data. The conclusions of the study indicate that: all the participants possessed very good and clear understandings of the terms ethics and ethical leadership; the unethical conduct of learners, teachers and principals occurred regularly in some schools and some of these unethical behaviours appeared to be increasing; some of the causes of the unethical behaviours of learners, teachers and principals seemed to originate from both inside the school environment and outside in society; there are various solutions to reduce the unethical conduct of learners, teachers and principals in schools and that there was a consensus that ethical leadership could potentially be an effective approach to reducing unethical conduct in schools. This study therefore recommends the use of ethical leadership to reduce unethical conduct within schools.


Master of Education in Educational leadership, Management and Policy. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Edgewood 2015.


Educational leadership -- South Africa -- Durban., School principals -- Moral and ethical aspects -- South Africa -- Durban., Teachers -- Moral and ethical aspects -- South Africa -- Durban., Theses -- Education.