The school principal and the development of social capital in primary schools: the formative years

James P. Spillane*, Jonathan M. Sun

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Focusing on primary school principals’ espoused strategies for developing social capital over their early years in the principal’s office, we show that investing in social capital was a core challenge during their formative years. Based on our analysis of data from a longitudinal study of 35 new principals, we argue that school principals made sense of the social capital challenge in two ways: First, developing their own relationships with key stakeholders such as teachers, parents, and students. Second, working to build and improve relationships among stakeholders, both within and among stakeholder groups (e.g. among teachers, between teachers and students). Further, we argue that school principals reported using a combination of three strategies to address their sense of the social capital challenge–being present by being visible and accessible to stakeholders; building infrastructure to cultivate relations with, within, and among stakeholders; and channeling relationships both with, within, and among stakeholder groups by focusing the nature and/or content of these interactions. Our analysis systematically attends to, the resource(s) that principals hoped to access through their social capital building efforts, the strategies they employed, and the stakeholders they implicated in their efforts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4-23
Number of pages20
JournalSchool Leadership and Management
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2022


  • Principals
  • infrastructure
  • professional development
  • relationships
  • social capital
  • teachers

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Strategy and Management


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