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A formidable challenge most school leaders in South Africa face is to improve the academic results in state schools. In terms of their contracts, principals are accountable for the academic results as reflected in examination and test results for their schools. The National Department of Education (currently the Department of Basic Education) has made attempts to implement a performance agreement with principals and deputy principals, which would hold them directly and specifically accountable for the examination results. The article explores the proposed performance agreement and its potential influence on principals’ motivation to improve their own, and therefore also the teachers’ and learners’ academic performance. The focus group interviews conducted with principals and deputy principals indicate that principals do not want to be held accountable, because there are too many factors outside their control. They perceive a performance agreement of this kind as potentially demotivating because they do not feel they would be able to achieve the goals it sets.
Keywords: accountability; motivation; performance agreements; performance management; power; school leadership;