Principal For A Day® aims to increase understanding and awareness between schools, business and the wider community; and provide business and community leaders with firsthand and current experiences of schools. 

Principal For A Day® commenced in Australia in 2001 and has been managed by ACER since 2006. It is currently operating in Victorian primary, secondary and special schools and is funded by the Department of Education and Training (DET) through the Bastow Institute of Educational Leadership. Expressions of interest from other Australian jurisdictions are most welcome. 

Principal For A Day® in Australia is modelled after the program of the same name developed by PENCIL (Public Education Needs Civic Involvement in Learning) in the United States. ACER acknowledges the generosity of PENCIL in allowing the use of their materials.

Mission and aims

The mission of Principal For A Day® is to increase and strengthen partnerships between schools and the community.

Principal For A Day® aims to:

  • Increase understanding and awareness between schools, business and the wider community
  • Promote the great work that schools do
  • Provide business and community leaders with first-hand and current experiences of schools
  • Enable school principals to develop on-going relationships with leaders from other spheres
  • Increase opportunities for schools and the community to work together in mutually beneficial ways.


Principal For A Day® 2016 was held on Thursday 8 September.

Program components

The event component: The principal for a day ‘shadows’ the school principal, and participates in normal day-to-day activities in a primary, special or secondary school. The principal and the principal for a day discuss the challenges and current issues each is facing in their leadership role. Other activities on the day usually include a tour of the school buildings and site; discussions with students and teachers.

The forum component: following the event day, all principals for a day, their host principals, and other key leaders in education and business are invited to a Forum to share their leadership experiences, observations, and knowledge.  

'I was thrilled to be invited to attend the 15th annual Principal for a Day Forum, and to come away with clear awareness that it is still a highly valued and effective way of building relationships between schools and the wider community.' Mary Cahill, founder Principal for a Day in Australia

The relationship component: Independent research has found that the day is mutually beneficial for the schools and participating principals for a day. It is an enjoyable experience for all concerned, and many principals for a day and schools continue their relationships on a voluntary basis long after the event day is over. Results to date include professional learning exchanges, curriculum development, careers advice, job offers to students, industry and work experience visits, two-way mentoring and sharing of ideas and resources. 

Program features

  • The wide diversity of backgrounds and geographical locations of participating business/community leaders and school principals
  • An individualised matching process based on particular interests of the business (or community) leader and the school principal, their individual areas of expertise, immediate organisational priorities and geographic location.
  • comprehensive information kit, including biographical and organisational profiles which enables participants to be well-briefed about each other’s background and priorities
  • Forums for all principals for a day and all school principals, to exchange experiences, discuss observations, propose ideas for further action and ask questions of key leaders in education who also attend these Forums.

Benefits of the program

For business/community leaders

  • Increased knowledge of the issues facing schools and the work they are doing
  • Opportunities to share ideas and perspectives on leading complex and innovative organisations
  • The value added to their own organisation by their participation

For school principals

  • New insights on leadership from successful leaders in other spheres
  • The opportunity to showcase the school to significant business and community leaders
  • The opportunity to develop ongoing relationships for the school and its students 
Victoria Government

The 2016 Principal For A Day Twilight Forum was held on Wednesday 26 October, facilitated by comedian and author Nelly Thomas. For details email pfad@acer.edu.au

Online forms

Submit an EOI for your school to participate in Principal For A Day 2017

Submit an EOI to be a principal for a day in 2017


'Principal For A Day is a very important program, and all business leaders should be encouraged to participate. It gives a real insight to the challenges we face in helping all students realise their potential, and what we as business leaders can, and must, do to help.'
Michael Ullmer, Director Lend Lease, Director Woolworths