Abstract The challenges in deaf education illustrate the requirement and importance of leadership in this specialized field. The significant and impending talent depletion unfolding as baby-boomers retire, positions leadership succession planning as a strategic issue. This mixed methods study is the first of its kind in New Zealand. The aim is to understand leadership demographics and assumptions to determine the need for strategic succession planning to identify and address leaky pipelines. The findings from 82% of the deaf education workforce through a questionnaire and interviews with seven senior leaders reveal that senior leaders do not appear aware of four key areas that dissuade and shrink the pool of potential leadership aspirants. The four areas are prioritizing family; safeguarding health; concerns about bureaucracy, paperwork, and workload; and, a reluctance to move away from teaching. Aspirant identification appears informal, as there is no formal succession plan in place, which suggests a leadership crisis is imminent in New Zealand deaf education provision. Recommendations are provided that may help address this situation in New Zealand and other first-world nations if sufficient leaders are in place to deal with the challenges facing deaf education today and in the future. The Strategic Issue of Leadership Succession Leadership succession is a strategic issue related to ensuring talent development and retention of human capital. It can also help address challenges brought about by changes in age demographics, diverse student characteristics, technological developments, and education policy reform. Leadership and succession also bring challenges. The shift to distributed, shared, and collaborative approaches can challenge the traditional notion of individual leader and followers (Youngs, 2017). Succession requires planning with links to strategic development (Gothard & Austin, 2013), and the challenge of sometimes dealing with unexpected exits or an accumulation of rapid exits leaving an organization or human service area devoid of human capital in key areas. Rapid exits are more likely as age demographics across developed countries undergo a gerontological shift as baby-boomers retire (DeLong, 2004; Mullen, 2002; Pitt-Catsouphes, 2007). The typical pyramid shape of a population demographic is broadening at the top as higher numbers of aged persons retire with the greatest impact of this retirement wave to be felt from 2020 (Tacchino, 2013). The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) (2016) argue this aging has several implications for education, especially in relation to replacing retiring teachers through “recruitment and training efforts” (p. 442). Disaggregation of OECD data can enable country and school sector analysis; however, it does not enable any analysis specifically in relation to deaf education. Of concern is the lack of research related to the replenishment of an aging workforce and the implications of this for the deaf education workforce, particularly at a leadership level. Deaf education is diverse in policy (Hardy & Woodcock, 2015), teaching (Marschark, Spencer, Adams, & Sapere, 2011), and student characteristics (Doherty, 2012; Kennon & Patterson, 2016; Swanwick & Marschark, 2010). Technological development advances at a rate quicker than in the past (De Raeve, Baerts, Colleye, & Croux, 2012), all the while as education policy reforms of the recent past such as standardized testing and special education inclusion policies start to merge with the shift from single-cell school classrooms to more open and flexible learning spaces. This recent shift to Innovative Learning Environments (ILEs), overtly promoted by the OECD (2015), brings with it additional challenges to students and teachers in the area of special education (Page & Davis, 2016). The challenges in deaf education are further exacerbated with issues related to teacher recruitment and teacher retention (British Association of Teachers of the Deaf, 2015), and teacher burnout in special education generally (Brunsting, Sreckovic, & Lane, 2014) as well as deaf education (Kennon & Patterson, 2016). The loss of leadership expertise in special education (Scott & McNeish, 2013) and deaf education (Andrews & Covell, 2007; Johnson, 2013) when viewed alongside the aforementioned challenges, place leadership succession as an international strategic issue in deaf education. Multiple Leadership Challenges Leadership in education is a significant factor when explaining within school variation of student learning, whether this relates to executive level leaders, such as principals, or middle level leaders, such as department, or unit heads (Hallinger, 2011; Leithwood, 2016; Louis, Leithwood, Wahlstrom, & Anderson, 2010). Complementary to this focus on individuals as leaders, is shared leadership, which is usually associated with leadership across a group, and distributed leadership, across an organization or system (Youngs, 2009). Leadership in all of its various forms matters, particularly when challenges abound. When leadership expertise and the required number of individuals relied on to enact it are at risk, then succession and retention become a strategic issue. “Recognizing and developing internal leadership potential” (Gothard & Austin, 2013, p. 277) is a vital component of succession planning, though can be undermined when done poorly (Hargreaves, 2005). Central to identifying individuals and leadership development is assuming: firstly, incumbent leaders have the skills to do this (Rhodes & Brundrett, 2009); secondly, there is a pool of potential individuals; and thirdly, potential aspiring individuals and groups have the capacity and support to engage in and learn new leadership practices. All three components are required if a leadership pipeline is to be sustained in organizations and across a specialized field like deaf education. The State of Deaf Education Central to deaf education policy is the common commitment to inclusive education for students with special needs ratified by 92 governments as part of the Salamanca World Conference on Special Needs Education (UNESCO, 1994). Inclusion policies vary from nation to nation, vary over time and are contested (Hardy & Woodcock, 2015). They can be inconsistently implemented across a nation (for example, England, see Scott & McNeish, 2013) and vary across provinces within a nation (for example, Canada, see Hardy & Woodcock, 2015). Debate between full inclusive mainstream provision and specialized provision has been an ever-present debate in special education (Doherty, 2012; Jahnukainen, 2015; Rose, Shevlin, Winter, & O’Raw, 2010). Teachers of the deaf and hard of hearing (DHH) are across both forms of provision, meaning that the leadership of such provision is diverse. For example, the recruitment of leaders of Special Schools in the United States and United Kingdom is a major issue (Scott & McNeish, 2013). In England, this has been in addition to the high turnover and attrition of Special Education Needs Coordinators (SENCOs) (Pearson, 2008), though some of those who stay hope to have a wider leadership role in the future (Mackenzie, 2012). In the United States, Andrews and Covell (2007) argue “there are insufficient numbers of deaf professionals being trained for leadership positions” (p. 472). The British Association of Teachers of the Deaf (BATOD) (2015) state their recent surveys of leaders and teachers in deaf education across both forms of provision, “reveal a retention crisis in the coming years” (s 2.1) due to retirement and decreasing numbers of new personnel coming through training providers. The number of deaf education programs in the United States is diminishing (Johnson, 2013), though this is in parallel “with the [lesser] number of children identified in the ‘Annual Survey of Deaf and Hard of Hearing Children and Youth’” (Dolman, 2010). However, Dolman (2010) argues the distribution of DHH children through mainstream schools can make them harder to identify and suggests the need for more graduates may be greater than what it appears. The programs that do remain “must constantly demonstrate that their value is deserving of university support” (Lenihan, 2010, p. 123) as higher education providers come under intense pressure to streamline provision and cut programs with small enrollments. This then creates a challenge facing deaf education leaders in universities. The development and sustainability of a leadership pipeline is dependent on having a pool of aspirants who have the capacity to consider a leadership pathway. Workload concerns can mitigate against this and teachers of the deaf are not exempt from the issues of work intensification affecting mainstream teachers. The potential and subsequent burnout from increased demands have been reported with special education teachers and principals (Brunsting et al., 2014; Kelly, Carey, McCarthy, & Coyle, 2007), and teachers of DHH students in the United States leave the field at higher rates compared to mainstream teachers due to stress and burnout (Kennon & Patterson, 2016). Kennon and Patterson (2016) also found that “DHH students are impacted directly by the stress and burnout of their educators as well as by the inconsistency in instruction created by high rates of turnover” (p. 1). For over three decades they have been dissatisfied with the amount of paperwork associated with their role (Luckner & Dorn, 2017). Addressing the issue of teacher stress is everyone’s problem and is a major component of any retention strategy (Clement, 2017). The advancement of technology and the inclusion of DHH students into mainstream schools could lessen the need for specialist teachers, especially with the demise of special schools. However, inclusion has changed the type of support required and added to the complexity of specialist provision, not lessened it. For example, specialist provision in a mainstream setting may come under the jurisdiction of the principal, so as in Sweden, “jurisdictional control is also a matter of constant negotiation” (Lindqvist, 2013, p. 199). More attention is required in relation to collaboration and sharing of expertise (Ainscow & Sandill, 2010), though in Ireland visiting teachers for students with hearing loss and teachers for students with vision loss report their caseload is unmanagable and roles can be undefined (McLinden & McCracken, 2016). Inclusion can also create issues for the student as well, particularly if there is no practice of signing (Takala & Sume, 2017) or there is a shortage of English teachers of the deaf in countries like France where English is taught as an additional language (Bedoin, 2011). In England, Teaching Assistants raise the issue of teachers of deaf students in mainstream schools rarely meeting with classroom teachers about the learning provision for DHH students (Salter, Swanwick, & Pearson, 2017). Inclusion, in all of its various forms brings with it challenges perhaps experienced not so readily in specialist schools. In both contexts, teachers and leaders face challenges and the challenges on the horizon further justify the need for leadership development in deaf education as well as leadership succession planning and recruitment. The major challenge still facing deaf education is student achievement. Deaf and hard of hearing students lag behind hearing students (Andrews & Covell, 2007; Hendar & O’Neill, 2016; Marschark et al., 2011; Salter et al., 2017). On the horizon is the emerging trend towards redeveloping schools into sites with Innovative Learning Environments (ILEs). The transition from single-cell classrooms into larger flexible learning spaces may create opportunities as well as challenges for teachers of DHH students. For example, a sample of 137 students with a hearing loss were more negative about learning in larger open spaces compared to hearing students (Connolly, Dockrell, Shield, Conetta, & Cox, 2015). On the other hand, a specialist teacher may find it easier to circulate around a larger group of students who require their support (Page & Davis, 2016). The challenge for teachers and leaders in deaf education to improve student learning remains and heightens the issues evident in deaf education literature. These issues must be centered around student learning and teaching, as well as drawing on the emerging research studies in deaf education related to teacher pedagogy and student learning (for example, see Marschark et al., 2011; Swanwick & Marschark, 2010). After all, leadership in deaf education must be about improving the conditions of learning and teaching for all concerned, because educational leadership is concerned with “achieving the ends of education which are improvement of student learning outcomes” (Cardno & Youngs, 2013, p. 257). Consequently, there is an increased demand for educational leadership provision in deaf education, not just general leadership provision; however, meeting this demand is at risk due to conditions that result in a leaky pipeline of aspirants. Development in a specialist field such as deaf education or educational leadership takes approximately 10,000 hr of focused practice to gain sufficient expertise (Day, Fleenor, Atwater, Sturm, & McKee, 2014). The time required to develop aspirants also is an issue, particularly with the number of impending retirements predicted, because 10,000 hr is required in deaf education development and a further 10,000 hr in educational leadership development. The New Zealand Deaf Education Context According to the 2013 census, 6% of children and 52% of disabled children in New Zealand have difficulty hearing1. The trend towards inclusion of deaf students in mainstream education is well in place in New Zealand. Approximately 95% of DHH students of school age attend mainstream classes (Powell & Hyde, 2014). New Zealand has two deaf education centers (DECs) that cover the entire geography of the country. One is in Auckland covering that city and the regions of the upper North Island; the other is in Christchurch covering the city and the entire South Island and lower half of the North Island regions. Both the DECs have school provisions within host primary, intermediate, and secondary schools across the city they are based. They have itinerant bases in the major towns of the regions where resource teachers of the deaf carry out specialist support and oversight of a caseload as visiting teachers spread across schools in the area. The DECs share the same Board of Trustees; however, each has its own chief executive or Principal who has oversight for their respective collective regions. The DECs cover two halves of the country, respectively, and each Principal would have oversight of staff across their city of origin as well as the satellite bases across those cities and the regional bases located in most major towns across the country. The leadership structure consists of a head of school, responsible for operations, then a deputy head of school, an assistant head of school, and a head of specialist services, for example, interpreters, audiology, speech language therapy, councilors, and educational psychologists. In the regions, there are regional coordinators responsible for collective sections of the country. At a middle leadership level, there are people responsible for a small contingent of 5–10 staffs who cover a specific town or small region of the country. Alternatively, in a large city a middle leader could be the line manager for a deaf hub or provision located within a partner school, again with a staffing responsibility. There are several layers of leadership in each DEC and the jump in magnitude from middle leadership to senior is considerable. It can be summarized as moving from a role that covers a single school or town, to a regional or national role. The 95% of DHH students of school age who attend mainstream classes do so with appropriate support from DEC staff (Powell & Hyde, 2014). The remaining 5% of deaf students account for the numbers at the pre-school for deaf students based on site at the DEC and the post 16-year-old transitional departments. These departments are available for students on the roll who are on a developmental program on-site that focuses on preparing these young deaf adults for work, placement on tertiary courses, apprenticeships, or to pursue their individual aspirations. In addition, and separate to the DECs, the Government’s Ministry of Education has an Advisor on Deaf Children (AODC) service with around 50 advisors that offers national outreach to pre-school age and newly identified students across the country. This study is the first of its type in New Zealand. It set out to answer three questions to gain a clear, data informed picture of workforce demographics and contribute to the discussion around the need for robust leadership succession planning. The questions were as follows: What is the current national demographic picture of the leadership and teaching workforce in deaf education across New Zealand’s three specialist providers? Is there a need for succession planning and, if so, what strategies could be used, by organizations to share and transfer institutional knowledge from incumbent to aspiring leaders? How effective are current governmental and school initiatives from New Zealand’s education system in preparing leaders in the deaf education sector? Methods The Research Design and Participants A convergent mixed methods design examines demographic and leadership succession issues in New Zealand’s deaf education workforce. This design occurs when quantitative and qualitative data are collected and analyzed concurrently before merging the results of the two data sets to establish the overall findings (Creswell & Plano Clark, 2011) as well as provide conditions favorable towards methodological triangulation and enhanced validity (Youngs & Piggot-Irvine, 2012). We used two data collecting tools, firstly a national electronic questionnaire sent via email to all deaf educators in New Zealand (N = 200). This included all the teaching staff of both DEC’s and the Government’s advisors on deaf children cohort, totaling some 200 people. The questionnaire had 16 questions. These included gender, where training took place, working hours, region, cultural, and audiological status (deaf, hard of hearing, hearing). In addition, data were collected about the year they qualified as an educator of deaf, how many years they had worked in the sector, their current age, and their level in deaf education (classroom, middle or senior leader). We also inquired as to their intentions in the next 5–10 years (full-time, semi-retire, retire), their motivation to take up leadership positions, and some questions around their intentions in the next 3–5 years in terms of staying in role, or applying for a leadership role. Lastly, participants were asked if they intended to stay in New Zealand’s deaf education field in the next 3–5 years and to make comment in an open-ended question about any of their responses to scale item statements. Secondly, seven semi-structured interviews with seven senior deaf educator leaders took place. These were conducted face-to-face, and included visits to the Ministry of Education in Wellington, the DEC in Auckland and also in Christchurch. Each interview lasted approximately 1 hr. These senior leaders all had national scale roles; again to help with scope, the most senior of the leaders interviewed had oversight for around 10,000 staff members nationally in special education. To recruit interviewees, an information sheet and all relevant ethics approval documentation were sent to the most senior leaders in all three providers and seven of the leaders accepted the invitation. Ten questions were asked during each interview and were clustered as sub-questions around each of the three research questions. All data for the study were gathered in 2012. Each senior leader is referred to as SL1 through to SL7 in the findings. Three research questions guided this national study as illustrated in Figure 1. We present this design in the hope that similar research studies will be employed in other nations so the deaf education field can compare and contrast findings across regions and nations, as well as raise awareness of the issues raised in this article with those responsible for deaf education funding and policy. Figure 1. View largeDownload slide Mixed methods convergence design. Figure 1. View largeDownload slide Mixed methods convergence design. Analysis The quantitative data from the questionnaire were mainly generated through demographic and rating scale questions that underwent uni-variate and bi-variate analysis. The bi-variate analysis utilized SPSS statistical analysis including Pearson’s product moment correlation co-efficient and statistical significance of difference t-tests. A reliability rating (α = 0.635) was established for the rating scales using Cronbach’s alpha test. The qualitative data from the questionnaire open-ended question underwent thematic analysis to uncover common threads amongst the voices of the national workforce and senior leaders. The qualitative data from the semi-structured interviews were recorded, transcribed, and scrutinized through thematic analysis for common strands and themes emerging around each question. Prior to thematic analysis, the transcripts were sent to the interviewees to approve and check. Results We received 162 completed responses to the questionnaire (81% of the workforce). The one open-ended question in the survey received 112 responses. Demographics There is a global issue with the aging of the teacher workforce and New Zealand is not exempt. Table 1 illustrates this, where the national data from this study’s deaf education workforce were placed alongside mainstream data. It was evident that the distribution of age was skewed more in deaf education, with significantly higher numbers of people over 50 years old than in mainstream education. Mainstream workforce figures also showed four times as many people under 30 years old (12% of workforce versus deaf education’s 3%). This applied to a leadership level as well. Table 2 also shows the mean age for educators of the deaf at both teacher and leadership levels. Ministry of Education (2011) data revealed that 35–44% of all mainstream teachers holding leadership responsibility were over 55 years old, and this data is some 6 years old. This study revealed 40% of the deaf educator workforce were over 55 years old some 5 years ago, and nine of the 14 senior leaders were in the 55 years+ bracket at that time. It is clear then, that whatever aging workforce issue, or leadership shortage concern, is relevant in mainstream education, the same at least can be applied to the deaf education field. The qualitative data from the interviews with the senior leaders also helped to confirm and put a voice to this context, where senior leaders mentioned current leadership tended to be “in the 61–70 bracket” (SL2) with “far too many in their advanced years” (SL4) and “most definitely, we’ve got people of a similar age, in their 60s” (SL3). Table 1. Age distribution of New Zealand teacher workforce by percentage Sector <30 30–39 40–49 50–59 60+ Primarya 12 22 27 25 14 Lower secondarya 11 22 25 26 15 Upper secondarya 10 21 25 27 16 Deaf educators (n = 162) 3 16 23 40 18 Sector <30 30–39 40–49 50–59 60+ Primarya 12 22 27 25 14 Lower secondarya 11 22 25 26 15 Upper secondarya 10 21 25 27 16 Deaf educators (n = 162) 3 16 23 40 18 aSourced from OECD (2016). Table 2. Deaf education workforce demographics Category Proportion of sample Gender (F)/(M) Mean age Teachers 112/160 (70%) 104/8 48.8 years Middle leaders 34/160 (21%) 29/5 49.9 years Senior leaders 14/160 (9%) 5/7b 56.4 years Overall n = 160a 138/20 (87%/13%) 49.6 years Category Proportion of sample Gender (F)/(M) Mean age Teachers 112/160 (70%) 104/8 48.8 years Middle leaders 34/160 (21%) 29/5 49.9 years Senior leaders 14/160 (9%) 5/7b 56.4 years Overall n = 160a 138/20 (87%/13%) 49.6 years aTwo participants did not self-identify as either teacher, middle or senior leaders. bTwo senior leaders did not disclose their gender. Most of the New Zealand deaf education workforce were teachers (70% total workforce, mean age: 48.9 years), with fewer numbers classifying themselves as middle level (20% total workforce, mean age: 49.9 years) and senior level leaders (10% total workforce, mean age: 56.4 years). There were nearly seven times as many women (87.4%) in the deaf education workforce compared to men (12.6%), though the latter were more likely to self-identify as senior leaders. Of the 12.6% of males, over half were middle or senior leaders. Data showed 93% female representation at teacher level n = 104/112 for the deaf education workforce. The majority of the workforce had been deaf educators for over 10 years (see Figure 2). Figure 2. View largeDownload slide Tenure in deaf education. Figure 2. View largeDownload slide Tenure in deaf education. Figure 3 data show that two thirds of the New Zealand deaf education workforce have had a short (under a decade) tenure in mainstream education before specializing into deaf education. This was supported by the voice of one of the senior leaders, who reiterated that people who work in this sector do so deliberately: To become a teacher of the deaf you’re looking at somebody who has already made a commitment to a teaching career. Nobody becomes a teacher of the deaf by accident, it’s always by design. Train as a teacher, practice as a teacher for a minimum of 4 years, then you are funded by the government to train in the postgraduate environment because you choose to, in order to come back and contribute … so people who are in there are passionate and committed to what’s going on. [SL1] Figure 3. View largeDownload slide Tenure in mainstream education. Figure 3. View largeDownload slide Tenure in mainstream education. From the study, 10.5% of the sample identified themselves as deaf and a further 4.9% as hard of hearing. This DHH group (15.4%), showed a high 4.12 (out of 5) rating for the question around motivation to lead. In comparison to the mean for the entire group (1.93), they were by far the most strongly motivated sub-group who wanted to lead. This was reiterated by one of the senior leaders: I would like to see deaf education led by someone from within their community. Somebody who is deaf, who has the capacity, the intellect, the skills, the experience, the training, all that’s required to take deaf education in a meaningful way in the future. [SL3] All of the senior leaders in the sample who completed the questionnaire were hearing, so there appeared little representation of the DHH group at a senior leadership level. The majority (86%) of teachers in deaf education intended to stay in their current role for the next 3–5 years though there was some indication of intentional shifts within the workforce (see Table 3). Table 3. Deaf education workforce responses about motivation to lead (relating to questions 12–15 in the questionnaire) Statement n 0 1 2 3 4 5 Mean Motivated to be a future leader 162 30 18 15 21 26 52 1.93 (19%) (11%) (9%) (13%) (16%) (32%) Intend to stay in current role for next 3–5 years 161 9 5 8 18 34 87 3.01 (6%) (3%) (5%) (11%) (21%) (54%) Plan to be a middle leader in 3–5 years 153 56 21 12 24 14 26 0.98 (37%) (14%) (8%) (16%) (9%) (17%) Plan to be a senior leader in 3–5 years 156 78 21 12 16 14 15 0.44 (50%) (13%) (8%) (10%) (9%) (10%) Statement n 0 1 2 3 4 5 Mean Motivated to be a future leader 162 30 18 15 21 26 52 1.93 (19%) (11%) (9%) (13%) (16%) (32%) Intend to stay in current role for next 3–5 years 161 9 5 8 18 34 87 3.01 (6%) (3%) (5%) (11%) (21%) (54%) Plan to be a middle leader in 3–5 years 153 56 21 12 24 14 26 0.98 (37%) (14%) (8%) (16%) (9%) (17%) Plan to be a senior leader in 3–5 years 156 78 21 12 16 14 15 0.44 (50%) (13%) (8%) (10%) (9%) (10%) Note. Percentages may not equal 100 due to rounding. Strongly disagree = 0; Disagree = 1; Somewhat disagree = 2; Somewhat agree = 3; Agree = 4; Strongly agree = 5. We bring particular attention to the 29 respondents who either agreed or strongly agreed that they planned to be a senior leader within 5 years (see the bold italicized figures in Table 3). A further breakdown of this aspirant group in terms of age is shown in Table 4. Table 4. Identification of the aspirant group Age Agree to plan to be a senior leader in 3–5 years Strongly agree to be a senior leader in 3–5 years 20–29 years 0 0 30–39 years 3 4 40–49 years 4 1 50–54 years 4 1 55–59 years 3 4 60–64 years 0 5 Mean age 47.4 years 51.7 years Age Agree to plan to be a senior leader in 3–5 years Strongly agree to be a senior leader in 3–5 years 20–29 years 0 0 30–39 years 3 4 40–49 years 4 1 50–54 years 4 1 55–59 years 3 4 60–64 years 0 5 Mean age 47.4 years 51.7 years Note. The mean age was calculated using the mid-point values of each age range. Given that those who were 55 years and over at the time these data were collected are now closer to the New Zealand retirement age of 65, we identified 17 of the deaf education workforce (in italics and bold—see Table 4) as the most likely group of aspirant senior leaders. The intentions to stay in a current role or aspire to another were compared between: those who self-identified as teachers and those who self-identified as middle or senior leaders (see Table 5); those who were employed full-time and those employed part-time (Table 6); and, those who were under 50 years old with those who were 50 years or older (see Table 7). Table 5. Differences between deaf education teachers (T) and leaders (L) Statement T, M (SD) L, M (SD) Statistical result Motivated to be a future leader 2.41 (1.91) 4.17 (1.14) t (143.40) = −7.16, p < 0.001, eta2 = 0.24 (large effect) Plan to be a middle leader in 3–5 years 1.48 (1.16) 3.18 (1.96) t (72.07) = −5.09, p < 0.001, eta2 = 0.16 (large effect) Plan to be a senior leader in 3–5 years 0.93 (1.45) 2.69 (1.91) t (65.67) = −5.58, p = 0.001, eta2 = 0.16 (large effect) Statement T, M (SD) L, M (SD) Statistical result Motivated to be a future leader 2.41 (1.91) 4.17 (1.14) t (143.40) = −7.16, p < 0.001, eta2 = 0.24 (large effect) Plan to be a middle leader in 3–5 years 1.48 (1.16) 3.18 (1.96) t (72.07) = −5.09, p < 0.001, eta2 = 0.16 (large effect) Plan to be a senior leader in 3–5 years 0.93 (1.45) 2.69 (1.91) t (65.67) = −5.58, p = 0.001, eta2 = 0.16 (large effect) Table 6. Differences of intention for next 5–10 years between being full-time (FT) and semi/fully retired (SFR) Statement FT, M (SD) SFR, M (SD) Statistical result Intend to stay in current role for next 3–5 years 4.61 (0.93) 3.74 (1.66) t (44.72) = 3.08, p = 0.004, eta2 = 0.06 (moderate effect) Motivated to be a future leader 3.46 (1.63) 1.41 (1.90) t (57.30) = 6.05, p < 0.001, eta2 = 0.22 (large effect) Plan to be a middle leader in 3–5 years 2.46 (1.87) 0.72 (1.49) t (84.33) = 5.92, p < 0.001, eta2 = 0.18 (large effect) Plan to be a senior leader in 3–5 years 1.73 (1.83) 0.62 (1.47) t (79.94) = 3.91, p < 0.001, eta2 = 0.09 (moderate effect) Statement FT, M (SD) SFR, M (SD) Statistical result Intend to stay in current role for next 3–5 years 4.61 (0.93) 3.74 (1.66) t (44.72) = 3.08, p = 0.004, eta2 = 0.06 (moderate effect) Motivated to be a future leader 3.46 (1.63) 1.41 (1.90) t (57.30) = 6.05, p < 0.001, eta2 = 0.22 (large effect) Plan to be a middle leader in 3–5 years 2.46 (1.87) 0.72 (1.49) t (84.33) = 5.92, p < 0.001, eta2 = 0.18 (large effect) Plan to be a senior leader in 3–5 years 1.73 (1.83) 0.62 (1.47) t (79.94) = 3.91, p < 0.001, eta2 = 0.09 (moderate effect) Table 7. Differences between under 50 years in age and 50 years and over Statement Less than 50, M (SD) 50 or over, M (SD) Statistical result Motivated to be a future leader 3.68 (1.33) 2.39 (2.09) t (157.72) = 4.76, p < 0.001, eta2 = 0.12 (moderate effect) Plan to be a middle leader in 3–5 years 2.61 (1.69) 1.53 (1.96) t (145.97) = 3.66, p < 0.001, eta2 = 0.07 (moderate effect) Statement Less than 50, M (SD) 50 or over, M (SD) Statistical result Motivated to be a future leader 3.68 (1.33) 2.39 (2.09) t (157.72) = 4.76, p < 0.001, eta2 = 0.12 (moderate effect) Plan to be a middle leader in 3–5 years 2.61 (1.69) 1.53 (1.96) t (145.97) = 3.66, p < 0.001, eta2 = 0.07 (moderate effect) These comparative tests showed that those who self-identified as leaders and were full-time were more likely to plan to be in a middle or senior leader role in the next 3–5 years. As one of the senior leaders interviewed explained: It is my perception that people who hold what would be regarded as middle and senior positions at these organizations, would really be translating across to senior or just the outright identifiable leadership role in any other school. [SL1] There was no significant difference between those below 50 years old and those 50 years or older in relation to planning to be a senior leader in 3–5 years. Moreover, someone who self-identified as a teacher was more likely to want to stay in that role. These tests showed there may exist key areas at work in the deaf education workforce in relation to leadership progression. Assumptions and Key Areas The interviews with the senior leaders revealed that none of them talked about their staff demographics from an accurate knowledge of numerical data. Instead, their basis for response was best guess and assumptions. The national demographic of the New Zealand deaf education workforce had never been collected and published before in the New Zealand Ministry of Education data sets. There was some general acknowledgment that workforce demographics had an aging skew, and a sense it was problematic but not a crisis “as senior and middle leaders are of an age … However, these people are not going to en masse decamp, it’s going to be incremental” (SL2). There was an unawareness of empirical data about leadership motivation in the workforce and national demographic trends, as well as an assumption that the ensuing years would have typical retirement numbers that have historically been the case and can be dealt with by traditionally effective succession methods. Retirements from the teacher pool, which constituted 70% of the workforce, was less of an issue as these positions could be phased down and taken part-time. Leadership roles however tended to be full-time positions. Somewhat contrary to the assumptions of the senior leaders, were the voices of those who completed the questionnaire. In the open-ended question, 112 respondents identified a more complex scenario in relation to key areas pertaining to leadership succession. Of the respondents to the open-ended question, 18 cited retirement, or age-related factors as reason for not wanting leadership, and another six stated family commitments taking precedence (see Table 8). Table 8. Key factors impacting on leadership succession Drivers for leadership Key areas Intrapersonal: Strong self-belief they have the skills, knowledge and experience to make a difference; Enjoyment and passion for working in deaf education; Stimulation of addressing overcoming challenges; and, Determination to self-improve. Agential: Motivation to make a difference in what is considered as a privileged area to work in; Enthusiasm to mentor others and transfer knowledge; and, Advocates for deaf education and a particular affinity with different ethnic cultural groups. Family: Constrained by family/life plans; Time poor as priority is given to raising their own children; Career is molded by ‘family comes first’; and, Further leadership responsibilities are seen as detrimental to family. Health: Family and health issues lessen the motivation for leadership roles; Growing older is seen as a restriction; and, Desire to safeguard health by avoiding the stress of leadership work. Bureaucracy: Reluctance to engage with the amount of ‘paperwork’ in leadership roles; Too many administrative duties in leadership roles; Preference to stay ‘hands on’; and, Remuneration of leadership roles does not reflect the extra workload. Deaf students: Reluctance to move away from direct work with students; and, Contentment with staying a teacher in the classroom. Drivers for leadership Key areas Intrapersonal: Strong self-belief they have the skills, knowledge and experience to make a difference; Enjoyment and passion for working in deaf education; Stimulation of addressing overcoming challenges; and, Determination to self-improve. Agential: Motivation to make a difference in what is considered as a privileged area to work in; Enthusiasm to mentor others and transfer knowledge; and, Advocates for deaf education and a particular affinity with different ethnic cultural groups. Family: Constrained by family/life plans; Time poor as priority is given to raising their own children; Career is molded by ‘family comes first’; and, Further leadership responsibilities are seen as detrimental to family. Health: Family and health issues lessen the motivation for leadership roles; Growing older is seen as a restriction; and, Desire to safeguard health by avoiding the stress of leadership work. Bureaucracy: Reluctance to engage with the amount of ‘paperwork’ in leadership roles; Too many administrative duties in leadership roles; Preference to stay ‘hands on’; and, Remuneration of leadership roles does not reflect the extra workload. Deaf students: Reluctance to move away from direct work with students; and, Contentment with staying a teacher in the classroom. There were three deficit factors, those of not wanting to constrain quality family life by taking on leadership responsibility, not wanting fall into ill health from the pressure of leadership, and too many heavy overburdening administrative duties. The fourth factor could be seen as a positive reason for not wanting to lead, as it appeared deaf educators were reluctant to let go of the direct interaction they had with deaf students. To leave this and take on an indirect, all be it more widely influential role of leadership, was unattractive. The responses of the workforce from the thematic analysis of 112 responses were reflected and recognized by some of the senior leaders, who also spoke of the increase in commitment associated with middle and senior leadership: When we request someone to step up and do something else that is beyond the classroom work they see that as cutting across their prime focus of teaching and learning. [SL2] There is a reluctance to move into middle management from some people because of their lifestyle … there is [also] still a big step in that middle management to senior management…it’s a very big step. [SL5] Anything more meaty requires a lot more time and effort and people are reluctant to do that. [SL6] On the other hand, there were perceptions from senior leaders that there still were leadership personnel in the pipeline: I think there are people. The school and the regional service is well served with highly intelligent, highly skilled people who are able and I think pretty willing to pick up that mantle. [SL2] I find it easy to find people to step up, with some guidance, to the next level…nurturing, coaching, mentoring, so they are ready at the right time. [SL3] The senior leaders in their interviews reiterated the importance of some degree of formal mainstream leadership development, training or qualification: I think they are highly applicable. (SL1) The skills of leadership, relationship management are the same wherever you are, they are just darn good skills. They’re good basic programs about working with people and setting up structures. (SL5) However, no explicit mention was made in relation to leadership development across the deaf education workforce. Rather, it was implied that leader development would be sufficient, where individuals attended leader development training or undertook a university qualification related to leadership. We would argue on the other hand that educational leadership in deaf education is not necessarily a straightforward transference of more generic approaches to leadership development due to the unique challenges we identified at the beginning of this article. Discussion The quantitative data provided for the first time a demographic snapshot of the landscape concerning New Zealand’s deaf education workforce. Alongside this, the qualitative data collected mainly through the interviews and supported by an open-ended question in the questionnaire, helped determine the motivating factors to become, or remain, a leader in the existing workforce over the coming 3–5 years. When these data were collected in 2012, there had been no such data ever recorded on the deaf education workforce, nor has there been any since. The data are valuable as they not only specifically showed the demographic snapshot of New Zealand’s deaf education workforce, but also captured the collective opinion of the workforce around potential leadership, and the views of incumbent leadership about succession. Johnson (2004) asked some years ago, “what is the retirement status of current faculty in the nation’s deaf education teacher preparation programs, and is there a sufficient number of well qualified individuals to replace those individuals who retire?” (p. 89). We pick up this thread over a decade later but ask the same question in relation to the leaders in deaf education in New Zealand. With rising numbers and frequency of baby-boomer veteran leaders and experienced practitioners exiting the deaf education workforce, how will we ensure the same, or better, quality of candidates in the pipeline of the workforce, who are sufficiently willing to take up that mantle? The challenges that pervade deaf education, such as raising student achievement and meeting needs in mainstream settings that in New Zealand are gradually being transitioned to ILEs, will also need to be met. Uncovering the exact nature of the four key areas make the landscape of leadership succession easier to understand. If there are aspirants in the workforce with interest in leading but also a feeling of apprehension around the key areas, then we can put preparation and development systems in place to upskill them and protect them. We now know middle leadership constitutes 20% of the workforce and senior leadership 10%, so we are only looking for candidates to fill positions in these pools, which are left by the majority from a full-time capacity (94% of middle leaders full-time, 100% of senior leaders). The essence of this study revealed the aging of leadership is more acute in deaf education than in the mainstream education sector. This study showed that close to half (48%) of school leaders in deaf education were over 55 years old, and given that the data were collected in 2012 we know these demographics may be more accentuated in 2017. As we near a time when baby-boomer retirements will reach their peak, around 2020, we again highlight the issue of strategic succession planning, particularly at a leadership level. This is part of a wider issue in education given the reported shortages of leaders due to retirement across Europe, Canada, the United States, Australia, and New Zealand (Rhodes & Brundrett, 2012) and issues of supply quality in several nations (Bush, 2011). Leadership positions in the New Zealand deaf education workforce do not appear to allow for a gradual phasing down into part-time status, where leadership transference could occur from person to person in a mentoring environment. Herein, lies a challenge for deaf education in New Zealand and potentially other nations as well. It appears from the interviews with senior leaders as if informal recruitment, self-selection and the assumption there will be a pipeline of future leaders with sufficient quality will continue to suffice, because this has appeared to work in the past. We argue this is a concerning assumption to have for the following reasons. Firstly, leadership responsibilities continue to increase due to the demand for leadership in special education (Thompson & O’Brian, 2007). Secondly, leadership practice required now is no longer the same as in the past due to the challenges described at the beginning of this article. Thirdly, knowledge creation due to new health technologies related to DHH populations is advancing at a rate quicker than in the past, though this does not diminish the need for specialist support and teaching (Andrews & Covell, 2007; De Raeve et al., 2012). These factors highlight the conundrum facing deaf education in New Zealand and possibly other nations. Leadership succession can be undermined through a lack of planning (Hargreaves, 2005) and is the responsibility of those in senior leadership roles (Gothard & Austin, 2013). The conundrum is evident because deaf education, like other areas of special education, depends on educational leaders who have emerged through years of special education experience and training (Thompson & O’Brian, 2007). Experienced deaf educators report trial and error in practice as central to developing strategies to work with students (Guardino, 2015) as well as contributing significantly to their own self-efficacy compared to novice teachers (Garberoglio, Gobble, & Cawthorn, 2012). Given that leadership development also tends to occur in interpersonal contexts (Day et al., 2014), the points raised here reveal the need to keep leadership succession, identification and development in-house. That is, by deaf educators for deaf educators due to the specialized knowledge and experience required in this field. However, as we argued earlier, informal methods are no longer effective. System level interventions are required, though any centralized approach must be wary of not prescribing leadership development based solely on past experiences. Bush (2011) explains this can result in cloning and due to the challenges and changes discussed earlier, any sole reliance on past experience will not equip developing leaders in a future-oriented system. This all depends on whether or not there will be a sufficient pool of expertise to draw on. The qualitative data in our study revealed four key areas that make potential future leaders hesitant or disinclined to consider leadership in deaf education. These key areas need addressing as supply cannot be a guarantee, though this will differ from nation to nation. Gaining a detailed understanding of deaf education workforce demographics and people’s intentions about which area of the sector to work in will help comprehensive succession planning systems to be put in place. Leadership from prepared, trained, and experienced people, at regional and national levels, will ultimately have a positive impact on the quality of educational services for the deaf child. Limitations Due to New Zealand’s small population, we were fortunate to engage with 81% of the national deaf education workforce to establish a reliable picture of this specialized group of educators. We acknowledge some of the data on workforce demographics may appear different in 2017 since the study was undertaken in 2012. We do not see this as a major limitation due to the generalizability of retention, supply, and development issues in other deaf education workforces and education workforces in general. One omission in our research was a dedicated focus on ethnicity and this as an important inclusion for any future research we carry out. Conclusion This study’s findings have confirmed a high number of leaders approaching retirement age compared to general education trends in New Zealand. There is evidence to suggest leadership succession approaches need to make a shift from the current informal developmental, and replacement mentality, to planned leadership succession. A new approach should actively seek, protect, and assist aspirant talent through leadership qualifications and acquiring pre-role skill sets. This preparation needs to be interpersonally-based and informed by the challenges evident in deaf education. We argue for the need of anticipatory leadership with current incumbent deaf education leaders and policy-makers. Anticipatory leadership is where future-related anxiety and insecurity are replaced by strategic foresight that involves scanning for trends as well as forecasting them (Doublestein, Lee, & Pfohl, 2015). Leadership succession in deaf education is a major issue, one that now sits alongside other strategic issues that negatively impact DHH students, such as narrow and high stakes testing environments (Luckner & Dorn, 2017) and teacher burnout and turnover (Kennon & Patterson, 2016). Leadership succession strategies must now be based around supporting future leaders to create conditions where research evidence, about learning and deafness, is more likely to be translated into practice (Swanwick & Marschark, 2010). We echo the argument of Johnson (2013), deaf education in New Zealand and potentially internationally is at a tipping point. Crucially, the lead up to 2020 is a small preparatory window to future-proof the leadership pipeline as the baby-boomer retirees depart the deaf education field. Recommendations Leadership development needs to be considered in a range of different contexts and countries. We recommend similar studies to our own across nations or provinces and states. Once data are collected in studies similar to our own, strategic analysis of the challenges inherent in each deaf education setting then need to be incorporated into formal educational leadership development and leadership succession programs. A regular and long-term, pre-role mentoring system between outgoing veteran leaders and incoming potential future leaders, would help transfer institutional knowledge around systems and deepen understanding of the specific context. It would also allow aspirants to appreciate the indirect, but far reaching influence of leadership on deaf children beyond direct contact in the classroom. Aspirants should undertake highly applicable long-term generic tertiary educational leadership and management qualifications, that will complement their in-house, context specific, mentoring program. More people may be encouraged to consider a leadership pathway if comprehensive support systems are developed that address bureaucratic administrative overburdening for leaders. Leadership preparation and ongoing development should include strategies and practical skills for new leaders to maintain their own professional well-being and health. Proactive strategies are required to ensure there is greater representation of deaf people in deaf education leadership. Conflicts of Interest No conflicts of interest were reported. Acknowledgments We are grateful to all of the teachers and leaders in the deaf education workforce who participated in this national study. Note 1 See http://www.stats.govt.nz/browse_for_stats/health/disabilities/DisabilitySurvey_HOTP2013.aspx References Ainscow, M., & Sandill, A. ( 2010). Developing inclusive education systems: The role of organizational cultures and leadership. 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