Five state school principals have taken top jobs in private schools which are said to pay salaries up to twice as much as state schools.
Long Bay College principal Russell Brooke has been appointed principal of Academic Colleges Group's ACG Parnell campus from June 12.
His move comes after at least four other principals have moved from state to private schools in the past two years:
• Dale Burden from Mt Albert Grammar to St Peter's School, Cambridge (announced May 2015).
• Simon Lamb from Takapuna Grammar to King's College (Nov 2015).
• Roz Mexted from Westlake Girls High School to St Cuthbert's College (July 2016).
• David Hodge from Rangitoto College to a new role as head of St Kentigern's four Auckland schools (Feb 2017).
An associate principal from Westlake Boys' High School, Alex Reed, has also been appointed this year as principal of privately-owned Pinehurst School in Albany.
A state school principal said the remuneration being offered by top private schools was "reputedly very good; rumours of being up to twice the state sector".
Post-Primary Teachers' Association president Jack Boyle said private schools were "poaching" both principals and teachers from state schools.
"Our investigation around the [teacher] supply challenges came up with anecdotal stories from principals that high-decile schools were pinching teachers from lower-decile schools, and by the same token there was a suggestion that private schools were pinching both teachers and principals from high-decile [state] schools," he said.
He said private schools were generally better funded, leaving principals free to focus on educational rather than financial issues.
But Brooke, 54, who has been at Long Bay since 2004, said he was moving simply for "a different challenge".
"I have given my whole life to the state system. I have enjoyed every minute of it," he said.
"An opportunity came my way. It's an opportunity to do something different, I'm attracted by the new and different challenge."
Mexted, who headed Nga Tawa Diocesan School at Marton before moving to Westlake, said she was considering a move to Australia before the top job at St Cuthbert's became available.
She said Australian schools were "a lot more generous" and actively recruited in New Zealand.
"But it's not all about the money. I'd probably be over there if it was," she said. "I'm always wanting to be challenged."
Independent Schools of NZ director Deborah James said pay rates in the country's 86 private schools varied widely.
"I would be surprised if they paid double what an equivalent fulltime principal would get in the state sector, but that's not to say there might not be one or two that do," she said.
"The private school sector is very small in New Zealand so therefore arguably there isn't the talent pool where we could draw our principals from within the sector, and teachers and principals are very mobile moving from one school authority to another, so there is really nothing unusual about it.
"It's just that probably there have been a few more changes in the last two years than in the previous five or six years. It just seems to be cyclical."
Ministry of Education head of early learning and student achievement Karl Le Quesne said state school principals were "paid appropriately".
"At the bottom end, for the smallest secondary school, a principal starts at $90,007 and can go up to $116,782," he said.
"At the top end, for the largest secondary schools, a principal's pay starts at $200,211 and can go up to a maximum of $241,865."
Rangitoto College board of trustees deputy chairman Mike Shaw said a new Rangitoto principal would start on the base rate of $200,211, with potential bonuses that could take him to $241,865 at the board's discretion in future years.
In addition, since 2015 the ministry has been able to pay a "principal recruitment allowance" of $50,000 a year to principals with strong track records moving to head state schools with below-average student achievement or other serious problems.
Le Quesne said the ministry had spent $718,530 on recruitment allowances for 20 principals so far. Allowances have been approved for three other schools which are still recruiting new principals.
Principal Recruitment Allowances
Mangamuka School, Northland (principal appointed July 2015)
Kimi Ora Community School, Hastings (Aug 2015)
Ngaruawahia High School (Nov 2015)
Kamo High School, Northland (Nov 2015)
Kaikoura High School (Dec 2015)
Opotiki College (Jan 2016)
Patea Area School, Taranaki (Jan 2016)
Aranui Community Campus, Christchurch (Jan 2016)
Papakura High School (Feb 2016)
Ngata Memorial College, Ruatoria (Feb 2016)
Mana College, Porirua (Feb 2016)
Linwood College, Christchurch (Feb 2016)
Kaikohe Intermediate School (Feb 2016)
Te Kura o Te Whanau a Apanui, Te Kaha (Feb 2016)
Opononi Area School, Northland (Oct 2016)
Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o Wairarapa (Oct 2016)
Piopio College, King Country (Jan 2017)
Waitara High School (Jan 2017)
Waiau Area School, Southland (Jan 2017)
Approved, still recruiting
Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o Huiarau, Ruatāhuna
South End School, Carterton
Bamford School, Christchurch
Note: Porirua College was also given approval to pay the principal recruitment allowance but appointed someone who had not been a principal before and so did not qualify for the allowance.