Purpose - During the 2000-2004 period, one New Zealand tertiary institution provided a management development programme for experienced secondary school principals. Aims to determine the extent to which the learning had been sustained beyond the formal programme Design/methodology/approach - A postal questionnaire was administered to 80 participants seeking responses to questions concerning the programme and whether the learning had been transferred to their organisations. Findings - Empirical data suggested that while the programme was highly valued and there was a high degree of willingness to sustain the learning, this is only possible if school boards actively support principals to engage in critical reflection by providing time and opportunity. This research project provides evidence of the need for principals to participate in advanced management development in order to stimulate their own leadership learning. Originality/value - Findings from this research will be of benefit to policy makers, employing authorities and principals.